Big Picture News, Informed Analysis

Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise has been watching the climate world since 2009. What she sees isn't pretty.

Calling Skeptics Stupid Doesn’t Convince Anyone

The Times & Transcript is a newspaper based in Moncton, New Brunswick. This is one of Canada’s smallest provinces. Fewer than 750,000 people reside there and less than 130,000 of them call Moncton home.

Nevertheless that population is sufficient to support not only a daily newspaper but one that employs an editorial page editor. Three cheers are therefore due to the good people of Moncton.

One of the jobs of such an editor is to ensure that the editorials – positions taken by the newspaper itself – are well reasoned. It’s too bad, therefore, that this particular editorial page editor, whose name is Norbert Cunningham, seems a tad weak in that regard.

In my experience one of the easiest ways to spot people who are in over their heads in a debate is by their rude behaviour. It isn’t sufficient for them to disagree with you – they seize every opportunity to insult you, as well.

I am speaking now of a recent column authored by Cunningham that appeared beneath the headline Climate change deniers depend on woeful ignorance of science [bold added; backup link here].

In the view of this person, I’m not a climate skeptic – I’m a denier. In our culture, at our time in history, that label has highly specific – and very ugly – connotations. It is a reference to those who deny the horrors of the Holocaust perpetrated during World War II.

Other than child molesters, few groups are regarded with more contempt or revulsion by the community at large. This is the sort of person with whom Cunningham tries to associate people like me in the public mind.

According to Cunningham, being a climate skeptic means I don’t have any respect for “the facts.” My arguments are so lacking in logic that my intelligence is called into question – as perhaps are my motives and my honesty.

I suffer from “a failure to grasp the most rudimentary concepts of science.” Moreover, I’m completely ignorant of “how science progresses” as well as of history itself.

Indeed, I’m so dim-witted that I refuse to acknowledge “basic science that an average Grade 9 student can easily grasp.”

When I point out that predictions of climate apocalypse 50 or 100 years hence are being made by the same departments using the same computer models that are incapable of accurately predicting next week’s weather I am apparently demonstrating “profound ignorance, willful stupidity or both.”

But I myself have no need to say demeaning things about Cunningham. Instead, I’ll just observe that he waxes poetic about the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC):

Excellent, properly done science, in great quantities is constantly cited by those concerned about climate change. Its conclusions (fully documented at source) can be found collected in one document, the IPCC (International Panel on Climate Change) report. This collates literally thousands of reputable, reliable scientific studies from around the world in dozens of relevant disciplines. Without question, it’s a document that overwhelmingly represents our best impartial, objective scientific research on the topic.

According to Cunningham, the IPCC bases its conclusions on science that is excellent and properly done. How exactly does he know this? IPCC insiders themselves admit that that organization has no quality assurance procedures. It merely assumes that if a paper has appeared in a scientific journal its conclusions are valid. But journal editors themselves tell us this is a foolish assumption.

According to Cunningham, the IPCC’s climate bible represents our best impartial, objective scientific research. Perhaps he can explain, then, why the last report relied on press releases (see here, here, and here), news clippings, and activist literature (see here and here) to make its arguments.

Perhaps he can explain why 20-something grad students have been writing these reports – or why IPCC insiders complain that many of their colleagues were chosen not for their scientific prowess but because they come from the right country or happen to be of the right gender.

If one is to believe Cunningham, detractors of the IPCC should be dismissed because “at least three times” its finding have been verified. Methinks he is confused. Perhaps it is the flawed and inadequate inquiries connected to the Climategate e-mails he has in mind. A rather different topic altogether.

In fact, last year the InterAcademy Council (a collection of international science bodies) struck a committee to investigate IPCC policies and procedures. Nothing like this had ever happened before and, despite the diplomatically-phrased happy-talk that surrounded the presentation of its 100-page report, the findings of this committee were far from reassuring.

Overall, it found “significant shortcomings in each major step of IPCC’s assessment process.” Let me repeat that. The first time an independent group of people took a close look at how the IPCC conducts its affairs, those people concluded that each step in the IPCC assessment process suffers from significant shortcomings.

I’ve just written an entire book on the IPCC, an exposé if you will. When it becomes available in September I’ll think I’ll send Cunningham a copy. Perhaps I’ll even draw his attention to the fact that not once, in that entire volume, do I rant about how stupid those involved are. Nor do I equate those people with Holocaust deniers.

Instead, I let the facts speak for themselves.

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h/t Tom Nelson

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