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Automating the climate debate

Dan Farber, professor of law | November 9, 2010

The claims of climate deniers are so repetitive that someone has figured out how to automate the Twitter wars:

Getting into a climate change debate on Twitter could be even more exhausting than it sounds now that a software developer named Nigel Leck has automated the process. Tired of arguing with climate change deniers in 140 character quips, the programmer wrote a script to do it for him. Chatbot @AI_AGW scans Twitter every five minutes searching for hundreds of phrases that fit the usual denier argument paradigm. Then it serves them up some science.

Those responses are pulled from a database of hundreds of responses that the software matches up to the argument made by the original tweeter. Those who claim the entire solar system is warming are met with something like: “Sun’s output has barely changed since 1970 & is irrelevant to recent global warming” followed by a link to corresponding scientific research.

The next step will undoubtedly be a  counter-move by climate denialists.  Their positions should be even easier to program.  Then the climate debate can continue on its own, free from any actual human involvement.  It’s the next big thing: truly mindless political debate.

By the way, one of the problems with Chatbot @AI_AGW is that it doesn’t recognize sarcasm.

Cross-posted from the environmental law and policy blog Legal Planet, a Berkeley Law-UCLA Law collaboration.

Comments to “Automating the climate debate

  1. China already has done their part with One Child, and they pollute less per capita than us. There is no moral justification the US can use to pressure them until we show good faith by making similar sacrifices.

    I don’t think just shelling out money is going to fix the problem, but the same folks that lean on China and India should examine the motives for their moralizing.

    • Obviously you are not paying attention to China’s exploding, increasingly consumption based economy as it turns into the world premier energy and natural resource glutton. Your per capita consumption stats are bunk. Even with lower per capita consumption, China still gobbles up more of the worlds resources than anyone else with over a billion people. America is matching them by importing immigrants from the third world who instantly get promoted to first world carbon polluters within weeks of stepping over the US border.

      • Please keep in mind that nearly all of the work is outsourced in China for their cheap labour. It’s easy to blame them for polluting the world but it’s really us who need to take a good at ourselves. In order to make a difference, each and one of us need to start making changes to improve our environment. Blaming other people does not help!

  2. What does “climate denier” even mean? And who is going to debate any serious scientific issue on Twitter? Anybody’s opinions, valid or not, can be trivialized in the manner described by Farber: Nature vs Nurture, static versus expanding universe, evolution vs creationism. Most people don’t believe in global warming because the top researchers engaged in fraud while trying to make the case that advanced societies should pay a huge carbon tax which just turns out to be some Obam-like redistributionist tax to transfer wealth to unproductive overly numerous people in the third world.

    The best way to reduce humanities carbon footprint is to downsize humanity — in particular, the Chinese and Indians, who are the world worst carbon polluters. But nobody is talking about that. Let the Twitter debate begin.

    • I am afraid you are incorrect, no scientists engaged in any fraud over climate change. Contrary to what Faux News would have you believe, there was not a single damning piece of fraud evidence in the “climategate” emails. “Mike’s Nature Trick”: removing the tree-ring data from after the 1960s because it diverged from the thermometer data. Tree-rings are an indirect measure of temperature, and are inherently less accurate than thermometers. The data sets for thermometers and tree-rings were in agreement from the 1800s until the 1960s, with both showing a rise in global temperatures. During the 1960s however the tree-rings began to indicate a decline, while the thermometers showed that temperature was still going up. Figuring that the thermometers are more accurate, since they directly measure the temperature and only measure temperature, while tree-rings can be affected by many factors, Mike Mann dropped the tree-ring data from after the 1960s. Why did the tree-rings and thermometers diverge? I don’t personally know, although I suspect that good old-fashioned industrial pollution probably is responsible for it. The myth that climate change is some sort of recent global hoax is rampant in the media because of a massive misinformation campaign by the oil companies who stand to lose trillions of dollars in future revenue if people switch to alternative energy sources. It was proven as a scientific fact in 1859 that CO2 traps infrared radiation, and the first predictions that humans might warm the planet were made before 1900, based on that discovery and the increasing use of fossil fuels. By the 1950s there was plenty of evidence that the world was warming up, and you can find the documentaries on the Internet from that time that talk about it. In the 1970s, it was shown that if the pattern of Ice Ages in the last 100,000+ years continued we would be entering a new one in a few thousand years, but with the caveat that if we continued pumping CO2 into the air it would probably prevent that from happening. Unfortunately, the media saw the words “Ice Age” and ran with that, without bothering to read the rest of the articles, which subsequently led to the myth that scientists were predicting global cooling in the 1970s. To summarize: scientists have known for more than a century that we can change the climate with our activity, and have known for 50+ years that this is indeed happening. It is not some big conspiracy, and a little bit of research and common sense will reveal that straight away. Think about it: who is more likely to engage in a conspiracy, the scientists who have nothing to gain by convincing people that bad things will happen if they don’t change their lifestyles? Or oil companies who stand to lose trillions of dollars in future profits if people do change their lifestyles? Also, think about that from a feasibility standpoint: tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of scientists spread over several continents and several generations all manage to coordinate their results such that they all reach the same conclusion, just so they can gain nothing. Or oil companies with trillions of dollars at their disposal and numerous politicians in their backpockets.

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