Truthiness and the Climate Skeptic community

Truthiness is a satirical term created by television comedian Stephen Colbert to describe things that a person claims to know intuitively or “from the gut” without regard to evidence, logic, intellectual examination, or actual facts.

Truthiness … a term of ever so much relevance when it comes to climate skeptics and those demeaning the need to confront Global Warming, like Bjorn Lomborg and the New York Times’ John Tierney.

Two excellent items by others on the blogosphere worth pointing to.

Over at Celsias, Joe Brewer posted The ‘Feel Good’ Approach to Climate Distortion.  This piece simply, well, shreds Tieney’s horrific article “Findings: ‘Feel Good’ vs. ‘Do Good’ on Climate”.

Tierney seems intent on undermining the strong public acceptance of the significance of the climate crisis. He does this with the help of Bjorn Lomborg, a person whose expertise in statistics has been very helpful at distorting facts through the manipulation of numbers.

Always useful to have someone manipulating statistics to quote, someone whose first name is Professor.  And, well, Brewer does an excellent job in demonstrating the misleading nature of Tierney’s all too broadly distributed article.

Over at Grist is Bill McKibben’s review of Lomborg’s Cool It (RE Cool it, see Reviews are coming in to cool interest in COOL It and Why we can’t trust ’em … skeptics and misrepresenting evidence …) and other (better) books.

Re Lomborg, McKibben starts:

In his earlier book, The Skeptical Environmentalist, Bjørn Lomborg, a Danish statistician, attacked the scientific establishment on a number of topics, including global warming, and concluded that things were generally improving here on earth. The book was warmly received on the editorial pages of The Wall Street Journal, but most scientists were unimpressed. Scientific American published scathing rebuttals from leading researchers, and its editor concluded in a note to readers that “in its purpose of describing the real state of the world, the book is a failure.” A review in Nature compared it to “bad term papers,” and called it heavily reliant on secondary sources and “at times … fictional.”

Ouch …  He then moves to COOL It, where Lomborg is arguing that Global Warming is real but that it isn’t worth the cost to fight emissions growth, that the money would be better spent elsewhere.

Lomborg casts himself as the voice of reason in this debate, contending with well-meaning but woolly-headed scientists, bureaucrats, environmentalists, politicians, and reporters. … these arguments … strike me …. as tendentious and partisan in particularly narrow ways. Lomborg has appeared regularly on right-wing radio and TV programs, and been summoned to offer helpful testimony by, for instance, Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe, famous for his claim that global warming is a hoax. That Lomborg disagrees with him and finds much of the scientific analysis of global warming accurate doesn’t matter to Inhofe; for his purposes, it is sufficient that Lomborg opposes doing much of anything about it.

In other words, it really doesn’t matter that Lomborg believes Global Warming, he is useful to skeptics/deniers none the less.

And, as for truthiness …

But Lomborg’s actual arguments turn out to be weak, a farrago of straw men and carefully selected, shopworn data that holds up poorly in light of the most recent research, both scientific and economic. He calculates at great length, for instance, his claim that the decline in the number of people dying from cold weather will outweigh the increase in the number of people dying from the heat, leading him to the genial conclusion that a main effect of global warming may be that “we just notice people wearing slightly fewer layers of winter clothes on a winter’s evening.” But in April 2007, Working Group II of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the panel of experts whose scientific data he prefers to cite, released a report showing, among many other things, that fewer deaths from cold exposure “will be outweighed by the negative health effects of rising temperatures world-wide, especially in developing countries.”

And, there are so many examples of the weakness of the work …

The IPCC report, to put it bluntly, eviscerates Lomborg’s argument; maybe that’s why he devotes but a single paragraph to it in the book, scoffing at “several commentators” who called the estimated reduction of 3 percent by 2030 “negligible.” But though Lomborg will doubtless eventually produce a long disquisition on why he knows better than the 737 experts collaborating on the IPCC project, his bluff has been called.

Actually, for the skeptics, the multitude of 737 experts has less import than that one (disingenous) outlier that they can name. IPCC or Lomborg? Who would you trust? We know who Inhofe prefers.

McKibben’s review is quite good and worth reading — especially for his look at other works that are, actually, worth reading.


6 responses to “Truthiness and the Climate Skeptic community

  1. Thank you so much for this. Here are ten responses to global warming deniers’ “arguments”.

  2. This review is simply another attack by a “faith based” global warming activist. Science is not something that politicians vote on as to believability. The models used by the IPCC cannot account for the 50% loss of ice cover that occurred in the first half of the 20th Century, yet Al Gore claims the science is settled. How silly.

  3. CGNARC provides an excellent example of cherry picking. But it is snowing here …

    “50% loss of ice cover that occurred in the first half of the 20th Century …”

    Is it Global Warming or some specific region of the world warming? Did the Globe lose 50% of its ice at the beginning of the last century?

    Yes, CGNARC, “How silly.”

    You seek to cherry-pick evidence rather than look at full picture. Who is “faith-based” in this discussion?

  4. By the way, re CGNARC, it is useful to look at science.

    Artic ice was heavily hit by fossil fuel usage a century ago as well, in this case the particulates from coal usage.

    20th-Century Industrial Black Carbon Emissions Altered Arctic Climate Forcing

    Abstract: Black carbon (BC) from biomass and fossil fuel combustion alters chemical and physical properties of the atmosphere and snow albedo, yet little is known about its emission or deposition histories. Measurements of BC, vanillic acid, and non–sea-salt sulfur in ice cores indicate that sources and concentrations of BC in Greenland precipitation varied greatly since 1788 as a result of boreal forest fires and industrial activities. Beginning about 1850, industrial emissions resulted in a sevenfold increase in ice-core BC concentrations, with most change occurring in winter. BC concentrations after about 1951 were lower but increasing. At its maximum from 1906 to 1910, estimated surface climate forcing in early summer from BC in Arctic snow was about 3 watts per square meter, which is eight times the typical preindustrial forcing value.

    McConnell, J.R., R. Edwards, G.L. Kok, M.G. Flanner, C.S. Zender, E.S. Saltzman, J.R. Banta, D.R. Pasteris, M.M. Carter, and J.D.W. Kahl, 2007. In list of pubs (with links) here:

  5. Pingback: Not misrepresenting, but lying about evidence … « Energy Smart

  6. Pingback: Truth vs Truthiness: Debating Global Warming with those beyond convincing

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