study claiming that climate sceptics are more likely to (a) support the free market, and (b) believe in conspiracy theories has attracted a good deal of media attention recently, leading to such headlines as “Climate change deniers ‘are either extreme free marketeers or conspiracy theorists’”. (Students of logic might like to consider how that headline diverges from the actual findings.)

This has naturally annoyed the aforementioned sceptics/deniers, who dispute the researchers’ claim that their blogs were invited to take part in the online survey that provided the study’s data. Regardless of whether or not this is true, the methodology used was about as impressive as the phrase “online survey” implies. In 2010, a questionnaire was posted on the various climate change blogs where the two sides thrash the issue out, often in forthright tones. Questions involved belief in the extent of man’s contribution to global warming as well as one’s preferred economic system, the moon landings, Princess Diana’s death, Area 51 and other wacky conspiracy theories. Since it would not be difficult to guess the purpose of the survey, it strikes me that there was a non-trivial incentive for each side to use it to discredit the other by claiming to hold the opposing view on climate science whilst pretending to believe in every tinfoil hat idea on the list.

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