Much as I hate to link to Morano, and much as I hate participating in the “news cycle”, here’s another denialist tactic that demands a quick response.
Rudy Baum has published a perfectly sound editorial in Chemical and Engineering News. Most notably:
On June 11, the presidents of the G8+5 national academies of science released a joint statement, “Climate Change and the Transformation of Energy Technologies for a Low Carbon Future ,” which states: “Climate change and sustainable energy supply are crucial challenges for the future of humanity. It is essential that world leaders agree on emission reductions needed to combat negative consequences of anthropogenic climate change.” The G8+5 consists of Canada, Italy, the U.K., the U.S., Japan, France, Germany, and Russia (G8), and Brazil, India, South Africa, China, and Mexico (+5).
Leaving aside the tragic extent to which the press ignores these G8+5 national academy pronouncements, Baum proceeds to describe the tactics of the deniers (he calls them “CCDs” for “Climate Change Deniers”) about as effectively as a few paragraphs’ space allows:
We see here the same tactics used by other purveyors of nonsense rejected by the mainstream scientific community. Creationists, for example, only want to expose students to “both sides of the debate over origins,” ignoring the fact that there is no debate over evolution. And, of course, it’s always useful to attack the “mainstream media.”
Heartland and its ally AmericanEnergySecurity.com are also flogging an 800-plus-page report, “Climate Change Reconsidered ,” from the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC)—kind of an anti-IPCC, get it?—which, of course, proves conclusively that global warming probably isn’t happening; if it is happening, it’s not due to human activity; and, besides, a “warmer world will be a safer and healthier world for humans and wildlife alike.”
Sow doubt, make up statistics, call for an “open debate,” claim that you are being “silenced and ignored by the media and politicians,” claim that your opponents are just a “few bureaucrats and environmental activists,” not real scientists—those are the tactics that will be brought to bear in the coming months by the CCDs in their attempt to derail meaningful efforts to respond to global climate change.
Nothing here new, right? Well maybe not to the likes of us, but this is new stuff to C&E News, apparently, and a denialist drumbeat has been raised. If you can stand it, look at Morano’s article.
Then have a look at the current letters section.
We see the usual stuff. People who are not actually aware of the denialists tactics, who believe that the stuff of legitimate scientific discourse is in a very diferent place than it actually is, and even some very confused nonsense that probably shouldn’t have passed editorial muster for a science magazine like this:
I’m a geologist, not a chemist, but I must say that I expected better from this science magazine.
The article cites a panel that says drastic cuts are in CO2 emissions are needed to prevent acidification of oceans by 2050. It further asserts that computer models suggest that coral reefs and polar ecosystems will be seriously harmed by 2050 if CO2 emissions are not seriously curtailed.
Are these the same or similar models that have not been able to correctly account for any well-documented historical variations in global temperature such as the Medieval Warm Period and the Little Ice Age? Isn’t it possible (or rather, likely based on scientific evidence) that CO2 is not the driver of global warming but the result of naturally occurring warming? Certainly chemists should know that as the oceans warm, they are able to hold less CO2 and will thus release increasing quantities of CO2 from solution into the atmosphere, rather than absorbing CO2 and becoming more acidic?
More at issue is the lead letter, that equates Mr. Baum’s quite precise description of the circumstances at hand with “left-wing opinions”.
To say this is unfortunate is an understatement. I call it the fallacy of the center: that the truth must lie somewhere between the arguments that you hear. This phenomenon can be easily gamed by a side with no respect for truth: to tell lies so extreme that by comparison the distance between the actual truth and the opposite extreme becomes relatively tiny. Then the reasonable if inattentive person will split the difference, and perceive any exposition of actual truth as biased, since it is relatively near one pole of the debate.
The careful reader should first refer to the opinions of the relevant scientific bodies, secondly to the alleged tactics of the deniers, and try to establish some ways to test the competing social hypotheses: 1) All 13 major scientific powers’ national science academies are unanimously lying, perhaps to protect their few dozen climatologists who are lying because they have sinister friends in the renewable power industry or 2) A few groups are lying perhaps because they have sinister friends in the fossil fuel industry (who may perhaps be a small fraction of that community) the value of whose reserves are threatened.
One (or both) of these, unfortunately, must be true.
If you don’t have the time or skill to evaluate the evidence directly you should ask which hypothetically lying group has potentially more at stake, which hypothetically lying group has the access to the resources and skills to construct a convincing fabric of lies, which hypothetically lying group has the least to lose from defections, and which hypothetically lying group has a more socially irresponsible history.
As someone sufficiently involved in the material to be able to distinguish cogent argument from incoherent blithering, I vouch for the scientific evidence lining up with the more plausible hypothesis.
In short, Rudy Baum has got it exactly right and it would be good to figure out what we can do as a community to help him.
Update: Eli predicted this kerfluffle and has a few more observations, as well as a mailing address for letters of support. It is fair to take note that the letters in C+EN were not unanimous, despite Morano’s portrayal of them.
Update: Morano oddly devotes a lot of attention to somebody (somebody he calls a scientist, but then again, he calls me a professor) who apparently wrote Baum this elegantly reasoned and finely honed argument: “When all is said and done, and you and your kind are proven wrong (again), you will have moved on to be an unthinking urn for another rat pleading catastrophe. You will be removed. I promise.” It’s mysterious to me why Morano decided to highlight this person and his peculiar rat-urn argument.