Feb 28, 2010

Al Gore Blows Tobacco Smoke in Our Face - Again

Much can be said about Al Gore's opinion piece published in yesterday's New York Times. For the moment I'm going to focus on his use of the tobacco analogy. He writes:
Over the years, as the [climate change] science has become clearer and clearer, some industries and companies whose business plans are dependent on unrestrained pollution of the atmospheric commons have become ever more entrenched. They are ferociously fighting against the mildest regulation — just as tobacco companies blocked constraints on the marketing of cigarettes for four decades after science confirmed the link of cigarettes to diseases of the lung and the heart. [bold added]
This is the equivalent of someone with a criminal record calling people he doesn't like a bunch of crooks. Why would anyone with a checkered past even go there? Why invite people to dismiss you as just a pot who's calling a kettle black?

As I've mentioned previously, Gore's family grew tobacco for years. Gore has boasted about his own experiences farming it. Most important of all, he accepted political donations from the tobacco industry over a ten-year period.

According to a 1996 New York Times article, Mr. Gore declared in a speech in North Carolina in 1988:
Throughout most of my life, I've raised tobacco...I want you to know that with my own hands, all of my life, I put it in the plant beds and transferred it. I've hoed it. I've chopped it. I've shredded it, spiked it, put it in the barn and stripped it and sold it.
While Gore finds it convenient these days to portray tobacco as the moral equivalent of the Great Satan, to anyone aware of his family history this rings grotesquely hollow. Six years after his own sister died of lung cancer, he himself was still accepting political campaign donations from "tobacco industry political action committees." It took several years following her death for his family to walk away from the income they earned from this crop.

The reason this is important is because the tobacco analogy isn't being deployed randomly or accidentally. It's become a consistent part of Gore's rhetorical arsenal. Last December, he tried the same trick. When asked about the lack of political action in the US on carbon-dioxide related matters, he compared "carbon polluters" to big tobacco and appeared to blame their lobbying and advertising activities for the lack of legislative progress.

There's nothing high-minded about this sort of argument. It doesn't require that you deal in real-world facts. It doesn't involve taking responsibility, admitting mistakes, or rebooting with a fresh, new perspective. It's all about smearing the other side, trying to link it in the public's mind to an entirely unrelated social evil. Whether the comparison is fair or valid isn't the point. The idea is to paint other people as bad guys, to pass the buck, to avoid confronting one's own shortcomings. (A bracing discussion of Gore's shortcomings appears here.)

In this case, though, it's a risky move. Because whenever he hauls out the tobacco analogy I'm not in the least persuaded. Instead, I'm reminded that while he poses as an environmental savior, he's really just a politician. While he says he's anti-tobacco, he's actually morally incoherent.


>> Al Gore thinks your brain is too primitive
>> Al Gore: not this thinking woman's thinking man
>> Let there be no more scientific consensuses
>> The climate bible and the home inspector

Feb 26, 2010

Let There Be No More Scientific Consensuses

[desktop wallpaper version available here]

It's good news that Rajendra Pachauri's leadership of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is now going to be scrutinized. His behaviour has been conspicuously less-than-professional and it's difficult to imagine informed people taking the IPCC seriously as long as he remains at the helm.

But climate science problems extend far beyond one man. In my view, they can be traced in large part to a phrase that should be struck forever from the scientific and journalistic vocabulary: "scientific consensus."

Science is about doubt – not certainty. Journalism is supposed to reveal – not conceal. When scientific organizations claim there's a consensus, they step over the line into political advocacy. When media outlets trumpet said consensus they "disappear" highly-qualified, dissenting scientists.

There's nothing wrong with saying there's a prevailing or dominant view among scientists on a particular topic. There's nothing wrong with saying there's a preponderance of opinion in one direction. But those phrases do something the term "scientific consensus" does not. They acknowledge the existence of alternative points-of-view.

The IPCC has spent years striving to establish what Christopher Essex and Ross McKitrick refer to as "Official Science" (see pages 34-40 in their book, Taken By Storm):
Official Science may serve many functions, but it is most important to understand that Official Science is not science. Moreover, those involved with it represent only a minority of people involved with science, and they are not appointed by scientists to speak on their behalf...while scientists are skeptical of their own work and that of others, Official Science speaks with the simple confidence that good politics requires and journalism demands, but which science abhors.
When we're told about an alleged scientific consensus therefore, what's being described is not certainty or unanimity among all scientists – but merely the opinion of a small group of people who, via a political process, managed to get a seat at the table during the meetings at which, via another political process, the Official Science was decided upon.

When I began examining the climate change debate I was shocked to discover a huge disconnect between how the media described matters and what a few hours of independent research revealed. The Economist, a publication I normally trust and respect, spoke of a "consensus on global warming" as though it were gospel that had been hand-delivered by Yahweh himself.

The once stodgy Time magazine insisted there was "a clear scientific consensus connecting the rise in man-made greenhouse gas emissions" to physical changes in the natural world. Wired magazine, which is aimed at an educated, tech-savvy audience, illustrated beautifully what happens when we think and speak as though scientific consensuses are meaningful. The next step is to proclaim, as a journalist in that publication did in June 2008, that: "No one with any scientific sense now disagrees about the severity of the climate crisis."

But here's the catch. Freeman Dyson (one of the world's most accomplished, admired, and famous theoretical physicists) does disagree. Below are just three relevant Dyson quotes:
The idea that global warming is the most important problem facing the world is total nonsense and is doing a lot of harm.

Just because you see pictures of glaciers falling into the ocean doesn't mean anything bad is happening. This is something that happens all the time. It's part of the natural cycle of things.

When I listen to the public debates about climate change, I am impressed by the enormous gaps in our knowledge, the sparseness of our observations and the superficiality of our theories.
Let's revisit the Wired writer's declaration: "No one with any scientific sense now disagrees about the severity of the climate crisis." Dyson, despite his enormous stature, is thereby reduced to a no one. He doesn't exist. He has been journalistically "disappeared."

Please don't misunderstand. I'm not saying Dyson's views are correct. That's a different discussion. What I'm saying is that his presence in this debate must be acknowledged. His opinions must be heard. It is wrong and it is dishonest for anyone to behave as though he isn't part of the landscape.

Dyson is a blue-chip intellect with a distinguished career. He's one of hundreds of similarly eminent scientists from around the world who have loudly and publicly dissented from the alleged scientific consensus on climate change. Two dozen such scientists are profiled in Lawrence Solomon's The Deniers. Indeed, thousands of scientists have expressed their reservations. Yet for years, the media has told us such people are less substantial than ghosts. They are invisible. Absent. Simply not spoken of.

