The New Year began with a bang over at the Huffington Post: the explosion of a new poster with a diatribe meriting a solid 100 on the Inhofe scale. [To DIGG this post.]
The Inhofe Scale will be used to measure statements (but most definitely not the speakers who make them) that exhibit a noticeable and willing detachment from reality. The scale is calibrated so that 100 equals the detachment seen in Senator Inhofe calling global warming “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the Ameican people”, stating that polar bears “are overpopulated. Don’t worry about it: the polar bears are fine.” and having staff pass out material with the heading: “Mars has global warming despite absence of SUVs”., and Mars quotations. Extra consideration is given to positions espoused with an excessively cavalier attitude or downright meanness, and those from people or organizations that have a obligation to get it right.
Just to be clear, this is a measurement of detachment from widely accepted reality … And by “willful detachment from reality” I mean far more than simple ignorance.
On Saturday, Huffington Post published Harold Ambler’s Mr Gore: Apology Accepted which is notable in its breadth and audacity of disinformation, truthiness, and simply wrong-headedness. Literally books and hundreds (actually, thousands) of scientific studies and analyses have been written that provide the substance to prove Ambler’s words false. What is shameful, on top of this, is that this is not just the ‘false’ and misleading material, but its deceit in support of recklessly dangerous policy concepts that would hinder our ability to move forward to greater prosperity and a stronger American future.
What is, perhaps, especially frustrating is that Huffington Post chose to give voice to this deception as if they are redefining “fair and balanced” back to the Faux News version. As Arianna wrote in her book:
Without the enabling of the traditional media—with their obsession with “balance” and their pathological devotion to the idea that truth is always found in the middle—the radical Right would never have been able to have its ideas taken seriously. .
By publishing such misleading tripe, Huffington Post is contributing to defining some form of middle when it comes to science, between those who actually believe that the scientific method has value those who seem to think that they can shape reality through loudly repeating falsehoods while holding their hands over their ears. Huffington Post has done its founder, its readership, and the larger society a disservice by giving voice to dishonesty.
In all seriousness, one can spend 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year (perhaps taking leap day off every four years) providing factual and fully documented material providing the mendacity of “skeptic” material like Ambler’s. It is tiring and rarely fruitful, especially because so many so-called “skeptics” are not open to factual and thoughtful discussion. Data and analyses at odds with their misguided weltaunschaung will not be allowed to penetrate their thinking. And, when proven wrong or misleading public, they will simply shift to throwing out another piece of misleading cherry-picked data. While I do not intend to provide the ‘book’ to refute Ambler, here are several examples from the post.
Arctic Ice and True vs Truthful
One of the last, desperate canards proposed by climate alarmists is that of the polar ice caps. Look at the “terrible,” “unprecedented” melting in the Arctic in the summer of 2007, … More to the point, 2007 happened also to be the time of maximum historic sea ice in Antarctica.
From a source that Ambler cites in comments about the Antarctic ice,
Keep in mind, even though this is indeed a record, it is not nearly as significant as the minimum record which was just set in the northern hemisphere, in which the sea ice extent was 23% less than the previous record set back in 2005. This new record in the southern hemisphere is not even 1% greater than the old record maximum, and it barely sticks out on the graph of southern hemispheric sea ice area since 1979.
Several points, we are talking about extent (area) of coverage, not mass of ice. The Arctic ice is falling in both mass and extent of coverage over time. Note that the 2007 Arctic ice coverage was 23 percent lower than the previous record, set way back in 2005. The data on Antarctica is less clear, but seems to show a drop in total mass with, as this points out, a less than one percent increase in the area of coverage.
Take a look at this. Ambler’s statement is, as is so often with misleading reporting, absolutely true in terms of the “facts” providing in the paragraph. The truth of those facts, however, provides a crutch to deceive by leaving out context and amplifying information. Thus, ‘true’ does not equal “truthful”.
Seeing the Future aand “Demonstrably False” Logic
As Subtle subtly pointed out, Mr Ambler’s logic stream doesn’t hold up to the slightest examination:
In the last paragraph, Mr. Ambler says, “…your [Al Gore] contention that the Arctic basin will be “ice free” in summer within five years (which you said last month in Germany), is one of the most demonstrably false comments you have dared to make.”
How can a contention about something to happen five years in the future be demonstrably false now?
Considering that the very source that Mr. Ambler uses to support his Antarctica maximum ice comment highlights the significant drops in Arctic ice coverage, Gore’s reported “contention” (which, by the way, I haven’t seen. Did he say “might be” / “could well be” or “will be”?) seems a better bet than believing in the tooth fairy of global warming skepticism.
Stove-piped perspective and an Acid Trip
One of the important challenges related to Global Warming discussions is the complexity of impacts and interconnections. Yes, in some situations, more snowfall and localized cold snaps are absolutely to be expected. (Which is why some prefer Climate Change, despite its right-wing disinformation emphasis as a tool to confuse the lay person into one of Ambler’s messages about ‘natural change’.) Yes, Global Warming will drive droughts in some areas while leading to flooding in others, with the potential rapid reversal of these conditions. (Which is a reason why some prefer Climate Chaos.) Yes, there are natural processes at work, with uncertainties about potential feedback loops and how human-driven change will interact with natural processes (whether the natural processes will dampen the impacts from human change or, in fact, lead to a ‘positive feedback cycle’ where the human-driven processes create much greater natural impacts through, for example, the melting of the permafrost), including uncertainty about implications for other species and potential mass extinctions. (That last is why, in part, some prefer the term Climaticide.) And, to emphasize, the roles and implications are not just “warming” and figuring out new beachfront property in face of sea-level rise.
