May 31 2013

Global Warming: An Economy of Truth

Published by under Student blog entries

It’s no secret that Al Gore won the Nobel Peace Prize for his documentary on global warming, An Inconvenient Truth.  One of the most arresting images from that documentary was the time-elapse footage of the state of Florida being gradually submerged by a rapid rise in the sea level.  In 2007, a British High Court referred to this claim as “alarmist [and] misleading.”  It is possible that a rise in sea level will submerge Florida, one day, but that this event will occur over millennia.  Gore claimed, falsely, that entire islands in Micronesia had to be evacuated.  He claimed that scientists were certain the famous Snows of Kilimanjaro were melting because of global warming.  Also false.  Gore claimed that the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina was attributable to global warming.  Wrong again.  The Washington Post, no bastion of conservatism, gave Gore a Pinocchio on its website for these claims.

Until the 2007 release of An Inconvenient Truth, a solid majority of Americans believed that global warming was happening, and that it was a serious problem.  In the succeeding half-decade, support declined precipitously.  It’s no surprise why.  The liberal gap between rhetoric and reality, never narrow, had become too enormous to sustain, even with a favorable media and a stranglehold on academia.  Global warmists (to borrow James Taranto’s excellent term) continue to thunder into the political debate with an argument of ironclad scientific certitude, but their claims are often overblown.

The granddaddy of them all was the infamous “hockey stick” graph, the product of the now-discredited Michael Mann, who recently threatened to sue the National Review for libel after they published an article critiquing his scientific integrity and role in climate scandals.  The hockey stick graph predicted an exponential increase in global temperature, and has been extensively debunked.

Further complicating the picture is the Climategate scandal.  In 2009, an anonymous hacker stole e-mails from the University of East Anglia, home of the Climate Research Unit, an important disseminator of science on climate change.  The evidence in the emails points towards an effort on the part of the scientists in question to manipulate the data in order to show a clearer relationship between man-made greenhouse gases and a warming planet.  When scientists clamored to examine their raw data, the CRU claimed that it had been “lost.”  Without raw data available for peer review, it’s impossible to evaluate their conclusions for accuracy and scientific rigor.  Recently the Daily Telegraph reported that there was another trove of Climategate emails, which it dubbed Climategate II.  It’s likely that there will be further revelations from this new information.

These scandals, and false statements, cast doubt on what I call the “catastrophe case.”  The American Physical Society’s policy statement is exemplary: “’The evidence is incontrovertible: Global warming is occurring. If no mitigating actions are taken, significant disruptions in the Earth’s physical and ecological systems, social systems, security and human health are likely to occur.”

The catastrophe case is not founded in scientific evidence, but it’s promulgated in talking points by Democratic politicians and ideological ‘scientists’ as if it were.  And herein lies the crux of the problem.  Politicians lie all the time.  They’re people, after all, people involved in a necessarily disingenuous enterprise.  But when the argument is founded upon a declaration of absolute factualism, to the tune of labeling opponents as ‘deniers’ and shills of the fossil fuels industry, then the overall enterprise of scientific discourse is cheapened.

Indeed, that may already be occurring.  A prominent German climatologist claimed on his blog that “editors, reviewers and authors of alternative studies, analysis, interpretations, even based on the same data we have at our disposal, have been bullied and subtly blackmailed.”  This experience is in-line with the extensively documented harassment academics receive when they go against prevailing liberal orthodoxy on any subject, including global warming.

Public Enemy once released a song called “Don’t Believe the Hype.”  It’s good advice, whether you’re buying a car, investing in the stock market, or evaluating extravagant claims of global ecological disaster.

 

 

One response so far




One Response to “Global Warming: An Economy of Truth”

  1.   Caitlin Seyfriedon 25 Jul 2013 at 8:22 pm

    Let me start by saying that I agree with this post in so much that over-exaggerating climate change claims are dangerous and polarizing. However, I would not go so far as to state that evidence for climate change and the catastrophic effects of climate change are an exaggeration at all, much less unfounded by scientific evidence. Similarly, I agree that lying is practically a part of the job description of successful politicians. But if you want to conjure up that debate, we can discuss the corruption coming ferociously from the other side of the table: the fossil fuels industry.

    Even the article referred to in this post from the Washington Post’s Fact Checker (Dobbs 2007) acknowledges that Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” is broadly accurate. It is fair to recognize that Al Gore made a few claims in his movie that were not well documented and/or exaggerated. It is also fair to recognize that he jointly (along with the IPCC) won a Nobel Peace Prize for the vast majority of supported evidence that he presented in An Inconvenient Truth.
    “…for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change.” (Nobel Media 2007)
    The Norwegian Nobel Institute recognizes that Al Gore’s contributions were extremely important in the public dissemination of climate change education.

    Furthermore, the claim that a majority of Americans believed in and worried about climate change before 2007, but not after 2007 is greatly unfounded in evidence. A Gallup Poll published in March of 2013 shows that a majority of Americans have been worried “A Great Deal” or “A Fair Amount” about global warming since polling started in 1990. That majority percent has changed over the years, but it has always been a majority. And there are no significant changes in this majority around 2007. (Jones and Saad 2013) Unfortunately, I could not find any sources that confirmed your claims about a changing percent of American belief or worry in global warming.

    Apart from critiquing each piece of this post, I will give my last overall critique: This post is completely one-sided. It is definitely persuasive: you get your point across very well. However, polarizing this issue is not beneficial for either side. Only presenting the horror story scandals of particular climate change scientists/advocates, then slamming all climate scientists as lying politicians is damaging and extremely biased. And instructing people to not “believe the hype” when evaluating climate change information after only presenting the false hype as defined by you is equally as damaging, if not more so.

    I encourage everyone who reads this post to keep an open mind when it comes to both sides of the issue. Of course, always question the information you are given and understand political pressures behind an issue before subscribing to its messages. Whether that message be an alarmist call to the public to acknowledge climate change or a blog post about recognizing over-exaggeration and erroneous statements made by climate scientists, it should always be evaluated.

    I believe that the points made in this post have their place in the public discourse about climate change. But I also believe that biased and dismissive charges against climate change should be scrutinized at the same level as over-exaggerated claims about the effects of climate change.

    References:

    Dobbs, M., 2007, “Pinocchio Time for Al Gore VERDICT IN THE CASE OF ALBERT ARNOLD GORE Jr. vs JUDGE MICHAEL BURTON”, The Washington Post: Fack Checker, Accessed July 25, 2013, http://voices.washingtonpost.com/fact-checker/2007/10/pinocchio_time_for_al_gore_1.html

    Jones, J., Saad, L., 2013, “GALLUP POLL SOCIAL SERIES: ENVIRONMENT”, The Gallup News Service.

    Nobel Media, “The Nobel Peace Prize 2007”, Nobelprize.org. Accessed 25 Jul 2013, < http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/2007/>