This is the sort of thing that happens under totalitarian regimes. It is not an activity that journalists in democratic nations should in any way be party to. Pretending that these scientists don't exist is not only disrespectful, it's a profound betrayal of the public's trust. Journalists are supposed to inform the rest of us about current events and important debates. They aren't supposed to conceal an entire class of highly-relevant participants from public view.

Never again, therefore, should any journalist tell her readers about a "scientific consensus." Never again should any scientific body make use of that term.

By all means, tell me that a majority of scientists believes something to be true. Tell me that most indicators suggest that X is more likely than Y. Tell me there's a high probability, based on the available evidence, that a certain event may take place.

But never, ever talk to me about a scientific consensus. Those two words don't belong together.


h/t to Jeff at the Air Vent, whose post yesterday sparked this one

>> Reuters' climate change fiction
>> Systemic failure: invasion of the drama queens
>> Global warming and My Cousin Vinny
>> Climate skepticism is free speech
>> Independent bloggers vs corporate environmentalists

Feb 24, 2010

Reuters' Climate Change Fiction

Is the average journalist completely clueless when it comes to climate change? Do they go out of their way to quote equally clueless "experts"? Do they ignore profoundly significant news events and instead write articles brimming with their own assumptions and prejudices? A look at the recent behaviour of Reuters - which forms part of "the world's largest international multimedia news agency" - suggests all of the above.

Remember the BBC interview with Dr. Phil Jones published 11 days ago? It was immensely newsworthy because Jones is not just the director of the Climatic Research Unit (the home of the explosive leaked/hacked Climategate e-mails), he has played a central role in the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change consensus process.

It is because of senior climate researchers like Jones that Time magazine told us last August: "the science is clear...we're boiling the planet." Except that, in the BBC interview (in which he was by no means ambushed, but was instead assisted by his university's press office), Jones made a startling admission.

He was asked: "Do you agree that from 1995 to the present there has been no statistically-significant global warming?" He responded: "Yes, but only just." He then continued on for four more sentences, arguing that the "trend is quite close to the significance level" and pointing out that statistical significance is more likely to show up when one examines longer time periods rather than shorter ones.

Some day that "Yes" may come to be regarded as the utterance that inexplicably failed to shake the world. If warming over the past 15 years has been so marginal that even people who believe firmly in human-caused global warming admit it isn't significant, what's all the fuss about? On what basis have news outlets advised us that "humanity faces a profound emergency"?

Jones' acknowledgment that things aren't nearly so dire is a HUGE story. So what has Reuters said about it? Not one word.

Check for yourself. Click on over to Reuters.com, type "Phil Jones" into the search box at the top right of your screen, scroll through the pages of results and you won't find a single mention of his name since the BBC interview.

Type "statistically significant" into that same box and you'll discover that Reuters journalists have used this term recently when discussing in vitro fertilization, pharmaceutical trials, energy efficiency, and premature births – but that it has not passed their lips in a climate change context since the Jones BBC interview appeared on February 13th until today.

What have they been writing instead? Well, yesterday Reuters published an article by journalist Ed Stoddard. Dubiously labeled an "analysis" piece, its central claim is that American climate change skepticism is at odds "with prevailing views in Europe."

Why does journalist Stoddard believe this to be the case? Partly because a Canadian pollster says so. Here's Stoddard's copy in all it's glory:
"It's a very different debate in Europe, where there is no discussion about whether climate change is occurring. But in the United States it is about whether it exists," said John Wright of pollster Ipsos.
As blogger/aggregator Tom Nelson pointed out almost immediately, however, Ipsos employees in different parts of the world apparently don't read each other's polling results. It so happens that a headline in yesterday's Guardian smartly contradicts Wright: "Sharp decline in public's belief in climate threat, British poll reveals." Here are a few snippets from the article:
The proportion of adults who believe climate change is "definitely" a reality dropped by 30% over the last year, from 44% to 31%, in the latest survey by Ipsos Mori.

… Another finding…is a significant drop in those who said climate change was caused by human activities. One year ago this number was one in three, but this year just one in five people believes global warming to be man-made, according to Edward Langley, Ipsos Mori's head of environment research. [bold added]
So while Langley of Ipsos Mori tells a newspaper that only 1 in 3 UK adults believe climate change is real and only one in five believe humans are responsible for it, Wright of Ipsos Reid gets quoted by Reuters declaring that, in Europe, "there is no discussion about whether climate change is occurring."

Anyone remotely familiar with the climate change debate knows that skepticism is alive and well in many nations around the world, including European ones. That a Canadian pollster would be so misinformed is disturbing. That a Reuters journalist would write down and distribute such fiction is inexcusable.

If climate skepticism is purely an American phenomenon:
  • why did the largest daily paper in The Netherlands run a story recently vindicating a prominent climate skeptic? ("He was right after all" declared the headline)
  • why did the weekly left-leaning, one-million-circulation German news magazine Der Spiegel recently run a two-part series titled "Can Climate Forecasts Still be Trusted?"
  • why did Harris poll results released last October find that, when you total them up, the exact same number of Germans as Americans believe climate change poses either "no threat" or only a minor one? (see the first blurb of red text on page 2 of this PDF)
  • why does every last one of the top 10 conservative blogs in the UK embrace climate skepticism - even though the British Conservative Party says man-made climate change is real?
  • why did 6,000 Australians attend the sold-out public speaking engagements of British climate skeptic Christopher Monckton recently? (on at least one occasion he went out into the parking lot to deliver a short version to the overflow audience)
  • why did Australia's federal minister for Climate Change and Water devote so much time in a speech last week to bad-mouthing skeptics?
  • why did Open Magazine, an English-language publication in India, splash "The Climate Change Fraud" in large text across its front cover on January 30th, followed by a story inside titled "The Hottest Hoax in the World"?
I could continue, but we all get the picture.

So what's going on at Reuters? In the Stoddard piece US climate skepticism is linked to some of the same old bogeymen: "the influence of U.S. talk radio" and the "oil lobby." Despite the fact that America has long been the source of many of the world's most significant technological innovations, Reuters implies that it's home to anti-scientific bumpkins who fail to show academics sufficient respect:
Science can be controversial in a country where evangelical Christians make up a quarter of the adult population. Many, for example, doubt the theory of evolution..."In other countries academics hold a more revered position...And so some of these Europeans look at America and say there is all this evidence, why don't you believe?..." said Michael Lindsay, a political sociologist at Rice University in Houston.
A quote from the Sierra Club adds insult to injury by suggesting the American public is easily befuddled:
"I don't think it's that Americans are confused about global warming, it's that they're being confused," said the incoming executive director of conservation group Sierra Club, Michael Brune, who blames big spending by oil, coal and other energy industries.
Curiously, the only European poll numbers Reuters bothers to quote involve France (in addition to non-European Brazil and Japan). This is hardly convincing support for the claim that the American situation is dramatically different from the one in Europe.

