CATEGORY: ScienceTechnology

UPDATED: Why do liberals hate science?

That is…

Shikha Dalmia at Reason.com had a few things to say about liberals and their penchant for ignoring inconvenient evidence in an article entitled, “The Myth of the Scientific Liberal.” Since part of the subject matter involves climate disruption, I’m sure Brian Angliss would ordinarily have much of weight and merit to contribute, but alas, time is short and even Superman can only save one world at a time. So I’ll be pinch-hitting, if only to shine a little light on Reason’s oxymoronic dereliction of integrity.

From Dalmia’s unfortunate lapse of reason:

For two decades, progressives have castigated those questioning global warming as “deniers.”

But the Economist, once firmly in the alarmist camp, recently acknowledged that global temperatures have remained stagnant for 15 years even as greenhouse-gas emissions have soared.

This may be because existing models have overestimated the planet’s sensitivity. Or because the heat generated is sinking to the ocean bottom. Or because of something else completely.

How should a scientifically inclined liberal react to this trend? By inhaling deeply and backing off on economy-busting mitigation measures till science offers clearer answers.

For starters, I’d like to share a little tradition I picked up from Wikipedia: [citation needed]

Why? Well, good lucking finding that reference in The Economist. If you have better luck with the search, by all means please share a link. A domain-restricted Google search for stagnant, further limited to results from the last year since Dalmia claims the acknowledgment is recent, turned up nothing useful. A search of The Economist for articles on climate change disruption actually turned up a piece far more favorable to the overwhelming evidence for anthropogenic climate disruption. The closest thing I could find was a page of comments by one Mogumbo Gono, who, from what I can tell, isn’t actually affiliated with The Economist. Just who is Mogumbo Gono? Your guess is perhaps better than mine. My guess is just some person, at best, one that has registered to comment at a lot of websites, e.g., The Blaze. Make of it what you will.

A single, solitary reference would go far to substantiating Dalmia’s claim.

Secondly, Dalmia might want to look up cherry-picking.

Thirdly, Dalmia might want to look up single-study syndrome.

Perhaps the question isn’t, “Why do liberals hate science?” Maybe it should be, “Why does Reason hate rationality?”

Granted, I’m perhaps a rank amateur when it comes to critical thinking, but isn’t there something absurd about re-branding reason with this kind of nonsense? What other errors can you spot in Dalmia’s exercise in logical fallacy?

—-

Update

Thanks to Sam (in comments), we now have a link to the Economist article in question, “A Sensitive Matter.”  I apologize for my earlier sloppiness in not catching it. Sure enough, insofar as this may well be the article referenced by Dalmia, the first graf reads:

OVER the past 15 years air temperatures at the Earth’s surface have been flat while greenhouse-gas emissions have continued to soar. The world added roughly 100 billion tonnes of carbon to the atmosphere between 2000 and 2010. That is about a quarter of all the CO₂ put there by humanity since 1750. And yet, as James Hansen, the head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, observes, “the five-year mean global temperature has been flat for a decade.”

This might just solve the [citation needed] quandary. Of course, it does nothing to dispel my dismay at the presence of no less than two serious logical fallacies (cherry-picking and single-source syndrome) in Dalmia’s piece, especially since they serve to make the case that it’s the liberals who are intellectually dishonest on the issue.

But it gets so much better than this! As I understand it, Dr. Hansen is held in high esteem for his extensive work in climate science (thank you once again, Brian, for making such a wealth of information readily available). So when his words appear in what might be a truncated quotation out of context, I can’t resist the siren call of Google. Surely, if this is a verbatim quote I should be able to find something that will ease my perplexity. Neither Google nor Dr. Hansen disappoint.

Lo and behold, in Despite Rising Carbon Emissions – Global Mean Temperatures Have Been Flat, by Phil Covington at TriplePundit, we find:

In fact, the quote above which appeared in The Economist is actually incomplete. Hansen’s report actually says, “The five-year mean global temperature has been flat for a decade, which we interpret as a combination of natural variability and a slowdown in the growth rate of net climate forcing.”

