Unfortunately, he still doesn’t understand the gist of our complaint, but he does clarify a few issues.
I do not, and did not, deny the established fact — arrived at by extensive scientific research — that average global temperatures have increased by a bit less than one Celsius degree. My commentary was concerned with my amateur confusion about the myriad of natural phenomena that obviously bring about worldwide climate changes and whether we can properly assign the cause to anthropogenic influences. Yes, I’m aware of the massive release of energy — mostly heat — that we’ve produced by exhuming and burning oil, natural gas, and coal. We’ve also attacked forests and turned them into fuel by converting them into paper at further energy expense, paper that is also burned, in turn. My remarks, again, are directed at the complexity of determining whether this GW is anthropogenic or not. I do not deny that possibility. In fact, I accept it as quite probable.
One of the more pernicious tactics of denialists is not to outright take a stand and reject an established point, but to instead raise unfounded doubts where there are none of any significance — to falsely state that there is a respectable middle ground of “the scientists aren’t sure” when the science hammers home over and over again that they are pretty damned sure.
Yes, it is quite probable that global warming has a significant anthropogenic component. About as probable as the idea that HIV causes AIDS, species diversity is driven by evolutionary processes, and that the world is round. Sure, someone could reasonably suggest that there are other agents that cause AIDS (so find them already and show us the evidence), or that there are new mechanisms that drive biological change (yes, please, show us some evidence), or that…OK, no one is going to contradict the fact that the world is an oblate spheroid. What we know is that humans are pumping out greenhouse gases released from sequestered carbon sources and gently tipping the balance of solar heat retention towards more warming. No, Randi, we aren’t burning fuel and heating the world directly. That’s a red herring.
I’m a bit disappointed. This was a case where Randi ought to have either a) admitted simple error, or b) recused himself from the argument, citing a lack of information. Either would have been the responsible thing to do.
Or he could have taken Phil Plait’s approach, and simply linked to a site that beautifully refutes the AGW deniers chief claims. Randi chastises me for not consulting him before posting his criticisms, but I wonder if Randi ran his not-pology by Phil before posting it?
The one thing he shouldn’t have done is reaffirm doubt where it is undeserved. It reminds me of all the apologists for Uri Geller, who like to say that although he sometimes does a few tricks when he’s nervous, his powers are real whenever Randi isn’t around to intimidate him. Of course it’s possible — it’s just that the case has been made so strongly that Geller is a phony and that human CO2 emissions contribute to global warming that it’s disingenuous to argue for the exceedingly unlikely…especially when there are special interests out there eager to grab onto that glimmer of false doubt to continue to promote more self-destructive behavior.
I stand by my earlier objection. Randi has made a mistake that will make denialists gleeful, and his current denial of denial doesn’t change a thing.
But here, on a lighter note:
I should add that conditions that make the frigid north a bit more tropical do not bode well for Randi’s home in Florida.