Tuesday, February 17, 2009

How Republicans Lie About Climate Change

The majority of climate scientists all over the world believe that climate change is happening, that carbon emissions are a big part of it, and that it's a big deal. Republicans? Not so much.

Here's George Will, the Republicans' version of an intellectual, in the "liberal" Washington Post:
According to the University of Illinois' Arctic Climate Research Center, global sea ice levels now equal those of 1979.

Ok, good. That's a simple, factual claim. Quite easy to check. The Washington Post's fact-checkers don't need to measure global sea ice levels -- they just need to check that the Arctic Climate Research Center says what Will says they say. And because everybody knows the Washington Post is liberal (that's sarcasm, folks) they obviously would have rushed to prove him wrong.

They don't. The ACRC:
We do not know where George Will is getting his information, but our data shows that on February 15, 1979, global sea ice area was 16.79 million sq. km and on February 15, 2009, global sea ice area was 15.45 million sq. km. Therefore, global sea ice levels are 1.34 million sq. km less in February 2009 than in February 1979. This decrease in sea ice area is roughly equal to the area of Texas, California, and Oklahoma combined.

It is disturbing that the Washington Post would publish such information without first checking the facts.

Okay, so that's just a straight-up lie. No problem, it's easy to debunk lies. But disingenuous implications are harder. Will again:
[A]ccording to the World Meteorological Organization, there has been no recorded global warming for more than a decade.

He cites his source again. Good! We can check.

Oops. The WMO:
The long-term upward trend of global warming, mostly driven by greenhouse gas emissions, is continuing. Global temperatures in 2008 are expected to be above the long-term average. The decade from 1998 to 2007 has been the warmest on record, and the global average surface temperature has risen by 0.74C since the beginning of the 20th Century. [...] "For detecting climate change you should not look at any particular year, but instead examine the trends over a sufficiently long period of time. The current trend of temperature globally is very much indicative of warming," World Meteorological Organization Secretary-General, Mr Michel Jarraud said in response to media inquiries on current temperature "anomalies".

Yes, George, if you choose the hottest year in recent memory as your baseline, most years since then will be cooler. That doesn't mean warming stopped. The decade beginning with the year you chose as your baseline has been the warmest on record.

It's hilarious listening to Republicans on climate change. When they're not outright lying, it's just total amateur hour. They'll start talking about sunspots and Martian temperatures and how that one measuring station is totally right next to a heating vent. But they don't know what they're talking about. They're just like creationists who go on and on about this fossil or that footprint and how obviously the eye is too complex to have evolved.

(It's always "obvious," too. It's not just that the majority of scientists are wrong, it's that they're OBVIOUSLY wrong. Most of the smartest and most expert people on Earth are wrong, but Joe the Plumber's got the truth. Right.)

Now there are of course some scientists who don't believe in climate change just as there are some who don't believe in evolution. It's just that they're vastly outnumbered. (Yes, Einstein was outnumbered at first. Science isn't a democracy, and sometimes the minority is right. But when they're right they can generally prove it, and win over the majority. That's what makes it science rather than, say, religion.)

Republicans love to list all the scientists they can find who don't believe in global warming. Now an honest person would then compare that number to the list of all the scientists they could find that do believe in global warming. But they don't do that. They're not interested in honesty. Their arguments are one-sided.

Project Steve is a great parody of that tactic as used by creationists. You may have seen the lists of scientists who don't believe in evolution, numbering in the hundreds. Here's one (.pdf) from The Discovery Institute. (See kids, even scientists don't believe in evolution!) Project Steve decided that they would create a list just of scientists named Steve (or variants thereof) to highlight the ridiculousness of that technique. A couple of days ago they reached a thousand. There are more scientists named Steve who believe in evolution than scientists with all names who don't. Ouch. I'm sure the folks at The Discovery Institute will change their minds based on this new evidence.

