Extreme Case Of Climate Change Denial Highlights Dishonesty And Irrationality Of Right Wing

Global warming deniers, faced with the problem of having all the scientific evidence against them, must resort to all types of distortions to promote the arguments planted by the petroleum industry to attack the science. Their new series of billboards shows how desperate they are. The billboards from the Heartland Institute attempt to disparage those who accept the science of climate change with signs such as the one above. They point out utterly irrelevant claims that people such as Ted Kaczynski,  Charles Manson,and Fidel Castro believe in global warming, suggesting that those who believe in global warming are like these mass murders. They deny the fact that 97 percent of scientists in the field do believe that  global warming is caused by human action. They even  bring up the fake Climategate claims even though five separate investigations have exonerated the investigators who were accused of falsifying data by right wing pawns of the petroleum industry.

They are even considering more bill boards of this type:

The billboard series features Ted Kaczynski, the infamous Unabomber; Charles Manson, a mass murderer; and Fidel Castro, a tyrant. Other global warming alarmists who may appear on future billboards include Osama bin Laden and James J. Lee (who took hostages inside the headquarters of the Discovery Channel in 2010).

Andrew Sullivan used this as an example of what the right has become:

In some ways, this is an almost perfect illustration of what has happened to the “right.” A refusal to acknowledge scientific reality; and a brutalist style of public propaganda that focuses entirely on guilt by the most extreme association…

Large sections of the American right are now close to insane as well as depraved. And there is no Buckley to rein them in. Just countless Jonah Goldbergs seeking to cash in.


Ross Douthout Shows Rejection of Science Is Necessary To Succeed In GOP

Ross Douthat has unintentionally demonstrated that one cannot be a successful Republican candidate without rejecting science (or at least hiding their beliefs)  in a post on why Jon Huntsman’s campaign for the Republican nomination has been unsuccessful. Douthat says that Huntsman has failed because, “He picked high-profile fights on two hot-button issues — evolution and global warming…” He considers this to be “political malpractice at its worst.”

In other words, it is now political suicide in the Republican Party to openly acknowledge acceptance of science. Evolution is firmly established as a factual explanation for the development of complex organisms from simple organisms and is the foundation of modern biology. The science behind global warming is accepted by well over ninety percent of scientists in the field. Despite this, conservatives reject both fields of science. The typical conservative not only rejects,  but is totally ignorant of the evidence for evolution, and considers creationism to be a valid alternative. Conservatives see climate change as a conspiracy and a hoax while creating their own hoax with the bogus claims surrounding “Climategate”  which have been debunked by five separate investigations.

Climate Change Is A Real Problem To Honest Scientists And To Business

The scientific evidence for climate change is quite overwhelming. As disturbing as it is to open-minded, rational people who accept scientific evidence, this is far more of a problem to those who profit from the sale of petroleum and/or hold a philosophy that the market as opposed to government provides the best solution to all problems. This leaves global warming denialists in the position having to deny the scientific evidence, concoct bizarre conspiracy theories involving scientists (including fabricating a “Climategate” scandal which didn’t hold up to scrutiny), promote published  in the right-wing media based upon junk-science denying climate change, or attack Al Gore (who, while doing valuable work to publicize the issue, is not what the issue is about).

Conspiracy theorists on the right believe that climate change is actually part of a conspiracy to undermine capitalism by leftists. Among the many things which these right wingers fail to understand that, other than a tiny minority, it is liberals who are trying to preserve our market system in a manner which actually works to benefit the nation while opposing conservative policies which are harmful to the economy. Climate change, while considered a hoax by those on the anti-science right, is seen as a real problem  by scientists who have interpreted the data as well as businesses which are affected, as seen in the two stories which follow.

The wonderful thing about science, as opposed to views based upon ideology which dominate the right wing, is that the evidence is out there for anyone to evaluate. Richard Muller, a physicist who was skeptical about climate change, decided to go back and analyze the data, hoping to find that the right wing claims of errors in the previous analysis is correct. Brad Plumer summarized his findings:

Muller’s stated aims were simple. He and his team would scour and re-analyze the climate data, putting all their calculations and methods online. Skeptics cheered the effort. “I’m prepared to accept whatever result they produce, even if it proves my premise wrong,” wroteAnthony Watts, a blogger who has criticized the quality of the weather stations in the United Statse that provide temperature data. The Charles G. Koch Foundation even gave Muller’s project $150,000 — and the Koch brothers, recall, are hardly fans of mainstream climate science.

