Over the weekend, two amazingly bad articles were published about climate change. Both were loaded with mistakes, misinterpretations, and outright misinformation, and are simply so factually wrong that they almost read like parodies.
Just so we’re clear here.
The first was in the Wall Street Journal. The article, called No Need to Panic About Global Warming, is a textbook example of misleading prose. It’s laden to bursting with factual errors, but the one that stood out to me most was this whopper: "Perhaps the most inconvenient fact is the lack of global warming for well over 10 years now."
What the what?
That statement, to put it bluntly, is dead wrong. It relies on blatantly misinterpreting long term trends, instead wearing blinders and only looking at year-to-year variations in temperature. The Skeptical Science website destroyed this argument in November 2011, in fact. The OpEd also ignores the fact that nine of the ten hottest years on record all occurred since the year 2000.
The WSJ OpEd makes a lot of hay from having 16 scientists sign it, but of those only 4 are actually climate scientists. And that bragging right is crushed to dust when you find out that the WSJ turned down an article about the reality of global warming that was signed by 255 actual climate scientists. In fact, as Media Matters reports, more of the signers of the WSJ OpEd have ties to oil interests than actually publish peer-reviewed climate research.
Shame on the WSJ for publishing that nonsense.
When I read it, I thought that OpEd was really scraping the bottom of the barrel. But then the Daily Mail chimed in and I discovered that barrel gets a lot deeper. They printed an article by David Rose called Forget global warming — it’s Cycle 25 we need to worry about (and if NASA scientists are right the Thames will be freezing over again).
By "Cycle 25" he’s referring to the solar activity cycle — which I’ll get to in a moment. But first, the most egregiously awful thing about the Mail article is the angle it takes on new results released by The Met Office, the National Weather Service for the UK. The subheadline for the Mail article is "Met Office releases new figures which show no warming in 15 years", which is a bit odd given that the very first two paragraphs of the Met’s press release say:
Yesterday, I wrote about an embarrassingly bad OpEd piece published in the Wall Street Journal, the purpose of which was to try to sow doubt and confusion over the reality of climate change. One of the writer’s main points was that if we can doubt Einstein (due to the recent much-argued-over faster-than-light neutrino experiment) we can doubt global warming.
Needless to say, this analogy was such a howler that many, many people besides just me took fingers to keyboard to lambaste Robert Bryce, the author of that OpEd. I think my favorite is by cartoonist Maki Naro, the first panel of which is here (click it to see the rest, which is great). Andrew Revkin, from the somewhat more trustworthy Gotham paper The New York Times, also weighed in, making several fair points about the piece.
This nonsense also started a wonderful Twitter hashtag, #WSJscience, which I am quite enjoying perusing. So much so that I even submitted my own:
If serious scientists can question relativity, then a fatally flawed WSJ OpEd implies the written word doesn’t exist. #WSJscience
See? False equivalancies are fun!
Tip o’ the retreating glacier to JenLucPiquant.
OpEds — editorials expressing opinions in newspapers — are sometimes a source of wry amusement. Especially when they tackle subjects where politics impact science, like evolution, or the Big Bang.
Or climate change.
Enter the OpEd page of the Wall Street Journal, with one of the most head-asplodey antiscience climate change denial pieces I have seen in a while — and I’ve seen a few. The article, written by Robert Bryce of the far-right think tank Manhattan Institute, is almost a textbook case in logical fallacy. He outlays five "truths" about climate change in an attempt to smear the reality of it.
I won’t even bother going into the first four points, where he doesn’t actually deal with science and makes points that aren’t all that salient to the issue, because it’s his last point that really needs to be seen to believe anyone could possibly make it:
The science is not settled, not by a long shot. Last month, scientists at CERN, the prestigious high-energy physics lab in Switzerland, reported that neutrinos might—repeat, might—travel faster than the speed of light. If serious scientists can question Einstein’s theory of relativity, then there must be room for debate about the workings and complexities of the Earth’s atmosphere.
Seriously? I mean, seriously?
It’s hard to know where to even start with a statement so ridiculous as this. For one, there is always room for questioning science. But that questioning must be done by science, using a scientific basis, and above all else be done above board and honestly. But that’s not how much of the climate science denial has been done. Read More