Skeptics Dare Heartland Institute to Take Up $25,000 Climate Challenge

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This is a press release from the Center for Inquiry:

Skeptics Dare Heartland Institute to Take Up $25,000 Climate Challenge

A leading science advocacy group is throwing down the gauntlet to the Heartland Institute, a group that claims that global warming stopped in 1998, with a stark, simple challenge: If the 30-year average global land surface temperature goes up in 2015, setting a new record, the Heartland Institute must donate $25,000 to a science education nonprofit.

The challenge is presented by the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI), a program of the Center for Inquiry, which held its “Reason for Change” conference last week in Buffalo, at the same time as Heartland’s own climate conference in Washington, DC. Heartland’s gathering opened with a keynote address by Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), who believes that global warming is “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people.”

Among the key findings of a 2013 report published by Heartland was that “The level of warming in the most recent 15 year period [since 1998] is not significantly different from zero” and “natural variability is responsible for late twentieth century warming and the cessation of warming since 1998.” While the report’s authors dismissed global warming forecasts published by mainstream scientists, they have avoided making any testable predictions of their own.

“If anyone really thinks that human-caused global warming is a hoax, and that the climate has stopped heating up, they must also believe that temperatures will now stabilize or drop,” said Mark Boslough, a physicist and CSI Fellow who devised the challenge. “Well, that’s a testable claim, so let’s test it.”

“It’s time for the Heartland Institute to put its money where its exhaust pipe is,” said Ronald A. Lindsay, president and CEO of the Center for Inquiry, home of CSI. “If Earth’s climate gets hotter, and keeps getting hotter, the naysayers at Heartland should publicly own up and pay up.”

If CSI’s prediction proves incorrect, and the 30-year average global temperature does not go up, CSI agrees to donate $25,000 to an educational nonprofit designated by the Heartland Institute.

CSI offered the following challenge:

The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI) hereby presents to the Heartland Institute a challenge as to whether the Earth’s climate will set a new record high temperature this year. The challenge will be settled using the NASA GISS mean global land surface temperatures for the conventional climate averaging period (defined by the World Meteorological Organization as 30 years) ending on December 31, 2015. If the global average temperature does not exceed the mean temperature for an equal period ending on the same date in any previous year for which complete data exist, CSI will donate $25,000 to a nonprofit to be designated by Heartland. Otherwise, Heartland will be asked to donate $25,000 to a science education nonprofit designated by CSI. It is CSI’s intent to repeat this challenge every year for the next 30 years.

“The theme of Heartland’s climate conference was ‘Fresh Start,'” observed Lindsay. “By predicting that a new record average temperature will be set every year for the next 30 years, we are in effect giving them 30 ‘fresh starts.’ I fear that what we’ll all find, however, is that as temperatures rise and the crisis deepens, each ‘fresh start’ will grow more and more stale.”

Last December, Fellows of CSI – which includes noted scientists, journalists, and other luminaries such as Bill Nye, Ann Druyan, Richard Dawkins, David Morrison, Sir Harold Kroto, Joe Nickell, Eugenie Scott, and Lawrence Krauss – circulated a widely noted open letter, drafted by Boslough, calling for the news media to refrain from referring to those who deny the scientific consensus on climate change as “skeptics.” Learn more at http://bit.ly/SkepticsDeniers.

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44 thoughts on “Skeptics Dare Heartland Institute to Take Up $25,000 Climate Challenge

  1. From the article:

    “‘If anyone really thinks that human-caused global warming is a hoax, and that the climate has stopped heating up, they must also believe that temperatures will now stabilize or drop,’ said Mark Boslough”

    This is — not accurate. Climate skeptics do not, necessarily, claim that the climate isn’t warming. Rather, cliamate change skeptics (unprofessionally called “deniers,” as if name-calling were valid in a scientific conversation) can, and many do, claim that the change in temperature is A) caused by humans and B) something humans can stop.

    I am rather disappointed in this challange. And I am even more disapointed in Mr. Boslough’s bad reasoning.

