Congressman Barry Loudermilk’s column, “Global warming: Facts don’t change with the weather,” is a study in some of the most common fallacious arguments that accompany climate science denial. As scientifically literate constituents, it’s our role to help him as our representative in Congress, further his understanding of this issue by exposing these fallacies.
Fiction: Right out of the gate, the Congressman sneaks in an ad homimem attack (the fallacy of attacking the person rather than the argument) alongside a conspiracy theory by suggesting that the overwhelming majority of climate experts are “doomsday” scientists who “suppress” evidence. This claim is a theme throughout his column.
Fact: Between 1991 and 2012, of 13,950 peer-reviewed climate papers, only 24 rejected the reality of global warming. That’s roughly one paper out of every 580! This research is available for both the Congressman and indeed, the general public, to read if they have an internet connection and both the desire and the aptitude. The only people being dishonest here are the climate contrarians who are either unable or unwilling to look at real scientific findings.
Asked another way, why, if you are going to trust the scientific method at all, would you place more value on the one paper that agrees with your presupposition, than you would on the combined values of the 580 which show your presupposition to be false? Intellectual honesty demands that you must be willing to change your mind if you’re presented with better evidence. If 580 to one doesn’t meet that standard, then what will?
Fiction: The Congressman says that Dr. Judith Curry is a “highly respected climate scientist.”
Fact: Dr. Curry was a highly respected climate scientist among climate scientists, but something has changed. For example, in her 2008 presentation at the Georgia Climate Change Summit, Dr. Curry quoted the IPCC assessment, “Most of the observed increase in globally averaged temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations.” Fast forward to 2012 and she is quoted on her personal blog as saying, “The manufactured consensus of the IPCC has had the unintended consequences of distorting the science…” Was it manufactured in 2008 when she cited it at the Georgia Climate Change Summit? It’s a bit confusing. And by simply Googling her name, one can plainly see that she is now one of a handful of scientists who have departed from her colleagues regarding the overwhelming consensus among climate scientists; so while she is still highly respected, now it’s primarily by climate misinformers.
Even if we grant some scientific validity to Dr. Curry’s concerns, by citing her and no one else, the Congressman is employing the fallacy of the magnified minority. In other words, he is placing the testimony of a very small minority of scientists who he is certain will confirm his own bias, as equal to the countervailing evidence available from literally thousands of other climate scientists. This is also a form of cherry picking, meaning that the Congressman must sift through thousands of research papers which show he is wrong, in order to find the one or two which agree with him.
Fiction: The Congressman says that there is a “debate” on global warming.
Fact: There is no scientific debate taking place in the peer-reviewed literature. Blogs don’t count. Scientific journals do. In multiple surveys of climate scientists over the last decade, roughly 97 percent consistently agree that humans are causing global warming. And before you start fretting about that number, please take some time to find legitimate peer-reviewed research which refutes that statistic; contrarian blog posts don’t count. Here’s a good hint, if you can’t find it here, http://www.scimagojr.com/journalsearch.php, then it’s not science, it’s opinion. Please post what you find, preferably non-anonymously, in the comments.
While there is certainly room for policy debate on how best to respond to global warming and its subsequent impact on climate change, debating whether or not the science is sound is at this point, a diversionary tactic employed by certain politicians and their peddlers of doubt. These are people who for various political or economic reasons, endeavor to mislead the public in to believing there is good reason to forestall leadership and action on this vital issue. This tactic is a carbon copy from the tobacco industry playbook. It requires a gullible public a bit too eager to be misled, and it’s shameful.
This final statement from the Congressman is so rich with irony that it’s difficult to digest. He wrote, “Human nature has a predictable way of avoiding realities that go against our core beliefs.” Given what the actual science says – remember 99.8% of scientific research papers (not blog posts or op-eds) published from 1991 to 2012 confirm the reality of global warming – who is guilty of avoiding reality?
Here’s a test. If the Congressman is truly interested in understanding the reality of climate change and global warming as he claims, he should consider calling a random sample of 100 climate scientists (not meteorologists, not economic geologists, but actual climate scientists) from universities across the US to testify before his committee. I would wager that once his confirmation bias is removed from the “expert” selection process, then he just might begin to understand that with regards to global warming, facts indeed do not change with the weather.