The newspaper that publishes George Will (and Sarah Palin) editorializes: “Many — including us — find global warming deniers’ claims irresponsible.”

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"The newspaper that publishes George Will (and Sarah Palin) editorializes: “Many — including us — find global warming deniers’ claims irresponsible.”"

Last weekend was a good one for climate-change deniers. A hacker stole and released scores of documents, including personal e-mail exchanges, from a server at Britain’s Climate Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia, a premier climate-change research center. “This is not a smoking gun; this is a mushroom cloud,” proclaimed one skeptic.

Not quite. Assuming the documents are genuine — the authenticity of all has not been confirmed — critics are taking them out of context and misinterpreting at least one controversial e-mail exchange. None of it seriously undercuts the scientific consensus on climate change. But a few of the documents are damaging for other reasons….

Many — including us — find global warming deniers‘ claims irresponsible and their heated criticism of climate scientists unconvincing….

By our reckoning — and that of most scientists, policymakers and almost every government in the world — the probability that the planet will warm in the long term because of human activity is extremely high, and the probability that allowing it to do so unabated will have disastrous effects is unacceptably large. The case that governments should hedge against that outcome is formidable enough.

So the Washington Post opines today in an editorial, “Climate of denial.”  I’m not posting this because of their analysis of Hackergate, although they come to the same big-picture conclusion Reuters did (see Reuters: “ANALYSIS-Hacked climate e-mails awkward, not game changer”).

No, what’s of interest to me is two other points.  First, while some in the blogosphere are decrying anybody who uses the term “denier” — The Post editorial board uses it a whopping 5 times in 5 paragraphs, the two above and these three:

  • Whatever else comes out about the stolen documents, they have become examples of how not to react to climate-change deniers.
  • … a fact that climate-change deniers use …
  • Climate scientists should not let themselves be goaded by the irresponsibility of the deniers ….

I’ve said that I think terms like “delayer” and “anti-science disinformers” are better, but, for better or worse, the term “denier” has become mainstream.  That said, I will try to reserve that term for the professional disinformers and their work (see Obama takes on the anti-scientific delayers, while Australia’s Rudd slams the “deniers” and the “gaggle” of “conspiracy theorists” opposing climate action).

Second, I find it staggeringly ironic that the editors of the Washington Post would decry the “climate-change deniers” on their editorial page when they continue to allow one of the most influential of them all, George Will, to publish unfact-checked, false-filled pieces week after week on their op-ed page:

And that’s not even counting pieces by other disinformers, including Sarah Palin:

Who, exactly, wrote and approved this part of today’s editorial:

  • Many — including us — find global warming deniers’ claims irresponsible

Memo to Post editors:  So why do you keep publishing those claims?!

Many — including me — find the Washington Post‘s editors irresponsible.

UPDATE:  Yes, the editorial’s discussion of the emails themselves is quite flawed.  The charge against Mann is false, and I’ll deal with it in a separate post.

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32 Responses to The newspaper that publishes George Will (and Sarah Palin) editorializes: “Many — including us — find global warming deniers’ claims irresponsible.”

  1. SecularAnimist says:

    Joe wrote: “… staggeringly ironic …”

    More like sickeningly hypocritical.

    The Washington Post has joined the Wall Street Journal as an aggressive purveyor of fossil fuel industry-funded deceit. They are deliberately, systematically disinforming and deceiving their readers, because they believe it is in the financial interest of their corporate owners to do so.

    They lie — for money.

    It is really as simple as that.

  2. Jeff Huggins says:

    I just saw a piece on MSNBC/NBC regarding the e-mail stuff. They quoted two e-mails. They did so out of context. And, they also pointed out the recent poll — most likely valid — that shows that the number of people who agree with (believe) the fact that global warming is real has been going down in the last two years.

    They didn’t mention any of the announcements by the major scientific associations.