In short, Reuters has published utter rubbish. It should hang its head in shame.


[Full disclosure. In my earlier life as a journalist I, too, have interviewed Canadian pollster John Wright. Moreover, my husband was employed by Ipsos between 2000 and 2005.]

>> Time magazine's controversial glacier expert
>> Science says: hop on one foot
>> What she said about the climate bible 3 months ago
>> Did IQs drop sharply?

Feb 22, 2010

Independent Bloggers vs Corporate Environmentalists

[desktop wallpaper version available here]

Another day, another smarmy accusation that people who are skeptical of climate change are being funded by a shadowy conspiracy connected in one manner or another to big oil, big coal, big tobacco or - horror of horrors - right-wing think tanks.

These accusations are tiresome. They're ugly. They're almost entirely unsubstantiated. Most of all, they're a waste of time. They amount to shooting the messenger rather than addressing the bleeping message.

So why do they keep getting repeated? I think I've sorted out two reasons. First: the lavishly-funded corporate nature of the environmental movement circa 2010. Second: modern technological wonders such as personal computers and the Internet.

Environmental organizations today bear little resemblance to the shoestring operations of yesteryear. As a book published 14 years ago observed:
While Greenpeace used to be a pair of bell-bottomed blue jeans, today it is more like a three-piece pinstripe suit.
Indeed. In 1971, Greenpeace was an "upstart peace group from Vancouver" that held meetings in a Unitarian church. After it chartered a 30-year-old "creaking fish boat" to protest a US nuclear arms test, it could barely afford to pay for the boat's fuel.

Last month, however, when The Guardian reported that Greenpeace had commissioned a brand new £14 million ($22 million US) mega-yacht, it observed that "cost should not be a problem for the group, which, with nearly three million supporters, is extremely wealthy."

How wealthy? According to publicly-available figures compiled by Climate-Resistance.org, over a 12-year period Greenpeace raised $2.4 billion. That works out to $200 million a year in resources.

If you think that's impressive, take a moment to ponder the fact that the World Wildlife Fund raised $3.1 billion in just six years (2003-2008). Which means that that organization has ready access to half a billion dollars annually.

When you're that big – and that loaded – suddenly everything costs a small fortune. Want to start a new blog? That'll require a series of meetings. You'll need to invite web design folks, IT folks, a contingent of in-house PR people, an ad agency person or two, a corporate strategy person, and probably someone from legal. You'll meet in shiny offices in a fashionable part of town and order-in sandwiches from the pricey, organic, fair-trade café at the end of the street.

Compare and contrast to how independent individuals of utterly modest means from all over the world currently behave. They sign up to a service like Blogger.com (which is owned by Google) and, within a few hours at most, for no cost whatsoever, have launched themselves as a blogger. Alternatively, for well under $10 in hosting fees a month, they can publish their own website.

For no money, therefore, climate skeptics in the early 21st century are in a position to theoretically communicate online with as many people as is Greenpeace. From their basements and their attics, in often non-trendy geographical locations, it isn't their funding that matters - it's their skill sets.

Many skeptical-leaning bloggers have scientific, mathematical, and statistical training - not to mention decades of real-world experience under their belts. Others have been professional communicators (I, myself, am a former print journalist). Some are speed-readers, others have photographic memories. Many, like the folks who rendered the Climategate e-mails fully searchable within a matter of hours, have impressive information technology skills. Some are retired, with plenty of time on their hands. Others devote as many hours to reading and writing about climate issues in a week as they'd otherwise spend on knitting or golf.

From the perspective of environmental organization staffers, research agency employees, and tenured university professors it must appear as though skeptics have access to deep pockets. In the universe those people inhabit, even the simplest tasks can end up as budget line items. There are layers of bureaucracy, paperwork, office politics, and regulations to consider.

For the small and growing army of skeptical climate bloggers, however, none of that applies. The equivalent of a battered fishing boat will do nicely, thank you.

Those vessels are now everywhere. They're being sailed by real people and fueled by grassroots concern, outrage, and passion. And they're not going away.


>> Slurs, smears & money

>> Al Gore's tobacco hypocrisy
>> Greenpeace and the Nobel-winning climate report
>> Climate skepticism is free speech
>> Green time capsule: 1970 eco ideas not pretty

Feb 20, 2010

Newsflash: Snowless in Vancouver is Perfectly Normal

Oh, for heaven's sake. If the President of the United States is going to lecture people about the science of climate change, could someone on his staff do a bit of homework beforehand?

The fact that snow is conspicuously absent from some of the venues at the Vancouver winter Olympics was held up by President Obama yesterday as evidence that global warming is, in fact, occurring. Responding to a question, the President declared:
I want to just be clear that the science of climate change doesn't mean that every place is getting warmer…But...Vancouver, which is supposed to be getting snow during the Olympics, suddenly is at 55 degrees… [bold added]
Excuse me, but I happen to not only live here in Canada, but to have had family and friends who resided for years in or near the breathtakingly gorgeous (not to mention murderously expensive) city of Vancouver.

I know, therefore, that they don't own many winter coats in that part of our vast country - and that mowing their lawns is a perfectly ordinary February activity. Vancouver's weather is much like Seattle's and, as a friend of mine who lives in the American city mentioned this week, her daffodils have begun to bloom.

Online advice aimed at those planning to travel to Canada correctly points out that February in Vancouver "is especially mild," which means one should be "prepared for rain on any given day in Vancouver in February." [bold added]

Furthermore, a 2003 article from the Vancouver Sun plucked from the archives demonstrates that everyone knew back on the day Vancouver was awarded the Olympics that snow would be in short supply:
…no city with a climate as mild as Vancouver's has ever hosted the Winter Games…sports fans who turn on their TVs in 2010 will probably see the kind of winter Vancouverites know all too well: a cloudy, rainy city full of people carrying umbrellas...

"The typical view of a Winter Games is snow," said Alex Carre…a member of the Canadian Olympic Committee…People will come here and say, 'Gosh, where is the snow?'"…While there are likely to be at least a couple of nice, sunny days during the two-week event, there could also be plenty of days of driving rain... [bold added]
We Canadians are often accused of having a bit of an inferiority complex. We live next door to the economic powerhouse of the world and benefit from this fact immensely. But because our population is only one tenth the size, we aren't in the same league and therefore can't expect the President of the United States to pay us much attention.

Nevertheless, did he really need to misrepresent our weather?

One last thing: if this is the quality of the evidence being used to support the theory of global warming, is it any wonder that increasing numbers of people have begun to doubt it?


h/t Tom Nelson
see also: The Olympic Global Warming Onslaught is Starting over at Watts Up With That

>> A bogus 21-year-old climate prediction
>> Systemic failure: invasion of the drama queens
>> The climate bible and the home inspector
>> NASA's mistaken glacier info
>> Climate psychics: 10-year-old snow prediction fails miserably

Feb 19, 2010

Is This Politics or Science?

