We’re happy to see a headline in the Wall Street Journal that matches our slogan, via the Hitchhiker’s Guide of course, with a hat tip for the idea to Scruffy Dan. “Don’t panic” we urge. “Things could get worse, and it’s best if we keep a level head.” That’s what we mean. So we should be gratified that today, the Wall Street Journal feature sixteen prominent people, who have cosigned an article entitled “No Need to Panic About Global Warming!”
Yes! Print coverage for P3! Woo-hoo!
No, no such luck. So what do these stars of the naysayer pantheon, Dick Lindzen, Claude Allegre, Nir Shaviv and the rest mean by “No Need to Panic”?
It turns out, if you read the article carefully, that it means next to nothing at all. It’s all spin meant to justify policy inaction.
Consider the opening advice to our future president: “Candidates should understand that the oft-repeated claim that nearly all scientists demand that something dramatic be done to stop global warming is not true.” I don’t know about “dramatic”, but it is the position of (ahem) this journal that it is incerasingly necessary to be decisive and serious. But this sentence, which is actually a suitable basis for argument, is immediately, in the very next sentence, spun into “In fact, a large and growing number of distinguished scientists and engineers do not agree that drastic actions on global warming are needed.” Now we’ve gone from “dramatic” to “drastic” and we still have a vague claim of “a large group” and a highly dubious one of “growing”.
This sort of vague and dissembling claim is beneath the dignity of any scientist. Yet we find no fewer than sixteen signatories, who have in their topic paragraph issued what amounts to a literal claim of nothing more than “it is excessive to be excessive” (certain) and “a growing number of scientists agree” (highly dubious if phrased like that – all scientists already agree to obvious tautologies, after all.
In the next paragraph, though, we hit paydirt. The article speaks approvingly of Ivan Ivar Glaever, who publicly resigned from the American Physical Society (APS) with a letter that begins: “I did not renew [my membership] because I cannot live with the [APS policy] statement: ‘The evidence is incontrovertible: Global warming is occurring. If no mitigating actions are taken, significant disruptions in the Earth’s physical and ecological systems, social systems, security and human health are likely to occur. We must reduce emissions of greenhouse gases beginning now.’ In the APS it is OK to discuss whether the mass of the proton changes over time and how a multi-universe behaves, but the evidence of global warming is incontrovertible?” I fail to see the contradiction here. The evidence allows what it allows and disallows what it disallows. I have no opinion about the evidence about the mutability of proton masses, but if someone credentialed and competent tells me it’s debatable, I’ll defer to them. But “global warming is occuring” is simply a well-supported measurement. The rest of the statement is couched in probabilistic terms, “likely to occur”. This is also strongly supported by multiple streams of evidence, but is not claimed as incontrovertible.
Looking further down the page, we probably shouldn’t even dignify the endless abusive misconstrual of Kevin Trenberth’s “The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t.” That one is left as an exercise for the reader. Go Google it.
And so on, recycling the tired and empty memes of the bunkosphere. Even Michelle Bachmann get’s an implicit shout-out in a short sentence suitable for her, ahem, argumentative style: “The fact is that CO2 is not a pollutant. CO2 is a colorless and odorless gas, exhaled at high concentrations by each of us, and a key component of the biosphere’s life cycle.”
The height of hubris, though, comes in the claim that we are Lysenkoists.
This is not the way science is supposed to work, but we have seen it before—for example, in the frightening period when Trofim Lysenko hijacked biology in the Soviet Union. Soviet biologists who revealed that they believed in genes, which Lysenko maintained were a bourgeois fiction, were fired from their jobs. Many were sent to the gulag and some were condemned to death.
OK. I find myself sorry I used up my lifetime supply of public F-words on Steve Mosher. Go climb a tree, jerks. You want Lysenkoism, how about this episode from the Bush Administration. #%$#%^$#!!!
Then there are the signatories. A few of the affiliations are impressive, but I think you will find that most of those are associated with emeriti. And some are just completely irrelevant to climate. An engineer, a business-school type (who has long since made a fool of himself on this issue), an astronaut.
Planet3.0 does not intend to give the more absurd denialists more space than they deserve, but when they manage a piece in the Wall Street Journal, it’s worth sitting up and taking note of how far we have fallen.
As is common regarding this and other matters, the WSJ op-ed page gives space to arguments that are egregiously irresponsible. What is most striking about this piece is not its irresponsibility. We have come to expect that.
What is striking is how much viciousness and palpable malice are expressed, and how they are complemented with utter intellectual incoherence. The deniers are reduced to what amounts to essentially senile paranoid blithering, and the leading paper of the financial sector gives them the imprimatur of a featured slot for it.
This obviously doesn’t carry much weight for those informed in the matter who may read it carefully, but newspapers are largely designed for people’s cursory attention. The casual reader will see an impressive list of signatories and some extreme accusations. Of course, some of the casual readers of the Wall Street Journal tend to be influential.
There’s a lot of talk of how much damage a few notorious oil billionaires have been doing, but if history needs a villain-in-chief for this sorry episode in history, it is just as likely to be Rupert Murdoch.