Marc Morano of Climate Depot has written an article of his own, claiming to summarize the evidence (or pseudo-evidence) that can be brought to bear on the proposition that
“Desperation time has arrived for the promoters of man-made global warming fears. As the science of man-made climate fears continues to collapse, new tactics are being contrived to try to drum up waning public support.”
Well, I suppose the final clause has some merit. There are signs that, in the US (as opposed to pretty much everywhere else) the public is lukewarm about climate change as a policy priority.
But why is the public so unconcerned? Is this because the science “continues to collapse”? Or is it because of clever misrepresentations of the increasingly robust state of climatological science and systematic neglect of the direct toxic effect of CO2 on the viability of ocean life?
The last week was a revealing one in the history of American politics. We have seen systematic national deployment of shrill mobs, intended to disrupt public (“town hall”) meetings between congressional representatives and the public, intended to portray an impression of a popular trend that doesn’t exist. The peculiar ethic of the American press which “represents all points of view equally” makes this sort of representation carry more weight than it ought.
In particular, there’s an enormous reluctance to trace beliefs and movements to their roots in rumor, innuendo and misrepresentation, since that would appear to be opposed to the point of view in question. A fine example is in the “neutral” coverage of unjustifiably extreme statements about the currently debated healthcare legislation.
The climate denialists are engaged in a very similar tactic; be as loud and prominent as possible, misrepresent a small angry minority as a growing force, and spin the press.
I think it will be necessary for somebody to take Morano’s account apart piece by piece.
For now, let’s just take this one example, where he refers to “open revolts” in scientific societies. He links back to a previous piece of his in which he says “dozens of letters” had been written in response to a strongly worded editorial by Rudy Baum in the magazine of the American Chemical Society explaining the unscientific nature of opposition to the concepts of climate change.
Actually, 27 letters were published, of which I count eight as neutral, supportive, or off topic, leaving the number of “dozens” of letters as just over 1.5. That’s out of a society with 160,000 members. Since people strongly opposed to an editorial will be more likely to write in than those who find it reasonable, this in no way provides evidence of “open revolt” nor of the balance of scientific opinion. It’s just another masquerade.
The letter writers, of course, are entitled to their opinion, but they should be made aware that they are in opposition to the world’s leading scientific assemblies. The rest of us, meanwhile, should not be presented with arguments that call 19 letters, perhaps a half dozen of them angry, in an organization of 160,000 at all degree-levels and in all fields of chemistry, chemical engineering, and related fields, to constitute an “open revolt” or anything of the sort.
Of course, that is just one example among many that Morano raises. Most of them that address science rather than policy will not bear up under investigation as anything better than exagerations. (Whether the policies currently being proposed are productive is a separate question that shouldn’t be bundled in with the question of whether we have a problem in the first place.)
I am confident that most or all of the evidence Morano musters for “desperation” is equally off-base when it comes to the matter of the intellectual foundations for concern about climate change. There is a simple conspiracy-free explanation for this failure. The science is sufficiently healthy and robust to draw the conclusions that Morano opposes. Morano is wrong.
Of course, Morano doesn’t think the debate is nearly over and that the victory of his position (which is ultimately a political and not a scientific one) is at hand. If he did, he wouldn’t have set up shop to oppose the scientific consensus as a full-time gig.
If, however, the question is whether a certain desperation is setting in about the politics, that’s another question. Can a substantial but small, ill-informed but committed, group in one powerful country substantially damage the prospects for the whole world for centuries to come in the face of overwhelming evidence against them? So far the evidence is that, indeed, they can.
Voice votes are misleading when one side specializes in being loud. In the case of climate risk, the press should take care to represent science in accordance with the actual scientific literature and the actual beliefs of the mainstream scientific community, not in accordance with games and charades put on by a few.
The public, meanwhile, should carefully consider the sources of information, as is explained nicely in the book What’s the Worst That Could Happen? by Greg Craven.
PS – I have to give Marc Morano credit for linking quickly back to here. That seems fair. While he and his readership are around, though, I can’t resist asking for another bit of fairness. Why isn’t the record heat in Texas this summer getting equal time on Climate Depot with all the cool episodes up north?
Update: James Hrynyshyn independently noted the analogy between the health care debate and the climate debate in his article “What health care and the climate have in common: an enemy”
Update August 11: Morano chickens out and unlinks this article. Later: resurgence of incoming traffic from this page but I’m not sure why. No link on the front page of CD. Later still: back on Morano’s front page. Strange, but possibly not calculated.
Update August 11: Joe Romm was there first, on the 7th, comparing denialists with birthers.