When someone makes a statement about global warming it's important to ask ourselves: are they informing us about a scientific issue or are they taking bits of latex, inflating them with lots of hot air, and presenting us with a bouquet of political assumptions?

Everyone does the latter, to some degree. We interpret the world according to our beliefs, experiences, and values. (Hopefully, we also strive to be fair-minded.) But a problem arises when certain people insist that the processed, dyed, manufactured, and inflated balloons clutched in their hand are actually a cup of unadulterated liquid sap fresh from the rubber tree.

I've now been researching the global warming debate for the better part of a year. I've read a variety of perspectives and encountered all sorts of political spin. I find it curious that those who believe humanity has set in motion catastrophic global warming deny vociferously that they themselves are in any way political. They believe their perspective is simply the truth - and that the very existence of alternative viewpoints shows that science has been corrupted by politics.

This week's news contains flagrant examples of such thinking. I'm going to discuss just one [more here and here]. In an interview published yesterday, Dr. Michael Mann, (who has revealed himself, via the Climategate e-mails, to be a less-than-attractive human being) accused climate skeptics of creating a "poisonous atmosphere." This, he says, is:
…similar in many ways to that poisonous atmosphere we saw last summer in those healthcare town hall meetings — irrational sort of conspiracy-driven lunatics, frankly…
Now I'm not an American, but even I recognize Democratic Party rhetoric. Those who exercised their free-speech right to criticize proposed health care measures at public meetings have been written off by fans of the party in power as irrational nutcases.

There's nothing measured or good-natured about this. It's an example of partisan politics at its ugliest. It demonstrates that, rather than dealing with the content of people's concerns, Democratic Party hardliners prefer to hurl insults and name-call. No one who values diversity and inclusiveness can regard this as admirable.

Mann has therefore advertised – as surely as if he'd splashed it on a Times Square billboard – his own political orientation. He's made it clear that he personally buys into this profoundly partisan view of the world. He isn't merely a Democratic, he's hardcore.

Which is important to have clarity about since he then declares that: "The science community isn’t organized — it doesn’t have a single politically driven motive as the climate change deniers do." [bold added]

That sound you hear is me spitting up my chai latte. Does Mann mean climate scientists are never politically motivated? Or does he regard people whom he nastily denigrates as "climate change deniers" to be unified around a single motivation?

Both ways of interpreting this statement render it absurd. If science were conducted entirely by robots on a remote planet, politics-free science might be possible. But scientific research is undertaken by human beings – very few of whom could ever be described as not having "a single politically driven motive."

It's equally preposterous to suggest that the millions of people who have reservations about the current state of climate science can be viewed as any sort of monolith. Humans are never motivated by one thing alone. Declaring that a geographically and professionally diverse group are all propelled by a single doctrine is psychology too simplistic even for comic books.

It's clear that Mann - the hardcore Democrat - regards his own viewpoint as the unadorned truth, the equivalent of unprocessed liquid latex collected moments ago from the rubber tree. In his mind, other people exaggerate and twist the facts while he just tells it like it is.

Yet not once does he acknowledge that some criticisms of current climate science are valid, that other viewpoints deserve a hearing, or that climate skeptics have identified legitimate research shortcomings. In his opinion, anyone who sees the world differently is engaging in "a war…against the climate science and scientists". Tellingly, he speaks of the climate science rather than of competing perspectives.

But there are always multiple points-of-view. In his collection of thoughtful essays, The Scientist as Rebel, renowned physicist Freeman Dyson describes science as "a mosaic of partial and conflicting visions." No one has all the answers. Two different researchers, with different areas of expertise, will inevitably assess the same scientific question differently. It may be that both of them are at least somewhat correct – or that both of them will be proved wrong in the fullness of time.

As Tom Fuller wrote yesterday:
…the [global warming] argument isn't really about CO2. Most people with a bit of a scientific background understand…that more CO2 in the atmosphere will tend to elevate temperatures. The argument is really about water vapor. Does doubling CO2 then create enough extra water vapor to amplify this heating by a multiple, and if so, what is that multiple? How sensitive is the atmosphere to a doubling of CO2?

The [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] thinks it's moderate. The alarmist extreme thinks it's high. Lukewarmers think it's low. Real skeptics think it's non-existent, or even negative. The argument before the court is that we don't know. And until we do know, what right does one faction have to blacken the names and reputations of those with opposing views?
Mann approaches climate science the way he approaches the health care debate. If you're not on his team, you deserve neither respect nor consideration. He's all about scoring points, trashing the opposition, and winning at all costs.

For those of us who think science is about being open to new ideas and new perspectives, Mann isn't the kind of scientist we'd want our kids to grow up to be.


>> Bullies need not apply
>> If we don't agree, you're crazy
>> The cult of the expert
>> Bias: how the media distort the news

Feb 17, 2010

The Climate Bible and the Home Inspector

When Rajenda Pachauri, the chairman of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), was first challenged regarding erroneous Himalayan glacier claims he responded with neither courtesy nor professionalism. Instead, he accused those raising the issue of being "arrogant" and of practicing "voodoo science" and "schoolboy science."

Recently some IPCC supporters have responded dismissively to a series of scandals regarding the quality of the analysis (and the source material cited) in the IPCC's climate bible. "So what if there are a few typos?" these people ask. "That hardly invalidates the entire report. Let's not be distracted by nitpickers with suspect motives." [see here, here, here, here, and here]

I'd like to propose a different way of looking at things. In my part of the world it's normal to hire a "home inspector" before one purchases a house. This person assesses structural integrity, the condition of the roof and windows, and the amount of insulation in the attic. He examines the electrical, plumbing, and heating systems. He conducts basic safety tests and makes a note of non-compliance with building codes.

At the end of the process, he delivers a multi-page report that both catalogs minor issues and highlights major concerns that might influence a buyer's decision. These inspections cost hundreds of dollars and, for many people, are the deciding factor in whether or not to close a deal.

Now imagine that, a few weeks after I purchase my dream home, the roof - to which the home inspector gave a clean bill of health - starts to leak. Imagine that it costs me time, aggravation, and money to have this unanticipated problem repaired.

I contact the home inspector (whom I'd been led to believe was a top-notch professional) and point out that his assessment missed something. He is polite and apologetic and, by the end of the conversation, I'm agreeing with him that some problems may not be readily apparent to the naked eye. Shrugging it off, I acknowledge that stuff happens – and that nobody's perfect.

A month later, however, the water heater - which his report had described as being in "excellent condition" - breaks down and needs replacing. A few weeks afterward, two spindles on a balcony railing give way when an elderly aunt is visiting.