So what are the end results? Muller’s team appears to have confirmed the basic tenets of climate science. Back in March, Muller told the House Science and Technology Committee that, contrary to what he expected, the existing temperature data was “excellent.” He went on: “We see a global warming trend that is very similar to that previously reported by the other groups.” And, today, the BEST team has released a flurry of new papers that confirm that the planet is getting hotter. As the team’s two-page summary flatly concludes, “Global warming is real.”Here’s a chart comparing their findings with existing data:

The BEST team tried to take a number of skeptic claims seriously, to see if they panned out. Take, for instance, their paper on the “urban heat island effect.” Watts has long argued that many weather stations collecting temperature data could be biased by being located in cities. Since cities are naturally warmer than rural areas (because building materials retain more heat), the uptick in recorded temperatures might be exaggerated, an illusion spawned by increased urbanization. So Muller’s team decided to compare overall temperature trends with only those weather stations based in rural areas. And, as it turns out the trends match up well. “Urban warming does not unduly bias estimates of recent global temperature change,” Muller’s group concluded.

While the petroleum industry and conservative movement both have a vested interest in denying climate change, regardless of the evidence, people in other industries are more likely to be concerned about how climate change will affect their businesses. Scientists working for Starbucks recognize that this is a problem which can impact their business:

Forget about super-sizing into the trenta a few years from now: Starbucks is warning of a threat to world coffee supply because of climate change.

In a telephone interview with the Guardian, Jim Hanna, the company’s sustainability director, said its farmers were already seeing the effects of a changing climate, with severe hurricanes and more resistant bugs reducing crop yields.

The company is now preparing for the possibility of a serious threat to global supplies. “What we are really seeing as a company as we look 10, 20, 30 years down the road – if conditions continue as they are – is a potentially significant risk to our supply chain, which is the Arabica coffee bean,” Hanna said.

It was the second warning in less than a month of a threat to a food item many people can’t live without.

New research from the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture warned it would be too hot to grow chocolate in much of the Ivory Coast and Ghana, the world’s main producers, by 2050.

Hanna is to travel to Washington on Friday to brief members of Congress on climate change and coffee at an event sponsored by the Union of Concerned Scientists.

The coffee giant is part of a business coalition that has been trying to push Congress and the Obama administration to act on climate change – without success, as Hanna acknowledged.

The coalition, including companies like Gap, are next month launching a new campaign – showcasing their own action against climate change – ahead of the release of a landmark science report from the UN’s IPCC.

Hanna told the Guardian the company’s suppliers, who are mainly in Central America, were already experiencing changing rainfall patterns and more severe pest infestations.

Taking action to limit the damage from climate change is not part of a conspiracy to overthrow capitalism as paranoid conspiracy theorists on the right believe. Taking action is necessary to preserve our market economy.

Judicial Watch Distorts Obama Administration Email About Fox

Judicial Watch, a right wing group whose primary function is to foment right wing hysteria by spreading misinformation, issued a press release regarding White House emails obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. These were from the first year of the Obama administration, when the White House  was more open about its contempt for Fox than in subsequent years.

Hostility towards Fox  is hardly unjustified considering how Fox regularly disregards normal standards of journalism to advocate for the opposing political party and regularly spreads falsehoods about the Obama administration. We might expect members of the Obama administration to have an opinion of Fox comparable to what we would expect  them to have for a mouthpiece for the Republican Party–which for all practical purposes is the actual purpose of Fox.

Judicial Watch performed the usual right wing  distortions of the email which we have seen many times before, such as in the bogus “Climategate” affair in which right wingers made claims about emails stolen from climate researchers which did not hold up when the actual emails were reviewed. Chris Good summarized the email, with one notable example of how Judicial Watch distorted the content in the first paragraph:

In its summation, Judicial Watch also includes a seemingly damning quote from communications aide Josh Earnest, “We’ve demonstrated our willingness and ability to exclude Fox News from significant interviews…” but omits the rest: “… — but yesterday, we didn’t.”

The emails show White House staff discussing the official response statement to White-House-vs.-Fox stories being written and contemplated by members of the Washington media.

Taken out of context, the emails sound kind of incendiary, revealing a deep disdain for Fox News and its reporters. Flipping through the pages of emails, they reveal something more instructive: How a political press shop works, behind the scenes.

Koch-Financed Climate Skeptic Found That Global Warming Is Real

It would seem to be a risky idea to have a global warming denier conduct a study as to whether global warming is occurring, but it would be a great idea if the skeptic could be trusted to be honest in reporting the results. A team at Berkley attempted to debunk the scientific consensus on climate change but even their review of the data so far finds the same results as other scientists studying the question. The Los Angeles Times reports:

A team of UC Berkeley physicists and statisticians that set out to challenge the scientific consensus on global warming is finding that its data-crunching effort is producing results nearly identical to those underlying the prevailing view.

The Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project was launched by physics professor Richard Muller, a longtime critic of government-led climate studies, to address what he called “the legitimate concerns” of skeptics who believe that global warming is exaggerated.

But Muller unexpectedly told a congressional hearing last week that the work of the three principal groups that have analyzed the temperature trends underlying climate science is “excellent…. We see a global warming trend that is very similar to that previously reported by the other groups.”

The hearing was called by GOP leaders of the House Science & Technology committee, who have expressed doubts about the integrity of climate science. It was one of several inquiries in recent weeks as the Environmental Protection Agency’s efforts to curb planet-heating emissions from industrial plants and motor vehicles have come under strenuous attack in Congress.

The study was financed by the the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation after the claims by global warming deniers that the hacked emails in the Climategate non-scandal cast doubt upon temperature data. This study is consistent with the reviews of Climategate which found there was nothing there to discredit climate change.

Conservatives Gone Mad

Marc Ambinder is wondering about something which most of us noticed quite a while ago in asking, Have Conservatives Gone Mad? He provides some examples:

It is absolutely a condition of the age of the triumph of conservative personality politics, where entertainers shouting slogans are taken seriously as political actors, and where the incentive structures exist to stomp on dissent and nuance, causing experimental voices to retrench and allowing a lot of people to pretend that the world around them is not changing. The obsession with ACORN, Climategate, death panels, the militarization of rhetoric, Saul Alinsky, Chicago-style politics,   that TAXPAYERS will fund the bailout of banks — these aren’t meaningful or interesting or even relevant things to focus on. (The banks will fund their own bailouts.)

There are far more examples. For example, climategate is just one example of the rejection of science by many conservatives (accompanied by a conspiracy theory based upon their creative misinterpretation of stolen email). There’s also their rejection of evolution, along with cosmology or any other branch of science which conflicts with a fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible.  Plenty of other conspiracy theories, along with rejection of science, are also popular on the far right, especially if we extend to the Ron Paul crowd. At least the Paul supporters don’t accept the beliefs still held by many on the right that Saddam was involved in the 9/11 attack and that Iraq had WMD at the start of the war.

Hatred of Obama has brought about a new set of reliefs which are unteathered from reality, from the claims that he was born outside of the United States to the claims he is a Muslim or a Marxist. Of course this is nothing new. The current bogus claims about Obama are as absurd as the discredited claims of the Swift Boat Liars. Right wingers continue to base conspiracy theories upon claims that both John Kerry’s war records and Barack Obama’s birth certificate are being kept secret. It is hardly a secret when both documents  have been posted on the internet.

Ambinder speculates as to the causes of this insanity:

Conor Friedersdorf thinks the problem lies with the conservative movement’s major spokespeople  — its radio/net news nexus — and the “overwhelming evidence that their very existence as popular entertainers hinges on an ability to persuade listeners that they are “‘worth taking seriously as political and intellectual actors.'” That is why the constant failures of these men to live up to their billing is so offensive, destructive, and ruinous to conservatives. There are plenty of women, too, is all I’ll say.

The right wing noise machine is certainly responsible for much of the problem. In many cases it isn’t even clear if the clowns who spread their insane beliefs even believe what they are saying, or are just doing this because it is an easy way to make a good living. Scott Adams has speculated about this and written, “I find it mind boggling that anyone believes a TV talk host is expressing his own true views.” We’ve had Glenn Beck say “I could give a flying crap about the political process.” Beck has also described himself as “a rodeo clown” and conceded, “If you take what I say as gospel, you’re an idiot.”

Unfortunately there are a lot of idiots who actually believe the things that people like Glenn Beck say, regardless of how much evidence there is that he makes it up. Ambinder has a suggestion for the media as to how to respond:

I think this sensibility is pervasive throughout the smart media — old and new. I think it’s one reason why, say, Jake Tapper and other good reporters are very keen about direct fact-challenging — why the media is reasserting itself as gatekeepers. (CNN might want to think about branding themselves here, even at the risk (well, the reality) of calling out Republicans more.) I think it’s because there’s so much misinformation out there — most of it spread by the conservative echo-chamber. With the advent of Fox News and the power of that echo-chamber, complaints about liberal media bias are quite irrelevant — the reaction to it being like lupus’s reaction to the body, as Jon Stewart correctly noted.

