The worst conservative science columnist, ever?

A tip-off from G, whose habit of trawling the dark and smelly places of the web hauled up Common sense on global warming from the deeps where it had been deservedly sunk. The follow-up A dilettante debates the scientists is amusing too, as the self-described "autodidact, polymath, and armchair philosopher" sets to work demolishing himself (the "twin paradox" section is wonderful).

Most of the post is an appeal to the "dumb america" fallacy (I ought to hat-tip someone for this, but can't remember where I got it from - please remind me someone): the idea that while all those scientists may have degrees and big computers and spent years studying the subject, they simply don't have any common sense and so you, Mr or Mrs Joe, can work out what is going wrong by applying a "smell test".

And how does the post itself fare on a "smell test"? It leads off, instead of with facts, by presenting us with the opinions of someone unknown. And why should we trust them? Aha, because they were "once an enthusiastic environmentalist" but have now seen the light (not one on Tim Lamberts global warming bingo, but perhaps should be...)

Next, the near-obligatory Allegedly, the meteorologists were nearly unanimous in their predictions of global cooling. Well, no, this just isn't true: see my page and/or follow the links (via "new visitors") to the wikipedia or RealClimate pages.

After a few more irrelevencies aimed at slanting the discussion in the Readers mind, Hutchinson continues with a truely astonishing disply of ignorance: Although neither nitrogen or oxygen has an influence on the greenhouse effect, for some reason CO2 is assumed by environmentalists to influence the greenhouse effect so as to cause global warming. We are all waiting for an explanation of how CO2 differs from nitrogen and oxygen in its influence on the greenhouse effect. Um, well, I know the answer? Do you? Pause for a moment and try to work it out.

The answer is given right up front at wiki:Greenhouse Gas so its rather odd that H has failed to find it: its because O2 and N2 are diatomic, so don't absorb in the infra red. Getting this wrong is so stupid it doesn't even make it onto TLs list either... (and lest any of my readers not have known the answer, and think I'm getting at them... no: there's nothing wrong with not knowing the answer; there is everything wrong with not knowing, but presuming to prate about it in public). Googles #3 hit for greenhouse effect (here) also explains this, but as far as I can see #'s 1 & 2 don't so maybe H stopped his "research" a bit early.

Next, some twaddle, ended by ...contrary to the warnings of the global warming Cassandras. So we can add ignorance of classical myths to his sins: he is apparently unaware that Cassandra was correct but ignored.

The global warming theorists are worried about a runaway greenhouse.... No, not a mainstream prediction at all. Has H read *any* of the research? Probably not.

An inane section on the GHE, apparently blaming it all on clouds (and making the common mistake of thinking that the atmospheric GHE and the thing that keeps real greenhouses warm are the same - they aren't: greenhouses work primarily by confining the layer of warmed air).

But enough nonsense. If you actually want some links that explain stuff, then:


are a good start.

[Small update: ER points out in the comments Homonuclear diatomic. Heteronuclear diatomics such as CO or HCl absorb IR fiercely. I think he's right; I'd better update the wiki page (why didn't ER, eh eh?) -W]

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What I don't understand is: why do you care what Fred Hutchinson thinks? The man is obviously wrong on several counts. So what? Nobody of sound judgement puts any faith in him, he's not influencing the scientific debate in any way, and even if some Christians read him and believe him -- so what? They're probably goners anyway.

Attempting to swat down uninfluential skeptics is a waste of time you could better spend doing research.

[This may well be a Good Point. I haven't got a clue who reads anyway. Certainly not me :-) -W]

You know, everyone says to leave the obvious crackpots alone, don't waste your time on them, there's no point to refuting what everybody already knows is false…and then one day you wake up and the crackpots are your representative, your governor, your president.

Really, if no one addresses the "obvious" falsehoods, there will be people who read them and assume that because no one answers their assertions, maybe they're right.

Remember, Alan Keyes (the guy responsible for RenewAmerica) got 27% of the vote in Illinois. That means that a quarter of the population is capable of reading Fred Hutchison and thinking he might have a point. A quarter of the population is not something that should just be ignored.

Please continue to take on the crackpots, it is not a waste of time. The late Dixy Lee Ray was about as crackpot as you can get, but she wrote two books that were best sellars, and many of her ideas were promoted by Rush Limbaugh and others. Some of her claims, for example that CFCs are "too heavy" to reach the stratosphere, are still believed by many people. You have a gret blog, keep up the good work.

The author also distort's what Kristof wrote:

Kristof continues to support protecting the environment, including action on global warming. But he disagreed with some of what the environmental movment was doing. Alas, the essay is badly written, and much of it is just plain wrong. In addition to the claims about global cooling he repeats the claim that DDT is not being used against malaria, which is completly false.

[Ah, the ref to Newsweek. Its irritating that somehow the enviro's get blamed for what Newsweek made up. Incidentally, theres more of it at my pet site - W]

I have seen this phrase "global warming Cassandras" before. I don't think you should reveal what it really means until the septics run with it a bit more, you know name a website with it or something. Maybe GWB will use it in the next SOTU speech. THEN hit them with it! You've got to start thinking like the enemy, even if they don't think...or..(how would that work...?)

Good that you let people know "there's nothing wrong with not knowing the answer" but too funny how this guy assumes "I don't know, so no one knows". That would *never* happen on sci.environment...

His conclusion is all you need to know to understand the depths of the idiocy:

The burden of proof lies with those who claim that CO2 gas has a greenhouse effect, because they have presented no understandable mechanism or process that explains how CO2 gas in the atmosphere increases heat on earth.

[emphasis added]

Nooooo, it's the other way 'round.




'Cassandras' is used quite a bit, and is the new preferred marginalization phrase now, after the drop in popularity of 'chicken littles'.



It's Cassandras now rather than chicken littles because the more less loony skeptics have all been convinced that there is some degree of AGW happening, but have decided that since nothing really terrible is likely to happen during their personal lifetimes they will just ignore the problem. I suppose if it turns out they're wrong about that we'll get the blame for not being sufficiently persuasive.

By Steve Bloom (not verified) on 09 Mar 2006 #permalink