The Mad World of Climate Change Denial
Book review: The Mad, Mad, Mad World of Climatism; Mankind and Climate Change Mania (by Steve Goreham, New Lenox Books, 2012)
(Note from Tony and Steve: Lois is a DLer and told us one evening recently about this absurd book that had been sent to her as an environmental chemistry instructor. We said, why don’t you do a book report? She did. Here it is.)
My father was fond of saying, “A lie sticks to paper as easily as the truth.” Another frequent phrase of his was, “Figures don’t lie, but liars figure.” One might say he provided my introduction to critical thinking and skepticism.
That was valuable training when one day at work I received (gratis, courtesy of the Heartland Institute) a Special Edition of The Mad, Mad, Mad World of Climatism (or MMMW). I’m a chemistry instructor at Normandale Community College and have taught a course in Environmental Chemistry for 15 years. A cover letter, signed by S. Fred Singer, urged me to read the book and pass it along to my colleagues. The main message seems to be that man-made global warming is a crock, an idea, according to MMMW, that is promoted through lies and scare tactics by environmentalists (for example, Al Gore!) who are getting rich on the scheme and are motivated by pure profit.
Following are a few examples of the arguments used along with my reaction to those arguments.
Without “settled science,” there can be no action taken
The book makes much of the concept that science is never settled. MMMW continually calls on that concept to support the notion that we can never know cosmic truth and, using this reasoning, it is best not to take any action based on the prevailing theory – another concept they love and misuse. This idea is tied in with the concept of falsifiability: the logical possibility that an assertion could be shown false by a particular observation or physical experiment. That something is “falsifiable” does not mean it is false; rather, it means that if the statement were false, then its falsehood could be demonstrated.
For example, prior to and since its adoption about 200 years ago, the law of conservation of energy has never been disproven and so it’s a well-accepted tenet of science. It would even be appropriate to use the phrase “the science is settled” when discussing the creation of energy out of thin air. It can’t be done. Period. No one has to subject it to further peer review.
To pseudoscientists, though, this notion of falsifiability gives carte blanche to disclaim anything they prefer not to believe. Similar to a creationist claim that since evolution is only a theory, creationist theory has equal scientific merit, a climate change denier will claim that the science supporting climate change isn’t yet settled (by their definition it never will be).
Carbon dioxide is green, says MMMW
Carbon dioxide, schmarben dioxide, or something like that, says MMMW. Gee whillikers, Mrs. Cleaver; everyone knows CO2 is plant food! And today’s CO2 levels aren’t even high, according to MMMW: “About fifty million years ago … geological evidence indicates CO2 levels were several thousand ppm, much higher than now. And life flourished abundantly.”
Unconvinced? “For those of you who believe that carbon dioxide is a pollutant, we have a special diet: water and salt!”
The polar bears are doing just fine
The polar bears have not contradicted that claim made in this book, but the evidence does. The polar bear population has indeed increased since the 1960s due to hunting restrictions that were imposed in the 1970s.The population has increased from 8-10,000 in the 1960s to 20-25,000 in 2009. The IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group reported in 2009 that of 19 bear sub-populations in northern regions, eight were declining, three were stable, one was increasing and the other seven didn’t have enough data to make a conclusion. The eight populations in decline reported in 2009 represents an increase in declining populations since 2005.
This is meant to be reassuring, somehow, that there’s no problem here. MMMW makes the point that polar bears have been recently seen in James Bay, at the southern tip of Hudson Bay. “You now have polar bears coming into towns, getting into cabins, breaking property and just creating havoc for people up here.” When this similar bear behavior occurs in Minnesota, it is an indication that the bears can’t find enough food to survive in their usual habitat.
Failed predictions give Climate Denial ammunition
MMMW cites examples of problems being handled successfully in the past, and use these to bolster their position by intimating that there was no problem in the first place. One failed prediction cited comes from Time magazine, January 1970: “By 1985, air pollution will have reduced the amount of sunlight reaching the Earth by one half.” A graph dated 2011 from the EPA shows that six air pollutants (including particulate matter, the one most responsible for solar shielding) have undergone a 57% decrease since 1980. Doesn’t it seem likely that passage of the Clean Air Act in 1970 had something to do with this prediction not holding true? Certainly, the prediction itself may have been exaggerated, but that doesn’t mean that the problem never existed.