  2. Simon, there is no way to characterize what deniers think because the strategy is to change what they say as needed to keep their fallacious argument going. I think the point of a bet like this is to force a more clear statement.

    Calling skeptics deniers is not inappropriate at all. They are full on deniers of science. That it is wrong somehow to call them deniers is itself a form of denier rhetoric.

  3. I doubt Heartland will go for this bet (not because of the money, it’s walking around change for their backers).
    They appeal to their denier supporters by their dismissive attitude toward the scientific community – they marginalize the science and say, essentially, “These climate folks are too ridiculous to take seriously.”
    Taking this bet would make it a bit harder to continue with the marginalization.

  4. Simon, many of them *are* denying that the climate is warming.

    I agree with your statement, “cliamate [sic] change skeptics … claim that the change in temperature is A) caused by humans and B) something humans can stop.”

    Hence, responsible citizens need to A) stop causing it, and B) enact policies and take action to halt GHG pollution, keep the carbon in the ground, stop burning valuable organic chemical precursors, and mitigate the damage already started.

  5. No way will they take up this Challenge.

    The Koch brothers know that AGW is real. They are not that stupid. They just don’t care because they profit from fossil fuel extraction.

    In my opinion, the Koch brothers will go down as the most Evil humans in history. Responsible for more deaths through AGW than Mao, Stalin and Hitler combined.

  6. Heh! Good luck with that. I have offered the church a US$1,000 wager for six years and they refused to take it. I have made my wager known to, literally, over one thousand deniers who have claimed they believe Earth is not warming— and for six years not even one of them would accept my wager.

    The church is not interested in the facts; they have a political agenda to further.

  7. “Climate skeptics do not, necessarily, claim that the climate isn’t warming

    No skeptics make that claim. A bloody hell of a lot of deniers do.

  8. So, the “skeptics” are not skeptical of claims of imminent doomsday by people demanding money to stop it?
    Doesn’t sound very “skeptical”.

    1. “… claims of imminent doomsday by people demanding money to stop it?

      As soon as you see someone doing that, please call the police and report it. Thank you in advance.

  9. Skeptic, n.
    “One who denies the possibility of knowledge, or even rational beliefs, as regards some topic of intellect.”

    1. SKEP-TIC (n) “1. One who instinctively or habitually doubts, questions, or disagrees with assertions or generally accepted conclusions. 2. One inclined to skepticism in religious matters.”

      You have a very fascist dictionary. Why not use a dictionary that gives actual word usages?

      By the way:

      “Scientists should always strive to be skeptics – in the truest sense of the word. That is to say, they should always apply healthy scrutiny to any new claim or finding. True skepticism, however, demands that one subject all sides of a scientific contention or dispute to equal scrutiny and weigh the totality of evidence without prejudice. That should not be conflated with contrarianism or denialism, which is a kind of one-sided skepticism that entails simply rejecting evidence that challenges one’s preconceptions. Unfortunately, the term skeptic has at times been co-opted by those who are not skeptics at all, but are instead contrarians or deniers, predisposed to the indiscriminate rejection of evidence supporting a human influence on the climate.” — Dr. Michael E Mann

  10. @handjive: Another classic denialist tactic–find the most extreme claims out there, almost all coming from shrill non-experts, and use them as an excuse to ignore the real projections.

    There isn’t an imminent doomsday. Global warming will not destroy the planet. It is unlikely to wipe out the human race. However, if we continue to ignore the problem, it probably will significantly lower the average human’s standard of living and kill quite a lot of people by the end of this century. I think this is a problem worth acting on, you may choose to disagree.

  11. Desertphile, I did — and was mildly surprised. That definition came from Herr Google… (Definition labeled –ironically– “Philosophy”)

    OTOH, given the degree to which the typical denier slickly tries to dress itself up as a “skeptic”, I thought it too ironically fitting to pass up.

    I guess one man’s inquirer is another man’s denier… I’ve long felt that “skeptic” is kind of a no-man’s land term for this subject anyway. Mann seems to imply this, too.

