“Speaking of global warming…which has now been proven to be a hoax”…”
—-Rush Limbaugh, riffing today on his radio show regarding the evils of liberals from Obama to Bloomberg.
This an outright ethics foul, even if Rush believes it. If he doesn’t believe it, it’s a lie. If he does believe it, it is still a reckless, incompetent and irresponsible thing to say to millions of listeners who trust him to tell them the truth.
Global warming, or climate change, is not a hoax. Its exact extent may not be known, or as conclusively known as some scientists and commentators claim. It may be difficult to measure, and the historical data it is being measured against may be flawed. Its researchers may have biases, and have strayed too far over the line into advocacy. They may also have been too willing to stifle dissenting voices in the scientific community. How serious global warming will be, when its effects will be fully felt and how long it will last are all matters of projection and speculation, subject to error. Projections have been, and will continue to be, unreliable, and arguably, too unreliable to justify costly public policy measures. Remedies are speculative, and cost-benefit ratios are in doubt.
It is also true that many of the most vocal and visible supporters of the most dire projections by climate change researchers, as well as the most vociferous attacker of climate change skeptics, literally don’t know what they are talking about. Their fervor is driven by ideology and faith rather than actual expertise and scholarship, and anything they say on the subject should be given no weight whatsoever. This groups includes journalists, columnists, bloggers, celebrities, academics not in the sciences, public officials and leaders, including, depressingly, Barack Obama, whose State of the Union speech comments on climate change were outrageous and irresponsible:
“But for the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change. Yes, it’s true that no single event makes a trend. But the fact is, the 12 hottest years on record have all come in the last 15. Heat waves, droughts, wildfires, and floods – all are now more frequent and intense. We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence. Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science – and act before it’s too late.”
Yes, we can choose to believe that global warming had nothing to do with Sandy, because there is absolutely no evidence that it did. Here is an expert,Dr. Martin Hoerling and no global warming skeptic, specifically declaring what Obama claims to be “the overwhelming judgment of science”—that Sandy was not a freak occurrence—is just not true. He was interviewed by NPR’s Robert Seigel, after a typically inflammatory quote from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo:
SIEGEL: And, first, broadly speaking, did you see this gigantic storm as something caused by changes in climate?
HOERLING: No. By and large, this is a storm that comes rarely but has come before. It’s interesting. You can go back sometime, a storm that some call the Long Island and Norfolk Hurricane of 1821. And the storm surge at the Battery was greater than the one, Sandy, that happened just Monday evening.
SIEGEL: But for a lot of us laymen, there is at least a strong impression that extreme weather events are just happening more and more frequently. Is there actually a profusion of extreme weather events? And should that be more problematic than the causality of one particular storm or another?
HOERLING: There are certain extremes for which the data indicate, pretty unequivocally, that climate change – the warming of the planet – is causing them to increase in frequency. Most noteworthy are heat waves, record daily temperatures that are eclipsing previous record values. And that’s entirely consistent with a planet as a whole that’s moving toward warmer conditions.
SIEGEL: But hurricanes?
SIEGEL: There is no correlation, you’re saying.
HOERLING: No, there isn’t.
So yes, climate change is being hyped, it is being used for fear-mongering by Obama and others, its effects are being misrepresented intentionally and out of ignorance, and this increases the skepticism of people like Rush Limbaugh. Nevertheless it is not a hoax, and it certainly has not been proven to be a hoax.
Rush saying this as fact, when it is at best an unsupported opinion, reminds me of when my crazy 8th Grade history teacher announced that it was “a proven fact” that President Roosevelt allowed Pearl Harbor to be bombed so we could enter World War II. When that little “fact” came out of my mouth at dinner when I was asked, “What did you learn in school today?”, my Dad spit his milk into the air. That same teacher told us, as fact, that “the U.N is a debating society” and that Jack Kennedy was an agent of the Vatican. But he was only misleading about 90 kids total, and they were easily put straight. Rush has an audience of millions, and they take what he says as gospel. He can do real damage by misleading them, and did in this case.
Note: The most balanced and thorough climate change resource I know of, for those who want to review all sides of the issue, is here.