Not Science, Not Journalism, But Advocacy, And Bad Advocacy At That: Res Ipsa Loquitur And The New York Times’ “The Science of Climate Change Explained”

Climate change propaganda

Last month, the New York Times devoted an entire section of its weekly “Science Times” section to an extensive brief for climate change and the policies to undo it, reverse it, mitigate stop it—choose your favorite words. Like virtually everything the Times does now, this was political advocacy, cleverly (cough!) placed in a section that expressly denies its bias and politics. Many things were notable about the section nonetheless; for example, it was written in a style that would be more appropriate for fourth graders, telling us how dumb the Times and their political allies think the public is, and not even the general public, but the portion of the public that reads the New York Times. Furthermore, the piece signals repeatedly its failure by promising more than it can deliver. It begins by promising “facts, evidence, and proof,” but much of what the Times’ reporter, Julia Rosen, calls “proof” is nothing of the kind, and what she calls evidence is subject to other interpretations. She makes it clear on the way that she has made up her mind, calling anyone who questions her conclusions “denialists.” Because she is in the throes of confirmation bias, she can write something like this without either ethics alarms or logic alarms sounding:

“There’s no denying that scientists love a good, old-fashioned argument. But when it comes to climate change, there is virtually no debate: Numerous studies have found that more than 90 percent of scientists who study Earth’s climate agree that the planet is warming and that humans are the primary cause. Most major scientific bodies, from NASA to the World Meteorological Organization, endorse this view. That’s an astounding level of consensus given the contrarian, competitive nature of the scientific enterprise, where questions like what killed the dinosaurs remain bitterly contested.”

But science isn’t determined by a popular vote. The number of scientific questions through the centuries that the majority of scientists had spectacularly wrong and the minority of contrarians had right are too numerous to list. Nor is it an “astounding” level of consensus in a field now overwhelmingly weighted on one side of the political spectrum, in a topic in which dissenters are intimidated, denigrated, and punished academically, professionally, and financially. We are also treated to irrelevancies like this by Rosen: “[Frank] Luntz, the Republican pollster, has also reversed his position on climate change and now advises politicians on how to motivate climate action.”

Oh! A pollster now supports climate change! That certainly settles the issue. Wasn’t this supposed to be about science?

Read the whole piece, which is begging for a thorough fisking. It would be a useful classroom project in critical thinking, if schools taught critical thinking any more. The last section, however, “What will it cost to do something about climate change, versus doing nothing?” is the smoking gun. All of the certainly and “proof” Rosen promises evaporates in desperate double talk, intentional vagaries and contradictions. For example,

  • The very first paragraph states, “One of the most common arguments against taking aggressive action to combat climate change is that doing so will kill jobs and cripple the economy. But this implies that there’s an alternative in which we pay nothing for climate change. And unfortunately, there isn’t. ” No, the argument doesn’t “imply” anything. It states, accurately, that aggressive action will kill jobs and the economy. The follow up to that is that there is no consensus that “aggressive action” that will successfully address the conditions described in Rosen’s brief is possible, or is certain to work, a problem the whole piece conveniently sloughs over.
  • “Not tackling climate change will cost a lot, and cause enormous human suffering and ecological damage, while transitioning to a greener economy would benefit many people and ecosystems around the world….And we’ll have to make changes fast.” “A lot”…”many”…”fast.” You would think that this is just a prelude to quantifiable “facts” about how much is “a lot,” who are the “many people” and not only how fast is “fast,” but whether fast enough is even practical or possible, since if it isn’t, “a lot” is too much. But we don’t. The conclusion of the piece adopts the same refusal to acknowledge that despite all the alleged “consensus,” what is being advocated is simply an extremely reckless and expensive version of “Do something!”
  • “Estimates of the cost vary widely. One recent study found that keeping warming to 2 degrees Celsius would require a total investment of between $4 trillion and $60 trillion, with a median estimate of $16 trillion, while keeping warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius could cost between $10 trillion and $100 trillion, with a median estimate of $30 trillion. (For reference, the entire world economy was about $88 trillion in 2019.)”  Between $4 trillion and $60 trillion? That’s a rather extensive range, wouldn’t you say: 1500%, representing trillions? What project in history has any nation committed to with that kind of acknowledged uncertainty? None, because it would be insane-–and that’s only one study. I thought there was consensus! This is the cheat climate science activists have used for decades: in the details, like costs, timelines and the effectiveness of proposed policies, there is no consensus…and those details are what matter. Ask the Devil.
  • And on the other side, the costs of “doing nothing,” or, if Rosen was being fair, waiting to know enough to decide whether addressing the results of climate change when they occur makes more sense that spending gazillions without knowing what will happen, she tells us, “climate damages are hard to quantify.” What that means is that it’s all speculation. She writes,

