A major challenge exists: it is far easier to dispense truthiness (and outright deceit) than it is to have to run after and rebut it. When it comes to anti-science syndrome suffering climate deniers and delayers, the whack-a-mole campaign of dealing with deceit, deception, and diversion is a never-ending and utterly exhausting process. And, that exhaustion is one of the powerful items in the quiver for serial deceivers -- eventually the exhausted truthtellers run out of energy (and other resources) to respond. And, the deceit lives on without serious challenge.
Of course, there is the not insignificant issue that serious interests are aligned with downplaying (even dismissive) climate change risks. Thus, it is easy for anyone with even a shred of credentials to get a powerful megaphone in, for example, the Murdoch disinformation empire.
Friday's Wall Street Journal provides (yet) another example of this sad reality.
Thus, the following is an initial (and only partial ...) look at (yet) another (recklessly and shamelessly) deceptive and misleading Wall Street Journal opinion piece.
Notwithstanding the fundamental disdain for truthful science evidenced in essentially every paragraph, with the publication of "No Need to Panic About Global Warming," the editor made sure to reinforce the argument by pointing to the "authority" of "16 scientists listed at the end of the article" who signed it. (Yes, 16... although not all are scientists, still a heady number of some (reasonably) well known names, such as aviation pioneer Burt Rutan. These 16, however, are less well known for their passionate rejection of the scientific community's understanding of climate risks and outright denial of many fundamental concepts.)
"No Need to Panic About Global Warming: There's no compelling scientific argument for drastic action to 'decarbonize' the world's economy."
The basic point: "no need to panic" translates into delaying action.
And, well, what does "compelling" mean? Acidification of the oceans, melting arctic ice, changing planting guidance, disruptive weather patterns, and such are pretty compelling to most of the scientific community. And, of course, when speaking of "most," we are talking of something like 97% of the relevant experts.
Editor's Note: The following has been signed by the 16 scientists listed at the end of the article.
Ah, but there are 16 in disagreement... even as, when you look at the specialities and have reasons to respect some of them in their own domain (or even be in awe of them), most are not climate science experts. ("the fact that this is a group of older and often retired weathermen, engineers, or otherwise not-climate-scientists").
A candidate for public office in any contemporary democracy may have to consider what, if anything, to do about "global warming." Candidates should understand that the oft-repeated claim that nearly all scientists demand that something dramatic be done to stop global warming is not true. In fact, a large and growing number of distinguished scientists and engineers do not agree that drastic actions on global warming are needed.
Use of that "large" and "distinguished" to reinforce the appeals to authority... in the face of global scientific expertise backing climate science conclusions about a warming planet and humanity's role in that warming.
Perhaps the most inconvenient fact is the lack of global warming for well over 10 years now.
Yes, let's peg everything on one year, one date: 1998.
However, 9 of the 10 hottest years on record are in the past decade (with 1998 being the one exception).
The 2000s were hotter than the 1990s globally. And, the 1990s were hotter than the 1980s. And, the 1980s...
This group of 16 "scientists" is rejecting basic scientific honesty with this one sentence alone. When one speaks to climate, one speaks to trends and longer periods. One does not peg everything on a specific year. That "inconvenient fact" is nonexistent if one starts at 1997 or 1999 rather than 1998. And, well, if one uses (more appropriately) 30-year trend lines, that global warming pattern is quite clear.
Their "inconvenient fact" is actually simply sleight of hand misrepresentation.
This graphic is from Skeptical Science, which explains:
"As Figure 1 shows, over the last 37 years one can identify overlapping short windows of time when climate "skeptics" could have argued (and often did, i.e., here and here and here) that global warming had stopped. And yet over the entire period question containing these six cooling trends, the underlying trend is one of rapid global warming (0.27°C per decade, according to the new Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature [BEST] dataset). And while the global warming trend spans many decades, the longest cooling trend over this period is 10 years, which proves that each was caused by short-term noise dampening the long-term trend."
This moles' line about "no warming" of course, shows the level of disdain that these 16 have for honest engagement.
