How to be a Global Warming Denier
Tue Apr 10, 2007 at 06:07:01 PM PST
So you're a blogger who wants to discredit global warming? But finding it such hard work swimming against the current of consensus
? Help is at hand. I've just read a global warming denier's newspaper article that serves as a blueprint for spreading uncertainty and doubt. So if you're finding it hard to write plausible-sounding dissenting commentary and assist the causes of Big Oil, Big Coal, Big Mining, and Hummers for all, read on.
(P.S. This is intended for deniers only. Please don't spread it to people with green dispositions who hang out on leftie liberal sites like Daily Kos.)
The blueprint article is called A dangerous climate
, by Professor Bob Carter, from the UK Sunday Telegraph. Let's go through it, and learn just how real denial is done. You will be impressed!
*** Step One: Be an expert in something climate-related
Professor Carter is an academic in a field not totally unrelated to global warming. According to his own private non-University website
He is a palaeontologist, stratigrapher, marine geologist and environmental scientist with more than thirty years professional experience.
That sounds way cooler than me! My academic study involved sleeping through mathematics and computing courses, nothing that qualifies me to write about global warming issues.
But if, like me, such expertise is beyond your reach, don't panic. This is just one step of many, and if you can follow most of the rest you'll have the environmentalists pedalling for cover.
*** Step Two: Be a key member of a prominent denialist group
Not content to keep his opinions to Australia, Bob Carter is a founding member of the Climate Science Coalition
in New Zealand. There's safety in numbers, and joining scientific-sounding denialist groups (or forming your own!) gives you more exposure and links. Don't worry if like the NZCSC, your denial group website is an unreadable mess of PDF files and links to anything that trashes Al Gore. The key thing is that its mission statement sounds respectable and unbiased - here's the Climate Science Coalition statement as an example to follow:
To represent accurately, and without prejudice, facts regarding climate change; to provide considered opinion on matters related to both natural and human-caused climate effects; and to comment on the economic and socio-political consequences of climate change. *** Step Three: Write for a well-read conservative newspaper
The Sunday edition of the UK Daily Telegraph
, conservative enough to get jokingly called the Torygraph
, is certainly prominent and right-wing enough for someone of Carter's standing. The rest of us will have to settle for local LTEs and our favorite blogs, but we all have to start somewhere.
*** Step Four: Start with a bold claim
The latest IPCC report, published on Friday, is the most alarming yet: not for its claims of human-caused global warming, writes the leading environmental scientist Bob Carter, but for its lack of scientific rigour.
This textbook start from Carter turns off any pro-consensus greenies who may be reading (as if they'd read the Torygraph!) and establishes the author as a leading expert, while grabbing the attention of his key audience.
*** Step Five: Stamp your claim to expertiness
It doesn't matter if you spend more time writing for popular media than peer-reviewed journals. Just give a friendly anecdote about how gruelling real scientisting can be, and your expertiness is assured.
At 4C, it is cold in the storage refrigerator. One needs to rug up well to work here. I am at the US headquarters of the Ocean Drilling Programme at Texas A&M University, studying seabed cores from the southwest Pacific Ocean.
Carter goes on to assert that ice core studies show all this talk of warming is just natural cyclic variation. It goes without saying that the many core studies which dispute this simplistic view must not be mentioned.
*** Step Six: Confuse cause and effect
This is a really easy one, because most readers are so clueless about cause and effect. Carter nails it with the time-honored strategy of taking one component from a complex system and applying it out of context:
Similar cores through polar ice reveal, contrary to received wisdom, that past temperature changes were followed - not preceded, but followed - by changes in the atmospheric content of carbon dioxide. Yet the public now believes strongly that increasing human carbon dioxide emissions will cause runaway warming; it is surely a strange cause of climate change that naturally postdates its supposed effect?
Of course the reader need not be informed that temperature changes preceding CO2 changes is irrelevant, and the science of massive increases in CO2 causing temperature change is overwhelmingly accepted.
*** Step Seven: Trash the pro-consensus left-wing media
This should be obvious, but here again it is worth admiring the way Carter does it.
[N]ewspapers, radio and television stations bludgeon us with a merciless stream of human-caused global-warming alarmism, egged on by a self-interested gaggle of journalists, environmental lobbyists, scientific and business groups, church leaders and politicians, all of whom preach that we must "stop climate change" by reducing human CO2 emissions.
(You may be confused by the "church leaders" reference, but it is apparently quite appropriate for a UK audience. For a US audience, that would probably be removed.)
*** Step Eight: Put the IPCC in its place
The IPCC is the new enemy #1, displacing Al Gore from the top spot earlier this month when its latest report was released. We got great traction from Al's electricity bill, but that's old news now. Carter recognizes the importance of refuting the IPCC, stating that their advice is "political and not scientific" and disparaging their "increasingly dramatic warnings."
*** Step Nine: Include a fancy graph
To dispute surface temperature change, Carter presents a beautiful graph showing how a particular layer of the atmosphere has not warmed up in the past thirty years. And since graphs show data, not subjective words, the public is happy to believe them. This graph is a multi-faceted work of beauty, as we shall discover in the next few steps.