Finally, George Will again trots out the lie that the scientific community believed in global cooling just a few decades ago. Ezra Klein puts it best:
There needs to be some sort of Godwin's Law variant for conservatives who try to argue against global warming because they remember that Newsweek dipped into pop-science in the mid-70s and touted "global cooling." Call it Will's Law, after George Will, the supposedly cerebral conservative who brings this up every time he doesn't have a better column idea.

For a good summary on the global cooling myth -- an idea that took root in the popular press but never in the scientific literature -- go sit in on the free lecture provided by the folks at Real Climate. Will makes a lot of the 1975 Newsweek cover on the subject, but the more telling document is a National Academy of Sciences report from the same year. The report argued that climate change is the product of many potential forces and the state of the science wasn't yet advanced enough to discern which would prove decisive. To put it in the NAS's own words, "we do not have a good quantitative understanding of our climate machine and what determines its course. Without the fundamental understanding, it does not seem possible to predict climate." As such, they recommended "a major new program of research designed to increase our understanding of climatic change and to lay the foundation for its prediction."

16 comments:

Holy Hyrax said...

blah blah blah blah, democrats never lie.

blah blah blah republicans lie all the time. blah blah blah.



You sir, are just as devote to your "religious" beliefs as anyone else you condemn

Holy Hyrax said...

>But when they're right they can generally prove it, and win over the majority. That's what makes it science rather than, say, religion.)

Are you implying that scientists that come to a conclusion that either there is no climate change or not caused by humans are simply dogmatic as creationists?

Ezzie said...

Whoops: Science disagrees.

Holy Hyrax said...

btw

as a simple manner of ethics and labeling a person a liar. (remember 1st grade, words have meaning. And, they can shape public opinion immediately, depending on vocabulary chosen) A Liar is someone that knows the truth, and decides to lie anyways. For you to say Will lied, you need to show that he new of your info and decided to ignore it. Perhaps he got his info from another source. You might call him sloppy and misinformed, but you have no idea if he lied.

Jewish Atheist said...

HH:

blah blah blah blah, democrats never lie.

blah blah blah republicans lie all the time. blah blah blah.


Never said either statement.

You sir, are just as devote to your "religious" beliefs as anyone else you condemn

Which beliefs are those?

Are you implying that scientists that come to a conclusion that either there is no climate change or not caused by humans are simply dogmatic as creationists?

No.


Ezzie:

Whoops: Science disagrees.

LOL. Tell me, did you really keep a straight face when creating a link called "science disagrees" that goes to a senate.gov link? And it's a link that has exactly the kind of list I was mocking in this post! "More than 650 International Scientists Dissent Over Man-Made Global Warming Claims." How many scientists assent to those claims? 10? A billion? It doesn't say. Because they're not interested in the truth. They want to prop up one side of a political debate. Note that the report is a "U.S. Senate Minority (i.e. Republican) Report."

How long do you think it would take to find 650 scientists named Steve who believing in man-made global warming?


HH:

as a simple manner of ethics and labeling a person a liar. (remember 1st grade, words have meaning. And, they can shape public opinion immediately, depending on vocabulary chosen) A Liar is someone that knows the truth, and decides to lie anyways.

You have a fair point, but Will isn't just some random guy. He's a columnist for one of the most prestigious papers in the country. If he can't make a 30 second phone call to verify that the sources he's using agrees with his claims, he might as well be lying. I suspect he never had any doubt that both the Arctic Climate Research Center and the World Meteorological Organization would strenuously disagree with him. But no, I can't prove it.

Holy Hyrax said...

>Now an honest person would then compare that number to the list of all the scientists they could find that do believe in global warming. But they don't do that. They're not interested in honesty. Their arguments are one-sided.

There is no reason. Anyone reading such reports would know the majority of scientists believe in climate change. People that read stuff like this do not live in a bubble. The whole point for a dissenting voice, especially in a report such as given above is that its dissenting from a majority, hence they do not need to list them because you already know that.

Ezzie said...

JA - Sorry, numbers don't back you. That's the point. 52 scientists signed onto the IPCC report that got huge acclaim. 650 disagree publicly.

Go look through the report. It gives a short bio of every single one of the 650, a quick explanation of why they disagree, and clear links to longer discussions. Have fun!

