Welcome to the Wingnut Parallel Universe Part 1: Climate Change
I decided to start writing my first series. Here I will discuss just how wrong the American far right is, and in many cases, this will also apply to the far right around the world as well. Wingnuts, in particular American wingnuts, spout falsehoods, so extreme, so far from reality, they may as well be talking about a different universe entirely from the one that we live in. For those of you who don’t know, the term wingnut, is American slang for a Far Right loon.
I think I will start with climate change / global warming, since I haven’t covered that topic in awhile. Its also a very important topic that the US media doesn’t seem to care enough about, particular because our future well being, and the well being of our decedents will depend on us solving the problem. We know for a fact that the temperature is slowing rising, the sea level is rising and the polar ice caps are melting. Regardless of these somewhat terrifying facts, the American far right is full of climate change deniers, including Donald Trump, who is currently running for president on the Republican ticket. He basically said that the idea that human beings are contributing to global warming by pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, is nothing more than a conspiracy by the Chi Coms to make it so America can’t compete in the global economy, and no I’m not joking. He really did tweet that, back in November of two thousand twelve.
Never mind that not only is there overwhelming evidence that climate change is real, and heavily exacerbated by humans, but such a plan, if it were to work, could easily end up backfiring on China. After all, wouldn’t people outside of China start to demand that the Chinese curb their carbon emissions, as well? Last we checked, they’re pretty high, and its not like people outside of China don’t notice that. As Zhu Liu, at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs pointed out, in “China’s Carbon Emissions Report 2015”
In 2012 China was the largest contributor to carbon emissions from fossil fuel burning and from cement production. With 8.50 Gt CO2 in in carbon emissions from fossil burning and cement production in 2012, China was responsible for 25 percent of global carbon emissions. China’s cumulative emissions from fossil fuel burning and cement production from 1950–2012 were 130 Gt CO2.
The magnitude and growing annual rate of growth of China’s carbon emissions make this country the major driver of global carbon emissions and thus a key focus for efforts in emissions mitigations. This report presents independent data on China’s carbon emissions from 1950–2012, and provides a basis to support mitigation efforts and China’s low-carbon development plan.
In addition, the Chinese Government would’ve had to fool or bribe scientists outside of China. Otherwise the foreign scientists wouldn’t have much of a motive to help their conspiracy, especially the ones who live in the US. What would American climatologists have to gain from making it so that their country couldn’t compete? There’s no way the Chinese government could fool, bribe, or terrorize them all. The Chinese communist party may not be known for being respectful of human rights, but there’s no way they could terrorize even a negligible number of scientists, outside of China into going along either. In addition, American politicians would have no desire to help China destroy America. President Obama has spoken out on the threat of climate change multiple times. What possible motive would Obama have to help China destroy his nation’s ability to compete with them? It’s safe to say that Trump’s laughably absurd conspiracy theory is so unlikely as to be completely outside the realm of possibilities. It’s so ridiculous, in fact, that under pressure, Trump himself was smart enough to back down from the claim that China is trying to trick us into thinking that global warming is a threat. Yet according to Louis Jacobson at Politifact, he still thinks its not really happening.
So Trump has said his 2012 tweet was a joke. However, he has used the word “hoax” repeatedly in describing climate change, although he doesn’t always fault China. (For the record, in 2014 we rated the claim that climate change is a “hoax” Pants on Fire.)
Most recently, on Dec. 30, 2015, Trump told the crowd at a rally in Hilton Head, S.C., “Obama’s talking about all of this with the global warming and … a lot of it’s a hoax. It’s a hoax. I mean, it’s a money-making industry, OK? It’s a hoax, a lot of it.”
That’s three times using “hoax” in one sentence. Trump has also used the word on Twitter since that 2012 tweet.
On Jan. 25, 2014, Trump tweeted, “NBC News just called it the great freeze — coldest weather in years. Is our country still spending money on the GLOBAL WARMING HOAX?”
Even if Trump really was joking about China being behind global warming, he still seems to think it is a hoax. He is rejecting reality. Unfortunately the idea that climate change is just a hoax is too far fetched to be true. I am no fan of Donald Trump, but this really isn’t something we would want to be real. That said, there’s no way that nearly the entire scientific community could be in on the conspiracy. The overwhelming majority of scientists will tell you that climate change is a serious problem, and that human beings are causing it by pumping green house gases into our atmosphere.
