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Follow The Weasel

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If you have ever wondered where the rhetoric regarding the falseness of global warming comes from, and whether or not to believe it, all one ever need do is follow the line of weasels behind the lies and half-truths until you find yourself standing before two inescapable sources: oil companies and conservative think tanks. One side of the two-headed monster are trillion dollar multi-national oil companies that feel financially threatened by the prospect of stricter pollution control laws, and on the other side are conservative policy institutes who are very well funded by these large companies to produce reports and shift policy that is favorable to themselves.

This adventure begins at the Drudge Report, the website notorious for picking stories that wreak of sensationalism, but run short on fact, and for no other purpose than to draw attention to itself. Today's top global warming story: College Republicans ridicule movie with 'Global Warming Beach Parties'. [1]

It's hard to take seriously a group of college students who think the proper response to the threat of global warming is to have a party, but then again, this seems exactly the maturity level of most Republicans these days. Mock your opponent and let God sort out all our problems; that's the mantra of the day.

Hot on the trail of the weasels, we find ourselves at, the College Republican National Committee, and their page entitled Global Warming Myths Debunked.[2] Because any large topic of conversation can be distorted to represent the views of a person, it's possible, and probably likely, that there are myths regarding global warming that have been presented as truth. This page may very well reveal these truths for the lies that they are, and I go into this with an open mind.

That is right up until I read the very first quotation on the page, which is not actually a fact debunked as myth, or even a myth at all. The pages is lead by a quotation, attributed to Stephen Schneider. Schneider is a climatologist, accredited as Professor, Department of Biological Sciences at Stanford, and Senior Fellow, Stanford Institute for International Studies. The quote from is as follows:

"[W]e have to [sic] offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we may have. Each of us has to [sic] decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest."

Seems damning, doesn't it? I had such a hard time believing that an accredited and respected scientist would make such a claim of dishonesty, that I decided to find the context around which this quote was most likely taken out of. The tactic of removing a quote from it's context in order to make it say what you want it to say, and often to make it say the exact opposite of what it was meant to, is not a new one. So I decided to do something that conservatives rarely do, as it can cause heart burn, and the occasional forced apology: research. I followed the quote around the Internet until I found it in it's proper context, via John Quiggin's weblog. [3]

Before I even found the quote itself, I found people discussing how this quote has been passed around extensively as an indictment of climatologists that believe global warming is real, and how removed from it's context -- as I had expected -- barely resembles what Schneider had actually said.

"And like most people we'd like to see the world a better place, which in this context translates into our working to reduce the risk of potentially disastrous climatic change. To do that we need to get some broad based support, to capture the publics imagination. That, of course, entails getting loads of media coverage. So we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have. This "double ethical bind" we frequently find ourselves in cannot be solved by any formula. Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest. I hope that means being both." [4]

Not only was the quote taken out of context, it was edited to remove an entire sentence. Before we have even begun to investigate the supposed myths of global warming, we are exposed to the absolute deficiency of moral ethics that has infested the conservative base over the past decade. This is not the first time Schneider's quote has been abused like this. In 1996, Julian Simon went a step further by fabricating a part of the quote, writing "Scientist should consider stretching the truth to get some broad base support, to capture the public's imagination." It's hard to imagine what kind of total lack of morals a person must have to create such a stupidly obvious fabrication, and even more difficult to figure out why people continue to do it to this day.

As John Quiggin wrote in a weblog post in 2003, Schneider was talking about problems dealing with the media, not about tactics of climatologists, and the quote on was obviously meant to impeach Schneider for using dishonesty when dealing with the public in order to convince them of what he was saying; it's now evidently clear that CNRC has done the exact same thing itself.

Only The Facts Please
The pages content begins not with the the myths, which were advertised as living on this page, we are instead presented with a short list of three facts. Is it not stated beforehand exactly what these facts are related to, so one is compelled to read them in order to find out just what they are all about.

"While some scientists have warned of a global warming, not all scientists are in agreement as to just what type of threat this poses. Many reputable scientists predict no substantial warming in the future; they predict a raise of merely 1 to 1.5 degrees Celsius over the next century, which is well within the range of human adaptability."

