Sometimes, climate science deniers will tell you that we can’t predict global temperatures in the future. Sometimes, they’ll say we’re heading for an ice age.Occasionally, contrarians will say that no single weather event can prove human-caused global warming. But then they’ll point to somewhere that’s cold, claiming this disproves climate change.Often, deniers will tell you that temperature records show that global warming stopped at some point around 1998. But also they’ll insist that those same temperature records can’t be relied on because Nasa and the Bureau of Meteorology are all communist corruption monkeys. Or something.Black is also white. Round is also flat. Wrong is also right?A new research paper published in the journal Synthese has looked at several of these contradictory arguments that get thrown around the blogosphere, the Australian Senate and the opinion pages of the (mostly) conservative media.The paper comes with the fun and enticing title: “The Alice in Wonderland mechanics of the rejection of (climate) science: simulating coherence by conspiracism.”Why Alice? Because, as the White Queen admitted: “Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”The three authors, including Dr John Cook, of the University of Queensland, look at both rhetorical and scientific arguments put by deniers.One example is the popular theme that casts “sceptics” as “dissenting heroes” who bravely oppose “political persecution and fraud”. You know, like modern-day Galileos.But the authors write that deniers will also try and convince the public that there is no consensus among scientists about the causes of climate change (there is and it’s us). They write:Either there is a pervasive scientific consensus in which case contrarians are indeed dissenters, or there is no consensus in which case contrarian opinions should have broad support within the scientific community and no fearless opposition to an establishment is necessary.The authors unleash similar jujitsu-style logic on other contradictory arguments and give examples of where the same individuals have apparently argued against themselves.One of the authors’ examples of incoherent logic comes from the Australian geologist and mining industry figure Prof Ian Plimer and his 2009 book, Heaven and Earth – a book favourably cited by the likes of the former prime minister Tony Abbott and Cardinal George Pell.On page 278, Plimer writes that “temperature and CO2 are not connected” but, on page 411, writes that “CO2 keeps our planet warm”.According to the authors, their examples of “incoherence” only hold together in the minds of the deniers if you apply types of glue known as “conspiracist ideation” and “identity-protective cognition”.So what’s that all about?Conspiracist ideation, or conspiratorial thinking, is the tendency to entertain suggestions: for example that Nasa and the Bureau of Meteorology are conspiring to deliberately manipulate temperature data just to make global warming seem worse than it really is, rather than to correct for known issues.An example of “identity-protective cognition” in this case, the authors explain, is where people who advocate for small governments and “free markets” face a dilemma.Accepting the scientific consensus would likely see increased levels of regulation, which challenges their identity as free-market advocates. So instead, the authors argue, the only options open are to either deny the consensus or try and discredit it.Because cutting GHG emissions requires interventions – such as regulation or increased taxation – that interfere with laissez-faire free-market economics, people whose identity and worldview centres around free markets are particularly challenged by the findings from climate science.Lead author Prof Stephan Lewandowsky, an expert in cognitive psychology at the University of Bristol, has written several research papers finding links between the rejection of science, “conspiracist ideation” and the belief in free market economic principles.One argument that deniers may try with this Synthese paper is that climate scientists also contradict each other and have offered several explanations for the supposed global warming “pause” or “slowdown” (this was never really a thing).Lewandowsky told me:Phenomena can have multiple explanations – so, for example, it is entirely conceivable that volcanic activity and heat exchange with the ocean though the La Niña phenomenon might have contributed to what has been called a “slowdown” in warming. Similarly, just because contemporary climate change is driven by CO2 does not mean that the sun could not have caused earlier episodes of climate change. The same phenomenon may have multiple causes – but the same cause cannot have contradictory consequences. For example, it would be ridiculous to say that the alleged ‘slowdown’ was driven by La Niña but that La Niña also causes warming. Equally, it cannot be the case that CO2 causes warming as well as cooling. But CO2 as well as La Niña may both contribute to global temperatures.Of course, Lewandowsky and his colleagues are by no means the first to see the many contradictory arguments from deniers. But does he think looking at them in such detail will make any difference?I think that people who deny basic science will continue to do so, no matter how contradictory their arguments may be. However, these pervasive contradictions should caution the media against giving an airing to those opinions.