Then, after a brief explanation of climate forcing, Covington continues:

The Hansen report concludes that despite the slowdown in climate forcing effects, background global warming is continuing. The report says the 5-year running mean global temperatures may largely be a consequence of the first half of the past decade having predominantly El Niño (warming) conditions, while the second half had predominantly La Niña (cooling) conditions. The report also notes we have been in a period of a prolonged solar minimum – in turn having a cooling effect.

In addition, and this is important, the report points out that even though an observed flattening of temperatures has occurred, the “standstill” temperature is nonetheless at a much higher level than existed at any year in the prior decade except for 1998 (a strong El Niño year). Bottom line; the planet is still hotter.

It is therefore dangerous and incorrect to conclude that recent flattening of surface temperatures means climate change is over. Furthermore, the short period of observed temperature flattening is hardly a significant time scale in order to signify a change in trend. The University of Reading study (mentioned previously), shows actual temperatures are clearly trending in an upward direction since 1950 when their data begins. [emphasis added]

What’s the tally now? Dalmia at Reason engages in argument from authority by relying on the credibility of The Economist to make her point.  By failing to adequately cite, she also, unintentionally or otherwise, obscured the failings of the source. Then it turns out that The Economist starts out strong with a misrepresentation of Hansen’s analysis, which Dalmia either failed to catch or just failed to pass along for consideration. Whatever other flaws or merits The Economist exhibits, what remains is that Reason can’t seem to be trusted to reason when it comes to politically inconvenient facts.

If Reason’s credibility can be so easily brought into question on this one issue, on exactly what can they be trusted as a resource?

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Image credit: Daniel Lobo. Licensed under Creative Commons.

7 comments on “UPDATED: Why do liberals hate science?

  1. Shikha Dalmia’s educational background is:
    “Dalmia, who taught news writing courses at Michigan State University, earned a Master’s degree in mass communication from Louisiana State University. She also holds a post graduate diploma in journalism from the Indian Institute of Mass Communications.” http://reason.org/staff/opeds/shikha-dalmia.html

    It’s obvious that she knows very little about real science, but that won’t stop other Global Warming Deniers (who also don’t know any science either) from parroting the usual denier nonsense.

    As for the denier myth that “global temperatures have remained stagnant for 15 years”, try:
    The “Global Warming Stopped in 1998” Lie
    http://www.durangobill.com/GwdLiars/GwdGlobalWarmingStoppedIn1998.html

  2. I’ve posted a graph at http://www.durangobill.com/TempPictures/NHLandOnly.jpg that shows Northern Hemisphere land only temperatures up thru March 2013. (Data source is http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/cmb-faq/anomalies.php then click on “The Monthly Northern Hemisphere Land Temperature Anomalies (degrees C) )

    A comparison with NOAA “land/sea” temperature records (chart at http://www.durangobill.com/GwdLiars/GWDNOAAstopped1975.jpg – data from the same website as above) is of interest as land/sea data is mostly controlled by ocean temperatures while land-only minimizes the oceanic effect.

    1) There is more month to month temperature variation in the land only data. This is basically obvious as the temperature in Chicago is going to vary a lot more than it does in Hawaii.

    2) The rate of temperature increase has been much more rapid in the land only observations as opposed to land/sea. It takes a long time for thousands of feet of water to warm up so there is a major lag in the change in ocean temperatures.

    3) Temperatures have continued to warm more rapidly in recent years over land areas as opposed to the land/sea data. Land temperatures the last 5 years have been consistently warmer than what was observed in 1998 or in the early part of the last decade.

    What has been happening the last few years is that there has been an increase in the amount of mixing of warm surface water in the oceans with deeper cool water. This cools off surface water and the air directly above it. The continuing rise in sea level (see http://ibis.grdl.noaa.gov/SAT/SeaLevelRise/LSA_SLR_timeseries_global.php ) is a simple measure of what is really going on in the oceans. Sea level couldn’t rise unless there was an inflow of water from melting glaciers and general thermal expansion.

    P.S. Congrats to Frank for following through with his research.

  3. Whether pollution causes global warming or not, we need to reduce pollution.
    Climate change isn’t our only risk: there’s also the fact that huge quantities of smog make it hard to breathe, and that polluting oceans kills the fish that we [might] eat, and that cutting down trees kills animals’ habitats…
    Pollution should not be a political issue. It is a scientific and ethical one.

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