    At this point, I’ve “had it” with the MSM. I’m also frustrated — to tell the truth — that we (CP, us, etc.) are not doing enough to point out and address the media problem. I know we mention it, but nothing happens. I’m getting to the point where, in order for me to try be involved with stuff, we have to find stuff that moves the needle, substantially. At this point, we should be boycotting several companies, we should have a campaign to call for dramatic changes at The New York Times, and we should be putting even more pressure on the media themselves.

    I spend time trying to point stuff out, and then, in one fell swoop, a single article on the front page of The New York Times, out of context, and twenty seconds worth of “coverage” on MSNBC, wipe the whole effort out.

    If anyone has concrete ideas about what we can do to address this, I’d love to hear them. Because my energy for merely commenting on blogs is dropping, fast.

    Be Well,

    Jeff

  3. Leif says:

    “Many — including us — find global warming deniers’ claims irresponsible…” Yes , I have to side with #1 above. Most of what I would call them would not pass the obscenity filter. Baring that I would use terms like criminal, immoral, felonious, vicious, hypocritical, vile, wicked and flagitious. In a few more years I might even throw in something like genocidal.

  4. MarkB says:

    It’s still a very misleading and misinformed op-ed piece. The emails referring to the peer-review process involve the infamous Soon/Baliunas “study”, which was in fact an attempt to rig the peer review system to get junk science published for political reasons. A 13-author clear refutation was published in EOS, that convinced editor-in-chief von Storch and others that the study never should have been published and there was a fatal breakdown of the peer-review system of that journal. This adds needed context to those quotes.

    http://www.csicop.org/specialarticles/show/deja_vu_all_over_again/

    I’m kind of with Jeff Huggins on the mainstream press.

  5. Danny Wool says:

    The solution is to recognize that science and the scientific method will, unfortunately, always be trumped by soundbytes. They will be trumped even more by sensationalist soundbytes that feed to a willing audience. People want to know, in five words or less (and ideally with a cool picture), some “fact,” and then come to “their own conclusion” about it. Nuances do not matter. As long as they can repeat some mantra like “Scientists question global warming,” that is what will stick with them. It doesn’t matter what the question is.

    So the real question is, in my opinion: “What is the counter-mantra?” What is the soundbyte that can counter that statement. How can it be used offensively (because right now, it is all defensive). If anything, lengthy responses to blog posts only serve to indicate that there is room for debate.

    That may not be a popular response, but so far the other alternative hasn’t helped much.

  6. Richard L says:

    Jeff Huggins,

    I am as frustrated as you are, and I don’t have answers to your questions. If good and effective ideas come to me (or anyone) I am open to sharing/listening/reading and acting.

    Just wanted you to know you are not alone.

    Rich

  7. MarkB says:

    Joe,

    Here’s a must-read from Andrew Sullivan regarding the CRU hack:

    “The key to these bloggers’ mentality is simply to find some tiny thing and focus all attention on that in order to persuade people that the bigger reality is untrue or irrelevant. This is not an argument; it’s a technique. It’s a technique to persuade people not to examine all the evidence, since the source of the evidence – secular humanist scientists – are evil suspects and against God and in favor of making your gas bill higher.

    You can’t actually persuade people that way, of course. But you can fortify their resistance to examining all the evidence. ”

    http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2009/11/what-is-the-malkin-clique-so-excited-about.html

    I disagree somewhat with Sullivan’s last point. If one’s desire to examine all the evidence has been weakened, they are more likely to be persuaded by such techniques.

  8. Rabid Doomsayer says:

    You want five or less words “Ten seconds to midnight”.

    It is so very late in the day. The scientists are telling us not to put any more CO2 into the air and the politicians are working out how to slow the rate of increase.

    The horsemen are mounting.

    Finally a quote from the Bible “Run to the mountains” NOW

  9. mike roddy says:

    I have a couple of suggestions for Jeff, Mark, and Richard:

    1. In a duel between a letter to the editor, filled with conscience and articulate messages, and a wheelbarrow full of money, it’s no contest. The main media companies are hopeless, including the Times, the Post, and all the networks. This is due to media consolidation, first enabled during the Clinton Administration, and the high cost of entry. Advertisers indirectly or directly terrorize editors and publishers, as well as TV producers.

