Monday, March 23, 2009

Mooney on Will and Global Warming

Chris Mooney has a rebuttal to George Will's recent misleading articles on global warming in the Washington Post. It's a nice bit of debunking, particularly of the ice age myth, and of course the ten-years-cooling myth I've debunked elsewhere:

Will also wrote that "according to the U.N. World Meteorological Organization, there has been no recorded global warming for more than a decade." The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) is one of many respected scientific institutions that support the consensus that humans are driving global warming. Will probably meant that since 1998 was the warmest year on record according to the WMO -- NASA, in contrast, believes that that honor goes to 2005 -- we haven't had any global warming since. Yet such sleight of hand would lead to the conclusion that "global cooling" sets in immediately after every new record temperature year, no matter how frequently those hot years arrive or the hotness of the years surrounding them. Climate scientists, knowing that any single year may trend warmer or cooler for a variety of reasons -- 1998, for instance, featured an extremely strong El NiƱo -- study globally averaged temperatures over time. To them, it's far more relevant that out of the 10 warmest years on record, at least seven have occurred in the 2000s -- again, according to the WMO.

I'm of the opinion that this argument that there's no global warming because 1998 was so warm is more idiotic than any other denialist argument save the "Mars is warming" argument. Still, it was nice for Mooney to spell it out so that perhaps more and more people will see that. Mooney's last paragraph bears repeating as well.

Readers and commentators must learn to share some practices with scientists -- following up on sources, taking scientific knowledge seriously rather than cherry-picking misleading bits of information, and applying critical thinking to the weighing of evidence. That, in the end, is all that good science really is. It's also what good journalism and commentary alike must strive to be -- now more than ever.

Indeed, the professional liars in our media wouldn't stand a chance if every one of their viewers/readers checked up on what they said. Sadly, most don't, but then ironically claim they deal with facts instead of emotions. We don't have that luxury any more.


Anonymous said...

But what about the thousands of scientists and hundreds of institutions that are opposing global warming. Plus the global warming skeptics don't ever get any attention in media. We only hear about all the catastrophes coming because of global warming, never hear a thing about what the skeptics have to say, don't you think both sides should get the same amount of attention so they could equally debate? Skeptics are always shut down and looked downed at as if they were always unreliable sources, but why?


ScienceAvenger said...


There are at best hundreds of scientists who oppose global warming, very few of them in the relevant fields, and no scientific organizations that I know of that oppose it.

Global warming skeptics get a ton of attention in the media: Foxnews, Townhall and other outlets give them far more attention than they deserve.

No, both sides should not get equal attention, nor should they debate because science isn't done that way. The scientific debate is had in the peer-reviewed journals where scientists review each other's data, and there the global warming side has won hands down. The skeptics avoid, as skeptics of most established science avoid, the journals because they by and large do no experiments and have no data to offer. Now what we should do about it falls into the realm of politics, and that is where there should be debate. Skeptics are treated as unreliable because they mostly are: they tend to be nonscientists, or scientists outside their field of expertise, they do no experiments and produce no data, and they promote mutually contradictory explanations. These are all signs of crankery.