Monday, December 21, 2009

Blowing Harder

Behold the recent trifecta of climate change denial know-nothingness.

First there was half-term Gov. Sarah Palin's screed, rushed into print without seeming benefit of any fact-checking by the WaPo. What will she write about next? The Large Hadron Collider and the mysteries of dark matter?

Next was Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) who, despite stiff competition for the title, can fairly lay claim to being the Most Embarrassing Member of the US Senate. Inhofe threatened for months to lead a "truth squad" to the Copenhagen Conference, but in the end showed up as a truthiness squad of ... himself, with no real plan, no meetings with delegates ... nothing. His aides cobbled together some reporters whom Inhofe addressed from the top of a staircase, inveighing against the "hoax" of global warming. Asked one reporter, “If there’s a hoax, then who’s putting on this hoax, and what’s the motive?” Inhofe responded that it was "perpetrated on the world by the UN" and sold to Americans "by the Hollywood elite." The European press, unlike many of its US counterparts, did not give such unsupported ravings equal time with the peer-reviewed findings of scientists. Said a reporter from Der Spiegel, "that's ridiculous. You're ridiculous."

Finally, we have Sean Hannity of Fox News in a momemt of unintentional lucidity during a bombastic exchange with former Education Secretary Bill Bennett on climate change and SwiftHack:
Why would a scientist -- and I have really not gotten a satisfactory answer from anybody -- why would scientists risk their careers and their reputations to lie and manipulate data if there wasn't some agenda? And if they are, and there is an agenda, what is it?
Here's a quick lesson in logic for Hannity called modus tollens:
If Scientists lie and manipulate data
Then Scientists have some agenda
Scientists do not have some agenda
Scientists do not lie and manipulate data
There is ample evidence to discredit the SwiftHack allegations for what they are--a smear campaign--but without even getting into those details, the whole notion fails any analysis of cui bono: to whom is the good, i.e. who benefits? It is easy to see how one side benefits: the constellation of carbon spewing industries, their funded "think" tanks, advocating pols and sycophantic press apologists. On the other side the scientists ... benefit how? No wonder Hannity cannot get "a satisfactory answer."

I'm no expert on climate change but, unlike the nincompoops quoted above, at least I can research sources and weigh competing viewpoints based on their logic, reasoning, veracity of sources, use of verifiable facts and appearance of conflicts of interest. Ultimately, however:
Most of us, most of the time, are like historian and blogger Josh Marshall: "The fact that the vast majority of people with specialized knowledge in the field think there's a problem is good enough for me," he wrote. "I can't be knowledgeable about everything. And I'm comfortable with the modern system in which the opinions of really knowledgeable people with expertise counts more in cases like this than people who know nothing at all."
If I had a medical condition I would seek the advice of doctors, not politicians or millionaire TV infotainers. I also wouldn't decide what to believe based on a poll. If the Earth doctors (climatologists) tell us in overwhelming numbers that the planet is ailing and intervention is necessary, why would we not trust them? They owe allegiance to their profession and to the truth, rather than, to paraphrase Upton Sinclair, to those who pay their salaries.
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