Donna Laframboise and Cloud Screaming

Donna Laframboise is the photographer/journalist behind the website (and related blog) NOconsensus.org

Her previous success with getting a conviction for murder overturned based on flawed forensic science has somehow translated into her assumption that there is a relationship between a jury and the environmental science community. As such, she’s gained a small amount of attention for her citizen audit of the 4th IPCC report, which she celebrates as gaining 21 “F”s on her report card. Currently, this has eventuated in her branching out to create a book that is anticipated to be titled, Decoding the Climate Bible: Almost nothing you’ve heard about the UN’s uber report is true (she has since changed this to The Delinquent Teenager Who Was Mistaken For The World’s Top Climate Expert).

In short, she demonstrates a great amount of hypocrisy and vague understanding with a continuous undertone of contempt throughout her website and blog – with even more venom saved for another local blog – DeSmogBlog. Throughout her work, she comments on the hostility in online “debate” over climate change, arguing that there are many out there attempting to silence contrary points of view.

To quote; “Rather than discussing matters in respectful, professional tones, many websites insist those with contrary views are marginal individuals whose ideas don’t merit consideration.”
and; “If the fate of the Earth really is at stake, it’s vital that we consider multiple perspectives and explore a variety of possible responses. None of us have made an informed decision if we’ve only listened to one point-of-view.”

In this way, she all but extinguishes the scientific basis and assumes that the real science of climate change is a public forum. It’s like me saying that I do no like that the Australian Bureau of Meteorology has said that the next five days are going to be cold and wet (based on many observations and models) and so I feel that I can change this fact by getting a number of my mates together to shout at the clouds. Obviously no amount of noise will change to likelihood of rain, thus as much as weather scepticism is free speech, it will not change the weather regardless. *

Indeed life as we know and enjoy it is at stake and the scientific basis behind anthropogenic climate change (ACC) concern is drawn from multiple lines of strong evidence (as opposed to Donna’s perspectives). A variety of possible responses will not change the likelihood (at best, all it does it create more hot-air!) and no intelligent and informed individual has reached concern over ACC by only listening to “one point-of-view”, but instead, a compelling evidence base. This is probably key to her misunderstanding of the science.

She makes the point that few journalists understand science – which we can safely say includes herself. Throughout her online material (and most likely her upcoming book) she continually falls back on “points-of-view” and “skepticism is free speech” instead of providing scientific grounds for why she assumes a wide range of relevant fields of scientific research are fundamentally wrong about ACC conclusions. She makes the point that throughout history, there have been many examples of the majority of scientists being wrong – but here, she also looks at it from the wrong angle.

In most cases (indeed all that I know of), we find that the ruling views within the scientific community, which have been demonstrated to be wrong, are older ones (eg. the four humours, heavier-than-air flight, principles of gravity, flat Earth etc) and it is new ideas that radically shake up the establishment. Of course, to do this, it has to be convincing and because it goes against the understanding of the more elite, it is challenged ruthlessly… if it survives, it changes the way that we understand the world and typically, a theory is borne. It’s not often that a new idea reaches this point and it turns out that the older view was correct all along – science doesn’t work backwards like this (again, questioning Donna’s understanding of science).

To avoid the cheap and easy attack on her scientific understanding, I’ll comment instead on another quote of hers, “Science is about bold questions – not final answers.”

It’s silly to say the science is only about bold questions – it would be a fruitless effort to simply ask questions. I could imagine going to a local GP, informing them of my symptoms and asking what was likely to be wrong with me. In Donna’s world the GP would then dreamily look out of their window, smile and reply, “Hmmm… now that is the question, isn’t it?”

Talk about stumbling into Wonderland. Certainly, the answers are the carrot on the string – but the path it leads us down is one of greater understanding and greater clarity.

Donna is, at best, a clever journalist whom confuses science with opinion and stirs indignation within her reader that is aimed squarely at the scientific community, which she misconstrues. Sometimes, she includes a pinch of fear-mongering, by drawing on xenophobia and nightmares of terrorism. She wants her readers to ignore the compelling and weighty scientific reasoning behind ACC and instead to feel that they can successfully scream at clouds to change the world.

Articles on her include;
Donna Laframboise: How to Avoid the Argument
The Smoke and Mirrors of Laframboise’s attack on David Suzuki
Hypocrisy: The endless tool of misinformation

Climate Change Hate: Is Donna “Soggy” behind the ears?
Donna Laframboise, the time traveller: paper of ’69!
Dutch review of the 4th IPCC report gets the thumbs up
Although she also makes a cameo appearance in many others.

I’ve also recently came by another great post by another blogger, Brook;

An open letter to Donna Laframboise

As a late addition, I include this quote from a 2009 article by Pascal Diethelm and Martin McKee, Denialism: what is it and how should scientists respond?

…the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) determined in 1992 that environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) is carcinogenic, a finding confirmed by many other authoritative national and international public health institutions. The EPA assessment was described by two commentators as an ‘attempt to institutionalize a particular irrational view of the world as the only legitimate perspective, and to replace rationality with dogma as the legitimate basis of public policy’, which they labelled as nothing less than a ‘threat to the very core of democratic values and democratic public policy’

Quite clearly the parallels between the commentators response to the science behind tobacco regulation and Donna’s response to the climate science are overwhelmingly obvious.

*Please note that, although Donna wants her reader to feel otherwise, there is nothing wrong with questioning the science or entering into discussions/debate regarding ACC nor is there an elitist-styled segregation. We are all allowed, if not openly encouraged to ask questions and learn – that’s where the confidence we obtain through scientific methodology: through rigorous retesting of the pillars of understanding (and not blind acceptance or blind rejection in the case of these “sceptics”). I am, for instance, not a climate scientist – my fields are environmental / atmospheric chemistry and ecology. However, what Donna begs from her readers is out right scepticism in lieu of any interest or understanding of the science. You can’t go to your local doctor and ask what’s wrong with you while stuffing cotton wool in your ears, nor can you expect anything but to freeze by wearing shorts and a T-shirt because you’re sick of the cold weather. If you wish to learn and discuss the science, you must also be willing to understand the reasoning behind it and why certain conclusions are drawn through various investigations. This is not what Donna Laframbiose wishes her readers to do. Climate scepticism may be free speech, but as Carl Sagan put it, you’re entitled to your own opinions, but not your own facts. Donna has the two confused.

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