    Olbermann and Maddow are exceptions that only prove the rule, and there are things that they don’t touch, too.

    This has now changed. Media companies have done poorly for the last several years. This means their sales prices have dropped considerably. A stealth billionaire with altruistic motives could buy one of these companies and make it into a flagship for the truth, kind of like the London Times used to be, or the Guardian (to some extent) is now. Even the New York Times, from distant memory.

    2.As with Leif and Secular Animist, I’m getting a little fed up with the deliberate lying by the deniers, considering the stakes. We’ve been wimps and even let them choose the language. “We don’t like the phrase “global warming”.” Fine, Climate Change will do. “Don’t call us deniers!” OK, sir.

    It’s sickening. We’re talking about monstrous people, who often have no opinions themselves but would defend a cannibal with a smile on their faces if the money were good enough. Time to stop showing them any respect whatsover, because they have done nothing to earn it.

  10. Bullwinkle says:

    I wonder how killer coal and big oil would feel if their email servers were hacked and emails were used, in or out of context, to show they know full well that ‘Hell and High Water’ is real and happening right now.

  11. Jeff Huggins says:

    The credibility of professions and specific professionals in them …

    You know, one of the things that MUST happen (otherwise, let’s just forget it all and fiddle) is that people in professions must stand up and be outspoken for what those professions know or believe with a high degree of insistence. And, those who don’t will be putting their own credibility at stake, and should be the case.

    We’ve talked about scientists, and I think that scientists should be speaking out, MUCH more.

    But here’s another example: Supposedly, the litmus test that some people in the GOP are talking about includes (as one criteria) being against cap & trade, or the same point has also been put as being in favor of “market-based energy reform”, or something like that.

    So, where are the economists? Are there any economists in the GOP? Does the GOP listen to economists?

    Markets can’t, and don’t, resolve things magically, i.e., if a key part of the problem involves a factor that the market itself doesn’t put a price or cost on. In other words, if you aren’t “for” a cap & trade approach, but if you are “for” market-based energy reform, and if you aren’t “for” any other sort of regulatory imperative, then you must necessarily be “for” a carbon TAX or some other effective and substantial approach that will ultimately result in a price or cost for putting GHGs into the atmosphere.

    So, the media (and we) should be asking — until we get an answer — what is meant by “market-based energy reform” if that is also meant to be anti cap & trade. Is the GOP proposing a direct tax? A different solid mechanism that will result in a price for carbon? Or does “market-based energy reform” really mean that the GOP doesn’t want to address climate change?

    My point is this: Where are the ECONOMISTS? And, where are the GOP economists? Have they forgotten basic economics?

    And, the point is that this isn’t just a “theoretical” question. If the economics profession wants to have any credibility left in the future with me — at all — then oodles of economists will need to become outspoken, quickly, when such mixed-up understanding is taken up by a major political party and foisted on the public.

    So, the question for economists to ask at this point is this: Do I want to have any credibility a year from now, or two? If economics wants credibility, it will have to speak up, loudly and clearly, on matters like this. Otherwise, forever hold your peace.

    Be Well,

    Jeff

  12. Anna Haynes says:

    We need a timeline, that will expose what the fools and shills said, and when, and we need to ensure this information stays exposed for the next century or two. Sunlight is the best of disinfectants.

    Do these people have friends? What do they say to their friends, about why they’re doing this, when the mic is off?

    (The blatant shills are a no-brainer, but I’m curious about the stealth ones – Nicholas Wade, William Broad, Nicholas Dawidoff, Stephen Dubner, Daniel Botkin…)

  13. paulm says:

    I think this incident is finally shaking the MSM in to action. At last.
    They are seeing the forest from the trees.
    It has turned out to be a positive happening.

