Global Warming and the Availability Cascades

Russ Steele

One of the presents I received from a close friend  at Christmas was a book by Daniel Kahneman, winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2002, Thinking, Fast and Slow.  It is a very meaty read with a plethora of opportunities to review some of my past decisions and realize how my mind often lead me astray.

In Section One of the book Kahneman introduces the idea of an availability cascade, and I was reminded of now millions of people are worrying about Al Gores global warming, when the world is not warming. How did this happen?

An availability cascade is a self-reinforcing cycle that explains the development of certain kinds of collective beliefs. A novel idea or insight, usually one that seems to explain a complex process in a simple or straightforward manner, gains rapid currency in the popular discourse by its very simplicity and by its apparent insightfulness. Its rising popularity triggers a chain reaction within the social network: individuals adopt the new insight because other people within the network have adopted it, and on its face it seems plausible. The reason for this increased use and popularity of the new idea involves both the availability of the previously obscure term or idea, and the need of individuals using the term or idea to appear to be current with the stated beliefs and ideas of others, regardless of whether they in fact fully believe in the idea that they are expressing. Their need for social acceptance, and the apparent sophistication of the new insight, overwhelm their critical thinking.

  •  The novel idea is that increases in human generated CO2 are causing global temperatures to rise. It is complex process with a simple straightforward casual solution; humans were responsible for the warming.
  • Temperatures were rising between 1977 and 1997 and scientists were searching for a cause and attributed the increase in temperature to similar a rise in CO2, concluding it must be the cause.
  • Al Gore promoted the idea in a relentless campaign of misinformation, giving rise to a popular notion for those not familiar with how the climate works, including the role of the sun and oceans in governing the earths climate.
  • With the help of rent seeking academics, NASA scientists, and fraudulent UN IPCC assessment reports people started accepting the idea that human can control the climate  as plausible. These availability entrepreneurs were activists manipulating the content of public discourse, strive to trigger availability cascades likely to advance their agendas.
  • This cascade encouraged other in the network to adopted the idea that human were causing climate change, including policy makers who saw this as an opportunity to turn a cascade of growing public concern into a steady stream of tax revenue, charging citizens for their carbon foot print.
  • We know from the Climategate e-mails that even the rent seeking scientist and fraudsters on the UN IPCC panels did not fully believe the anthropogenic warming concept, but there was money to be made studying the concept. To keep the money flowing they had to make it unacceptable not to believe, to branding those unbelieving skeptics as outside socially acceptable networks.
  • These social pressures forced many knowledgeable scientist to remain silent. This silence reinforced the apparent sophistication of the new insight in the publics mind, overwhelming their critical thinking skills. The cascade was complete.

Now we have a new availability cascade, Climategate I and II. A cascade of information that runs contrary to the anthropogenic global warming cascade. These e-mails expose the manipulation used to initiate,  and then enhance the  simple concept that humans were responsible for global warming. We can observe the players striving to trigger an availability cascade to advance their global warmer agendas.

Only in this case there were multiple agendas. Grant seeking scientist who want more research funds, politicians who want more tax revenue, environmentalist wanting to stifle our fossil fuel economy, and socialist wanting to spread economic misery uniformly across the globe. Climategate has exposed these agendas, creating a counter availability cascade. This cascade is being reinforced by growing plethora of web based science blogs and books written by scientist no longer relying on their positions and paychecks for survival. We are fortunate these brave skeptics have stepped forward. We are also deeply in debt to FOIA for providing this community skeptics the Climategate e-mails.

I found it of interest to note one of users of the availability cascade concept is Cass R. Sunstein, President Obama’s Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, Office of Management and Budget. I predict we will soon see an availability cascade used to promote the consolidation of government functions.