The point is simple: You have no clue on global warming, and neither do most people. A tiny group of scientists has turned it into a liberal mantra, which actively discourages dissent (as clear from your very post) and waves off any disagreement with a "they're a nut minority". It's not science at all, but politics. (This too is detailed in the report.) If science were so confident in its claims about global warming, there wouldn't be this active attempt to quash dissent, but a serious attempt to address the arguments that come from that side. Instead, it is the side that says global warming fears are overhyped that is showing just how weak the science is from the activists.

Have fun.

mOOm said...

I still don't understand why right-wingers are so anti climate-change science. I could understand if they say well the science isn't settled - the amount of climate change could be small or large (which is still true) - we don't think that strong action should be taken until it's more certain that the impacts will be large. That would be a position that is political/economic that makes sense. But to say that the underlying science is completely wrong shouldn't be a political opinion.

Re global cooling. There are two real things here.

1. If there was no human activity the climate likely would be cooling into another ice age at this point. The trouble is that human activity is more than offsetting this effect (see the work of Ruddiman).

2. In the mid 20th century high emissions of sulfur and other pollutants significantly reduced sunlight reaching the surface in the northern hemisphere and resulted in a slight cooling trend for a couple of decades. If pollution had continued to grow that trend might have continued for a while. Reductions in such pollution since the early 1970s have resulted in a stronger warming trend being revealed.

BTW I'm an environmental economist and have done research and published papers on several of these issues. The extreme claims of both camps are wrong but the basic mechanism of the greenhouse effect is undisputed. The question is how important are the positive feedbacks that could increase the impacts of the basic greenhouse effect.

Holy Hyrax said...

>I still don't understand why right-wingers are so anti climate-change science.

Well, really the same question can be flipped towards lefties.

I think the strong sentiments that are being heard is a direct result of the the mass hysteria found amongst the left.

Stopped Clock said...

If I could do one good thing with my knowledge of meteorology, it would be to get Audacious Epigone, Half Sigma, and dozens other conservative bloggers who aren't part of our circle of friends to come around and start believing in global warming. There really is no reason why conservatives should be associated with global warming denial and liberals associated with belief other than the political ramifications of the interpretations of the data. At least most other political issues such as abortion or taxes or socialized health care involve competing interest groups that can be reasonably expected to want to better their own standing. Global warming is the only issue I know of where the data itself has become politicized. And as a conservative I'm dismayed that I'm on the wrong side of the data.

Ezzie said...

m00m, stopped clock - I still don't understand why right-wingers are so anti climate-change science.

They aren't.

I could understand if they say well the science isn't settled - the amount of climate change could be small or large (which is still true) - we don't think that strong action should be taken until it's more certain that the impacts will be large.

Exactly. And almost all of the suggestions being pushed by the left are ones which have a huge financial and social impact. These are costly, irreversible changes that might be all about nothing. That some of those just so happen to coincide with other projects on the left makes the right quite skeptical of the motivations and underlying science.

Random said...

"Ok, good. That's a simple, factual claim. Quite easy to check. The Washington Post's fact-checkers don't need to measure global sea ice levels -- they just need to check that the Arctic Climate Research Center says what Will says they say."

Maybe they did. From YOUR OWN LINK (click on "Statement related to Daily Tech article of January 1, 2009" for the full statement) -

"Observed global sea ice area, defined here as a sum of N. Hemisphere and S. Hemisphere sea ice areas, is near or slightly lower than those observed in late 1979."

Will is clearly relying on the Daily Tech article which is discussing the year-end figures and which the ACRC is responding to and does not dispute. In fact, by ignoring this and then referring to the February figures - and furthermore by claiming they "do not know" where Will got his information, despite having already commented on the controversy - it's clear that if anybody is indulging in deception here it's the ACRC, not Will. Further evidence (if needed) of the ACRC's lack of good faith is their use of the February 15 figures which, given that that is the publication date of his article, Will could not possibly have known about without some form of precognition.

Given your willingness to throw the word around, are you now going to call the ACRC liars too?