“Now, let’s consider the costs of unchecked climate change, which will fall hardest on the most vulnerable. These include damage to property and infrastructure from sea-level rise and extreme weather, death and sickness linked to natural disasters, pollution and infectious disease, reduced agricultural yields and lost labor productivity because of rising temperatures, decreased water availability and increased energy costs, and species extinction and habitat destruction.

Those are just broad assertions and fear-mongering. But broad assertions are all climate change zealots have. They talk about proof, but they have no proof, just assumptions, speculation, and best guesses. The theme continues:

  • “In a recent survey, economists estimated the cost would equal 5 percent of global G.D.P. at 3 degrees Celsius of warming (our trajectory under current policies) and 10 percent for 5 degrees Celsius. Other research indicates that, if current warming trends continue, global G.D.P. per capita will decrease between 7 percent and 23 percent by the end of the century — an economic blow equivalent to multiple coronavirus pandemics every year. And some fear these are vast underestimates.” Now it’s economists, not scientists, “estimating,” and “other research” “indicating” yet another effect within a huge range, and an intellectually dishonest analogy with the current pandemic, another crisis in which scientists and experts have thoroughly embarrassed themselves.

Cutting through all the verbiage, dishonesty and tap-dancing, an objective examination of The New York Times’ “The Science of Climate Change Explained” shows that, if one can ignore the false framing, it proves the exact opposite of what it claims to prove.

Indeed, if one listens carefully, it speaks for itself.

26 thoughts on “Not Science, Not Journalism, But Advocacy, And Bad Advocacy At That: Res Ipsa Loquitur And The New York Times’ “The Science of Climate Change Explained”

  1. Well, it appears that the NYT is almost out COVID scare tactics. It is time to scare their readers again. ‘If you think COVID was bad, climate change will be even worse this year!’
    I don’t miss reading the NYT.

  2. Many things were notable about the section nonetheless; for example, it was written in a style that would be more appropriate for fourth graders, telling us how dumb the Times and their political allies think the public is, and not even the general public, but the portion of the public that reads the New York Times.

    Or, as it seems more likely to me, it was intentionally written that way so that it can be embraced as public school pedagogy (exactly the same way the 1619 Project was).

  3. Here is an extremely simple science.

    As Al Gore conceded, we could simply throw so much debris and smoke into the air that it would block life-giving sunlight from our atmosphere, thus making the whole world freezing cold all year long

    If we do this, we could avoid ” damage to property and infrastructure from sea-level rise and extreme weather, death and sickness linked to natural disasters, pollution and infectious disease, reduced agricultural yields and lost labor productivity because of rising temperatures, decreased water availability and increased energy costs, and species extinction and habitat destruction”.

    So why do we not do this? Why did we not do this back in the early 1980’s? (Carl Sagan pointed out that survivors of nuclear war, while having to deal with radiation and disruption of supply lines, would at least not have to worry about a warm climate.) Think of all the sea-level rise and extreme weather that we could have avoided. Think of all the death and sickness we could have avoided. Think about the reduced agricultural yields and lost labor productivity we could have avoided. Think of the decreased water availability and increased energy costs we could have avoided. Think of the species extinction and habitat destruction we could have avoided.

    All we had to do, what we can do, is make the whole world freezing cold all year long.

    How many people died because we allowed warming to continue?

    How much suffering did we allow because we allowed warming to continue.

    High temperatures are unsustainable.

