John Moore on Global Warming

Fibs, Frauds and Whoppers

How the debate over global warming ever became an angry partisan affair, I will never know. Somehow it has become a hard right talking point that global warming is a hoax perpetrated by liberals. In reality the theory of global warming and man’s role in it is widely accepted both on the right and the left. It is acknowledged by every reputable scientific organization, government and corporation in the world including the United States where the official position reads: “warming of the climate system is unequivocal”. That’s not a political stance someone was forced into as a vote getting scheme; it’s the government’s official position. The deniers make a lot of noise but they are a dwindling population. What they have succeeded in doing is making enough of a fuss that a lot of lay people throw up their hands and say “how the heck should I know?”
I receive several e-mails a day from people indignant about the fact that I have said the debate over global warming is over. Almost every one of these e-mails mentions one or more factoids that are in fact provably wrong. So I decided to put together a point by point summary of the favorite talking points and why they are wrong. Regular listeners will know that my show isn’t about partisan politics or ideology. It’s about reason and evidence. I don’t care if the left likes gun control. The question has to be “does it work?” (no). I don’t care that mandatory minimum sentencing is a right wing pet, I ask the same question (and the answer again is no).
Here then are some of the greatest hits in the denier universe

* Global warming is just a theory. This is a deliberate confusion of the meaning of hypothesis and theory. A hypothesis is an idea. A theory is an idea that holds up to experimentation and on-going analysis. The theory of global warming is based on 150 years of experimentation and observation. There are many things we don’t know about global warming but there are a lot of things we don’t know about cancer and I’ll take the science we have for now.

* Science is not done by consensus. True. We don’t put scientists in a room, hold a vote and then decree that whatever 50% plus one vote for is uncontestable science. But the work of scientists does tend to converge as more and more is learned about a given phenomenon or field of study. Known science is always open to challenge, in fact scientists are natural contrarians. But as studies and experiments add up in support of a given theory the weight of evidence becomes more and more persuasive. In every field of study there are counter theories but the more convincing and well supported theory will always be the one to beat. There remain researchers who don’t think HIV is related to AIDS but until they come up with some compelling evidence we don’t give them equal time at AIDS forums. For the record, an effort at establishing how many relevant scientists (weathermen and sociologists don’t count) do not subscribe to the established theory of global warming estimates dissent at about five percent.

* We’ve had a cold winter, that’s proof that global warming is a myth. Actually no. We have had a very uncharacteristic winter which bolsters the idea that we’re messing with the planet’s climate. Northern Europe has had an uncharacteristically warm winter (sometimes 9 degrees above average). If you review global weather records for the last few years the one thing you’ll notice is the aberrations: out of season tornados, cyclones and snowfalls, record heat, record cold, record rain and flooding. Global warming isn’t about the temperature going up a few degrees it’s about the planet’s equilibrium being thrown out of balance. Does it really make sense that so many records are being broken in such a short period of time?

* Sunspots cause global warming. This is a popular one but it ignores that the executive summary of the most important sun spot study reads “Solar activity affects the climate but plays only a minor role in the current global warming.” In the movie The Great Global Warming Swindle they deliberately dropped twenty years from their graphs to hide the fact that when sun spot activity declined, global warming continued.

* In the 1970’s they were warning us about global cooling. Global cooling was floated in one book written by a crank named Lowell Ponte. No legitimate scientists ever signed on to the theory, no research ever backed it up and the only reason we know about it is because a few panicky media outlets decided to do scary reports about it (and because deniers can’t get enough of this one). One book isn’t exactly 150 years of research and four international symposiums. Incidentally Ponte also warned that gravity was diminishing and the moon would soon fly away.

* There isn’t a consensus, Scientists are being suppressed, There is a petition of scientists denouncing global warming. These three arguments are necessary to any willful denier because of the troubling fact that so many of the world’s scientists appear to subscribe to the theory. The only explanation as to why so many scientists could be in agreement about something that isn’t true would be that that they have been forced into it. Scientists are free to say whatever they want. Timothy Patterson at Carlton is very vocal in denouncing global warming and he hasn’t lost his job. The whole history of science is about upsetting the apple cart and challenging the establishment. In spite of the fact that the right wing media have produced endless articles, columns and TV specials about global warming being nonsense they always seem to come back to the same tired old contrarians. Is it really credible that in a field of study that brings together hundreds of thousands of people there are only about a half dozen men brave enough to give interviews? Some are even the same paid shills hired by big tobacco in the 80’s to deny that smoking causes cancer. The most famous of these is Fred Singer who was behind the March 2008 summit in New York on global warming denial. Singer STILL denies that smoking is linked to cancer. There have been two famous petitions that purport to represent an outcry from dissenting scientists. Efforts at fact checking these petitions established that most of the signers were either not scientists, didn’t exist or were people who were unaware that their names appeared on the petition. One of the signers was Dr. Gerri Halliwell who apparently used her time away from the Spice Girls to earn a PhD in microbiology.

* Al Gore’s movie has been debunked. A handful of statistics and contentions in the movie have been proven inaccurate but the judge who was asked to rule on the veracity of the movie wrote that it was “broadly accurate” and that it was “based substantially on scientific research and opinion”. The idea that the whole movie should be junked because a few figures turned out to be wrong would be like arguing that an entire newspaper is not to be believed because there are a couple of things that will be corrected in the next morning’s edition.