By this third incident, my confidence in the report I've commissioned has been thoroughly undermined. My trust in the competence of the inspector has evaporated. He has, in fact, become someone I wouldn't recommend to those in need of such services.

At this juncture it will do him no good to insist that 95 percent of what he wrote still happens to be true. Nor will my confidence be restored when he blusters: "Hey, what's a few typos in a forty page report, anyway?"

Such responses will only confirm my suspicion that there is a huge chasm between his values and mine. It will force me to conclude that while I thought I'd hired a professional, what I got instead was a slacker with a bad attitude. While I thought I'd paid for a gold-standard report, what I got was a cursory overview by someone too arrogant to appreciate how badly he's messed up.

This, I submit, is the situation in which the IPCC now finds itself.


>> Scientists' opinions are sometimes irrelevant
>> Bullies need not apply
>> Scientific organizations - should we trust them?
>> Systemic failure: invasion of the drama queens

Feb 16, 2010

The Cult of the Expert

This is a delightful book, the kind that can be opened at random for a good chuckle. Titled The Experts Speak: The Definitive Compendium of Authoritative Misinformation, it devotes 340 pages to documenting the fact that expert opinions are often spectacularly wrong.

This is an important idea because, as the book's editors observe in an introduction, "the mainstream media, and particularly television, have as their principal narrative convention the...interviewing of experts."

Benjamin Franklin apparently said: "Believe none of what you hear and half of what you see." For years we have been badgered by experts who think humans are causing dangerous global warming. But as this book demonstrates, experts are often influenced by the widely-held beliefs of their historical period.

The Experts Speak devotes entire chapters to confident expert pronouncements on the innate intellectual deficiencies of non-whites and women. There are sections about sexuality, menstruation, and masturbation that make it clear expert opinion can have far more to do with the era than with clinical facts. The book also does a good job of demonstrating that even the brightest among us can suffer from a lack of imagination.

Writing in 1762, the French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau (then the author of the most widely read child-rearing manual of the time), declared that it was "Nature's law" that half of all children should die before their eighth birthday. "Why try to contradict it?" he asked.

In 1842, the Astronomer Royal of Great Britain (whose credentials looked like this: K.C.B., M.A., LL.D., D.C.L., F.R.S., F.R.A.S) dismissed an early ancestor of the modern computer as "worthless." In 1956, another Astronomer Royal declared the idea of space travel "utter bilge."

After participating in a 1876 trial call, the President of the United States acknowledged that the telephone was "an amazing invention" but wondered: "who would ever want to use one of them?" In 1878 a committee of the British Parliament dismissed Edison's light bulb as "unworthy of the attention of practical or scientific men." And in 1895, Lord Kelvin, a mathematician and physicist who was then also President of the British Royal Society (the crème de la crème of British science), decreed that airplanes were "impossible."

The scientific press has also been wrong. In 1891, Scientific American declared the Panama Canal "a thing of the past" and predicted that nature would "soon obliterate all traces" of it. In 1909, it mused that "the automobile has practically reached the limit of its development." A year later, it characterized as "wildest exaggeration" the idea that aircraft would revolutionize naval warfare.

In 1915, Scientific American backed the wrong horse in a discussion about the future of bi-planes versus single-winged monoplanes. In 1940, it denounced a physics professor's ideas about rocket-propelled bombs as "too far-fetched to be considered" – even though they inspired the V-1 and V-2 German rockets used during World War II.

In his autobiography Mark Twain observed:
In religion and politics people's beliefs and convictions are in almost every case gotten at second-hand, and without examination, from authorities who have not themselves examined the questions at issue but have taken them at second-hand from other non-examiners, whose opinions about them were not worth a brass farthing.
These comments surely apply to the global warming discussion (which contains elements of both religion and politics). One hundred years hence, the experts who are now promoting a catastrophic view of global warming will perhaps be proved correct. Alternatively, this entire topic may be reduced to an embarrassing historical footnote.

Either way, it's clear that accepting the word of experts – rather than thinking things through for ourselves - is a really dumb idea.


>> Scientists' opinions are sometimes irrelevant

>> Scientific organizations - should we trust them?
>> NASA's mistaken glacier info
>> The big picture: the Y2K lesson

Feb 15, 2010

A Bogus 21-Year-Old Climate Prediction

In 1989 the first global warming book for a general audience was published. Titled The End of Nature, it was written by Bill McKibben, a morose young man with a dim view of humanity and an idealized view of nature.

It's difficult to read this book without concluding that McKibben yearns to scamper back to Eden - to a mythical, undefiled, natural landscape that existed before humans turned up and spoiled everything.

The book says a number of things which, with 20 years of hindsight, look a little foolish. One is especially noteworthy. It concerns what the world will be like "in a few more decades" if we don't heed the author's apocalyptic warnings.

Because this book was published in 1989, much of it was researched and written in 1988 or even earlier. That's 21+ years prior to where we are now. That's before tens of billions of dollars had been spent studying global warming. That's before the very first report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) appeared in 1990. (There have been three since then, the last one completed in 2007).

McKibben felt no need to wait for the results of all that scientific research. He didn't choose to be cautious in his pronouncements prior to an alleged "scientific consensus" being developed and articulated by the IPCC process.

Back in 1989 his mind was already made up. He'd not only identified the problem, he'd divined the solution. Put simply: traditional energy sources were the root of all evil and must be abandoned.

On page 124 of the book he declares:
We must act, and in every possible way, and immediately. We must substitute, conserve, plant trees, perhaps even swallow our concerns over safety and build some nuclear plants. We stand at the end of an era - the hundred years' binge on oil, gas, and coal...The choice of doing nothing - of continuing to burn ever more oil and coal - is not a choice, in other words. It will lead us, if not straight to hell, then straight to a place with a similar temperature. [bold added]
Four pages onward, he adds: "a few more decades of ungoverned fossil-fuel use and we burn up, to put it bluntly." [bold added]

Somewhat later, on page 184, he asks:
And if what I fear indeed happens? If the next twenty years sees us pump ever more gas into the sky...what solace then? [bold added]
Well, Bill, a full two decades have passed since then. Considering the absence of large scale, viable alternatives, I expect you'd be the first to agree that we've continued our "ungoverned fossil-fuel use" and that the steady stream of emissions has continued.

But guess what? We aren't living in hell, or even in a place with a similar temperature. Indeed, as Phil Jones, the director of the Climatic Research Unit (and a central player in the IPCC consensus-science process) confirmed to the BBC two days ago, "there has been no statistically-significant global warming" since the year 1995.

This is worth repeating. In 1995, six years after McKibben's book appeared, the world stopped warming - even though we did none of things he said were absolutely necessary to avoid disaster. This means his prediction was wholly and utterly B - O - G - U - S.