As John Cook, at Skeptical Science, a website devoted to debunking climate change deniers, illustrated bellow,
A new survey of over 12,000 peer-reviewed climate science papers by our citizen science team at Skeptical Science has found a 97% consensus among papers taking a position on the cause of global warming in the peer-reviewed literature that humans are responsible.
That was back in 2013, but we have little reason to think that the numbers have changed much since than. If the scientific consensus radically shifted on climate change, within a period of only a few years, it would have made front page headlines, worldwide. Cook eventually goes into more detail on these statistics, and the percentage of scientists, especially climatologists who have changed their views over the years.
Based on our abstract ratings, we found that just over 4,000 papers expressed a position on the cause of global warming, 97.1% of which endorsed human-caused global warming. In the self-ratings, nearly 1,400 papers were rated as taking a position, 97.2% of which endorsed human-caused global warming.
We found that about two-thirds of papers didn’t express a position on the subject in the abstract, which confirms that we were conservative in our initial abstract ratings. This result isn’t surprising for two reasons: 1) most journals have strict word limits for their abstracts, and 2) frankly, every scientist doing climate research knows humans are causing global warming. There’s no longer a need to state something so obvious. For example, would you expect every geological paper to note in its abstract that the Earth is a spherical body that orbits the sun?
This result was also predicted by Oreskes (2007), which noted that scientists
“…generally focus their discussions on questions that are still disputed or unanswered rather than on matters about which everyone agrees”
However, according to the author self-ratings, nearly two-thirds of the papers in our survey do express a position on the subject somewhere in the paper.
We also found that the consensus has strengthened gradually over time. The slow rate reflects that there has been little room to grow, because the consensus on human-caused global warming has generally always been over 90% since 1991. Nevertheless, in both the abstract ratings and self-ratings, we found that the consensus has grown to about 98% as of 2011.
Percentage of papers endorsing the consensus among only papers that express a position endorsing or rejecting the consensus. From Cook et al. (2013).
Our results are also consistent with previous research finding a 97% consensus amongst climate experts on the human cause of global warming. Doran and Zimmerman (2009) surveyed Earth scientists, and found that of the 77 scientists responding to their survey who are actively publishing climate science research, 75 (97.4%) agreed that “human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures.” Anderegg et al. (2010) compiled a list of 908 researchers with at least 20 peer-reviewed climate publications. They found that:
“≈97% of self-identified actively publishing climate scientists agree with the tenets of ACC [anthropogenic climate change]”
In our survey, among scientists who expressed a position on AGW in their abstract, 98.4% endorsed the consensus. This is greater than 97% consensus of peer-reviewed papers because endorsement papers had more authors than rejection papers, on average. Thus there is a 97.1% consensus in the peer-reviewed literature, and a 98.4% consensus amongst scientists researching climate change.
Now we should avoid the argument from authority fallacy, but we’re not talking about just anyone here. We are talking about experts in their field of study ( climatologists ) arguing that carbon dioxide is a green house gas that is warming our atmosphere at an alarming rate.
One of my country’s most arrogant and usually wrong, talk show hosts, Rush Limbaugh, also speaks of climate change as if, it isn’t real and is all just some big hoax designed to destroy capitalism and bring about more and more government tyranny. Just listen to what he has to say, in this old clip from one of his radio shows, that was snagged by Media Matters.
Rush, was unsurprisingly wrong on this as well, given the overwhelming scientific consensus that we’ve just discussed, it only makes sense to believe what he says, if you believe that he knows better than the people who study the climate for a living. I also find it far fetched, to say the least, that someone like Bill Gates would despise and want to destroy capitalism. Of all the people to be involved in a global anti capitalist conspiracy, he seems like one of the least likely to me. But of course Gates accepts the facts about climate change, so as far as Rush is concerned, he must either be in on the conspiracy, or at least a useful idiot for the conspirators.