"Yes, George, if you choose the hottest year in recent memory as your baseline, most years since then will be cooler."

Quite. Maybe I'm missing something, but how does your link disprove what Will said? It looks to me like a case of "yes, things haven't got any warmer for a while, but global warming is still happening, honestly!" to me.

"The decade beginning with the year you chose as your baseline has been the warmest on record."

So? Is anybody saying climate change has gone into reverse?

"They'll start talking about sunspots and Martian temperatures "

Okay, now you're the one showing your ignorance. It is a documented fact that Mars has been warming up since at least the 1970's too. This isn't an argument against climate change happening on Earth, but it is an argument against that climate change being anthropogenic rather than natural. Oh, and sunspot numbers peaked around 2000 and have been declining since (increased sunspot activity is usually linked to a warming climate on Earth, the reverse is also true). BTW if we're going to talk about sunspots and Mars, and given your apparent reverence for experts, my qualification for discussing the subject is a degree in Astronomy from the University of London. What's yours?

"Now there are of course some scientists who don't believe in climate change just as there are some who don't believe in evolution."

With all due respect, but I think you're ignorance is showing again here. I don't think there really are that many scientists who dispute that climate change is happening. The significant debate as I implied above is between those who believe it's a natural phenomenon and those who believe it's anthropogenic (along of course with any mixture of the two). It's this question which is nothing like as settled as the pro-AGW crowd like to imply, hence their enthusiasm for linking AGW sceptics in with climate change flat-earthers.

As for global cooling, it's Ezra Klein who is being disingenuous here - "Will makes a lot of the 1975 Newsweek cover on the subject"

Will mentions Newsweek precisely once. He also mentions:

The New York Times
Science News
Science magazine
Global Ecology
International Wildlife
Science Digest
Christian Science Monitor

The middle five at least of the bunch would seem to have relevant authority on the state of mind in the scientific community on the subject, at least as much as Newsweek. They're harder to debunk though, presumably the reason why Klein doesn't mention them.

"To put it in the NAS's own words, "we do not have a good quantitative understanding of our climate machine and what determines its course. Without the fundamental understanding, it does not seem possible to predict climate."

Quite so. If only the pro-AGW crowd would listen.

Also, what HH said on the overuse of the "lie" meme. Someone isn't a liar just because they say something you disagree with or even something you find ridiculous. They have to actively know it's false when they say it to count as liars. This, to put it at it's mildest, is something you have failed to demonstrate.

Jewish Atheist said...

Maybe they did. From YOUR OWN LINK (click on "Statement related to Daily Tech article of January 1, 2009" for the full statement) -

"Observed global sea ice area, defined here as a sum of N. Hemisphere and S. Hemisphere sea ice areas, is near or slightly lower than those observed in late 1979."


Dammit, Random. I'm gonna have to start letting you take a swing at my posts before I post them. This certainly does back up Will and make the ACRC look dishonest.


"To put it in the NAS's own words, "we do not have a good quantitative understanding of our climate machine and what determines its course. Without the fundamental understanding, it does not seem possible to predict climate."

Quite so. If only the pro-AGW crowd would listen.


Now you're being disingenuous. :-) That quote's from the 70s.

Random said...

"Dammit, Random. I'm gonna have to start letting you take a swing at my posts before I post them. This certainly does back up Will and make the ACRC look dishonest."

Dammit JA - you're doing that being reasonable and listening to people thing again, don't you know the internet simply doesn't work that way?:-)

"Now you're being disingenuous. :-) That quote's from the 70s."

True:-) Though to be fair, although we do have a lot more models these days it a lot less clear how many of them are any good...

Ezzie said...

Oh, Random - I love you.

JA - Note that I'm not making ANY scientific claims, only asking Q's.

To both: Didn't NASA make a similar comment on the unpredictability of our climate machine last year?

Joshua said...

There's a nice post about the George Will thingy at

http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/loom/2009/02/19/the-sea-ice-affair-continued/

which I think shows how the post's fact-checkers were just mining quotes to fit their predetermined conclusions.