As I've discussed elsewhere, there appears to be no penalty for making false predictions. No one holds you accountable. Despite the apparent lack of connection between his predictions and the real world, McKibben is currently an influential personage in the green movement. (In the product description for this book, he's described as a "climate-change guru".)

Yesterday, he even authored an opinion piece in the Washington Post in which he continued to repeat his shopworn, 20-year-old message:
...the weird and disruptive weather patterns around the world are pretty much exactly what you'd expect as the planet warms...Despite global warming...the chances of what are technically called "big honking dumps" have increased...It's almost like a test...Can you sit in a snowstorm and imagine a warming world?...If the answer is no, then we're really in a world of trouble.
Yes, well, I've heard that one before. And now I'm changing the channel.


>> Bill McKibben: extravagant emotional excess
>> Climate psychics: 10-year-old snow prediction fails miserably
>> The big picture: the Y2K lesson
>> Global disaster is so 1976

Feb 14, 2010

Valentine's Day and the Scientific Method

My own Valentine, to whom I've been married for 20 years, is a huge web comic fan. He recently called my attention to this heart-breaker.

Best line: "In science you can't publish results you know are wrong - and you can't withhold them because they're not the ones you wanted."

Click the image for a larger view. See more xkcd comics HERE.


>> The age of regret

>> Bullies need not apply
>> Aerospace pioneer dismisses global warming

Feb 12, 2010

Scientists' Opinions Are Sometimes Irrelevant

Two days ago scientists in the Netherlands issued a 3-page open letter about the scandal-plagued Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Only 55 people attached their names to this document. Nevertheless these folks claim to speak for "the Netherlands scientific community."

On the one hand, the letter acknowledges that the public's trust in climate science has been damaged and that there's a need to address this. On the other hand, the letter expresses extravagant confidence in IPCC principles and procedures which, while they may exist on paper, have clearly been regarded as less-than-compulsory.

Just because IPCC review editors are required to sign a statement declaring (as this letter describes it) that they've treated each comment submitted by section reviewers "properly and honestly" does not make it so. Just because the IPCC is supposed to verify the "quality and validity" of non-peer-reviewed information sources doesn't mean the IPCC actually bothers.

What's most interesting, though, is the baseline assumption that we should care what a group of scientists from a particular country happens to think about the IPCC.

When a dish is being prepared in the kitchen of a four-star restaurant, how the chef feels about that dish is of utmost importance. But the minute the meal is placed on a tray, carried down the hall, and set in front of a paying customer the chef's opinion becomes irrelevant.

From that point onward, it's the customer's assessment that matters. Is the meat tender? The sauce flavourful? The salad crisp? The customer will come to her own conclusions.

If she thinks the béarnaise tastes of too much tarragon, that the portions are too meagre, or that the wine is off - how the kitchen staff feel about these questions is beside the point.

If a customer decides that the meal is less-than-acceptable, that it isn't worth the money, and that she has no interest in repeating this particular dining experience, a signed statement from 55 chefs talking about the splendid design of the kitchen changes nothing.


>> Yes Virginia, the climate bible relies on newspaper clippings
>> More dodgy citations in the Nobel-winning climate report
>> Systemic failure: invasion of the drama queens

Feb 11, 2010

Just One Cotton-Pickin' Minute

A column appeared in the Toronto Star (Canada's largest circulation daily) yesterday, under the ridiculous headline: "Questions for climate change skeptics."

It should have been titled: Questions for asleep-at-the-wheel journalists.

The Nobel-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) currently finds itself mired in scandal over erroneous glacier info, frequent use of material produced by green advocacy groups (not to mention newspaper and magazine clippings), patently false claims regarding the non-existent link between climate change and hurricanes, etcetera, etcetera.

After bloggers performed a good deal of the spade work concerning these matters, reputable UK newspapers are finally calling for the resignation of the IPCC's chairman - and urging that its findings be subject to an audit.

Yet the Toronto Star, which appears to have done absolutely nothing to inform its readers about these controversies (despite UK papers reporting on them non-stop for weeks) doesn't feel it should be held accountable. Rather, its senior political columnist, Carol Goar, thinks it is skeptics who now deserve to be peppered with questions.

"Suppose the scientific consensus on climate change is wrong," she began yesterday's column. Suppose arctic ice melts naturally, that greenhouse gases pose no risk, and that climatologists are misguided in their concerns about "rising sea levels, shrinking glaciers, longer droughts [and] more violent storms."

Doesn't it make sense "to set tougher emissions standards for the vehicles that pollute the air we breathe" anyway, she asks. Doesn't it also "make sense to stop burning up and selling off non-renewable resources as if there were no tomorrow?"

Now wait just one cotton-pickin' minute. Everyone thinks fighting pollution is a good thing. Most of us also believe in using natural resources wisely.

But those are not the measures media outlets such as the Toronto Star have been telling us we need to adopt. On December 7th, 2009 - that's 66 days ago - the Star was one of 56 newspapers worldwide that jointly ran the same alarmist climate change editorial [full list here]. The Star took the unusual step of printing said editorial on its front page [photo here], beneath large type that declared:
The world must kick its carbon habit and we'll have to change our lifestyle...Our survival depends on it. [bold added]
Within the body of this editorial, the Star told its readers that:
  • climate change "will ravage our planet"
  • climate change consequences "will endure for all time"
  • our prospects for fighting climate change "will be determined in the next 14 days" (at the Copenhagen climate summit)
The editorial also claimed that, if the average global temperature was to rise 3-4 degrees Celcius at some later date:
  • farmland would be turned into desert
  • half "of all species could become extinct"
  • "millions of people would be displaced"
  • entire nations would be "drowned by the sea"
It warned about temperatures rising to "dangerous levels," and further declared that:
...every developed country must commit to deep cuts which will reduce their emissions within a decade to very substantially less than their 1990 level. [bold added]
This is a strange argument, of course. It says we must, by applying the brakes to virtually all economic activity, deliberately embrace the kind of hardship we'd only otherwise experience during a severe recession/depression. Moreover, the reason we must endure this permanent hardship is to prevent speculative bad things from happening to not-yet-born humans at an unspecified time in the future.

As Bjorn Lomborg points out, however, "nobody emits C02 for fun." Emissions occur when we use energy. Energy refrigerates and cooks our food. It keeps us warm. It gets us to work and to church. It powers our hospitals and lights our schools. It is required to design, manufacture, and transport virtually every consumer good. In other words, it makes our world go round.

People who slip into energy poverty start burning books and furniture to protect themselves from winter's merciless bite. They perish from both the cold and their inability to access medical and social services. Their children are denied the opportunity to attend an arts school across town, because the cost of a transit pass is beyond their means.

