“If you won’t play my way, I’m going to take my ball and go home!”
One expects such behavior from 7-year-olds. Not from grownups.
But that’s the behavior of 60 scientists, journalists, politicians, activists, and others who signed an open letter published in the (dependably sympathetic) Guardian Sunday saying, “we will no longer debate those who deny that human-caused climate change is real.”
Why didn’t they just come right out and say, “Nya-nya-nya-nya-nya!”
But they offer some reasons, or at least excuses, for taking their ball and going home. Let’s consider them.
“We are no longer willing to lend our credibility to debates over whether or not climate change is real. It is real.”
Yes, climate change is real. I agree.
So does every significant skeptic of the idea of dangerous human-induced climate change I know of, people like S. Fred Singer, Roy W. Spencer, John Christy, Judith Curry, David Legates, Willie Soon, Patrick Michaels, Neil Frank, Joseph D’Aleo, Joe Bastardi—the list of skeptics whose professional accomplishments as climate scientists meet or exceed those of every signer of the letter could go on and on.
But there, in the lead paragraph, the writers used a standard tactic by which they (by now probably vainly) hoped to deceive the public. They wrote as if skeptics denied that climate changes, and nobody, but nobody, is so stupid as to deny that.
But perhaps it’s precisely because the public has caught onto that bogus move that poll after poll shows that despite the ever-louder screams of the alarmists, global warming keeps falling lower and lower in public concern.
Ah, but in the same paragraph they escaped my charge—or did they?
They wrote, “In the interests of ‘balance’, the media often feels the need to include those who outright deny the reality of human-triggered climate change” (italics added).
So maybe they haven’t really erected a straw man and knocked it down?
Except that, again, every one of the skeptics named above acknowledges that human activity—primarily emitting carbon dioxide from burning hydrocarbon fuels—almost certainly makes Earth’s atmosphere warmer than it otherwise would be. They all recognize that as basic physics.
What they question is the magnitude of it, and whether and how much natural causes might also have contributed to the warming over the last 60 to 160 years. (One of them, Roy Spencer, actually specifies in a forthcoming book that he thinks human activity might have caused most, maybe even all, of the warming since 1950. But that’s not news. He’s said so before.)
The issues in the debate are not whether human activity has contributed to global warming at all, but how much, and whether the harmful effects of that warming will exceed, or be exceeded by, the beneficial effects not just of the warming but also of all the energy obtained from hydrocarbon fuels, and all the increased plant growth, and hence crop yields, attributable to the enhanced atmospheric carbon dioxide.
And the devotees of consensus would be hard pressed to find, in the peer-reviewed literature, any consensus even about the magnitude of equilibrium climate sensitivity. Rather, there is wide divergence of opinion—and it’s been trending downward.
And that's not even to mention those other matters.
The petulants weren’t finished, though.
“Balance implies equal weight. But this then creates a false equivalence between an overwhelming scientific consensus and a lobby, heavily funded by vested interests, that exists simply to sow doubt to serve those interests.”
Regarding the “overwhelming scientific consensus,” see above.
As to the caricature of skeptics as a lobby funded by vested interests—well, if that’s true (and for the most part it isn’t), the funding for the alarmist side is thousands of times greater, and it, too, comes from vested interests, not only the renewable energy industry (at least one representative of which, Jeremy Leggett, founder of SolarCentury, which bills itself as “one of the world’s leading solar energy companies,” is among the letter’s signers) but also governments.
(You never thought of governments as vested interests? On what planet do you live?)
“Yes, of course scientific consensus should be open to challenge,” they continued, “but with better science, not with spin and nonsense.” So why all the spin and nonsense in their letter?
Next, “We urgently need to move the debate on to how we address the causes and effects of dangerous climate change—because that’s where common sense demands our attention and efforts should be.”
That sounds so reasonable: "Let's get on to addressing … because ...."
"Because we’ve already won the debate over whether human-induced global warming—or climate change—or climate disruption—or climate chaos—is dangerous, and how dangerous, and whether we must spend trillions of dollars trying to mitigate it (when that money could otherwise be spent providing purified drinking water, nutrition supplements, sewage sanitation, infectious disease control, modern healthcare, and—horror of horrors!—electricity, to billions of people who lack them), that's why!"
Oh. I guess I missed that victory. And so did a lot of other people, all around the world. As Wesley J. Smith pointed out, “The ‘experts’ don’t get to decide when ‘the debate is over.’ The people do.”
The letter writers then offered some advice to the media about how to handle skeptics in the future: "They don’t need to be ridiculed, just expected to challenge the evidence with better evidence, and otherwise ignored."
By golly, you read a few of the skeptics’ articles, refereed papers, and books, and you encounter ... evidence—like the facts
- that the computer models predict on average 2 to 3 times the warming actually observed over the relevant period;
- that they can be forced to come closer to past observations only by curve fitting;
- that alarmists have been “adjusting” raw temperature data in ways that consistently shift temperatures pre-1950 downward and temperatures post-1980 upward, an exercise that has all the hallmarks of deceit;
- that past changes in global average temperature have been as rapid and as large as the recent one though nobody was driving SUVs back then;
- that the Holocene Climate Optimum, Minoan Warm Period, Roman Warm Period, and Medieval Warming Period weren’t brought on by rising atmospheric CO2 content; that the actual correlation between CO2 and temperature finds temperature change leading CO2 change; etc.
These debate-fearing alarmists concluded this way:
“As campaigners and thinkers who are led by science and the precautionary principle, and who wish to debate the real and vital issues arising from human-triggered climate change, we will not assist in creating the impression that climate denial should be taken seriously by lending credence to its proponents, by entertaining ideas that lack any basis in fact. Therefore we will no longer debate those who deny that human-caused climate change is real. There are plenty of vital debates to be had around climate chaos and what to do about it; this is simply no longer one of them. We urge broadcasters to move on, as we are doing.”
Ignore the repeated straw man that skeptics engage in “climate denial,” that they “deny that human-caused climate change is real.” We’ve exposed those as caricatures already.
What's left? The insistence that broadcasters (and presumably publishers, too) join with these juveniles in fleeing the scene of conflict.
Well, let them do so. They’ll miss a lot of interesting conversation among those who still think sapiens in our species’ name still means something.