  14. Anna Haynes says:

    Also, re the WaPo’s multiple-personality(and -ethical-standards) disorder – the San Francisco Chronicle has the same trouble, publishing the antiscience writings of former Republican political consultant Debra Saunders – and worse yet, printing it in a section titled “Insight”.

    I can understand – barely – how the SF Chron might give its op-ed editor free rein to publish anything that’s popular with readers, no matter how poor in quality (there’s precedent for this, in the horoscope); but to throw the paper’s reputation behind it, by suggesting to readers that it’s among the paper’s most insightful writing?

    Bring on the independent, non-profit news.

  15. Chris Dudley says:

    Jeff,

    You might want to join an action on Friday Dec. 4 at noon in front of the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue NW to urge President Obama to go to Copenhagen and push the U.S. Senate for a strong climate bill. This is a 350.org/Chesapeake Climate Action Network/1Sky event and you’ll need a good poster. At least it would be a break from writing. You’d have to be in town though. Or it might be possible just to send in the poster.

    Register here: https://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/423/l/eng/p/salsa/event/common/public/?event_KEY=56221

  16. Will Koroluk says:

    Joe:
    This is off-topic, but I have a suggestion for you.
    Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day in your country. I want you to know that this is one non-American who is thankful for you and the efforts you put forth to make sense of the whole climate-change mess.
    And, in celebration, I hope you don’t post anything tomorrow. It’s a holiday. Take it. And take some time to just kick back with family, good friends, good food and good wine.
    Thanks, Joe.

  17. Walt says:

    I read the editorial. No “peer reviewed” science there.

  18. WAG says:

    You may want to check out the latest WUWT post, because I think it reveals the next stage in the denier strategy:

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/11/25/uh-oh-raw-data-in-new-zealand-tells-a-different-story-than-the-official-one/

    Yup, they’re beginning to go through every climate dataset that’s been adjusted and allege improper behavior – even when the adjustments are justified. It’s basically, “You see here, the raw data is different from adjusted data. Scientists say they have good reason to adjust the data, but how can we trust them?”

    Same thing they’ve always done, in terms of making vague insinuations to create the impression that data has been faked without ever providing real evidence, but the impact of these insinuations is much more powerful in the context of hackergate.

    [JR: Professional disinformers like WUWT and their ilk will never accept the science, even when Miami is under water.]

  19. mike roddy says:

    #18, thanks, there’s going to be all kinds of BS coming out. Monbiot choked, too, crumpling like a liberal with soft hands and a battleship mouth. This is a war of ideas that the scientists have a huge advantage in, since they are the ones telling the truth. I wouldn’t like to be the other side in this argument.

    It won’t persuade the public without good and relentless tactics, though- something the other side has proved better at.

  20. Walt says:

    So, where is the evidence that the adjustments are justified?

  21. Marion Delgado says:

    I see “us” (people who at least have enough time to comment on climate blogs) as potentially helping with the PR struggle. the MSM are collectively an institution. Getting institutions to do the right thing is an art, and a struggle. It’s a challenge I think we’re up to, and a pragmatic approach is IMO warranted.

  22. WAG says:

    Walt – the burden of proof is on those who think the adjustments are NOT justified. But that’s the denier tactic: make insinuations that the adjustments are not justified without explicitly saying that they are not. This creates doubt in the reader’s mind, and by the time the authors respond with their justification, the damage has already been done.

    It’s easier to turn an aquarium into fish soup than to turn fish soup into an aquarium. Deniers know this, and the most dishonest of them (well, I guess that’s all of them) have no scruples about using it to their advantage.

  23. paulm says:

    Climate change cover-up? You better believe it
    http://www.scientificamerican.com/blog/post.cfm?id=climate-change-cover-up-you-better-2009-11-24
    As physicist and climate historian Spencer Weart told The Washington Post: “It’s a symptom of something entirely new in the history of science: Aside from crackpots who complain that a conspiracy is suppressing their personal discoveries, we’ve never before seen a set of people accuse an entire community of scientists of deliberate deception and other professional malfeasance.

