Climate-change denialism outraces parody

Climate-change denialism outraces parody February 1, 2012

Last month, NASA reported that 2011 was the ninth-warmest year on record:

The global average surface temperature in 2011 was the ninth warmest since 1880, according to NASA scientists. The finding continues a trend in which nine of the 10 warmest years in the modern meteorological record have occurred since the year 2000.

NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York, which monitors global surface temperatures on an ongoing basis, released an updated analysis that shows temperatures around the globe in 2011 compared to the average global temperature from the mid-20th century. The comparison shows how Earth continues to experience warmer temperatures than several decades ago. The average temperature around the globe in 2011 was 0.92 degrees F (0.51 C) warmer than the mid-20th century baseline.

… The difference between 2011 and the warmest year in the GISS record (2010) is 0.22 degrees F (0.12 C). This underscores the emphasis scientists put on the long-term trend of global temperature rise. Because of the large natural variability of climate, scientists do not expect temperatures to rise consistently year after year. However, they do expect a continuing temperature rise over decades.

When I read that, I toyed with the idea of parodying how climate-change denialists might respond, something like —

Aha! So what NASA is saying is that 2010 was the hottest year on record and 2011 was only the ninth hottest year on record. But 2010 was the hottest. Therefore, obviously, the planet is cooling off. From 2010 to 2011, the temperature dropped, meaning all this talk of “global warming” is a myth!

But I resisted, thinking that was maybe an unfairly absurd caricature.

I was wrong. That argument is ridiculously absurd, but it’s not a caricature.

This is actually what climate-change denialists are now saying — see, for example, David Rose in The Daily Mail. Rose argues, simultaneously, that the climate is not getting warmer and that it is only getting warmer because of sunspots. He supports these contradictory claims with graphs designed using Darrell Huff’s How to Lie With Statistics as an instruction manual.

Kevin Drum points, laughs, mocks and debunks Rose’s silliness in a post aptly titled, “Lying With Charts, Global Warming Edition.”

That follows up on Drum’s post from last week — “Climate Change Goes Back to Square Zero” — responding to a Wall Street Journal op-ed he calls “the ur-text of modern-day climate denial.”

That op-ed is one of those strange little essays of unspecified origin. It’s signed by 16 scientists — not climate scientists, mind you — who were willing to endorse it, but it’s not clear who actually wrote the thing.

I’m guessing Dan Brown wrote it. He’s the author of the best-selling Da Vinci Code and its sequels, so he might have been able to concoct the kind of preposterously vast and insidious global conspiracy that the op-ed hints is behind the hoax of climate change.

But then I’m not sure Brown could have pulled this off, the full scope of the climate-change conspiracy required for the claims in this op-ed to be true would far exceed even the most feverish imaginings of his novels. As Drum writes of the WSJ op-ed:

This all fits in with the paranoia and conspiracy theorizing of the conservative base these days, which is pretty much identical to the paranoia and conspiracy theorizing of the far right since at least the 1930s. Climate change isn’t merely wrong — that would be boring — it’s an immense conspiracy being waged by a group of nerdy scientists (who want funding) and tree huggers (who are desperate to control everyone else’s lives). And it’s a damn successful conspiracy, too. Despite the fact that it requires thousands and thousands of participants from nearly every country in the world, with new collaborators earning PhDs every month, not a single one of them has broken the climate omerta yet and blown the whole thing open. But someone will, any day now. Just you wait.

See also:

Update: One more from Phil Plait: “While temperatures rise, denialists reach lower

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