Three interesting news items about global warming in the past week or so. One is that Al Gore dropped the Mr. Nice Guy routine and called out the climate science deniers in a blunt and fiery speech, addressing the dishonest campaign against scientists by its rightful technical terminology: “bullshit”. Good for him.
Except that, as you might expect, this occasion was then spun into further shoot-the-messenger attacks on him. How dare he warn us about global warming when he travels on airplanes and lives in a big house? Never mind that just about everyone at his level of success travels on a plane and lives in a big house (which in his case doubles as office space). He’s a “liberal” so unless he lives in a cave and recycles toilet paper, he’s a hypocrite.
The second prong of the usual attack against him is that he’s not qualified to speak about science since he’s not a scientist himself. Never mind that he’s been closely following and faithfully relating the work of people who ARE scientists for about four decades. He’s a “liberal”, so we should instead listen to the anti-scientists, even if they have less scientific background than he does.
Another news story was about a Rasmussen poll in which 69% of respondents believed it was “at least somewhat likely that some scientists have falsified research data” on global warming. The right-wing punditocracy had a field day with this, touting it as proof of their long-held assertion that global warming is a “liberal” hoax – as if no one but “liberals” are concerned about, or affected by, the crisis. Rush Limbaugh, keeping with his usual playground antics, declared “we win”.
Most of us realize that opinion polls are not necessarily a gauge of reality. But if roughly 2 out of 3 Americans did prefer tasty new bullshit to science, it really wouldn’t be surprising, given the lengthy and intensive propaganda that Limbaugh and company have waged on the topic. But the poll didn’t conclude that 69% swallow the claim that global warming is a hoax; it concluded that 69% believe that SOME scientists MAY have fudged data. Even if that assumption is perfectly true, it wouldn’t negate the abundance of honest and sound research on the subject.
And notice that troubling little word “some”. Exactly how big a sum is some? If I knew of 2 or 3 scientists who had dishonestly distorted the facts to support the global warming model, I might be inclined to answer that question in the affirmative myself. But I’m not aware of even ONE who’s done so – despite persistent and pervasive media rumors to that effect. And those rumors have a lot of people fooled. So for once I guess Rush is actually right – “we” (the merchants of misinformation) have won, or at least are winning, the PR battle.
NASA vs. NASA
A case in point is our third news story, which went viral on the Internet: data collected by NASA over the past decade allegedly suggest that much more heat is escaping the atmosphere than global warming “alarmists” have predicted through computer models. Do a Google search for “NASA data computer simulations” and you’ll get an endless parade of links proclaiming that this new report “debunks” or “blows a hole in” the “alarmist” global warming “theories”. Pages and pages of them. You have to dig through a Mount Everest of bullshit to unearth the facts.
Where to begin?
First, this revolutionary paper is itself based on a computer model, but one concocted by only two people – primarily Dr. Roy Spencer- and using a far more limited range of data (10 years, a mere blip when it comes to climate science) than the “alarmist” model that diagnoses global warming.
Second, Spencer himself has tweaked this data mercilessly.
Third, his paper doesn’t even deliver on the claim promised by its title.
Fourth, although data gathered by NASA were indeed used, it would be dishonest to suggest that NASA itself concurs with Spencer’s findings. The vast majority of climate scientists not only refute his conclusions (which hinge on the thesis that warmer temperatures are caused by…CLOUDS!) but are disgusted that his paper was ever published at all.
It might be construed as shooting the messenger if we merely reported that Dr. Spencer is affiliated with a creationist (“intelligent design”) organization that believes climate change is all part of a divinely ordered process and we shouldn’t worry about it. But let’s add his own words about his objectives: to “save our economy from the economic ravages of out-of-control environmental extremism” and “protecting the interests of the taxpayer.” Do you suppose that has any bearing on how he reports the information he’s amassed and mutilated?
The misinformation machine continues to churn furiously, but global warming remains a very real problem. And we’ll have to find some other grounds for demonizing libruls.