  24. AlexJ says:

    It’s clearer than ever that the mainstream media talks out of both side of it’s “mouth”. It’s all about keeping the controversy alive, for the sake of the almighty buck. They allow nonsense to be published on their pages to keep the “gaggle” happy, and keep the more rational folk fuming. Both are good for getting attention.

  25. Paul Klemencic says:

    Walt – there hasn’t been a single skeptical paper that has withstood the test of criticisms. In many cases, the papers that were published were heavily criticized and pretty much demolished. As the purloined emails indicate, real climate scientists dismiss those papers, and some of the emails called them fraudulent.
    If these papers were the best papers from skeptics, then I would hate to see the papers from the skeptics that didn’t pass peer review.

    The white papers that have posted on the internet, and posts on WUWT and CA are even worse. Even someone with an engineering science degree can see the mistakes in many of them, especially the many mistaken and unsupported conclusions. I spent a lot of time on WUWT looking at Monckton, Pielkes (Sr. and Jr.) and Tisdale’s posts, and by the end of the comments, even on these heavily censored sites, the main conclusions were almost always debunked. Those that weren’t debunked, covered material that either wasn’t very relevant, or very important. It turned out to be a huge waste of time.

    So what is the latest summary of the current understanding of global warming and the impact the associated climate changes? Here is a link to the Copenhagen summary:

    http://www.copenhagendiagnosis.com/executive_summary.html

    Check out the subtitles in the Summary:
    - Surging greenhouse gas emissions
    - Recent global temperatures demonstrate human-based warming
    - Acceleration of melting of ice-sheets, glaciers and ice-caps
    - Rapid Arctic sea-ice decline
    - Current sea-level rise underestimates
    - Delay in action risks irreversible damage

    The last subtitle is the most important:
    - The turning point must come soon
    If global warming is to be limited to a maximum of 2oC above pre-industrial values, global emissions need to peak between 2015 and 2020 and then decline rapidly. To stabilize climate, a decarbonized global society – with near-zero emissions of CO2 and other long-lived greenhouse gases – need to be reached well within this century. More specifically, the average annual per-capita emissions will have to shrink to well under 1 metric ton CO2 by 2050. This is 80-90% below the per-capita emissions in developed nations in 2000.

  26. Here’s an idea: Every time a magazine, newspaper, or other main stream media outlet disseminates denier propaganda, send a boiler plate message to that outlet that says the following:

    Because you publish global warming denier propaganda (specify
    date and author), I will not buy any products
    or services advertised in your media. Furthermore, I am sending
    a message to this effect to your advertisers.

    If this doesn’t get their attention, nothing will.

  27. BBHY says:

    I’m hearing from a lot of people about “climategate” and they are totally buying the deniers arguments that scientists are frauds. If you know any scientists or have a good understanding about them, then this is very difficult to understand.

    To me the most effective response is to ask, how did the scientists get the glaciers, Arctic ice and ocean levels to go along with the hoax?

  28. Joe,
    This might be a useful resource in responding to allegations around the CRU emails:
    http://allegationaudit.blogspot.com/
    (no idea who’s running it, but it’s very well put together)
    Steve

  29. Jonathan says:

    BBHY @27: Monbiot has answered this: “The ring of secret nuclear power stations around the Arctic circle, attached to giant immersion heaters, remains undetected, as do the space-based lasers dissolving the world’s glaciers.”

  30. Julius says:

    Walt, #20: So, where is the evidence that the adjustments are justified?

    Gee, I don’t know – maybe in the peer-reviewed papers in which the data were first published?

  31. David Miller says:

    Walt, #20: So, where is the evidence that the adjustments are justified?

    I’ve got to agree with Julius in #30, and WAG in #18 that this could well be a new tactic. But to answer the question, point your browser here.

  32. shannon says:

    global warming is here to stay.