Cross posted from Pruning Shears.
Climate change is a hard policy question to address because it pits those who believe in evidence against those committed to knowing as little as possible. And unfortunately, the dumbasses control a great deal of political territory, a gigantic ice sheet of stupid that never recedes enough for facts or data to gain purchase. The cretinous mass inched forward this week courtesy of Joseph Curl. His empty-headed triumphalism in the Washington Times is a nearly perfect illustration of the problem: climate change flat-earthers like him simply refuse to acknowledge arguments against their position or pay attention to new developments in the area.
One of the articles of (bad) faith that Curl and others hold dear is that climate scientists were predicting global cooling forty years ago, then flip-flopped and began warning of global warming. Curl references, without link, a 1971 Washington Post article titled “U.S. Scientist Sees New Ice Age Coming.” (Hilariously, Curl provides no description of the piece beyond what’s available at the 2-sentence free article preview. Either the Washington Times is really cheap or Curl is really lazy.) As characterized here (PDF) (via), the article quoted a scientist – singular – who basically said, if we keep seeing this trend continue in a linear fashion it could trigger a new ice age.
Do you know what that is not? It is not a clarion call by the entire scientific community to take immediate action. It was a tentative hypothesis put forward by one scientist. Yet among dimwits this seemingly obvious and gigantic distinction is invisible.
Climate dummies have for years crudely but successfully seized on a handful of items like this and continue to regard them with talismanic significance,1 as though thrusting them out and averting their gaze will successfully ward off approaching facts. This Newsweek article (PDF) (via) is another example. The actual quoted scientific bodies and reports in the article make extremely cautions warnings. But the reporter uses some provocative framing (“If the climatic change is as profound as some of the pessimists fear” etc.) to speculate on some downright apocalyptic possibilities.
Yet instead of drawing a distinction between somewhat sensationalized reporting in the popular press and peer reviewed publication in the scientific press, it all gets mushed together as “cooling then, warming now, it’s all a scam hurf hurf hurf.” It doesn’t seem like a terribly difficult concept to grasp, but it continues to elude the dimmer bulbs among us.
Curl swerves hard to avoid thinking in the next section of his piece as well. He references, but does not point his readers to (is the man allergic to hyperlinks?), a Daily Telegraph piece that attempts to make hay out of 1) a one-year increase in Arctic ice cover and 2) disputing the scientific consensus that warming is happening. Here again we see the problems in attempting to engage the dull witted on the subject.
If one does not understand regression to mean (via) then an increase in ice cover after a record decrease will seem dispositive. Global warming: hoax! (See also.) How do you even begin a debate with someone who doesn’t have the most basic math literacy required to discuss the issue? There’s an old saying that if you point at the moon to a dog it will look at the end of your finger. That’s the kind of situation we’re talking about here.
As for the second point, the two sources quoted by the Telegraph were quickly debunked by facts and stuff. But try to point the likes of Curl to that and, well, never mind. The Telegraph story was the final word on the subject, additional information will not be processed, and presumably we will see this article gleefully cited by the next several generations of ignoramuses.
Having put the pointy headed academics in their place, Curl turns his attention to the liberal media Illuminati:
So what does the MSM do? Simple: Rewrite the parameters to make the “facts” fit their story line.
Fox News Channel’s Chris Wallace finally got around to pointing that out Sunday. “When did ‘global warming’ become ‘climate change’?” the talk show host asked Kimberley Strassel of The Wall Street Journal.
“It became ‘climate change’ when you couldn’t prove that there was much global warming anymore, as the temperatures didn’t change,” she said. “So, suddenly we had to have this catch-all term, what was responsible [which] meant that any change in the weather somehow supported the theory.”
Exactly. And the MSM is ready to move on the new version of “facts.”
Perhaps it was called global warming because in the 80′s the increase of CO2 in the atmosphere was described as the greenhouse effect, and that term gave the best layman’s explanation of the phenomenon. Then, as climatology matured, scientists realized that “global warming” might be misleading2 because it would imply a uniform trend in all places. And they also discovered that there are a whole range of measures apart from global surface temperatures that could help understand the nature of the changes occurring.
Grappling with those facts, though, lacks the simple and straightforward fun of pretending they do not exist and acting like it’s all a big conspiracy.
Such commentary is marked by the complete absence of curiosity and an unwillingness to learn. There’s no sense of: hm, let’s analyze this text a little; let’s see what’s being said by a scientist, what’s being said by the scientific community in general and what’s being said by a reporter. Instead it’s all treated as an undifferentiated mass. Not: this data point exists; let’s see how (if at all) it fits in with overall trends. Just: case closed.
The point here is not to point and laugh at Curl’s stupidity. The point is to recognize that there are stupid people like Curl with high profile platforms they use to broadcast their stupidity. While the impulse for the not-stupid might be to say “God, not this again” and ignore the argle-bargle, the stakes are pretty high with climate change. It’s important, at least occasionally, to go through the tedious exercise of showing just how intellectually bankrupt articles like Curl’s are. Not because it will make any difference to those firmly committed to know-nothingism, but to persuade those who might be considering it that while ignorance might be bliss, it’s nothing to aspire to.
1. This kind of preoccupation with anomalies seems to be a thing for dumb people. See also how bogeymen like Bill Ayers and Saul Alinsky loom large in some conservatives’ imagination. Actual liberals don’t cite either as authorities or role models, yet still: Ayers! Alinsky!
Sometimes anomalies are valuable – namely, when a person or group with an ulterior motive briefly allows a carefully maintained persona to drop a little. Moments like that can be revealing, but are also rare enough that it makes sense to hang on to them. See, for example, Paul Weyrich’s line from way back in 1980: “I don’t want everybody to vote…our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.”
The difference between a reveal and a hobby horse, though, is subsequent developments. Weyrich’s ideology is all over the modern disenfranchisement effort. That’s why it makes sense to see his comments as a glimpse behind the mask in a way that, for instance, whatever is in Rules For Radicals is not.
Diagram courtesy National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)