A Dozen Reasons Why a Former CNN Executive Producer for Science Doesn’t Understand Doubters of Manmade Global Warming

March 18th, 2009 by Roy W. Spencer, Ph. D.

The following editorial appeared on the Huffington Post website today (italicized entries, below)…and I couldn’t help but give the writer some of his own medicine (my responses not italicized, & in parentheses).


By Peter Dykstra

A dozen reasons why climate change deniers are the way they are:

No, there aren’t only a dozen reasons, but some are bigger than others. Scientists and climate change advocates are constantly amazed and appalled at how durable the climate change denial machine is. Here are some of the varied reasons.

1) Compassion fatigue: No one really denies world hunger, but we sure are good at turning away from it. People have been hearing about climate for two decades now, and they’d really not think any more about it.

(Americans give more to charity than any country in the world, and they are perfectly willing to help out…when there is a REAL crisis. They are not so crazy about supporting those who profit off of imaginary ones.)

2) Stigma: Pick one guy and stick with him as the personification of evil. That would be Al Gore, who plays the same role for climate that Jane Fonda did, and still does nearly 40 years later, for Vietnam. Jane has admitted that she made a huge mistake by posing with the North Vietnamese, and neither her multiple apologies, the fact that she was right about the war, nor the otherwise-accepted concept of Christian Forgiveness will ever let her off the hook for millions of Americans.

(Stigma? You mean like labeling us “deniers”? Or “flat-Earthers”? Or “corporate toadies?” Or “Holocaust deniers”?)

3) Dogma: Those who talk about climate change are the same ones who occupy the tenth circle of Hell for many Americans: Politicians, the Media, Scientists, Educators, Hippies, and Showbiz types. So it’s a moral imperative to be agin what they’re for.

(If the shoe fits….)

4) Fear Factor: Losing your SUV, or ATV, is more of a fright than phenology (the effect of climatic changes on the seasons), or melting permafrost, or polar bears.

(Losing liberty over a theoretical threat is the main concern here (no one has ever been killed by manmade global warming…because there is no way to distinguish manmade warming from natural).

5) Manufactured denial: Marc Morano is a Senate staffer for James Inhofe, the Oklahoma Republican who’s said that climate change is a “hoax.” In that role, Morano’s been the Drum Major of the denial parade. The Marc Moranos of the world function for climate the way that Johnnie Cochran functioned for OJ Simpson: Raise enough shreds of doubt, even if you do it in reckless and theatrical ways, and climate change can win an acquittal, or at least a mistrial no matter how strong the rest of the evidence is. (It was reported last week that Morano’s career as a public servant will soon end, and he’ll take the denial machine to the private sector).

(I think a better analogy is one person, Marc Morano posting information…maybe with some spin…versus hundreds or thousands of journalists who are doing the same thing on the other side. Are those odds still not good enough for you?)

6) Devotion: The corollary to not believing anything Al Gore and his ilk is that you must believe everything that a crackpot like Glenn Beck says. [Blogger’s Note: The word “ilk” is a very special one. A nonscientific Googling of the terms “Al Gore” and “Ilk” yielded 705 results. “Al Gore” and “Antichrist” got 693 hits, but that’s misleading, since the “Antichrist” in question in many of those hits was either Hillary or Obama, and Gore was just mentioned as a henchman.]

(Actually, WE are the ones who tolerate a variety of theories for what causes climate change. We just don’t believe the first place you should look is in the tailpipe of an SUV, or up some bovine orifice.)

7) Lack of backbone in Senior Editorial Management: A long-gone CNN boss of mine once told me that he hesitated about climate change stories. If he had his doubts about a diplomacy story, he said, he could get Henry Kissinger or Madeleine Albright on the phone to explain it to him. But for climate, he said he was “stuck” with only me.

(WHAT? You mean there are MORE ways to be killed by global warming than the 37 that we’ve already heard about??)

8 ) Current events: The Gallup poll just released that shows an increase in the number of Americans who think that climate fears are “exaggerated” also points out that this always happens with many secondary issues when the merde hits the fan –9/11 or Depression tend to make issues like climate seem less important. They also get covered less.

(Yes, there is something about real death and suffering that concerns reasonable people somewhat more than science fiction documentaries.)

9) Credentials: Peer review means nothing to the general public. And it’s unreasonable to expect a casual reader to make a huge distinction between a respected and peer-reviewed climate scientist like Steve Schneider, and the “coal monkeys” (Schneider’s term) who staff the Denial Labs.

(We have peer reviewed science, too, but it is you journalists who don’t have the backbone to report on it. How convenient.)

10) Frank Luntz: Go to www.ewg.org and read the 2003 memo from the peerless Republican consultant. It counsels that manufacturing doubt is the only way to avoid losing the battle. In an interview at last year’s Heartland Institute’s Deny-a-Palooza, Morano claims he’s never read the Luntz memo. Which, if true, means that a superstar political consultant wrote a memo for his party on the environment, and the party’s most prominent environmental spokesman has managed to ignore it for six years?

(Tell me again…who is Frank Luntz, and what does he have to do with me?)

11) Ideology: Environmentalists often make the mistake of tarring all skeptics with the same brush. Not everyone’s on the take from Exxon and Peabody Coal. Not by along shot. But policy fixes to climate change are absolutely toxic to many freemarketers and libertarians.

(“Policy fixes to climate change” is like saying, “let’s outlaw gravity”.)

12) Ossified science: William Gray, the hurricane guy, is the best example of an old-line scientist who has complete contempt for any science that’s not generated in a lab or on a chalkboard. He’ll go to his grave not believing in any global warming, nor anything else that relies on computer models for its science. Chris Mooney’s book “Storm World” tells this story very well.

(Actually, I think Bill Gray has the best answer to ultimately what causes most climate fluctuations, including global warming (and cooling): changes in ocean circulation. In fact, we now have satellite evidence that a major mode of this kind of change – the Pacific Decadal Oscillation – has caused most of the warming we’ve seen in the last century. But don’t look for it in the news when it finally gets published.)

So there’s a dozen reasons for denying climate change, and I didn’t even mention

(So, there’s a dozen reasons why a journalist can be misinformed on climate science, and I didn’t even mention Athiests.)

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