It would certainly be useful to have Jake Tapper of ABC, CNN, and others devote more time to fact checking. The far right will just write off the facts as liberal bias but maybe having the facts out there more will do some good. Fact checking will definitely play into the belief that CNN is a liberal counterpart to Fox which is absurd when you look at how many Republicans they have hired in recent years  since the network was sold by Ted Turner. There is no doubt that they will have far more to fact check with Republican than Democratic statements, plus the Republican falsehoods are much further from reality than the errors coming from the Democrats.

UK Inquiry Clears Climate Scientists Against “Climate-Gate” Claims

“Climate-gate” was the recent faux scandal in which global warming denialists hacked into the email of some climate scientists and tried to used the stolen email to prove their anti-scientific beliefs. They made a number of claims about the content of the email which were repeated by the right wing media but which did not hold up when the actual emails were reviews. An inquiry in the UK has cleared the climate scientists of the accusations of wrongdoing stemming from distortions of the stolen email:

An inquiry cleared British climate researchers of wrongdoing on Wednesday after their emails were hacked, leaked and held up by skeptics as evidence they had exaggerated the case for man-made global warming.

Former government adviser Ronald Oxburgh, who chaired the panel, said he had found no evidence of scientific malpractice or attempts to distort the facts to support the mainstream view that manmade CO2 emissions contribute to rising temperatures.

The affair stoked the global debate on climate change and put pressure on scientists and politicians to defend the case for spending trillions of dollars to cut emissions and help cope with rising temperatures.

Thousands of emails sent between scientists were published on the internet just before the United Nations climate talks in Copenhagen last December.

Campaigners who doubt the scientific basis for saying global warming is manmade said the leaked messages showed that the research unit at East Anglia University had taken part in a conspiracy to distort or exaggerate the evidence.

The university, in eastern England, appointed Oxburgh to investigate the Climatic Research Unit’s methods.

“We saw no evidence of any deliberate scientific malpractice,” Oxburgh’s inquiry concluded. “Rather, we found a small group of dedicated, if slightly disorganized, researchers.

“We found them to be objective and dispassionate and there was no hint of tailoring results to a particular agenda.”

Its strongest criticism was aimed at the unit’s handling of statistics. It recommended that the researchers work more closely with professional statisticians in future.

Anti-Science Spin on Climate Change

Science should be a matter for peer reviewed medical journals, not debates in blogs and the media started by right wing ideologues who prefer to ignore science whenever it conflicts with their political or religious views. Since the scientific consensus is clearly against them, climate change deniers have been attempting to politicize the scientific issues with a number of bogus charges.

The scientific method is self-correcting as finding errors leads to better information, but the denialists typically latch onto any small error and use this to attempt to cast doubt on the entire field. Sometimes we might even have cases of individual scientists behaving badly but this still does not change the entire body of evidence.

Climate Change has a good run down of the latest spin, looking at many incidents in detail. They conclude:

Overall then, the IPCC assessment reports reflect the state of scientific knowledge very well. There have been a few isolated errors, and these have been acknowledged and corrected. What is seriously amiss is something else: the public perception of the IPCC, and of climate science in general, has been massively distorted by the recent media storm. All of these various “gates” – Climategate, Amazongate, Seagate, Africagate, etc., do not represent scandals of the IPCC or of climate science. Rather, they are the embarrassing battle-cries of a media scandal, in which a few journalists have misled the public with grossly overblown or entirely fabricated pseudogates, and many others have naively and willingly followed along without seeing through the scam. It is not up to us as climate scientists to clear up this mess – it is up to the media world itself to put this right again, e.g. by publishing proper analysis pieces like the one of Tim Holmes and by issuing formal corrections of their mistaken reporting. We will follow with great interest whether the media world has the professional and moral integrity to correct its own errors.

Alex Knapp also has a good analysis of how the media has distorted this interview.  He concludes, “I think this provides an excellent example of why, when it comes to scientific topics, you’re much better off going to primary sources than you are trusting a newspaper reporter.”

I Hope Newt Gingrich Was Joking

Newt Gingrich on Twitter:

As callista and i watched what dc weather says will be 12 to 22 inches of snow i wondered if God was sending a message about copenhagen

He very well could have been joking, but between Republican ideas on climate change and religion it is sure hard to tell. Many who deny global warming have confused short term variations in weather with long term climate change. There have also been far too many comments from Republicans, including Sarah Palin and George Bush, suggesting God is involved in our politics. It is possible that this intellectual leader of the Republicans really does look for signs from god in determining policy issues.

