Friday, October 11, 2013
Fact Checking the Fact Checkers
- Bob Carter, Heartland Institute: "Currently the planet is cooling." Wrong. The last decade (2000-2009) was the hottest on record; 2010 was the hottest year recorded.
- Fred Singer, Science and Environmental Policy Project: "Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant." Nope. Acting under U.S. Supreme Court direction, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found that CO2 is a pollutant because of the harm it causes.
- Joseph Bast, Heartland Institute: "Most scientists do not believe human activities threaten to disrupt the Earth's climate." Misleading, to say the least: 97% of climate scientists agree that humans are causing global warming.
Dr. Singer happens to be correct about the beneficial trace gas necessary for nearly all life here on Earth (the animals around deep sea hot vents don't need CO2 but everything else alive does). To say the EPA has declared the gas a pollutant is pure argumentum ad verecundiam, the authorities say it, so it must be true. Even five year olds know the parental 'because I say so' is not a compelling argument and is indeed the same sort of fallacy the genius writers use here.
Economist Joseph Bast is correct about most climate scientists not being alarmist about anthropogenic CO2. The 97% figure used by the authors here has a well known, sordid story of origin. In 2009 two researchers at the University of Illinois working for the American Geophysical Union (AGU) sent a two question survey to 10,257 earth scientists. Only about 3,000 responded. The first question was: “When compared with pre-1800s levels, do you think that mean global temperatures have generally risen, fallen, or remained relatively constant?” and most people, even the most stubborn of deniers, admit that much of the 19th and 20th Cs. have been recovery from the Little Ice Age. The second question was pretty vague: "Do you think human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures?" 82% of the less than 30% who responded said yes to this question, but notice that it does not ask if the change is warming or cooling of if the change is good or bad. This is not a question whether the current change in temperature is so alarming that we need to curb CO2 emission right freakin' now. But it gets worse. Only 24% of the surveys sent out were affirmative on that question. Nearly 71% were no answer/unsure. But of the yes answers the survey only counted the answers of 77 scientists who had published on the subject (and 75 of them said yes) and 75 of 77 is 97.4%. I for one am underwhelmed by this survey but look again at the statement of Mr. Bast. He says most scientists do not believe that human activities "threaten to disrupt the Earth's climate." That's different from the second question of the near joke survey. Mr. Bast says there is no alarmism in the main, the authors of the USA Today article say 97% of scientists think humans have a significant effect on climate. I'm not seeing a refutation in the manipulated (and to my mind false) 97% "consensus" number. The Bast statement and the survey question are separate things. You can believe that humans have an effect but not be alarmed by that effect.
The authors of the piece want denier's 'stakes in the action' reported on so that you know the bias of the oil coal and natural gas myrmidons. (There is no mention of the Billions in government grants and private charity stakes the researchers finding alarming changes have). But the revelation after the article tends to undercut the disinterested journalist mask the authors had maintained through out the article. Revealed was this:
Dan Becker directed Sierra Club's Global Warming and Energy Program for 18 years before founding the Safe Climate Campaign. James Gerstenzang, who covered the environment for the Los Angeles Times is the campaign's editorial director.
Oh, so by their standard we should dismiss their article without examining their arguments because they are alarmists supported by those who believe in the alarmism.
I'd rather look at their arguments, such as they are, and let the bias alone. That's what I hope I have done here.