  12. I’m not a fan of the current pope, but I know many denialists (locally) who are. It will be interesting to see what they say if as more and more reports indicate will be the case, his coming encyclical states climate change is real and is (at least partially, I have no idea how strongly it will be stated) due to human activity. I have one very dear friend who will, I know, put a lot of thought and study into the issue. I have no good guess what the others will do.
    Reactions in the larger community will be interesting, I’m sure.

  13. I just did a search through the published climate change literature for “imminent doomsday”.

    Zilch.

    HandJive is a denier.

    1. Funny, I searched the peer reviewed literature for “it’s a hoax” and I came up with zilch also.

  14. @Craig Thomas
    June 15, 2015
    “I just did a search through the published climate change literature for “imminent doomsday”.
    Zilch.”

    Does Craig Thomas deny this future doomsday threat that is here now?

    WASHINGTON -– Climate change is no longer a distant threat, but a real and present danger in the United States, according to a government report issued Tuesday.
    Those impacts include increased severity of heat waves and heavier downpours.
    On the coasts, sea level rise is already contributing to increased flooding during high tides and storms, the report notes.
    And in the West, conditions are getting hotter and drier, and the snowpack is melting earlier in the year, extending wildfire season.

    Climate Change Is Already Here, Says Massive Government Report
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/05/06/national-climate-assessment_n_5270541.html

    Worst apocalypse. Ever.

  15. Here are some other definitions of skeptic:

    noun
    1. a person who questions the validity or authenticity of something purporting to be factual.
    2. a person who maintains a doubting attitude, as toward values, plans, statements, or the character of others.
    3. a person who doubts the truth of a religion, especially Christianity, or of important elements of it.
    http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/skeptic

    The difference between questioning “ the validity or authenticity of something purporting to be factual” and rejecting without question should be clear.

    “Climate scientists are among the most vocal critics of using the term ‘climate skeptic’ to describe people who flatly reject their findings. They point out that skepticism is the very foundation of the scientific method. The modern consensus about the risks of climate change, they say, is based on evidence that has piled up over the course of decades and has been subjected to critical scrutiny every step of the way.
    Drop into any climate science convention, in fact, and you will hear vigorous debate about the details of the latest studies. While they may disagree over the fine points, those researchers are virtually unanimous in warning that society is running extraordinary risks by continuing to pump huge quantities of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
    In other words, the climate scientists see themselves as the true skeptics, having arrived at a durable consensus about emissions simply because the evidence of risk has become overwhelming. And in this view, people who reject the evidence are phony skeptics, arguing their case by cherry-picking studies, manipulating data and refusing to weigh the evidence as a whole.”
    http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/17/science/earth/in-climate-change-whats-in-a- name.html?ref=todayspaper&_r=0

    For more, see:
    http://tamino.wordpress.com/2014/02/10/the-real-difference-between-skeptics-and- deniers/#more-7072

    Handjive doesn’t just stand for climate fraud, but also for the fraudulent use of vocabulary. Words don’t mean what they mean according to the established consensus, i.e. the definitions found in dictionaries, but whatever serves his/her manipulative aims. “Imminent doomsday” thus becomes synonymous with “distant threats” and “present dangers.” Scientific observations of what has already occurred are conflated into “imminent doomsday,” and implicitly brushed aside because facts are inconvenient.

  16. The challenge was dead on arrival. Here’s why:

    “The challenge will be settled using the NASA GISS mean global land surface temperatures for the conventional climate averaging period (defined by the World Meteorological Organization as 30 years) ending on December 31, 2015.”

    Climate septics only submit to evidence that’s been manipulated, misinterpreted, and cherry picked by their own favored sources. If a favored source confounds expectations, and produces results that run counter to the septic narrative (as in the case of the Berkeley study), both the results and the source will be rejected. The above conditions exclude that possibility.

    1. “Climate septics only submit to evidence that’s been manipulated, misinterpreted, and cherry picked ….”

      Er, I suspect you mean “climate change deniers,” not “climate change skeptics.” The skeptics were all convinced decades ago.

    1. “Reminds me of Richard Muller….”