Now some at this point, may point to John Coleman, one of the founders of the “Weather Channel” who doesn’t believe that humans are responsible for the world getting hotter. He thinks far too many people, including the media, and vast majority of scientists have “drunk the Kool aid of of global warming.” First off, there are some scientists who are creationists, in spite of the overwhelming consensus on evolution. That doesn’t give us a good reason, to doubt evolution, especially since many of those scientists who are creationists, are often not working in a relevant field. John Coleman isn’t a climatologist, he’s a meteorologist. According to Jason Samenow at The Washington Post,
To begin, Coleman hasn’t published a single peer-reviewed paper pertaining to climate change science. His career, a successful and distinguished one, was in TV weather for over half a century, prior to his retirement in San Diego last April. He’s worked in the top markets: Chicago and New York, including a 7-year stint on Good Morning America when it launched. If you watch Coleman on-camera, his skill is obvious. He speaks with authority, injects an irreverent sense of humor and knows how to connect with his viewer.
But a climate scientist, he is not.
Climate and weather are not the same thing. Let’s let, Neil deGrasse Tyson explain as he did in this clip from the Cosmos Reboot. I’ve used this clip in the past, to power own climate change deniers before, but he does a much better job explaining the difference than I could, so I might as well use it again here.
Some genuine scientists are denying that carbon dioxide causes the temperature to rise, however, they’re usually in an irrelevant field of study, or they turn out to be working for businesses that would stand to lose big from regulations designed to limit carbon emissions. If climate change was not real, but especially if it were a hoax, you would not expect the typical scientist who expresses skepticism of global warming to fall into either of those two categories. While John Coleman may simply not know what he’s talking about, Wei-Hock Soon appears to have been bribed to make the data fit a desired result. As Wonkette’s Doktor Zoom discovered,
In what could turn out to be helpful news for the reality-based community, a new trove of documents show that one of the leading “scientific critics” of global warming has been funded directly by the fossil fuel industries. Wei-Hock Soon, who goes by “Willie,” has traded on his position as a part-time employee of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics to present himself as a legitimate scientist who’s simply not convinced that human activity is responsible for climate change, which has made him very popular with conservative groups and politicians. But documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request show that his research was directly paid for by industry sources, to the tune of over $1.2 million. Worse, he’s published at least 11 papers that failed to disclose those payments, a serious no-no in scientific ethics.
This is far from the first time that people in charge of big business engaged in science denial for their own gain, at the expense of people and the planet. For the longest period of time, cars in the US, ran on leaded gasoline, and they would most likely continue to do so if not for Clair Patterson, who exposed the dangers of Ethyl-Poisoning. Yet Du Pont fought him every step of the way. If Big Lead had its way, we would have never begun phasing out lead in gasoline, in spite of the health risks, and people would continue to think that copious amounts of lead in the atmosphere were just natural. Why should we assume Big Oil would be any different? Why should things be any different when it comes to climate change, if the financial motive for the fossil fuel industry is strong enough? In fact it isn’t. The oil industry feared global warming, even as it denied the science behind it to the public. Amy Lieberman and Susanne Rust writing for the Los Angeles Times, pointed out,
A joint investigation by the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism’s Energy and Environmental Reporting Project and the Los Angeles Times earlier detailed how one company, Exxon, made a strategic decision in the late 1980s to publicly emphasize doubt and uncertainty regarding climate change science even as its internal research embraced the growing scientific consensus.
An examination of oil industry records and interviews with current and former executives shows that Exxon’s two-pronged strategy was widespread within the industry during the 1990s and early 2000s.
As many of the world’s major oil companies — including Exxon, Mobil and Shell — joined a multimillion-dollar industry effort to stave off new regulations to address climate change, they were quietly safeguarding billion-dollar infrastructure projects from rising sea levels, warming temperatures and increasing storm severity.
From the North Sea to the Canadian Arctic, the companies were raising the decks of offshore platforms, protecting pipelines from increasing coastal erosion, and designing helipads, pipelines and roads in a warming and buckling Arctic.
The industry contends that the difference between its public relations effort and its internal decision-making was not a contradiction, but a strategy to protect its business from misguided federal regulations while taking into account the possibility that the climate change predictions were valid.
While the misnamed, “Friends of Science” is a Canadian anti science organization, their arguments are pretty much identical to ones put forth by American climate change deniers. Contrary to them and their ridiculous ad campaign, climate change never stopped, and its main cause is not the sun. Now we should read something that a genuine climate scientist has said about that via the website RealClimate.
