I don’t know where I’ve been hearing this word, “kerfuffle”, but it popped into my head with regard to this bit of disreputable word-twisting on the Investor’s Business Daily:
During an Aug. 5 interview with the BBC, Gerd Leipold, outgoing executive director of Greenpeace, admitted that his organization emotionalizes issues to influence the public. At the time, he was admitting his group had made an error in its July 15 news release that claimed “we are looking at ice-free summers in the Arctic as early as 2030.”
“I don’t think (the Greenland ice sheet) will be melting by 2030,” he said. “That may have been a mistake.”
Of course, one presumes that the context, which surely refers to sea ice and not the Greenland ice sheet, was lost somewhere along the way. Let’s start off on the right foot by saying that his admission of error was carefully contingent (“may have been”) on there actually being an error in the first place.
This whole kerfuffle is immensely revealing.
A recent NASA study has shown that the ice cap is not only getting smaller, it’s getting thinner and younger. Sea ice has dramatically thinned between 2004 and 2008. Old ice (over 2 years old) takes longer to melt, and is also much harder to replace. As permanent ice decreases, we are looking at ice-free summers in the Arctic as early as 2030.
Along with a link to this defense. Which points out:
If you Google “ice free summers” and “arctic” you get about 230,000 hits. Oh, and gosh, look what the first article is: a story from the BBC itself talking about the retreat of SEA ice, but what’s the headline? “Arctic summers ice-free by 2013”
So what’s happened?
- Yikes! The Arctic Ocean could be ice-free in the fairly near future! This is huge!
- The press just sloppily says “Ice-Free Arctic”, in order to save a little headline space. (Somebody has to do an expose on headline writers someday!)
- Greenpeace uses the informal form, probably as an ever-so-tiny slipup. Their text would not have lost impact by correctly using the word “Ocean” after the word “Arctic”. On the other hand, nobody with half a brain who had any professional interest in climate reading the press release would misunderstand the irrelevance to Greenland.
- Hard hitting BBC HardTalk reporter who claims to have talked to lots of climate experts asks “you really don’t think Greenland will be ice-free by 2030, like your press release says?”
- Greenpeace leader Gerd Leipold misses the point, since it’s so out of left field.
- Hard hitting BBC HardTalk reporter asks the question again.
- Leipold, not having the copy in front of him, shrugs, says “I don’t read every press release” and “it might have been a mistake”, as well he should.
- Denyosphere runs with it
- I get wind of it through this IBD article showing up in my feeds
- I try to do my part to put out another wildfire of bullshit
Complete, total, unadulterated bullshit. Propagated by the BBC, which is especially discouraging. Whatever you may think of Greenpeace, they didn’t exagerrate anything in this case.
Now comes the ironic part. IBD decides to wheel out the old Stephen Schneider quote. You know the one:
Or maybe it was one of those examples that Greenpeace embellished to stir fear in the public? If so, it wouldn’t be an isolated case. Others have admitted they’re willing to bend the truth in order to draw attention to the cause.
Twenty years ago, Stanford University environmentalist Stephen Schneider told Discover magazine that it’s perfectly fine “to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements and make little mention of any doubts we might have. . . . Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest.”
Al Gore noted the power of propaganda when he once told Grist, a magazine for environmentalists, that “it is appropriate to have an overrepresentation of factual presentations on how dangerous it is, as a predicate for opening up the audience.”
So, having covered the “bending the truth” item, they duly move on to the “scary scenario” one:
So why all the distortions about global warming? To save the planet, to save us from ourselves? No. To choke economies in developed nations, particularly the U.S.
First of all, it is the BBC and the IBD who have perpetrated the distortion in this case! And now it is the IBD offering the scary scenarios! When someone is being disreputable, they will often accuse their opposition of exactly their own behavior, like disruptive agitators of well-intentioned public meetings calling the progressive politicians who convened them Nazis.
Here’s another case. If I’ve ever seen a better example of bending the truth and offering scary scenarios than this one, I can’t bring it to mind.
Steve has gotten a huge amount of grief over the years for this statement. John Quiggin does us all a service by providing more context:
On the one hand, as scientists we are ethically bound to the scientific method, in effect promising to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but – which means that we must include all the doubts, the caveats, the ifs, ands and buts. On the other hand, we are not just scientists but human beings as well. And like most people, we’d like to see the world a better place, which in this context translates into our working to reduce the risk of potentially disastrous climate change. To do that, we need to get some broad-based support, to capture the public’s imagination. That, of course, entails getting loads of media coverage. So we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have. This ‘double ethical bind’ we frequently find ourselves in cannot be solved by any formula. Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest. I hope that means being both.)
This is the inescapable quandary of us purveyors of inconvenient truth. No amount of wailing and caterwauling by ourselves or our allies will convince the rock to roll away or the hard place to soften up. We are stuck with it, especially insofar as the main media are for-profit industries and insofar as people are too frazzled and frantic to reflect very much on their world.
We can push this question this way or that, but the fact remains that the whole truth is very scary but really hard to put into forms that the press will be willing to feed to the public. The partial truth may get attention but leaves the speaker vulnerable to attack on details. You try to do both, but either half (compelling and complete) is hard enough.
Meanwhile, opponents play fast and loose with the facts all the time. Now, to prove Greenpeace is using scare tactics, the anti-AGW press is reduced to far more vicious, far more egregiously dishonest scaremongering than even the scaremongering they misattribute to Greenpeace.
And then they have the temerity to bring Schneider into it. I have a word for them but it isn’t a pretty one, and it’s unkind to children of single mothers.
(Brown text: IBD; green text: Greenpeace; blue text: Steve Schneider)
PS: I’m pretty sure Steve Schneider has nothing to do with Greenpeace, and I definitely don’t. In a sane world I wouldn’t have to say that and it wouldn’t matter much anyway. But apparently, that’s not the world we live in.
Dr. Orly Taitz Esquire
… which it is stated that global warming will lead to an ice-free Arctic by 2030. … As the Watts Up With That blog highlights, “Leipold’s admission that …
Update: I’m truly astonished and dismayed to have a request from regular reader David Duff to add his “contribution” to the list, but very well: A lying liar called Leipold coughs .