* Whatever happened to acid rain? This argument is offered as evidence that every few years the media and environmentalists come up with a bogus crisis that eventually fades because it isn’t true. Actually, far from being an example of a mythic environmental threat acid rain is an example of how government and business can tackle threats without doing serious harm to the economy. Brian Mulroney negotiated the Canada U.S. acid rain treaty, business signed on and acid rain was brought down to manageable levels. For this and for being one of the first world leaders to sign an international agreement on global warming Brian Mulroney was presented with an award as Canada’s greenest Prime Minister. Right wingers love that Mulroney got that prize because it flies in the face of the impression that the political right is indifferent to the environment. Oddly enough they never want to get into the details of why Mulroney won it.

* The IPCC is run by bureaucrats who tweak its reports to scare people. Actually the IPCC’s most recent report was tweaked by bureaucrats from the U.S., China and Saudi Arabia to water down the conclusions of scientists. The actual predictions are much more serious then the world’s chief oil addicts would like you to believe. A few of the scientists involved in the final report have problems but since when does a group that brings together thousands of people not have a couple of members with complaints? The IPCC has met four times now to review all relevant research in the field of climatology. If tens of thousands of the world’s scientists disagree with the established theory why can motivated media never come up with more than the same handful of dissenters? Surely there would be a daily outcry from enraged scientists.

* Scientists have to subscribe to the established theory to keep their grant money coming in. This conspiracy theory requires that you believe that for the last 150 years generations of scientists have been collectively faking it because the only money available to them is from sources that require the established theory be maintained. Exactly what would be the motive here? Governments and corporations would actually prefer not to have to face the challenges and costs of global warming. If they were simply commissioning research to prove what they WANT to believe, they’d be laying out the money for the dissenters. Quite conversely to this line of reasoning, in the U.S. insisting a little too hard on global warming can actually be harmful to your career.

* Greenland used to be green, England used to have vineyards. The idea that Greenland was some kind of paradise is widely disputed but even if it were true the climate in one small area of the planet doesn’t amount to much. As for England’s vineyards: England has always made wine. It still does. We don’t hear much about it because it’s awful.

* C02 constitutes a very small percentage of the atmosphere. This is one of those arguments that relies on people not really knowing a heck of a lot about science. Sodium constitutes a fraction of your body while chlorine is an extremely small component of the contents of a swimming pool. Try doubling both and see how much fun you have.

* The models are wrong. Modeling is a very small part of climate change science. Lots of scientists dispute the usefulness of models. That doesn’t prove that the established theory isn’t accurate it merely means we cannot make precise predictions about outcomes.

* Global warming stopped in 1998. This is actually a deliberate lie that makes it very clear that the deniers have to resort to making things up in order to score points. Owing to El Ninya, 1998 was the hottest year on record. This means you can cross your fingers behind your back and say “1998 was the hottest year, it’s been colder every year since then.” Here’s a little graph to illustrate:

* You don’t have a right to tell me I’m wrong. There’s a growing indignation amongst deniers about being told they are wrong. Hey, believe whatever you want but please don’t try to pretend that there’s some rights issue that means provably wrong arguments and junk science have to be treated as having the same worthiness as legitimate science.

* David Suzuki is a jerk, Al Gore is fat. So what’s your point?

Is the science still open to challenge? Sure all science is. But there comes a time when you have to acknowledge the weight of the evidence and begin working from those conclusions. The hard core deniers don’t actually consider the evidence. They’re engaged in a never ending game of whack a mole, constantly trying to come up with new reasons why proven science can’t be right. I know that I’ll be inundated with e-mails from people who, while not being scientists are experts in the ‘urban heat island effect”, water vapor and the temperature on Mars. Any argument to keep alive the idea that the planet’s greatest scientific minds are wrong and a bunch of cable and talk radio gabbers are the only truth tellers.

The internet, talk radio and cable have insulated global warming deniers from the reality that their numbers are dwindling and allowed them to sustain the belief that beyond these media there continues to be a vigorous debate over the very existence of global warming. In fact governments and corporations have moved to the next level in the debate which is what to do about climate change.

Apply Occam’s Razor to the issue of global warming and ask yourself: is it really credible that the world’s scientists, governments, media and corporations are all involved in an elaborate hoax? Or is the more believable scenario that the established theory is correct and well supported?

John Moore. March 10, 2008.

3 Comments on "John Moore on Global Warming"

  1. Tacnet November 4, 2009 at 8:14 pm ·

    + We should be more concerned about Global Warming and Climate Change because Typhoons are getting much stronger and there are greater incidence of Flooding. take for example the recent Typhoon Ketsana which devastated some countries in South East Asia.

  2. Beautiful Girls Gallery January 3, 2010 at 4:52 am ·

    Global warming is becoming such an obvious problem that someone somewhere other than the US President needs to step up to help drive a massive campaign which aims to reduce Global Warming.

  3. John January 15, 2012 at 6:12 am ·

    Global warming didn’t exist according to the big oil corporations before a certain date in the past decade (I don’t reckon exactly when). George W. Bush, the then US President, would say so too.

    Suddenly it became a “real” issue to them…

    Previous comment seem to mean there was no Typhoon until recently because there was no global warming.

    Earth is alive and has always been.

    John Moore, “the theory of global warming and man’s role in it is widely accepted” there was many times more CO2 in the atmosphere not so long ago and life existed on Earth.

    Meanwhile, there are taxes all over the world now to fight carbon emission. I wish it was a joke.

    No carbon, no life.

    When will begin the anti-oxygen campain ?
    (Did you know breathing too much oxygen is indeed dangerous to the humain body?)

Comments are now closed for this article.