      He is indeed a good example of a climate change skeptic, when he remembers to take his daily dose of Valproic Acid. (Hehe! I’m such a comedian!)

      Dr. Muller’s lectures on climate change way back some 20+ years ago were cutting-edge at the time, and I was fortunate to attend one series he presented. Dr. Muller did not reject the fact that humans have caused, are causing, and will continue to cause Earth’s climates to change and Earth’s global average temperature to increase. He was skeptical at the amount of warming climatologists (and other scientists) were reporting: he flat-out stated in his lectures and in his writings that scientists were exaggerating how much warming had happened and would happen. As you noted, he discovered scientists did not exaggerate.

      Dr. Muller’s behavior shows abnormal swings in cognitive abilities, where he has contradicted himself regarding his conclusions on the subject. Since I some times “enjoy” schizoaffective behavior also, I flatter myself that I recognize the same behavior when reading and listening to Dr. Muller. When “enjoying” an episode of schizoaffective behavior, I am fully capable of writing an article where I come to two or more mutually contradictory conclusions—- and Dr. Muller has written a few such articles, which has left readers utterly mystified.

      Try reading the books written by Dr. Muller on subjects not about climate change. You will be mystified, too. 🙂 The “pro-fracking” article, for example. “The Sins of Jesus” for another.

  17. ^ Typos dangnabbit!

    Belated not “belasted” is what I meant o’course. Plus a space betwixt ‘a’ and ‘few’ too.

    (Greg Laden please feel free to edit and delete accordingly if you’d like – would be appreciated. Sorry, I do suck at typing even at the best of times which for me, this ain’t. Mea culpa.)

  18. If you are a genuine skeptic please

    Just look at the evidence.

    Look at the evidence.

    All of it. Without spin, without cherry picking, without bias or with as little bias as can be possibly managed.

    What is it telling you?

    Stop and think about that long and hard. That’s what I did.

    What I still do. Please. Do that – and think about the implications of that evince and what it says and act accordingly.

    ***

    “I like ice also as an indicator of climate change for its political neutrality.
    Ice asks no questions, presents no arguments, reads no newspapers, listens to no debates. It is not burdened by ideology and carries no political baggage as it crosses the threshold from solid to liquid. It just melts.”

    – Dr Henry Pollack, geophysicist, University of Michigan.

    Source : http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=-wbzK4v7GsM

    ‘Watts Up with Sea Ice?’ Youtube video by Greenman3610 esp. 1 minute 14 secs to 1 minute 51 seconds.

    Just one data point out of so very many. However a key part of a much bigger picture.

  19. @25. Desertphile : Okay. Thanks. That’s something new I’ve learnt today.I must admit I’m struggling to get through a very long list of books to read currently but I’ll bear that in mind and, no, I’m not that surprised somehow. Cheers.

  20. Desertphile –

    Had I meant skeptic, I would have written skeptic. I wrote septic, and that’s what I meant.
    For context please read comment #20.

  21. HandJive quotes Huffington Post (which isn’t part of the scientific literature, didnchknow?),
    “Those impacts include increased severity of heat waves and heavier downpours.
    On the coasts, sea level rise is already contributing to increased flooding during high tides and storms, the report notes.
    And in the West, conditions are getting hotter and drier, and the snowpack is melting earlier in the year, extending wildfire season.”

    I see no mention of “imminent doomsday”.

    So where does HandJive get “imminent doomsday” from?
    Is he a bit of an alarmist, do you suppose?

  22. Astrostevo @ 26

    ““I like ice also as an indicator of climate change for its political neutrality.”