*** Step Ten: Move on to a complex field where you have no experience
Don't feel compelled to stick with the subject(s) in which you have education. Readers won't care that Carter's graph has nothing to do with ocean drilling. The switch to atmospheric temperature shows precisely what we want: a lot of confusing up/down action, but no upward trend.
Yes, the choice of atmospheric temperature is inspired. You see, different layers of the atmosphere have different expected changes from global warming factors; some will warm, and some will cool. Some will even have competing warming and cooling factors which balance enough to show no significant trend. Just perfect! This "atmosphere problem" is a periennal favorite of climate change deniers, although spoilsports like the EPA U.S. Climate Change Science Program
are publishing annoying facts which threaten this oasis of doubt. Here are their findings, with the most harmful points emphasised:
* There is no discrepancy in the rate of global average temperature increase for the surface compared with higher levels in the atmosphere. This discrepancy had previously been used to challenge the validity of climate models used to detect and attribute the causes of observed climate change.
* Errors identified in the satellite data and other temperature observations have been corrected. These and other analyses have increased confidence in the understanding of observed climate changes and their causes.
* Research to detect climate change and attribute its causes using patterns of observed temperature change shows clear evidence of human influences on the climate system due to changes in greenhouse gases, aerosols and stratospheric ozone.
If you want to use atmospheric temperature for your own writing, it is important to select the layer according to your particular argument. You want a temperature rise, or a drop, or no trend? No problem! Here's a handy chart from the report
, so you can choose the climate change factor and atmospheric layer that suits your purposes.
*** Step Eleven: Borrow results from fellow climate change deniers
This is where Professor Carter gets really smart. His atmosphere temperature data comes from a fellow scientist who has acquired quite a reputation for clouding the climate change arena, Dr John Christy
Dr. John Christy is a climate scientist whose chief interests are global climate change, satellite sensing of global climate, and paleoclimate. He is best known, jointly with Dr. Roy Spencer, for his version of the satellite temperature record. He is a professor of atmospheric science and director of the Earth System Science Center at the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH).
That's innocent enough, but Carter wisely does not mention John Christy by name. If he did, curious readers might snoop around and found his exxonsecrets.org factsheet
FACTSHEET: John Christy
While he now acknowledges that global warming is real and the human contribution is significant, Christy has been a long-time skeptic who previously argued that satellite climate data do not show a trend toward global warming, and even show cooling in some areas. His findings have been widely disputed. Christy now asserts that global warming will have beneficial effects on the planet and that increased CO2 emissions from human activities are a net positive.
Christy was a contributing writer to "Global Warming and Other Eco-Myths," published by Competitive Enterprise Institute in 2002. He spoke at a June 1998 briefing for congressional staff and media, which was sponsored by the Cooler Heads Coalition.
Emphasis added. We wouldn't want our readers finding that!
John Christy even has a quote in that recent glorious denialist documentary The Great Global Warming Swindle
"I've often heard it said that there is a consensus of thousands of scientists on the global warming issue, that humans are causing a catastrophic change to the climate system. Well, I am one scientist - and there are many - that simply think that is not true." *** Step Twelve: Use raw data, not peer-reviewed results
I know, you're marvelling at Bob Carter's skills. But wait, here is the real ingenuity. He doesn't just borrow from a fellow denier in a totally unrelated field where cherry-picking results is easy. He goes further and uses raw data rather than a graph showing results that have survived peer review. (You have to look closely at the fine print at the bottom of Carter's graph to see its source - a text file full of satellite-gathered temperature values.)
Now, Carter could have included this graph on the right, which is actually from the Wikipedia entry for John Christy, and shows Christy's results for the lower atmosphere as a red trend line marked UAH. But that would not suit the argument here, because it clearly shows the same rising temperature trend seen in land and ocean surface warming studies.
It's not clear how the graph Professor Carter included was produced, because the raw data file has many columns of information, different measurements from a number of satellites. Who knows what all that data means? I sure have no idea. Does the README file in that folder help? Well, sort of. Here's its latest note:
Update 15 Dec 2006 ******************************
Due to a dumb mistake, the values for MT were in error when loaded up
for the period ending Nov 2006. Rather than eliminating NOAA-16 data
(the bad satellite) I had eliminated NOAA-15 (the good satellite)
after Sept 2005. So, the values for MT have all been rerun and replaced.
I don't quote that note to accuse John Christy of Mickey Mouse pseudo-science. Quite the opposite - I acknowledge that there are clearly a lot of difficulties and scientific challenges in this area, and Dr. Christy has made great contributions. What the notes show is the utter nonsense of taking raw data from someone else's complex field of expertise to create a graph with any scientific validity. To do that for a Sunday newspaper opinion piece and pretend it's real science, is pure poetry.
*** Step Thirteen: End with a smug comment
Well, I could be here all night, such is the class of Carter's masterpiece. It stands as a true exemplar of denialist literature. This lesson is long enough, however, so let us skip to one of the final paragraphs:
The environmental catchphrase of the moment is "sustainability". It is therefore a good question to ask how much longer politicians, responding to pressure from the IPCC and other lobby groups, can sustain the fiction that dangerous human-caused climate change is upon us.
I snorted my English Breakfast tea out my nose at that one!
Kudos, Professor Carter. Your journalistic ingenuity is an inspiration to us all.