The status quo media has a new anti-science columnist, Ed Wallace. He had a column yesterday in Business Week, “Is Global Warming a ‘Crock of S*%t?’ ” Here is a typical pearl of disinformation:
Then, on the last day of 2009, Wolfgang Knorr of the Earth Sciences Dept. at the University of Bristol released new research showing the possibility that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has not risen in the past 160 years. Maybe he’s wrong, but at least he published his views for peer review in the Geophysical Research Letters.
Not even close. As anyone with access to Google knows, that is not what Knorr said at all (see “Yes, the atmospheric CO2 fraction has risen at a dangerously fast rate in the past 160 years, reaching levels not seen in millions of years“). See also the single most famous chart of observational data in the entire climate arena (above), the Keeling Curve of “Atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2).”
Knorr’s study merely suggested the fraction of human-emitted CO2 that stays in the atmosphere may have stayed flat for 160 years. It had a bad headline and confused many folks for a few days, but it was pretty quickly straightened out for anyone paying attention.
To write this piece and not even bother using Google for 30 seconds to fact-check it is a sign of utter disdain for the truth.
That Business Week doesn’t bother to fact check their columns puts them dangerously close to the non-existent standards of the Washington Post op-ed page, which has become a laughingstock (see “Will the Washington Post ever fact check a George Will column? and WashPost goes tabloid, publishes second falsehood-filled op-ed by Sarah Palin in five months).
I was going to ignore Wallace’s Palin-esque piece — such pieces are spreading like bark beetles in the dying forests of print journalism — but for this line at the end:
(This is the first of a multipart series of columns on global warming.)
Yes, there’s more apparently more disinformation to be pushed, which is pretty impressive because Wallace runs through enough of the long-debunked talking points of the disinformers to get a clinical diagnosis of anti-science syndrome:
Lest we forget, only 36 years ago it was widely believed we were on the verge of the next Ice Age. As Gary Sutton reported in Forbes on Dec. 3 last year, “In 1974, the National Science Board announced: ‘During the last 20 to 30 years, world temperature has fallen, irregularly at first but more sharply over the last decade. Judging from the record of the past interglacial ages, the present time of high temperatures should be drawing to an end “¦ leading into the next ice age.'”
Lest we forget, that is just another anti-science myth (see Killing the myth of the 1970s global cooling scientific consensus and The NYT‘s climate coverage in 1970s was a megaphone for science, not ‘global cooling’ alarmism). The National Research Council concluded in its 1979 review of the science that “the potential damage from greenhouse gases was real and should not be ignored. The potential for cooling, the threat of aerosols, or the possibility of an ice age shows up nowhere in the report. Warming from doubled CO2 of 1.5°-4.5°C was possible.”
The chairman of the NRC’s Climate Research Board wrote in the report’s foreword that he believed there was enough evidence to support action: “A wait-and-see policy may mean waiting until it is too late.”
Again it is human emission of GHGs that are over-riding the natural cycle that would have other be putting us into another Ice Age — see Human-caused Arctic warming overtakes 2,000 years of natural cooling, “seminal” study finds.
Thirty-six years later there is still strong disagreement on what climate change really means for our planet. Some have postulated that warming temperatures will cause mass extinctions or uncontrollable migrations to better climates. Not least of the problems, they worry, might be that temperatures rising as much as 11 degrees over the coming century would cause crop failures, resulting in mass global outbreaks of starvation.
Other scientists, however, claim that this period of warming will melt the freshwater glaciers of the north, flooding the Atlantic conveyor belt that brings warmer water up from southern regions and disrupting that current. Their scenario gives us, you guessed it, a new Ice Age.
If you get your science from movies, I suppose you might believe that last paragraph.
But in fact just before the mistake-riddled, global-warming-will-cause-an-ice-age, movie The Day after Tomorrow came out, the journal Science (subs. req’d) published an article by two environmental scientists that concluded:
In light of the paleoclimate record and our understanding of the contemporary climate system, it is safe to say that global warming will not lead to the onset of a new ice age.
They add, “These same records suggest that it is highly unlikely that global warming will lead to a widespread collapse of the AMO” or Atlantic Meridional Overturning, “the North Atlantic component of global ocean overturning circulation.”
It boggles the mind that a serious journalist could argue that scientists don’t know what the future impacts of unrestricted greenhouse gas emissions are based not on what scientists actually say, but on a Hollywood movie.
Oh and Wallace is serious:
Ed Wallace is a recipient of the the Gerald R. Loeb Award for business journalism, given by the G. and R. Loeb Foundation, and is a member of the American Historical Society. His column leads the Fort Worth Star-Telegram‘s “Sunday Drive” section. He reviews new cars every Friday morning at 7:15 on Fox Four’s Good Day, contributes articles to BusinessWeek Online, and hosts the top-rated talk show Wheels Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on 570 KLIF.
Actually, there isn’t much disagreement on what happens if we listen to Wallace and stay on our business as usual emissions path, which takes us to 800 to 1000 ppm or higher. Either it is likely to be a incomprehensible series of disasters by the end of the century (see “Intro to global warming impacts: Hell and High Water“) or it could in the worst-case be an unmitigated catastrophe by mid-century (see UK Met Office: Catastrophic climate change, 13-18°F over most of U.S. and 27°F in the Arctic, could happen in 50 years, but “we do have time to stop it if we cut greenhouse gas emissions soon”).
Business journalist Wallace ends with a classic piece of anti-science:
In the end, maybe the climate change evangelists are right and mankind is the reason the planet is warming. But if you read enough articles on the subject over a long enough period, you find that the factual weather data do not always line up with the scientific pronouncements that are being sold to us. For one thing, computer modeling is not all that accurate, nor do those machines have any more logic than what is programmed into them. In simplest terms, anyone who can program a relational database knows you can alter the code to where 2 + 2 = 4.25. The computer spits it out, but it’s not true. Now extrapolate that out to where one is programming all of the factors known for weather, present, past, and future, and you understand the complexity is so great that no output from those programs can mean anything. It’s called GIGO: garbage in, garbage out.
Well, it may be true in business — just look at mortgage-backed securities and credit default swaps and Bernie Madoff. But in science, if you alter the code to where 2 + 2 = 4.25 and other scientists find out really fast and you are discredited.
It’s only the anti-science crowd that can repeat 2 + 2 = 4.25 again and again and call it wisdom.