    However, what people think and think they know a out ice differs strongly by politics.
    I heartily recommend new paper by Larry Hamilton, Polar facts in the age of polarization (Open access).
    The abstract is:
    “Many drivers of polar-region change originate in mid-latitude industrial societies, so public perceptions there matter. Building on earlier surveys of US public knowledge and concern, a series of New Hampshire state surveys over 2011–2015 tracked public knowledge of some basic polar facts. Analysis indicates that these facts subjectively fall into two categories: those that are or are not directly connected to beliefs about climate change. Responses to climate-linked factual questions, such as whether Arctic sea ice area has declined compared with 30 years ago, are politicized as if we were asking for climate-change opinions. Political divisions are less apparent with factual questions that do not suggest climate change, such as whether the North Pole is on land or sea ice. Only 38% of respondents could answer that question correctly, and even fewer (30%) knew or guessed correctly that melting of Greenland and Antarctic land ice, rather than Arctic sea ice, could potentially do the most to raise sea levels. At odds with the low levels of factual knowledge, most respondents say they have a moderate amount or a great deal of understanding about climate change. A combination of low knowledge with high self-assessed understanding characterizes almost half our sample and correlates with political views. The low knowledge/high understanding combination is most prevalent among Tea Party supporters, where it reaches 61%. It also occurs often (60%) among people who do not believe climate is changing. These results emphasize that diverse approaches are needed to communicate about science with people having different configurations of certainty and knowledge.”

  23. A combination of low knowledge with high self-assessed understanding characterizes Dunning-Kruger Syndrome…

    Interesting that Tea Partiers have the highest incidence of Dunning-Kruger disease. Which came first, affliction with D-K, or joining the Tea Party?

    Hamilton is so diplomatic: “People having different configurations of certainty and knowledge.” Back home we just called ’em “blithering idiots” for short.

  24. Al Gore likens skeptics to racists, homophobes and violent alcoholics

    Then Tim Wirth, (the guy who turned off the air conditioning and opened the windows at Hansen’s global warming hearing in June 1988) had this to say during the live video feed:
    “Skeptics are ‘truly evil people”

    So which “skeptics” would Al be referring to?

    Australia’s leading climate scientist Tim Flannery sets the record straight: I am not a climate sceptic

    http://www.theage.com.au/federal-politics/political-opinion/climate-sceptics-and-the-liberals-negotiating-in-bad-faith-20091203-k8pr.html

    The internet is littered with these people trashing the word “skeptic”.

    Too late, the doomsayers realise being skeptical is the moral high ground.
    Now they want to create a new sub-classification of the word, and then re-claim it?

    The internet never forgets.

    1. “Al Gore likens skeptics to racists, homophobes and violent alcoholics

      No.

      Also, we’re so very sorry but the word “skeptic” is already taken: you deniers will have to use one that isn’t taken already. Looks like “denier” is available: try that one.

  25. Handjive,
    The reference waa to the tendency of the denialists to ignore the facts and become upset when those facts are presented. It was not an equating of science denial with racism, slave holding, or alcoholism. An honest reading would show that. But it would have to be an honest reading, which is why your approach fails.

  26. @Craig Thomas June 16, 2015
    comment#29
    Attacking the huffpo when they have a direct link to the US government scientific document as not scientific?

    Here is some report warnings you missed, Craig:

    “While the outlook could be considered bleak, Radley Horton, a scientist at Columbia University Earth Institute’s Center for Climate Systems Research …
    “The climate hazards are looking as severe as ever, but I think there is a message contained in the report that our ability to respond is about getting going,” Horton told The Huffington Post.

    Severe? Bleak?
    Pretty safe bet Radley Horton isn’t talking about lazy xmas summer holidays in Hawaii now, or in the future, which is here now, according to Obama.

  27. No, he’s probably talking about exciting summer holidays in Texas now.

    After all, they’re unconcerned about bleak outlooks and severity… as they watch their houses float by. And dead neighbors floating along with them.

    No worries, right, handjive? Yup. But damn, it’s hard to bury your head in the sand when the sand is under 6 feet of floodwater, ain’t it?

  28. Hey Brainstorms.
    Here in Australia, we had floods this year.
    Sadly, lives were destroyed, dreams dashed, death & destruction.
    Like Texas, we were told the drought was permanent and not to expect any more rain because of carbon(sic) Global Warming.

    Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology completely failed to predict any floods, with only claims of drought.