The fact is that CO2 is not a pollutant. CO2 is a colorless and odorless gas, exhaled at high concentrations by each of us, and a key component of the biosphere's life cycle. Plants do so much better with more CO2 that greenhouse operators often increase the CO2 concentrations by factors of three or four to get better growth. This is no surprise since plants and animals evolved when CO2 concentrations were about 10 times larger than they are today. Better plant varieties, chemical fertilizers and agricultural management contributed to the great increase in agricultural yields of the past century, but part of the increase almost certainly came from additional CO2 in the atmosphere.
Perhaps the 16 would like to engage with the science that shows lower mental performance with increased CO2 concentrations in classrooms...
Or, how high Co2 concentrations can kill...
Or the science looking how increased CO2 concentrations have mixed agricultural impacts, dependent on what type of plant and crop, and increased Co2 can actually lead to reduced quality yields in some circumstances ...
Or the reality of Liebig's law which is that growth is limited to its scarcest resource. If there are temperature or nutrient or water or other limitations, that increased CO2 will not foster increased productivity. (Those Dutch roses, well, are fed lovingly massive amounts of water and nutrients in a temperature controlled environment.)
This argument path, ever so lovingly followed by so many climate science deceivers, is like arguing against regulations limiting arsenic or mercury pollutants since these are "natural" elements. Let us take another angle, we all need water to live and without it we will die. However, drinking too much water is also dangerous and, well, can kill you -- try drinking a swimming pool...
And... and... and...
Why is there so much passion about global warming... There are several reasons, but a good place to start is the old question "cui bono?" Or the modern update, "Follow the money."
Alarmism over climate is of great benefit to many, providing government funding for academic research and a reason for government bureaucracies to grow. Alarmism also offers an excuse for governments to raise taxes, taxpayer-funded subsidies for businesses that understand how to work the political system, and a lure for big donations to charitable foundations promising to save the planet.
Another tool of deceivers... create an appearance of "pox on both houses" by accusing the other that which seems plausible as undermining your own argument.
Wow, a "lure for big donations" has led every single significant relevant scientific society in the world (with one interesting exception) to state that climate change is happening, humanity is driving it, and we should take action. Every... single... one. For that "lure of big donations," these thousands of scientists and these institutions have thrown science to the side.
Well, what is bigger? "Big donations to charitable foundations" or the fossil fuel industry (the Exxon-Mobils, Peabodys, Koch Brothers)?
p.s.: "Save the planet..." No, "the planet" will continue, the questions are what will happen to modern human civilization amid catastrophic climate chaos and how many of the planet's species will go extinct.
We have a message to any candidate for public office: There is no compelling scientific argument for drastic action to "decarbonize" the world's economy.
Declarative statements don't necessarily make the statement truthful. And, well, that one is not. Those "arguments" (how about "scientific basis") exist and are overwhelming for any who approach them with an open mind respectful and understanding of the scientific method.
Even if one accepts the inflated climate forecasts of the IPCC, aggressive greenhouse-gas control policies are not justified economically. A recent study of a wide variety of policy options by Yale economist William Nordhaus showed that nearly the highest benefit-to-cost ratio is achieved for a policy that allows 50 more years of economic growth unimpeded by greenhouse gas controls. This would be especially beneficial to the less-developed parts of the world that would like to share some of the same advantages of material well-being, health and life expectancy that the fully developed parts of the world enjoy now.
The Nordhaus analysis is, well, filled with multiple issues and challenges. Among them, a "discounting" of the future that essentially states that the state of human civilization 100 years from now has zero value in any calculation of the economics of climate mitigation action. Beyond sigh...
Many other policy responses would have a negative return on investment.
And a tremendous share of what is recommended to do comes at a positive "return on investment" even before considering climate mitigation value streams.
And it is likely that more CO2 and the modest warming that may come with it will be an overall benefit to the planet.
"Likely" is ever so scientific a term and "may" excuses ever so many things. After all, I don't have to worry about saving money because I "may" win the lottery tomorrow...
In a warming world, there will be -- in very stove-piped ways -- examples of winners but, on balance, human civilization will be losers...
If elected officials feel compelled to "do something" about climate, we recommend supporting the excellent scientists who are increasing our understanding of climate with well-designed instruments on satellites, in the oceans and on land, and in the analysis of observational data. The better we understand climate, the better we can cope with its ever-changing nature, which has complicated human life throughout history. However, much of the huge private and government investment in climate is badly in need of critical review.
