Confronting climate cranks

February 6, 2011 | By | 9 Replies More

Mark Hertsgaard at The Nation is offering some reasons for stepping up and confronting climate denialists:

“You want specifics? By the time she is my age, [my daughter] Chiara may well not have enough water to drink here in California, because much of the Sierra Nevada snowpack will have melted. Children in today’s Washington, DC, are likely to witness in the course of their lifetimes sea level rise combine with stronger storm surges to regularly ring the Jefferson and Lincoln memorials with moats and submerge half of the National Mall. By 2050 the record heat that made the summer of 2010 so wicked will become the new normal in New York City and much of the East Coast. Overseas, the impacts will be punishing as well, especially for the poor. In Bangladesh, sea level rise is already making the soil and water in southern coastal regions too salty to produce decent yields of rice, the staple crop for hundreds of years. Meanwhile, the inexorability of sea level rise ensures that many such low-lying areas worldwide will have to be evacuated, unleashing vast streams of climate change refugees. Military experts warn that this will pose not only humanitarian challenges but recurring threats to peace if the refugees attempt to cross national borders.”

An important step in the process is to avoid referring to climate cranks as “skeptics.”

Don’t rely on our media to rise to the occasion. The protocol of mainstream news coverage leads Washington journalists to refer to these people as climate skeptics. They’re not skeptics. They’re cranks. True skepticism is invaluable to the scientific method, but an honest skeptic can be persuaded by facts, if they are sound. The cranks are impervious to facts, at least facts that contradict their wacky worldview. When virtually every national science academy in the developed world, including our own, and every major scientific organization (e.g., the American Geophysical Union, the American Physics Society) has affirmed that climate change is real and extremely dangerous, only a crank continues to insist that it’s all a left-wing plot.


Category: Environment, global warming

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (9)

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  1. Tony says:

    I don't think ad hominem attacks and alarmism is the way to go.

    And for example, I guess you could provide something to back up the claim for stronger storm surges, don't you? Because I consider myself not impervious to facts and try not to repeat something as facts just because someone with authority said so. YMMV.

  2. Tony says:

    One more thing: When "military experts" warn of something, they usually have their own imperial agenda in mind (See WMD for reference. You didn't forget that, did you? Colin Powell having his show at the UN? Remember how he too was talking about "facts"? Oh boy did he had fact. How easily we are fooled). These military guys don't care about your well-being and they certainly don't give a hoot about the fate of the climate – or the earth, for that.

  3. MikeFitz17 says:

    Erich: Thanks for posting this article. It's a great read. I plan on ordering Hertsgaard's book as soon as possible. We need more voices in the media speaking truth to power and spotlighting the lies and distortions of the carbon lobby and the hacks and cranks on its payroll.

    It's highly worth noting that the United States is the only industrialized nation in the world where a major political party holds as one of its cardinal principles that global warming/climate change is a hoax and that efforts to mitigate it should be sabotaged.

    I think the blame for this can be heaped on the alliance formed under Ronald Reagan between fundamentalist/evangelical Christians and the Republican Party. That alliance drove out Republican moderates, ensuring the GOP's increasingly rightward turn toward the batshit crazy wing personified by Michele Bachmann and other Tea Party activists.

  4. Erich Vieth says:

    Tony: I'm not a scientist, but I am highly concerned when I see data like this:

    Every day, people are convicted of felonies beyond a reasonable doubt based on far less evidence than this.

    If the charts from the Wikipedia article were labeled "pounds" rather than "degrees," you'd have no trouble seeing the horrifying trend that the subject was quickly and dangerously becoming obese. If you noted that food intake was commensurate with the increase in pounds, you'd have no trouble at all concluding that overeating was causing the weight gain.

    These charts aren't assembled by biased members of the military (or by Colin Powell, who committed one of the most shameful acts in history by giving his speech before the U.N.). Rather, these measurements are being gathered independently from a variety of sources, and they all point in the same direction.

    Yes, perhaps the earth will start cooling tomorrow, and we'll have 10 years of continuous global cooling. Who do you know who would be willing to make a hefty even-odds bet based on that possibility? I'd like to sell each of them a big chunk of the moon.

    Truly, do you know any odds-maker who is willing to take a bet that the earth will be getting warmer for the next 10 (20, 30) years?

  5. Tony says:

    Sorry, I don't have time for a proper reply, but:

    1. Yes, I've heard of thermodynamics. You don't need to dumb down science for me in order for me to understand it, and I can find Wikipedia myself, thank you very much.

    2. I asked a specific question: Whether you could back up the storm intensity claim.

    3. Do you know what problems exist with the instrumental temperature records? And with the temperature proxies? Just to name two problems. I wouldn't put to much faith in the graphs. Huffing and Puffing that this is science and any doubt is an attack against science makes it even more a religion, in my view.

    4. Can you tell me the climate sensitivity to CO2? Without feedbacks? And with feedbacks? I would bet that climate science has got the last one wrong.

    5. There are other ways we fuck up the climate (both local and global) and the earth and I assure you, from my point of view, CO2 is not the problem.

    • Erich Vieth says:

      Tony: I assume that you are claiming that the dramatic changes in climate data have absolutely nothing to do with the immense amount of CO2 being released into the atmosphere by humans?

      Are claiming that there is nothing interesting/concerning going on with Earth's climate?

      If you claim there IS something interesting/concerning, how about suggesting something that might be causing it. If you don't want to write it out, just send a link.

  6. Tony says:

    And while we are at it: I have reduced my weight from 94 kg (@1.72cm) in November to 82 kg today, I can tell you that the overeating/thermodynamic "explanation" of why we get fat is simply wrong – and it doesn't explain anything. There are antinutrients in wheat (Lectins/WGA and gluten, to name the most known ones) and potatoes (glykoalkaloids) that not only fuck up metabolism, but the digestive, hormone, immune and central nervous systems as well. Staying hungry does not help against those, simple explanations don't proof anything.

  7. Dan Klarmann says:

    Cranks come from all walks of life, like an astronaut: Moon walker, climate change denier.

    That link does show one of the pieces of evidence that is cited by, yet if examined belies the deniers.

  8. Jim Razinha says:

    I meant to post this earlier before the virus took me down:

    New Republic: The Wilting Climate Change Debate

    And if Republicans want to gloss over the scientific evidence, there's not much Democrats can do about it. Representative Bobby Rush, of Illinois lamented that no actual scientists had been invited to the hearing; Republicans had mainly summoned industry representatives to complain about the costs of carbon rules. And, in his own opening statement, an exasperated Representative Henry Waxman of California tried to warn his fellow Republicans, "You do not have the power to rewrite the laws of nature." Maybe so. But now that they have a majority in the House, Republicans certainly have the power to ignore nature.

    No kidding.

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