    Send debris and smoke into the atmosphere, blot out the sun, make sure not a single photon of sunlight reaches the ground.

    Freezing cold should be the only weather on Earth. We must put an end to sea-level rise, to extreme weather.

    • Paul Ehrlich was also the author of 1968’s “The Population Bomb” which was a required text for a course I took in 1972 captioned “Human Environmental Biology,” I suppose to avoid the “hippy dippy” implications of the word “ecology.” The professor was all-in on the theory of apocalyptic overpopulation within a decade; two at most. Being a born skeptic, I followed this issue over the next few decades, as all the dire predictions failed to materialize. I think I read somewhere that by 2010, worldwide population had doubled since 1968 but average calories consumed worldwide had increased about 25%. (Most famines are caused by political instability and conflict, not an actual shortage of food production.) Thus, it was not surprising to me to see “climate change” fears ginned up to hysteric levels with little if any actual proof.
      Recently, a friend posed a meme on social media that showed two pictures of Liberty Island and the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor. One photo was taken in 1920 and the other in 2020. Both photos showed the water lapping at the shores of Liberty Island at what appeared to be exactly the same level. The meme was captioned “What sea-level-rise actually looks like.” When I saw the post, it was accompanied (and obscured) by a puzzling “fact-check” block that was disputing the accuracy of some photo involving Sydney Harbor and the famed opera house there. I had to click on an “X” to remove the obstruction to even view my friend’s post. I sent him a text, “Climate Change Denier!! Your transportation to Climate Re-education Camp will arrive within the hour!” He was not as amused as as I.

    • I believe the Alarmacysts first realized the real, vast potential of Global Warming Inc. during the 1992 Rio Earth Summit

      Soooo. Blame It On Rio…just not the not the campy 1987 Michael Caine flick.

      It was then that the UN realized that Global Warming held FAR greater promise (it paid better with shakedown possibilities that were absolutely limitless) than its to-date laughable efforts to advance the Human Condition.

  4. And remember, the solution is always socialism. Climate change? Socialism. Pandemic? Socialism. Racism? Socialism. It’s remarkable how there always seems to be an existential crisis on hand, and the answer is always the same thing.

  5. To their credit, the Alarmacysts have been remarkably consistent in one area; the issuance of Last Chances:

    Bonn 2001: A Global Warming Treaty’s Last Chance. Time Magazine, 16 Jul 2001

    Montreal 2005: Montreal represents a last chance for action.” The Independent, 28 Nov 2005

    Bali 2007: Bali could be the last chance to avoid the worst effect of global warming. The New Zealand Herald, 3 Dec 2007

    Poznan Poland, 2008: WWF, “Poznan provides last chance to curb climate change.” The Age, 9 Dec 2008

    Copenhagen 2009: The world faces a final opportunity to agree an adequate global response to climate change. Reuters, Feb 27 2009

    Cancun 2010: the “last chance” for climate change talks to succeed; The Telegraph (UK), 29 Nov 2010

    Durban 2011: mankind’s ‘last opportunity’ to address climate change. Spero News, 27 Nov 2011

    Doha 2012: Tomorrow: the earth’s last chance with climate change? The Examiner, 25 Nov 2012

    Warsaw 2013: Is the Warsaw Climate Change Conference a last-chance summit Sustainable Mobility, 14 Nov 2013

    Lima 2014: Last chance: Change needed for climate negotiations in Lima 2014. WWF Global, 23 Nov 2013

    Paris 2015: The UN meeting in December is “the last chance” to avert dangerous climate change, according to the Earth League. BBC News 22 Apr 2015

  6. When I was about 7, I had a teacher who taught my class about the hole in the ozone layer and the greenhouse effect, back to back, in the same lecture. When she was done, I raised my hand and asked why all the greenhouse gases didn’t fall out of the hole in the ozone layer. I was 7, and she could have said just about anything to explain this and I would have believed her. Instead, she went ballistic and started screaming bloody murder about how I hadn’t been listening properly and how dare I ask questions like that when I didn’t even listen to the lecture. I promptly decided she was full of shit, and nothing she was talking about was real. Screaming at people to believe you doesn’t work on everyone. It doesn’t even work on all children.