In another tweet, Gingrich showed that he takes the bogus claims of “climategate” seriously even though the hacked email failed to show anything to alter the scientific consensus on climate change.

While again I’m not sure how serious he is, Erick Erickson of Red State also suggests that the storm is a sign of God’s objection to the health care bill, even raising the bogus claims of “death panels.”

Time’s Explanation of the East Anglia Emails

Time has summarized the controversy surrounding the hacked emails from researchers at the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at Britain’s University of East Anglia. Here is the section on the interpretation of the email:

To global warming doubters, the CRU emails are the new Pentagon Papers, proof that the powers that be — in this case, international climate scientists — are engaged in outright fraud and were exposed only by a brave whistleblower.

Many skeptics argue that the case for man-made global warming has been essentially undone, and that before the world goes any further in considering action to control greenhouse gas emissions, all scientific evidence for warming must be reevaluated. Jones’s email about Mann’s “trick” appears to indicate that climate researchers have been actively manipulating scientific data to better fit their models on climate change, while other e-mails seemingly confirm what skeptics had long suspected — that the globe in recent years wasn’t warming as fast as theories on climate change had assumed. Most of all, the tone of the CRU e-mails suggests that climate scientists are mired in groupthink, utterly resistant to skeptical viewpoints and willing to use pressure to silence dissenters of the global warming mainstream. In other words, the e-mails showed what Republican Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner called “scientific fascism,” which he argues is “at worst…junk science” and “part of an international scientific fraud.”

Climate scientists are taking the e-mail controversy seriously. Inquiries are underway at University of East Anglia and Penn State, and IPCC head Rajendra Pachauri has said that the controversy cannot be “swept under the carpet,” promising also that the U.N. body will examine the emails independently. But global-warming skeptics have already declared victory. “It appears from the details of the scandal that there is no relationship whatsoever between human activities and climate change,” said Mohammed Al-Sabban, Saudi Arabia’s lead climate negotiator, according to the BBC.

4. Do the emails weaken the scientific case for global warming? Put it this way: when it comes to climate science analysis from the representative of the world’s biggest oil-producing state, it’s wise to be suspicious. In the weeks since the e-mails first became public, many climate scientists and policy experts have looked through them, and they report that the correspondence does not contradict the overwhelming scientific consensus on global warming, which has been decades in the making. “The content of the stolen e-mails has no impact whatsoever on our overall understanding that human activity is driving dangerous levels of global warming,” wrote 25 leading U.S. scientists in a letter to Congress on Dec. 4. “The body of evidence that underlies our understanding of human-caused global warming remains robust.”

According to PSU’s Mann, that statistical “trick” that Jones refers to in one e-mail — which has been trumpeted by skeptics — simply referred to the replacing of proxy temperature data from tree rings in recent years with more accurate data from air temperatures. It’s an analytical technique that has been openly discussed in scientific journals for over a decade — hardly the stuff of conspiracy.

As for Mann and Jones’ apparent effort to punish the journal Climate Research, the paper that ignited his indignation is a 2003 study that turned out to be underwritten by the American Petroleum Institute. Eventually half the editorial board of the journal quit in protest. And even if CRU’s climate data turns out to have some holes, the group is only one of four major agencies, including NASA, that contribute temperature data to major climate models — and CRU’s data largely matches up with the others’.

It’s true that the e-mails reveal CRU climate scientists were dismissive of skeptics, often in harsh terms, but that’s not unusual for scientists. Science is a rough arena, as anyone who has ever survived a doctoral examination knows, and scientists aren’t shy about attacking ideas they believe are wrong — especially in private communication. Still, Jones et al. could have been more open and accepting of their critics, and if it turns out that e-mails were deleted in response to the Freedom of Information request for data, heads should roll. (Jones maintains that no e-mails or documents were deleted.)

Ultimately, though, we need to place Climategate/Swifthack in its proper context: amidst a decades-long effort by the fossil fuel industry and other climate skeptics to undercut global warming research — often by means that are far more nefarious than anything that appears in the CRU e-mails. George W. Bush’s Administration attempted to censor NASA climatologist James Hansen, while the fossil-fuel industry group the Global Climate Coalition ignored its own scientists as it spread doubt about man-made global warming. That list of wrongdoing goes on. One of the main skeptic groups promoting the e-mail controversy, the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change, was recently revealed to have links to the energy company Exxon-Mobil, which has long funded climate-change deniers. “This is being used to confuse the public,” says blogger James Hoggan, whose new book Climate Cover-Up details Exxon-Mobil’s campaign. “This is not a legitimate scientific issue.”