I have previously tut-tutted over a Paul Sheehan opinion column, but his February 1 effort reaches a whole new level of objectionable. I should have passed on reading it, I know that. I should have just let it slide by, knowing that it would just angry up the blood, but still I was drawn in. I guess it’s not really surprising – making bold claims that are derided as idiocy by some and lauded as speaking truth to power by others is how opinion writers earn their keep. Eyeball share is what matters, not thoughtful arguments and considered judgement. Why do you think I get so few visitors to this blog? 😉
But, since I did read Sheehan’s piece, I find myself compelled to retort. I can’t compare to other, more informed and better written rebuttals (sorry, no link – you’d just read them instead of staying here), but I think I can add a little to the mix.
I like lists. I don’t use them much, but there’s a great deal of satisfaction in working your way through, ticking them off as you go. You get a real sense of progress. Such a sense is illusory here, because I’m not doing anything productive. Still, at least I’ll get it off my chest.
Sheehan constructed his column around his own list of ten “anti-commandments”, ten so-called facts about global warming that apparently have been ignored by those ivory tower alarmists. To quote Sheehan:
All these anti-commandments are either true or backed by scientific opinion. All can also be hotly contested.
An interesting combination of sentences. Note he doesn’t say they are relevant, because to do so would be to open him up to ridicule. Actually, that’s going to happen anyway. Also, he doesn’t say which scientific opinion is doing the backing-up. That’s quite important. Last, I think it’s funny that he’s using the escape clause of hot contention – that way he can still maintain the anti-commandments are true, despite any evidence to the contrary. It’s a pre-emptive attempt to reduce counter-arguments to the status of opinions, and implies an equality between his claims and any counter-claims. It’s a debating trick. Anyway, on to the list. Remember, these are supposed to be “about global warming“.
- The pin-up species of global warming, the polar bear, is increasing in number, not decreasing.
Misleading, if not downright false. The overall population has increased since hunting was reduced, sure, but now more sub-populations are decreasing than previously – half of them – and only one is increasing.
- US President Barack Obama supports building nuclear power plants.
Irrelevant to the science, though relevant to the politics of mitigation. I don’t even know why it’s on the list.
- The Copenhagen climate conference descended into farce.
Again, irrelevant to the science.
- The reputation of the chief United Nations scientist on global warming is in disrepair.
Irrelevant, because he’s referring to Dr Pachauri, the administrative chairman of the IPCC. If he had meant the actual principal authors of the IPCC reports, it’s false. Dr Pachauri looks like he’s a corrupt, venal, hypocritical wanker, but that changes not one iota of the science.
- The supposed scientific consensus of the IPCC has been challenged by numerous distinguished scientists.
Numerous? More like a few dozen, and that’s by being generous with the adjective “distinguished”. It’s true that people like Dr Richard Lindzen and Stephen McIntyre are credible sceptics doing important work in the basic research and statistical analysis of climate change respectively, and have made important contributions to the debate. However, the scientific consensus is built on thousands of scientists’ work over decades, and every week more is done that supports that consensus, while at best a few papers a year find contrary evidence.
- The politicisation of science leads to a heavy price being paid in poor countries.
This is so weird. Sheehan is bringing up DDT! Can anyone tell me what this has to do with global warming and climate change? If anyone is interested in this bizarre right-wing contrarian shibboleth, I suggest you visit Tim Lambert’s blog Deltoid.
- The biofuels industry has exacerbated world hunger.
This one is true, sort of, but again totally irrelevant to global warming science.
- The Kyoto Protocol has proved meaningless.
False. In a world where politicians respond slowly, and global responses are built one agonising brick at a time, creating a bureaucratic structure for future negotiations and agreements on climate change was no small feat. This anti-commandment is also misleading – global emissions have gone up, but Kyoto didn’t include China and India and other developing countries.
- The United Nations global carbon emissions reduction target is a massively costly mirage.
Misleading. There have only been a handful of cost-benefit analyses on climate change adaption and mitigation, and these have had some serious methodological flaws. More need to be done. However, there is no doubt that we have been running up an environmental bill that will come due sooner or later, and there is plenty of evidence to suggest that paying it off now will be cheaper than waiting for the debt collector.
- Kevin Rudd’s political bluff on emissions trading has been exposed.
So there you have it – a collection of misleading (if not completely false), irrelevant and plain weird/laughable claims, packaged as coming from a prophet-like Monckton, when in fact he’s a loony. Epic fail, Mr Sheehan.