As regular readers here will know, the big problem for blaming the sun for the recent global warming is that there hasn’t been a trend in any index of solar activity since about 1960, and that includes direct measurements of solar output by satellites since 1979. Well, another paper, has come out saying exactly the same thing. This is notable because the lead author Mike Lockwood has worked extensively on solar physics and effects on climate and certainly can’t be credibly accused of wanting to minimise the role of solar forcing for nefarious pro-CO2 reasons!
Stefan was quoted in Nature as saying this is the ‘last nail in the coffin’ for solar enthusiasts, but a better rejoinder is a statement from Ray P: “That’s a coffin with so many nails in it already that the hard part is finding a place to hammer in a new one.”
Based on their website alone, “Friends of Science” is hardly a pro science organization. As you might have guessed, Source Watch, has some rather interesting things to say about them. Skeptic Phil Plait ( Aka, the Bad Astronomer ) has also took them on. He called them Orwellian for claiming to be “Friends of Science”, and I happen to agree with him.
Climate change denial isn’t just a thing that’s limited to American or Canadian conservatives. Emil Karlsson recently wrote an article for his Debunking Denialism, taking on a far right Swedish politician who also insists that the claim that carbon dioxide causes climate change is a lie.
The Sweden Democrats (SD) is a far-right populist and anti-immigration political party in Sweden. With its roots in Swedish Neo-Nazism of the late 1980s and early 1990s1, it has no resemblance to the Democratic Party in the United States. In fact, they are more similar to the British National Party and during the past 20 year it has tried to white-wash its image in various ways. In the last election (2014), they received almost 13% of votes and became the third largest party in Sweden. Recent opinion polls indicate that their numbers are rising. Many political commentators think that this is due to the recent election debacle, where neither the left or the right achieved majority and SD threatened to vote against any budget regardless of origin (and did so once) unless they were given strong influence on immigration. This led the other parties to create a cautious truce called the December Agreement, whereby they would not vote against the budget delivered by the largest coalition. Some voters considered this to be a betrayal and may have shifted allegiances to SD to voice their disagreement.
Recently, Josef Fransson (industry-political spokesperson of SD) and SD-supporter Sandra Palenryd (secretary at Halmstad Hylte) wrote an ignorant screed (webcite) against mainstream climate science and got it published as a letter to the editor in a local newspaper called Hallandsposten (“The Halland Post”). It regurgitates many of the same climate denialist assertions that have been refuted a thousand times before. It is noteworthy, however, that the official position of one of the largest political parties in Sweden is so deeply anti-scientific (they even go so far as to deny the existence of a current warming trend) and how this risks influencing public policy depending on the results of the next election. It would be a disaster if Sweden had its scientific research and reputation so easily undermined by unreasonable forces like SD.
Josef Fransson sounds disturbingly like Trump, in that he’s anti science, he’s a climate change denier, and most likely a racist, just like Trump.
Another similarity between the two is that Karlsson has also debunked Trump on his beliefs about global warming, along with a few other baseless things he thought were true.
Contrary what climate change deniers may believe, there is ample evidence that carbon dioxide really is a green house gas. The evidence that the carbon dioxide that we’re pumping into the atmosphere is causing the planet to heat up, is overwhelming. In response to the question, “How do we know that carbon dioxide causes climate change?” Coby at ScienceBlogs writes,
The simplest thing to say to that, is “go read the IPCC report”. It is very thorough and very meticulous. (See the latest one here, but I encourage beginners to use the more convenient HTML format of the 2001 report here (even though it is out of date on many details). But because my visitor did specify “in my own words” (pop quiz!) and it is a good question when sincerely posed, I will try to lay it out below.
The very first thing to note about a response to a CO2 rise, is that an increase in the temperature of the global climate is completely expected.
We are all familiar with that basic scientific process where we examine the known properties of a system, observe or surmise a change of some sort, and then formulate an expectation based on an hypothesis, right? In the case at hand (and using a very broad brush), the system is the earth/ocean/atmosphere; the known properties are those of radiative gases, thermodynamics and electromagnetic radiation; and the change to the system is a slow and inexolerable increase in the amount of CO2 in the air. The next step is usually to perform an experiment and thus confirm or deny your hypothesis when your expecations are or are not met. Unfortunately, there is only one planet and one timeline to move it along, so that is out.
