A New and Productive Approach to the Climate Debate

John Horgan blogs at Scientific American on ‘Climate Change Facts Versus Opinions.‘ It’s a brilliant approach to the current state of the climate debate, in large part because of one key sentence Horgan writes: “So the list below, which is skewed toward issues I’ve written about, represents my opinion of what are facts and opinions.”

As it happens, I agree with most of his opinions on the facts of climate change. Where I disagree, it’s more because I think he should have added qualifiers to some of his statements of ‘Facts.’

For example, he writes as  a ‘Fact’, “FACT: As a result of increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide, global surface temperatures have increased by about one degree centigrade since 1880.”

If he were to rewrite it to get my agreement, he would only have to add the word ‘partially’ at the beginning of his sentence.

This is my introduction to John Horgan and I hope to read more of his posts and learn more quickly. Because this is the sanest approach I have seen to laying out the debate in quite some time.

That it appears on the Scientific American website is doubly refreshing. They have spent most of the past decade as a purveyor of some of the worst messaging about climate change imaginable. When they have been right they have been turgid, boring and hectoring. When they have been wrong, they have been stubborn, harmful and poisonous.

There’s hope for all of us.

SeeingTheLight

9 responses to “A New and Productive Approach to the Climate Debate

  1. I gave up on Scientific American after they published Mann’s “False Hope”. That article was terrible, it relied on the use of northern hemisphere data and subtle wordsmithing to imply what was being shown applied to global temperatures.

    • They lost me with their hyping of Carl Sagan’s “nuclear winter”. It was nothing more than anti-American claptrap dressed up as science.

  2. Just more deceptive shallow manipulation.
    Example 1)
    “FACT: Arctic ice and glaciers around the world have shrunk markedly in recent decades, although in 2014 “ice surrounding Antarctica reached a new record high,” according to NASA.” He deceives by only telling part of the story, and not well.

    Fact: Antarctic ice has been trending high for years now, not merely 2014.
    Fact: Arctic ice has not been in continuous decline
    Fact glaciers are highly dynamic, receding and growing over the last several centruies
    Fact: Most glaciers have been receding for over 100 years
    Fact: Historic records show Arctic sea ice is actually highly variable over decadal periods of time.
    Fact: Global sea ice (*Global warming”, recall?) has been flat.
    Fact: Evidence shows that many glaciers receding today were even more reduced in previous years

  3. Deception 2)
    “FACT: Sea levels have risen 6.7 inches over the past century as a result of human-induced global warming. This sea-level rise, which is accelerating, makes coastal storms more destructive.”

    Fact: Sea Levels have not significantly changed their rate of increase, about 3 mms per year in over 100 years, with small increases and decreases.
    Fact: There is no evidence that trend in sea level rise is changing.
    Fact: There is no trend of increased coastal erosion and, due to mankind’s use of levees, barrages, dikes, land fill, sea walls and etc., there is every case to be made that the amount of coastal erosion is decreasing.

  4. Deception 3:
    “FACT: Reasonable extrapolations from current trends suggest that unchecked fossil-fuel consumption will increase the risk of coastal flooding, droughts, severe storms, heat waves, food and water shortages and other harmful effects.”

    Fact: There are no worldwide trends in storm strength, storm frequency, storm destructiveness that show an increasing trend.
    Fact: There are no worldwide trends in drought, flood, cold or heat that show any destructive increasing trends.

  5. Deception 3:
    “FACT: A consensus of scientific experts believes that fossil-fuel consumption is driving global warming”
    Fact: So what? A consensus of scientists used to believe the Piltdown Man.
    A consensus of Soviet scientists used to believe Lysenko was right.
    A consensus of scientists used to believe in eugenics.
    A consensus of scientists appears to still believe in the debunked claims of John Ehrlich
    A consensus of scientists used to disbelieve in Plate Tectonics.

  6. Deception 3:
    “FACT: Some influential criticism of the scientific consensus on climate change has been motivated by pro-capitalist, anti-socialist ideology.”

    Fact: so what?
    For every dollar spent to critique the cliamte consensus, many hundreds are spent, as John Horgan can personally attest, on promoting climate fear.
    Naomi Klein is openly pushing her false claims about cliamte to manipulate people into joining her in an anti-capitalist crusade.
    In fact the “communication conference” John is attending is being funded from somewhere. Who is funding it?
    Certainly no one interested in a fact based dialog.

  7. “FACT: As a result of increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide, global surface temperatures have increased by about one degree centigrade since 1880. The 10 warmest years ever recorded—with the exception of 1998—have all occurred within the last decade. 2014 was the warmest year ever recorded.”

    As several commenters on the blog noted, the rise is eight-tenths of a degree, not one degree. 20% off is a wide miss of the mark.

    And exactly where does this business about the warmest years come from?

    What dataset is being used?

    Judith Curry has a good take on that here ->http://judithcurry.com/2014/12/09/spinning-the-warmest-year/

    I like her quote from Matt Ridley about the prediction of 2014 being the warmest year:

    “Yet this predicted record would be only one hundredth of a degree above 2010 and two hundredths of a degree above 2005 — with an error range of one tenth of a degree.

  8. A wise man once told me that we should never argue over facts. Sound advice. It has a corollary: Facts are things that we can not argue over. So although many of Horgan’s facts are indeed facts, some are not. So although I agree with Tom that “Where I disagree, it’s more because I think he should have added qualifiers to some of his statements of ‘Facts’” I would disagree with Tom’s implication that this is a quibble.

    But there is one important area where Horgan is even more badly off base. He writes “Reasonable extrapolations from current trends suggest that unchecked fossil-fuel consumption will increase the risk of coastal flooding, droughts, severe storms, heat waves, food and water shortages and other harmful effects.” To this, I would respond: FACT: there is no scientific justification for this list of consequences; they are just a bunch of propaganda.

    So maybe Horgan’s brilliance is using a smoke screen of reasonable statements to hide the usual claims. Or maybe Tom is correct that this is an honest attempt to restart a sane debate. For now I will withhold judgement.

    I think the key is how Horgan responds to criticism of his “facts”. So I guess I will see if I can post comments there.

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