There are many more references to the predictions of global cooling that were made in the 1970s. I think they included every reference they could find on this. Wouldn’t this be an example of science being a process that is self-correcting?
Another example comes from Carl Sagan who had this to say in 1985: “Few scientists now dispute that today’s soaring levels of carbon dioxide and other gases in the atmosphere will cause global temperature averages to rise by as much as nine degrees Fahrenheit sometime after the year 2000.”
The rise seems to be holding true, although again it has turned out to be an exaggerated claim.
Charts and graphs are adjusted to prove MMMW’s points
I found the original source for two (of the 54 or so) charts used in MMMW on the internet. I looked for these two in particular because the first is something I know a little about, having taught Environmental Chemistry for so many years, and I was particularly interested in it, and the second was one that I had trouble believing and I wanted to see if I could find the source.
The first one (page 130) is titled Comparison of US Growth and Air Pollution 1980-2009. The chart in MMMW shows five lines for us to compare over this time period with their net change noted in parentheses. 1. Gross Domestic Product (+118%), 2. Vehicle Miles Traveled (+97%), 3. Population (+35%), 4. Energy Usage (+21%), and 5. Six Air Pollutants (-57%). The point of including this chart in MMMW seems to be to show that even though the Gross Domestic Product increased during this time period by 118%, the level of air pollution decreased by 57%. So capitalism and an expanding GDP of themselves do not mean environmental devastation. (At least, not by this measure.)
Energy Usage (#4) shows a decline that begins at about 2005 on the chart in the book. So, although the overall increase is 21%, the line pretty much follows the population line until 2005, if this trend had continued, the energy usage would have been about the same as the population increase (35%). It seems this decline in Energy Usage is most likely a result of the economic depression that hit around 2005, although perhaps it could be a result of efficiency measures and such. Whatever the cause, an interesting aspect is that the original chart shows six lines for comparison – not the five lines in MMMW. The sixth line is CO2 emissions. The carbon dioxide line shadows the energy usage line as the EPA uses national energy data among others to provide an accounting of greenhouse gas emissions for man-made sources in the United States.
The second chart (page 119) I examined is titled Number of Strong to Violent Tornados in the US 1950-2010 with the explanation that the numbers of strong tornados have been trending downward from the 1970s. This one turned out to be in complete agreement with the source through 2010. However, in 2011 the number of tornados increased from around 44 to around 84. Why do you suppose that 2011 data point was omitted? The reference in the book is (NCDC, 2011) so perhaps the numbers just weren’t in yet. However, on the previous page there is a chart titled Global Accumulated Cyclone Energy 1972-2012 with a reference stating (Adapted from Maue, 2011). Go figure.
For a quick view of MMMW’s arguments and attitudes, take a look at the chapter topics:
- Leaders captured by false ideology, Chapters 1-2
- Down-to-earth science, Chapters 3-5
- Alarming claims, Chapters 6- 7
- Biggest whoppers exposed, Chapter 8
- Bad science and the role money plays, Chapters 9-10
- Shortcomings of renewable energy, Chapter 11
- You can’t make this stuff up!, Chapter 12
- Climatism Headed for a Crash, Chapter 13
Each chapter opening page has a cartoon illustration above the chapter title which is followed by a quote which apparently defends Climate Change Denial (CD). Five of those quoted are dead. Mark Twain is quoted twice, so six of the 13 quotes used come from those who are unable to explain their views of climate change.
Looking at this book from an environmentalist’s viewpoint, you can find useful information on how personal behavior has an impact on anthropogenic global warming. Here’s a list of the seven major lifestyle changes the author urges you to ignore:
- Your vehicle – electrify it!
- Your home – decarbonize it!
- Your business – green it!
- Your air travel – skip it!
- Your diet – veg it!
- Your family – downsize it!
- Your government and economy – change it!
This is a sampling of the sorts of things you can expect to see in this book if you ever decide to waste your time by looking at it. These examples are combined with denigrating the current efforts to increase energy efficiency, proclaiming all forms of renewable energy to be inadequate, using scare tactics of their own, and making absurd claims (“Actually, our current levels of airborne CO2 are on the low side.”) still do not give an exhaustive list of the codswallop you will encounter in these 246 pages. Oh, I forgot to mention that I also received a free DVD titled Unstoppable Solar Cycles; The Real Story of Greenland. I’ll leave the discussion of that for another day.
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