Fortunately, we have gone ahead and run that experiment on this one and only home planet of ours during our one and only chance to make our one and only human history! (Did I just say “fortunately”??).(image courtesy of Global Warming Art)
So, because we know that CO2 is a radiatively active gas that allows the shortwave (visible) radiation from the sun into the climate system and slows that same energy down on its way out as longwave (infrared) radiation, we quite clearly expect that adding more CO2 will raise the average temperature of the earth’s surface. This has been expected for over 100 years! So, just like the internet, Al Gore did not invent Global Warming. (Also like the internet, Al Gore didn’t really claim to, but that’s a different story…)
In 1896, Svante Arrhenius wrote a paper on this very idea. You can follow the long, slow evolution of Anthropogenic Global Warming theory that followed at Spencer Weart’s most excellent “History of Global Warming”. Scientists have been improving our knowledge and watching closely for generations now.
If anyone here still wants to argue, that anthropogenic climate change is a lie, or that global warming is not that big of a deal after reading all this, watch this video by youtube skeptic CoolHardLogic, on what is currently happening to the La Mer de Glace in the French Alps.
It could get even worse, actually. The worst mass extinction in Earth’s history, was the Permian Triassic mass extinction, more commonly referred to as The Great Dying, aptly named, since it almost led to the Earth becoming a sterile rock. It was caused by volcanic eruptions, that released tons of carbon dioxide. The Siberian Traps nearly destroyed all life on Earth. Horrifically, something like it could happen again, thanks to human beings pumping artificially high levels of greenhouse gases into the air. Beth Geiger explains why we maybe putting life itself in grave danger, if we don’t stop what we’re doing.
After the Great Dying, Earth slowly came back to life. After all, there were a few survivors. They became the ancestors of many new plants and animals, including the dinosaurs. The Great Dying cleared the way for some seriously successful newcomers.
Among them would be people. But to remain a successful species, people should heed lessons from that ancient period, the scientists now argue. After all, don’t climate change and ocean acidification sound eerily familiar? They are happening again, right now.
Just as during the Permo-Triassic extinction, today’s changes are caused by extra carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Only this time, much of the carbon dioxide is coming not from Siberian volcanoes but from people burning carbon-rich fossil fuels.
Clarkson says that in the early 1800s, Earth’s oceans had a pH of 8.2. Since then, human activities have pumped lots of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Ocean pH has already fallen to 8.1. “It’s projected to fall another 0.3 to 0.4 pH units by the end of this century. That’s 0.3 to 0.4 in 300 years,” he says. That’s enough to cause serious damage to animals that depend on building shells, and to predators that eat those animals.
At that rate, by the year 2400, the oceans may become acidified by the same amount seen in the Great Dying — when nearly every living species on Earth went extinct.
Thankfully we may be talking only about the worst case scenario here, if don’t do anything to solve the problem. There maybe some mitigating factors, such as increased plant growth sucking up more carbon dioxide, that could last at least for awhile, but it won’t be anywhere near enough unless we change what we are doing.
This should make it obvious as to why the government needs to be concerned with how much carbon dioxide is coming out of your SUV’s tailpipe, and why Rolling Coal is a bad idea, and makes you look like you don’t care about the well being of the world, in addition to your health. Wouldn’t be surprised if people who like to do that to their vehicles to protest the “tyranny” of environmental regulation, ignore what the Centers For Disease Control has to say, either.
Contrary to what some people in America and around the world believe, and contrary to what I myself would like to believe, climate change is a real problem and human beings are causing it. We will only be able to solve that problem when enough people around the world are able to accept that fact, and make the changes necessary to ohave an impact. If we deny the facts and act like we’re living in the wingnut parallel universe where there is no global warming, than things will only get worse, possibly much worse until we face reality.
In part two I will discuss guns, and gun control. Unlike in the wingnut parallel universe, guns do not reduce violent crime. Further, we do not need guns to stop our government from becoming a totalitarian dictatorship.