Admitting Global Warming “Info Manipulation”

by Wesley J. Smith

Climate Depot ran a story about a peer-reviewed journal article that defends exaggerating about global warming. I decided to check it out. Sure enough.

The need for international global warming agreements is so urgent, the authors claim, that “exaggeration” is justified in communicating with the great unwashed so as to increase their pessimism. From, “Information Manipulation and Climate Agreements” (my emphasis):

This article offers a rationale for the phenomenon of climate damage accentuation or exaggeration on the part of the international mainstream media or other pro-environmental organizations. Forming a binding IEA [International Environmental Agreement] to curb climate change is a matter of urgency. The IEA literature generally takes the pessimistic view that an IEA has little chance of success in resolving the climate problem because strong free-riding incentives prevent a sufficient number of countries from participating in that agreement.

When the media or pro-environmental organizations have private information on the damage caused by climate change, in equilibrium they may manipulate this information to increase pessimism regarding climate damage, even though the damage may not be that great…

[W]e show that the aforementioned exaggeration of climate damage may alleviate the problem of insufficient IEA participation.

But when people know they are being lied to, why in the (currently non-warming) world would they push their governments to participate in IEAs? 

The authors recognize that in more (supposedly) dire circumstances, that can be a problem:

In essence, overpessimism mitigates the problem of underparticipation that is caused by free-riding incentives. However, because people update their beliefs using the Bayesian rule, such information manipulation has a negative externality on the other state when climate damage is really huge, in which case the aforementioned information provider will not be sufficiently trusted even if it indicates the true state. As a result, the participation level falls further in this situation.

In other words, mendacity to increase fear about global warming can increase motivation to submit to the international technocracy after more minor events, but might reduce it after a major dislocation because of a loss of trust. 

The authors see the message manipulation as, essentially, a wash in promoting an international global warming agreement:

Overall, information manipulation has an ambiguous effect on IEA membership and global welfare from the ex ante perspective.​

Ambiguous? No. “Information manipulation” undermines people’s trust in science (at least, by association), destroys what is left of the media’s credibility on this issue, and is toxic to democratic deliberation. 

We have known we are being manipulated in this debate for a long time. The good news is that it doesn’t work well anymore except among those who are ideologically committed Chicken Littlists.

What is that old joke: How do I know global warming hysterics are lying? Their lips are moving.