“.. those subjects who tested highest on measures like “cognitive reflection” and scientific literacy were also most likely to display what he calls “ideologically motivated cognition.”
You will not regret to spend some time of this weekend in November reading and listening to these two suggestions..
this article in Nautilus, followed by listening to this Econ Talk debate between Kerry Emanuel and John Christy (about 1 hour, all of it worthwhile listening), representing the main stream and sceptic view on climate change, respectively. The debate is a good illustration of the subliminal biases that burden our perceptions and opinions. All of us are to some extent deceived by what we want to believe, and the climate change debate is no exception. I found the conversation in Econ Talk interesting ons several accounts. The debate is always conducted in a very civilized way, with no hints of dismissive comments on the scientific qualifications of the discussants. The debate is moderated by Russ Roberts, an economist, who tries to understand the structure of climate models in terms of economic models known to him- an interesting parallelism although not always quite right. But what I would highlight of this conversation is the difficulty of presenting a totally objective view on climate change. Both Emanuel and Christy are premier league climatologist, and yet one can recognize instances through the conversation when both try to slightly bend arguments, when they present facts in a light more favourable to their preconceptions, or when they ignore or do not address those facts that may contradict them.
For example, in one occasion Emanuel asserts that 'we know the equations that govern the climate system'. Well, this is certainly not untrue, but it is not completely true either. I layperson may interpret that, indeed, there are no gaps in our knowledge of climate change. Closer to the truth is, however, that we think we understand the basic principles, each one taken individually, that govern climate physics, but it is obvious that we do not understand well how these principles operate in combination. We know very well that sea-ice melts in warmer temperatures and that wind-stress drags sea-ice away, but we do not understand why Antarctic sea-ice cover is increasing. If we perfectly understood the dynamics of climate, all climate models would produce the same results, which obviously is not happening. Actually, although we 'know the equations' most climate models cannot replicate the easiest climate variable of all: the annually averaged global mean near-surface temperature in the present climate, let alone the temperature trends.
Similarly, Christy insists several times that climate models fail to replicate the observed temperature trends over the last decades. While this is very probably true, from this we cannot infer that greenhouse gases are not having now and cannot have in the future a very important effect on climate. It only means that the models are lousy and probably wrong. In which direction they are wrong is not clear at all, yet.
All in all, I found myself agreeing more often with Emanuel, but certainly Christy's arguments cannot be dismissed out of hand. In the end, the conversation shows that the issue of climate change has basically ceased to be scientific - and thus the utility of the IPCC reports is becoming really marginal. To believe that the climate change issue is still a scientific one is one of the main mistakes of the mainstream climate research community, and explains the misguided responses in the blogosphere to the recent article by Victor and Kennel on the 2C limit. The 2 C limit is not a scientific question. It is about setting a political horizon to achieve reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases. As such, the 2C 'political flag' is failing to effectively attract enough supporters, as Victor and Kennel very rightly pointed out.
The Econ Talk conversation illustrates it very nicely. The climate change debate is all about perceptions: the perceptions of how solid our knowledge is and the perception of how large the risk may be. These perceptions are not going to change in the next decades. Some will continue to see a rabbit and others will keep seeing a duck, independently of what happens or fails to happen.