This is a novel idea that seems to explain complex processes in a simple straightforward way. Reduce the cost of government by consolidation. The question is will it gain rapid currency in the popular discourse due to its very simplicity and apparent insight.  Watch for the proposals that include new governmental structures, all designed to give civil servants better insulation against mass demands for regulatory change from a Congress under the thumb of the Tea Party. Instead we will be asked to base government decision on easily accessible scientific databases, thus to reduce people’s dependence on popular perceptions. And, who will have control of those databases?  Remember what happened the climate change data bases, when the data did no conform to the computer models the data was changed to reflect the models. Who controls the models, the puppet masters? What could go wrong — reality!


About Russ Steele
Freelance writer and climate change blogger. Russ spent twenty years in the Air Force as a navigator specializing in electronics warfare and digital systems. After his service he was employed for sixteen years as concept developer for TRW, an aerospace and automotive company, and then was CEO of a non-profit Internet provider for 18 months. Russ's articles have appeared in Comstock's Business, Capitol Journal, Trailer Life, Monitoring Times, and Idaho Magazine.

5 Responses to Global Warming and the Availability Cascades

  1. gjrebane says:

    Russ, great summary of the ‘AGW problem’ and good new thoughts on how the collectivist elites can restructure government to create an unassailable ruling class. As Sunstein himself has famously written, all it takes is a series of properly directed and little noticed “nudges” before the electorate is totally out of the loop.

  2. Sean says:

    The electorate is always in the loop…they get stuck with the bill. What surprises me is the length our government goes to find creative ways to take our money. Consider that governments at various levels pay about $1.2 trillion dollars for health care. However, they only cover about 80% of the actual cost and permit health care providers to make up the shortfall from private insurance providers. That means $250 billion of extra charges in our insurance premiums. I estimate that’s $2500 per yr per private insurance policy with no allowances made for what someone could afford. That’s also the appeal of cap and trade. It’s a tax paid by energy providers that’s passed on to every customer in their fuel or electric bill. The politicians even suggest if you don’t like the increased price of energy, complain to your energy provider. You can’t even escape it when you save money. The Federal reserve’s expansion of the money supply has kept interest rates low which is great if you want to borrow money (but just try to qualify for a loan though without perfect credit) however if you are living on the interest from savings accumulated over a lifetime, suddenly you are not getting much income. Perhaps there is too much emphasis on tax rates but not nearly enough discussion of the hidden taxes we pay to the government. If there was more of the latter, the lower to middle income earners would be pushing a lot harder for smaller government.

  3. Russ says:

    Dr Don Easterbrook is a professor emeritus of geology at Western Washington University. He holds a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree and PhD in geology, and has studied climate change for 50 years. He is nationally known as a climate-change skeptic
    In an interview with Josh Holloway at Western Front Online, Easterbrook makes it clear that he believes the Earth is now cooling.


    Unfortunately, a lot of politics has gotten involved with the sciences that relate to climate change, specifically because there are huge amounts of money involved, like hundreds of billions and trillions of dollars. There’s a huge amount of power.
    Climate change is being used as a lever to try to push for a world government.

  4. Greg Goodknight says:

    What seems missing in the descriptions of the ‘availability cascade’ of the initial AGW scare is that the obvious remedies are all congruent with the desires of the group even without the cascade. A perfect storm. And internationally, there are multiple groups with different desires… The western Left wanted to punish multinationals and get rid of yucky oil in favor of nice clean and affordable alternatives (you just have to believe that if you drive oil out with carbon taxes that an affordable alternative will rise out of the misery), and the 3rd world nations love the idea of reparations for all the carbon fuels the 1st world used while the 3rd world remained mired in poverty. Just send in the money and all the benign kleptocracies will be happy to spend it after helping the IPCC figure out how bad the future will be and set the payments.

    IIRC at the last IPCC shindig, they wanted from the US an amount equal to the US defense budget. Annually.

    The current cooling phase has apparently arrived just in time; nothing will derail the silliness faster than a recognizable by all climate change opposite the predictions of AGW dogma.

  5. CSAC has a whole section on “climate change” on their website. Until these folks get educated it may be difficult to overcome their ignorance.

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