Classic climate delayer... let's invest to learn more to help guide action tomorrow but put off action today because we need "more" before acting.
Sigh, every serious look at this path comes to the same conclusion: delaying action means more expensive paths toward climate mitigation with increased risk that the actions will be inadequate.
Every candidate should support rational measures to protect and improve our environment, but it makes no sense at all to back expensive programs that divert resources from real needs and are based on alarming but untenable claims of "incontrovertible" evidence.
What is sad is that these "16" are arguing against taking "rational measures" with misleading representations of fact.
They are not laying out a "no regrets strategy," advocating aggressive action in arenas like energy efficiency and electrification of rail where, without question, the economic benefits are seriously net positive even without any consideration of the "decarbonization" implications. No, instead, they are leveraging their titles and the Murdoch disinformation machine to seek to delay action... delay that will be catastrophic if these 16 just happen to be wrong.
- For one window the thinking of those signing this letter, perhaps take a few moments with just one of the signatories: "William Happer, professor of physics, Princeton."
- Also on this op-ed:
- Union of Concerned Scientists, "Dismal Science at the Wall Street Journal": "While it's entirely appropriate for scientists, like all citizens, to voice their personal opinions on public policy, the op-ed repeated a number of deeply misleading claims about climate science. To take just one example, the authors claim there has been a "lack of warming" for 10 years. Here's what we know: 2011 was the 35th year in a row in which global temperatures were above the historical average and 2010 and 2005 were the warmest years on record. Over the past decade, record high temperatures outpaced record lows by more than two to one across the continental United States, a marked increase from previous decades."
- Peter Gleick, Forbes: "The Wall Street Journal's editorial board has long been understood to be not only antagonistic to the facts of climate science, but hostile. But in a remarkable example of their unabashed bias, on Friday they published an opinion piece that not only repeats many of the flawed and misleading arguments about climate science, but purports to be of special significance because it was signed by 16 "scientists"... the most amazing and telling evidence of the bias of the Wall Street Journal in this field is the fact that 255 members of the United States National Academy of Sciences wrote a comparable (but scientifically accurate) essay on the realities of climate change and on the need for improved and serious public debate around the issue, offered it to the Wall Street Journal, and were turned down. The National Academy of Sciences is the nation's pre-eminent independent scientific organizations. Its members are among the most respected in the world in their fields. Yet the Journal wouldn't publish this letter, from more than 15 times as many top scientists. Instead they chose to publish an error-filled and misleading piece on climate because some so-called experts aligned with their bias signed it. This may be good politics for them, but it is bad science and it is bad for the nation. ..."
- Michael Tobis, "The Wall Street Journal, Again": "As is common regarding this and other matters, the WSJ op-ed page gives space to arguments that are egregiously irresponsible. What is most striking about this piece is not its irresponsibility. We have come to expect that. The viciousness and the palpable malice are in competition with intellectual incoherence. The deniers are reduced to what amounts to essentially senile and/or paranoid blithering, and the leading paper of the financial sector gives them space to do it."
- Greg Laden, "Two Incontrovertible Things: Antropogenic Global Warming Is Real and the Wall Street Journal Is a Rag: "The Wall Street Journal has published one of the most offensive, untruthful, twisted reviews of what scientists think of climate change; the WSJ Lies about the facts and twists the story to accommodate the needs of head-in-the-sand industrialists and 1%ers; The most compelling part of their argument, according to them, is that the editorial has been signed by 16 scientists... The Wall Street Journal is trolling, and it is shameful. Almost everything they say in their piece is an out and out lie, easily falsified with even a cursory examination of the evidence. In fact, their piece is so bad that this is what we can say about the "16 scientists" who signed this letter: They are idiots. If any of those individuals actually read this piece as published and put their name on it, their credentials as climate scientists have just evaporated."
- Ed Kilgore at Political Animal: "In a world full of doubt and contention, there are a few things, other than the proverbial items of death and taxes, you can count on to be completely reliable. And one of those is the ideological mendacity of the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal."
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