    Australia declared drought free
    http://www.theage.com.au/environment/weather/its-official-australia-no-longer-in-drought-20120427-1xpsp.html

    Texas, Oklahoma Drought ‘All But Over’
    http://www.climatecentral.org/news/texas-oklahoma-drought-over-19017

    New Zealand’s worst drought in 30 years is over
    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-05-06/nz-drought-over/4671688

    Confidence returning as drought lifts in small part of Queensland’s cattle industry
    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-05-26/confidence-returns-to-cattle-sale/6496942

    Australia is apparently “the canary in the coalmine”:

    Climate Change and the End of Australia
    http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/climate-change-and-the-end-of-australia-20111003

    And, yes, Rolling Stone is not “scientific”, but Prof. David Karoly, of the ‘canary’ quote, is.

  29. The level of warming in the most recent 15 year period [since 1998] is not significantly different from zero…

    That’s because the “level of warming” is never “significantly different from zero” in anything less that 12 years for any “most recent… period” and often it’s not “significantly different from zero” for 18-20 years or more:

    http://www.skepticalscience.com/resolving-met-office-confusion.html#89481

    But it’s still warming.

    …and “natural variability is responsible for late twentieth century warming and the cessation of warming since 1998.

    No, “natural variability” is responsible for making it impossible to statistically identify the warming on timescales that are too short. In any sufficiently short period of time there is a statistical “cessation of warming”. But it’s only a statistical cessation, not a physical one.

    FFS, why are deniers so stupid and/or mendacious that they can never, ever let this false meme die, no matter how many times it’s pointed out to them that they’re reversing the directionality of their alimentary canals?

    1. “That’s because the ‘level of warming’ is never ‘significantly different from zero’ in anything less that 12 years for any ‘most recent… period’ and often it’s not ‘significantly different from zero’ for 18-20 years or more….”

      Indeed. Deniers of observed reality also love to misquote Dr Phil Jones on the subject. Deniers love to conflate anomalous warming that is not statistically significant above a=.05 to “no warming at all.”

      BBC: Do you agree that from 1995 to the present there has been no statistically-significant global warming

      Phil Jones: Yes, but only just. I also calculated the trend for the period 1995 to 2009. This trend (0.12C per decade) is positive, but not significant at the 95% significance level. The positive trend is quite close to the significance level. Achieving statistical significance in scientific terms is much more likely for longer periods, and much less likely for shorter periods.

      BBC: How confident are you that warming has taken place and that humans are mainly responsible?

      Phil Jones: I’m 100% confident that the climate has warmed. As to the second question, I would go along with IPCC Chapter 9 – there’s evidence that most of the warming since the 1950s is due to human activity. Phil Jones is saying there is a warming trend but it’s not statistically significant. He’s not talking about whether warming is actually happening. He’s discussing our ability to detect that warming trend in a noisy signal over a short period. To demonstrate this, look at the HadCRUT temperature record from 1995 to 2009. The linear trend is that of warming. However, the temperature record is very noisy with lots of short term variability. The noisy signal means that over a short period, the uncertainty of the warming trend is almost as large as the actual trend. Hence it’s considered statistically insignificant. Over longer time periods, the uncertainty is less and the trend is more statistically significant.

  30. Because they fear, hate, and are desperate to avoid the truth.

    The truth hurts. Hence, like a 3-year-old, they simply deny the way things are, childishly thinking that doing so will make this unpleasant thing just go away.

    They’d be better off running to their mommies for comfort.

  31. “…why are deniers so stupid and/or mendacious that they can never, ever let this false meme die…”

    RE teh stupid:
    IMO, people aren’t sufficiently trained to distinguish valid logic from specious reasoning and rhetorical devices. Nor are they sufficiently trained in scientific values.

    RE teh pants afire:
    Aeon magazine has an article which, while specifically addressing violence, happens to explain a whole lot of what goes on in the world, I think. Blame people’s unsophisticated and parochial views of morality:

    “By ‘moral’, I mean that people are violent because they feel they must be; because they feel that their violence is obligatory. They know that they are harming fully human beings. Nonetheless, they believe they should. Violence does not stem from a psychopathic lack of morality. Quite the reverse: it comes from the exercise of perceived moral rights and obligations.” aeon

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