Jason Lee Steorts of the National Review has published a column taking issue with our response to his cover story on global warming, “Scare of the Century.” The response is useful because it more explicitly exposes the tactics of Steorts and others trying to muddy the debate:
1. Discount the consensus of thousands of scientific experts in favor of a handful of skeptics backed by the fossil fuel industry. Steorts objects to two of our points because they are “based on the International Panel on Climate Change’s models” which he claims “make unrealistic assumptions.” The IPCC process involves thousands of scientists from over 120 countries who, over a period of years, develop detailed reports on climate change. The peer-review process is far more extensive than even the most prestigious scientific journals – the most recent report was reviewed by more than 1,000 top experts. The process includes “climate skeptics” and representatives from industry. In response, Steorts cites one individual, Patrick Michaels who disputes the IPCC’s science. Michaels, whose work is backed by the fossil fuel industry, once famously “proved” global warming wasn’t happening at all by mixing up degrees with radians.
2. Distort scientific research, much of which confirms the severity of global warming, to confuse the issue. First, Steorts quotes Patrick Michaels asserting that “Antarctica has been gaining ice.” Michaels doesn’t have any research to back up that claim, so Steorts is forced to rely on the scientific research of others, including Curt Davis. Steorts is unconcerned that Davis has said that the use of his research by climate skeptics is a “deliberate effort to confuse and mislead the public.” Pieter Tans, who runs a lab at National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, explains that this is a typical tactic “They argue not as scientists but as lawyers. When they argue, they pick one piece of the fabric of evidence and blow it up all out of proportion…Their purpose is to confuse.”
In the last line of his column, Steorts claims we don’t have the “slightest idea what [we] are talking about.”
But the issue here is not that we know what we are talking about and Steorts doesn’t. The point is that thousands of scientific experts do know what they are talking about. The few people paid by the fossil fuel industry to cast doubt on the consensus, and writers like Steorts who act as their megaphone, are not a credible or reliable rebuttal.