I'm not sure what the purpose of this purported fact is. You can find a group of scientists that will disagree with the majority-at-large over just about any subject you can imagine. The minorities existence is not in and of itself de facto evidence that the minority is right, and that the majority is wrong. This "fact" does nothing more than to point out the blindly obvious, that there will always be dissent. It also makes a couple of claims that are unsubstantiated by fact, and therefore cannot be facts themselves.

"The Kyoto Protocol will do little to slow carbon dioxide emissions, and has enormous costs."

No evidence is provided to back up this claim, other than a single link to another page that consist of another set of unattributed "facts", lacking any source data whatsoever. [5] It's difficult to give any weight at all to these baseless claims, no matter what they may be, without evidence to back them up.

"Polar Bears are Drowning. Did you know that ice caps melting is causing extinction for homeless polar bears??? Just kidding, but some people seem to think so."

The EPA page which contains a chart that I will talk about shortly says that the sea level has risen between 4-8 inches in the last century, precisely because of melting polar ice and snow. [6] That's not a joke, just try to imagine how much ice would have to melt in square miles to rise something the size of the worlds oceans by half a foot. Beyond that, this is yet another example of the immature attitude conservatives exhibit towards very serious issues. It doesn't matter which side of the argument you are on, the action we take in either direction is going to have a significant impact on the environment and the economy, and not just at home, but globally as well.

The 4 Myths on Global Warming
The hunt for the weasel takes an expected turn when we follow yet another link, hoping to find some actual sound evidence and data that might support the contention that global warming is bunk, or at the very least, the four purported myths. [7]

The link removes us from the presence of the CNRC, thankfully, and lands us on a paper written by H. Sterling Burnett, environmental policy analyst with the
National Center for Policy Analysis. I'm not sure what qualifies a political analyst to make judgments on the science of global warming, but he took a swing, so I'll try to catch it.

Before I even get started, it's difficult to ignore the "fact" that this paper was written over nine years ago, a time before the worlds scientific community began to come to a consensus over the issue of global warming. I find little use in even reading the document, much less trying to verify the debunked myths, given the entire paper is based on data that, in just a couple of years, will be a decade out of date.

To look at them briefly, out of fairness, the first myth is that "Scientists Agree the Earth Is Warming". Given the age of the document, it's not exactly surprising to find that few scientists agreed on global warming in 1997. Only today are influential Republicans in Congress coming around to the evidence that is stacking higher every single day, indicating that not only will global warming result in irreversible damage to the planet in the near future, but that in some ways, the damage is already taking a significant toll. If conservative politicians are starting to come around, that's a pretty good indication that the scientific community at large has already made up it's mind on the issue.

The second myth, "Humans Are Causing Global Warming", is based entirely on polls which are also now many years old, and no longer accurately represent the consensus of the scientific community. The last two myths, "The Government Must Act Now to Halt Global Warming" and "Human-Caused Global Warming Will Cause Cataclysmic Environmental Problems" are also based entirely on data that itself is over eleven years old.

Just to prove how useless this paper is, because it's based on old data, the third myth claims that "Delaying action until 2020 would yield an insignificant temperature rise of 0.2 degrees Celsius by 2100." I looked up a chart created by the Environmental Protection Agency. It shows global temperature from 1880 until 2000, six years out of date itself. It shows that the global temperature went down by about 0.2 degrees from 1995 through 1997, with that downswing ending at precisely the time this paper was written. I can't be 100% precise, given the small size of the graph, but from 1997 through 1998, the global temperature rocketed upward by 0.6 degrees in about 1-1/2 years time. That chart proves, using data that's six years old, that everything in this paper is utterly useless.

Not one single "myth" has been debunked, and consensus is stronger than ever that global warming is real, and if we don't start treating our planet better than we have been, it's going to die, and us along with it.

This weasel hunt began with a group of college kids pretending to be climatologists, soon to pretend to be politicians no doubt, and ended precisely where I thought it would: near 10 year old propaganda from a conservative think tank that happens to be in lock step with the oil companies that fear being hindered by pollution controls -- because of profit and money. Evidently, profit is more important than putting the Eiffel Tower completely under water. I heartily disagree.

[Note: The EPA graph and Christopher's graph disagree. I go with the EPA as authorative.]
[1] Global Warming Myths Debunked,
[2] College Republican National Committee
[3] John Quiggin's weblog
[4] Honest, or effective? - John Quiggin
[6] Global Warming - Climate,
[7] Myths of Global Warming

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