Ambler speaks solely of temperature and the relationship of CO2 to termperature rise. Even if carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions had absolutely no interrelationship with temperature and climate impacts, CO2’s impacts go well beyond temperature. Most seriously, increasing CO2 concentrations in water lead to increased acidification. With each passing day, water around the world is becoming more acidic. The increased acidity combines with rising temperatures to change the living conditions for, literally, every single form of sea life. And, of course, that change interacts with humanity’s overfishing of the seas for even more complexity. In any event, a simply analogy: any person with a good acquarium at home will be able to tell you that it is important to keep the ph balance and temperature in a good range or else it will harm the fish. Globally, we are changing both the ph balance and termperature for all water creatures with unknown (and, almost certainly, very negative) impacts: already and into the future.
Advocacy of Reckless Delay
Mr Ambler’s climate change ignorance lays not just in discussing the problem but also the “remedy”.
To be told, as I have been, by Mr. Gore, again and again, that carbon dioxide is a grave threat to humankind is not just annoying, by the way, although it is that! To re-tool our economies in an effort to suppress carbon dioxide and its imaginary effect on climate, when other, graver problems exist is, simply put, wrong. Particulate pollution, such as that causing the Asian brown cloud, is a real problem. Two billion people on Earth living without electricity, in darkened huts and hovels polluted by charcoal smoke, is a real problem.
So, let us indeed start a Manhattan Project-like mission to create alternative sources of energy. And, in the meantime, let us neither cripple our own economy by mislabeling carbon dioxide a pollutant nor discourage development in the Third World, where suffering continues unabated, day after day.
This ’solution path’, the embrace of a “Manhattan-Project-like mission to create alternative sources of energy”, falls into the “climate delayer” space. Ambler seems to have reached this third stage of moving from denial to determination, even without leaving that first stage.
Delay, as well, is a device by those who have seen facts overwhelming denial and skepticism. Yes, they might state, Global Warming is real but it is so immense that we can’t solve it without some new magical invention. This comes with many variations. Whether well meaning (by passionate technology enthusiast) or more venal (someone seeking to maximize profit from polluting behavior), the “technology will solve everything” and ”invest in R&D” is a quite dangerous trap that will trap humanity into a cycle of ever worsening catastrophic climate change
The facts are that we can do much to act, now, with great impact without the invention of any great new technology. And, we can do much with a net “profit” to the economy via greater energy efficiency (whether in industrial process, more efficient homes, or better transport) and moving toward cleaner fuels / power sources. (Some of which are already proving cost effective (even without the subsidies that fossil fuel systems have) in some portions of the market space.) Mr Ambler is advocating non-action, in essence, in the face of risk and not acknowledging any potential for being ‘wrong’ in his rejection of science while advocating non-action. If one wishes to reside (however, incorrectly) in “skeptic” space, of uncertainty and doubt, a discussion begins as to a “no regrets strategy”. If one operates in the ‘no regrets’ arena, then programs like Architecture 2030’s concepts for economic stimulus through private building energy efficiency become quite sensible: they achieve positive goods for society without needing to consider their (positive) climate impact. But, Mr. Ambler’s diatribe and acceptance of a “Manhattan-like” effort leave no space for having “no regrets”.
A moment for …
While uncertain about which factors drive Mr Ambler’s denial and “climate skeptism”, his ‘acceptance of Al Gore’s apology’ is a case study of truthiness obscuring Global Warming’s reality and the imperatives (and opportunities) to act in face of that reality.
A ‘bibliographic’ note …
Some thoughts about places to go for Global Warming / Climate Change information and discussion:
Real Climate: A source to studied and footnoted discussions of significant climate issues, with substantive examination (and, most frequently, substantive rebuttal) of “denier” and “skeptic” work. Heavily scientific but accessible to a broader audience.
Grist: How to talk to a Skeptic: This useful compendium provides facts and responses to many “standard” global warming skeptic truthiness statements. These have many links to the science reporting and data that demonstrate the ‘truthiness’ behind the skeptics’ statements. (See Climate Denial for discussions of “the psychology of climate change denial” And, DeSmogBlog, which could be “de place for Global Warming De-nial de-construction and de-molition”. And, here is a pdf version of the UK Royal Society’s “A guide to facts and fictions about climate change”.)
Good ‘learn more’ sites include:
- Guardian: Climate Change Q&A: What is climate change and why should we be concerned about it?
- New Scientist: Climate change: a guide for the perplexed
- National Climate Data Center, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: Global Warming: Frequently Asked Questions
- Union of Concerned Scientists: Global Warming
- NRDC: Global Warming 101
- US House of Representatives Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming
Note/Update: Recommended discussions re Ambler:
- Joe Romm’s Diagnosing a victim of anti-science syndrome (ASS).
- Greenfyre’s Ambler huffs and puffs, but mostly he just blows for a fact-filled refutation of many of Ambler’s points.
- Andrew Dessler: Huff Po blows it: Skeptic screed on progressive news site recycles familiar myths also provides a refutation, with links, and addresses my concerns over exhaustion on whacking denier moles: “the only thing hucksters need is for the rest of us to get tired of repeating the same damn truths over and over again.”