This cramped, small, meagre, miserable existence is what the Star's editorial board told us was absolutely necessary 66 days ago, when it was urging us to "shop, eat and travel" less, and telling us we'd have to get used to paying more for energy while using it sparingly.

Near the end of her column yesterday, Ms. Goar acknowledges that:
Revelations about the shoddy research techniques and suppression of inconvenient information have cast doubt on the alarmist forecasts of the International Panel on Climate Change.
She also admits that: "Global warming may not be the greatest threat facing mankind."

This is marvelous news. It means that a lot of little kids have been told a lot of scary stories about ghastly things that might not happen, after all.

Now what really needs asking is this: How did the Toronto Star manage, within a period of 66 days, to go from telling us our very survival was at stake due to global warming to arguing that, well, fighting pollution is a good idea anyway?

Where are the soul-searching examinations of how this happened? Where are the front-page mea culpas? Where are the solemn promises to be more critically-minded (not to mention open-minded) in the future?

It isn't climate skeptics who have some explaining to do.


(Full disclosure: my first regular gig during my 10-year stint as a journalist was a weekly opinions-page column in the Toronto Star that ran from 1992-1996. It was a great job, I was lucky to land it, and it paid the handsome sum of $200 a week.)


>> What she said about the climate bible 3 months ago
>> Time magazine's controversial glacier expert
>> Systemic failure: invasion of the drama queens
>> Science says: hop on one foot

Feb 9, 2010

James Hansen Drags NASA into His Personal Politics

In a democratic society there are endless ways to protest lawfully and creatively. When people deliberately choose to break the law for political reasons, they do so knowing that criminal penalties apply. If they feel strongly enough to pay those penalties, they sometimes earn the grudging respect of those who disagree with them.

Dr. James Hansen is the Director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies. Yesterday he signed a letter (along with Bill McKibben, Naomi Klein, and Terry Tempest Williams) which declares that a young man whom everyone admits broke the law should not be prosecuted next month in Salt Lake City. Not because he is remorseful and has seen the error of his ways - but because, in the words of the letter: "We don’t want Tim on trial—we want global warming on the stand."

The letter acknowledges that Tim DeChristopher "bid for the oil and gas leases on several parcels of federal land even though he had no money to pay for them" thus sabotaging a federal auction and violating the Federal Onshore Oil and Gas Leasing Reform Act.

Hansen thinks DeCristopher performed "a noble act, a profound gesture made on behalf of all of us and of the future." He sees this young man as someone "who blew the whistle" on a process that was "corrupt". No evidence of any corruption is supplied (or linked to). Instead, we're supposed to be persuaded by vague allegations:
Tim’s action drew national attention to the fact that the Bush Administration spent its dying days in office handing out a last round of favors to the oil and gas industry. After investigating irregularities in the auction, the Obama Administration took many of the leases off the table, with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar criticizing the process as “a headlong rush.”
The letter that Hansen signed further declares:
  • "Tim’s upcoming trial is an occasion to raise the alarm once more about the peril our planet faces."
  • "Outside the courthouse, there will be a mock trial, with experts like NASA’s Jim Hansen providing the facts that should be heard inside the chambers."
  • "Demonstrators will be using the time-honored tactics of civil disobedience to make their voices heard outside the courthouse in an effort to prevent “business as usual”—it’s business as usual that’s wrecking the earth."
  • "we won’t sit idly by while the government tries to scare the environmental movement into meek cooperation. This kind of trial is nothing but intimidation..."
  • "Tim DeChristopher deserves and needs our physical and spiritual support in the name of a just and vibrant community." [bold added]
It would be difficult to find many people heartless enough to condemn this young man to the ten years in prison the letter claims he's at risk of.

But it may be equally difficult to find many who are comfortable with the way Hansen, via this letter, has dragged NASA's good name into this matter.

Hansen's personal political views are his own business. But NASA belongs to - and is supposed to serve - all Americans. When a senior NASA official declares that lawbreakers "deserve" support for their "noble" gestures - well, you know what they say about Houston having a problem.

Feb. 10, 2010 UPDATE: On reflection, I think it's useful to emphasize that the body of this letter doesn't mention the credentials of the three other signatories. It doesn't say that Naomi Klein, a best-selling author and world-renowned left-wing intellectual, will give evidence at the mock trial activists plan to hold outside. It doesn't say that Bill McKibben, who wrote the first book on global warming for a mainstream audience and who is now the director of 350.org, will take an active part in the demonstrations. It doesn't tell us about the credentials of author, activist, and naturalist Terry Tempest Williams and what his contribution to the protests will be.

There's a blurb at the top of the screen that discusses everyone's credentials, yes. In that context, we're grandiosely advised that Hansen is "regarded as the world's leading climatologist." But the letter itself highlights only the participation of Hansen - drawing attention to his association with NASA and his allegedly "expert" standing in the context of what is a highly political - rather than a scientific - discussion.

Many professionals routinely preface their public remarks outside of their workplace with a disclaimer that says, in essence, that the views they're expressing are not the views of their employers. In this letter, however, a deliberate effort is made to lend the entire affair respectability by trading on NASA's reputation.

I would never suggest that Hansen doesn't have the same right to free speech as any other citizen. What I have a problem with is people who confuse a scientist's personal political views with science itself.


>> NASA's mistaken glacier info
>> James Hansen and the experts
>> Systemic failure: invasion of the drama queens
>> Yes Virginia, the climate bible relies on newspaper clippings

Feb 8, 2010

Audi's "Green Police" Superbowl Ad

If the point of spending millions on a Superbowl ad is to get people talking about your company, German car maker Audi has hit the bullseye. Its "Green Police" ad (in which citizens are arrested in their homes and backyards for violating eco regulations) is being discussed across the political spectrum.

Beauty, as they say, is in the eye of the beholder - and the responses to last night's Audi ad reveal a great deal about our worldviews and our values.

Scott Cooney, who writes for TriplePundit.com, is a vegetarian green entrepreneur who thinks communal meals and shared organic gardening add up to a good time. He says the Audi spot was "yet another perhaps well-intentioned ad that casts environmentalists, frankly, as wack-jobs."

Yeah, that happens all the time, doesn't it? I mean, I can't go anywhere without bumping into an advert in which greens are belittled by businesses trying to sell stuff.

Cooney thinks this one-minute spot was "offensive" and so effective that "Middle America just took another unneeded step away from feeling that sustainability is cool, easy, and normal."

Adam Siegel, the author of the Get Energy Smart! NOW! blog, accuses Audi of airing the "most environmentally unfriendly Superbowl ad." This gent lives in a humorless world of "environmentally-sensible communications" and "Dorito ads that are far from environmentally friendly."

Quelle surprise that he regards the Audi ad as "offensive and counterproductive on many levels." He's annoyed that it links "‘going green’...[with] heading toward a police state" and declares it "a very destructive perspective."

Although this would be a perfect opportunity for him to declare his own allegiance to both the environment and personal liberty, he instead implies that the only people who worry about "threats to civil liberty" are militant conservatives who want to "undermine public support for serious action to address America’s oil dependency" yadda, yadda.

The New York Times, meanwhile, is dismissive. "This misguided spot put the 'mental' in 'environmental,'" sniffs Stuart Elliott. Over at the Wall Street Journal, the Audi ad has so far received the most votes for best Superbowl ad 2010 and the most votes for the worst one.

(click image for a larger view)

At libertarian Reason.com, editor-in-chief Nick Gillespie says the ad presents a "vision of a future that is almost the present." His readers, meanwhile, declare that they "won't be lectured to by loons," that the ad is "Hilarious, creepy and upbeat all at the same time," that "it came across as endorsing crazy greenishness," and that "the people I watched it with (all lefties) loved it." Notes another: "after a few brews it was a bit tricky to pick up on irony."

And then there's Bob Ellis, the owner of DakotaVoice.com, which examines "issues of interest to conservatives and Christians." He declares the Audi ad "downright offensive and not the least bit funny." He talks about "enviro-idiots," "green wackos," "greenies," "earth-worshipping morons," "socialists" and "fascism." He also manages to fit it in a reference to an "animal rights wacko."

In his opinion, the Audi ad "is presented with too much seriousness to be taken any other way than as approval of...[green] Gestapo tactics." Nevertheless, four paragraphs later, he admits that its creators have "unintentionally done real people a service here" by portraying a possible nightmare future. By the last line, he can't decide whether he wants to slap Audi or thank them.

So what would Jesus do? Call people who disagree with him a few more names?


>> If we don't agree, you're crazy
>> Bullies need not apply
>> Climate skepticism is free speech

Feb 6, 2010

Systemic Failure: Invasion of the Drama Queens

I love the boys over at Climate-Resistance.org because they're big-picture thinkers. Their analysis emphasizes the ethical, philosophical, and political aspects of the climate discussion.

This week they've been saying that replacing Rajendra Pachauri as chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) won't solve our problems. Personally, I think he needs to go. But it's true we'd be having a totally different discussion had numerous parties not failed us.

You have to be a bit of a drama queen to interpret a few degrees increase in temperature over the span of a century as a catastrophe. The fact that this mindset has been adopted by so many people means the failure has been systemic.

Private Hudson (Bill Paxton), Aliens

Let's look at those who are now tainted by their support for the outrageously flawed 2007 IPCC climate report:
  1. The United Nations, the wicked stepmother of this sad story. The IPCC is a United Nations creation. But it has no conflict-of-interest guidelines. It has no checks-and-balances to prevent its hijacking by special interests. It is also exempt from the sort of Freedom of Information provisions now commonplace in democratic nations. In other words, it lacks accountability and is structurally a disaster.

  2. The Nobel Peace Prize committee, which devalued its most precious resource. The Nobel committee bestowed its seal of approval jointly on the IPCC and Al Gore - even though there are significant discrepancies between what the IPCC says will happen and what Al Gore's film, An Inconvenient Truth, dramatically implies. Now that the government of India has established its own climate body, and the government of the Netherlands says the IPCC got basic facts wrong (regarding the percentage of its country that falls below sea level), the Nobel prize has never seemed more tarnished.

  3. NASA, supposedly a purveyor of scientifically-sound info. Until late January of this year, NASA parroted on its website the absurd IPCC claim that Himalayan glaciers would disappear by the 2030s. According to Jeffrey Kargel, at the University of Arizona, this statement "was just so wrong it wasn’t worth discussing." Surely the question needs to be asked: if NASA is clueless about such matters, why should we pay attention to anything it says about climate change going forward?

  4. The science academies of more than a dozen of the world's best-educated nations. Reputable organizations such as the US National Academy of Sciences and the Royal Society of the UK have endorsed the IPCC's climate analysis. This joint 2008 statement cites the IPCC as though it were the purveyor of gospel. Did it not occur to these folks that third-party verification of IPCC findings should be undertaken before they, too, declared that the entire world needed to "transition to a low carbon society"? Drug trial results are closely scrutinized. Corporate financial statements are routinely audited. Yet science academy bureaucrats told us to blindly trust IPCC reports.

  5. Prestigious, influential science journals. While the public assumes such journals are devoted solely to rigorous scientific inquiry, one-sided political commentary regarding global warming has appeared in the editorials of these publications since at least 2001. In 2008, Nature (owned by Macmillan Publishers which is, in turn, owned by the Georg von Holtzbrinck Publishing Group) even endorsed Barack Obama for US president. We're naive to imagine that the science media isn't political. [more here]

  6. The mainstream media, who've become a cheerleading squad. It's the media's job to hold governments accountable, to shine light on special interests and snake-oil salesmen, to promote informed discussion about vital issues of the day. Instead, journalists fell for some of the lamest lines imaginable: the "science is settled" and the "debate is over." Rather than providing their readers, viewers, and listeners with the opportunity to make up their own minds (in a democracy, voters get to decide for themselves, remember?), journalists gushed over Al Gore's eco crusade and ignored skeptics. This is called betraying the public trust.

  7. Environmental groups, who've morphed into big business. Green activists say they're saving the world. They're also empire building. As Climate-Resistance points out, between 2003 and 2008 the World Wildlife Fund raised $3.1 billion dollars. Similarly, Greenpeace raised $2.4 billion over a 12-year period. To keep that kind of money flowing into their coffers, might some people be willing to exaggerate environmental threats?

  8. Politicians from top to bottom, from one end of the spectrum to the other. Wrapping oneself in a green cloak is easy. But solving tough problems in the real world is what they're elected to do. In Toronto, where I live, public transit faces dramatic funding cuts and there isn't enough money to keep school swimming pools open. But ads in my community newspaper tell me that grants "of up to $25,000 are available" to environmental groups for projects that "reduce emissions... and help us adapt to climate change." The more I examine governments around the developed world, the more I find this pattern.

  9. Ordinary folks like you and me. Yes, many of us have busy lives. We're focused on getting our families through the week, and through the school year. Some of us are coping with illness and injury. We don't have endless hours to untangle complicated political questions. But before we make up our minds about a matter as important as climate change, should we not spend some time listening to more than one side of the story? We wouldn't convict someone of a crime without giving them an opportunity to defend themselves. We shouldn't convict carbon dioxide emissions of triggering all manner of disaster before we've considered the opinion of one or two people who think this theory is nonsense.
We've all contributed to this train wreck. Now we need to stare down the drama queens and start behaving like grownups.


>> NASA's mistaken glacier info
>> The big picture: the Y2K lesson
>> Science says: hop on one foot
>> Scientific organizations: should we trust them?