    Wikipedia currently explains what a pseudoscience is as follows: “Pseudoscience is often characterized by contradictory, exaggerated or unfalsifiable claims; reliance on confirmation bias rather than rigorous attempts at refutation; lack of openness to evaluation by other experts; absence of systematic practices when developing hypotheses; and continued adherence long after the pseudoscientific hypotheses have been experimentally discredited.” Climate science does all of this.

    I don’t know whether humans are affecting the planets temperature or not, but the rhetoric on the topic is nonsense, and I’m not going to believe anyone who doesn’t follow the scientific method meticulously. Ignoring confounding variables, disproven hypotheses, and methodological flaws is not science. Its propaganda.

    • Tangent on your topic, but I still have vivid memories of learning in school of the hole in the ozone layer killing us all, earthquakes killing us all, house fires killing us all, HIV killing us all, and, worst of all, the lesson about how little drinkable water there was on the earth and how we were all going to die of thirst.

      Looking back, much of my elementary school days were filled with fearmongering. When my oldest was in kindergarten, she came home one day extremely worried about bad guys flying an airplane into our house. I’ve never understood why so many elementary school teachers seem to love giving their students complexes.

  7. ” ‘“Pseudoscience is often characterized by contradictory, exaggerated or unfalsifiable claims…’ ”

    (Bolds/caps/italics mine throughout)

    Al Gore, Jr.: “It’s bitter cold in parts of the US, but climate scientist Dr. Michael Mann explains that’s exactly what we should expect from the climate crisis,”

    Funniest thing, “Gore’s Oscar-winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth DID NOT WARN OF RECORD COLD AND INCREASING SNOWFALLS AS A CONSEQUENCE OF MAN-MADE GLOBAL WARMING. And as recently as 2009, Gore was hyping the lack of snow as evidence for man-made global warming.”

    Global Warming INC Anti-Christ Marc Morano:

    ” ‘Originally, we were told that snow would be a thing of the past, that children just wouldn’t know what snow was, then we saw record snows and blizzards – and then we were told that was caused by global warming. Now we’re being told the record cold is caused by global warming in a rather complicated scenario affecting jet streams and increasing extremes in the planet.’

    ” ‘The problem,’ says Morano, ‘is there is no weather event that those proponents can’t blame on global warming.’

    ” ‘It’s almost as if it’s a comedy of explanations, they really just will do and say whatever they need in order to make it all fit and reassure themselves that every weather event is consistent with global warming.’

    ”What if scientists have a better understanding today of climate change than they did years ago?


    • Exactly. Nothing is ever falsifiable in climate science. The hypotheses are always upheld no matter what the actual results show. If a hypothesis cannot be falsified, it is not science.

      If both rising temperatures and cooling temperatures are evidence of man-made climate change, then what criteria can falsify the hypothesis? The temperatures staying the same? That happened for decades and yet climate change is still “scientific consensus.” Climate change is about as scientific as astrology.

  8. The Manhattan Contrarian is a great source for lucid commentary on Pravda (his term for the New York Times) and climate science and proposed de-fossilization* of the U.S. economy. And why is it always “we” who have to do something and the Chinese and Indians and Brazilians don’t?

    *Such a funny term. Trying to run an economy without hydrocarbons will indeed turn an economy into a fossil.

    • “And why is it always “we” who have to do something and the Chinese and Indians and Brazilians don’t?”

      Racism! Expecting minorities to carry all the burden is racist! I’m not sure how they explain the fact that two of those countries have populations of over a billion people, and that white people are the minority in both, but I’m sure colonialism and historical disadvantage have something to do with it. If a given ethnic group is a minority in the west, the transitive property of minorityness somehow extends to countries where they are not minorities. It’s sort of fascinating.

      • I continue to struggle with all the black thugs who are attacking “Chinese” people in the US these days. How can that be a hate crime? How can all these black thugs (never identified as such, of course) who are oppressed be capable of committing a hate crime against and oppressing a member of another oppressed class? And meanwhile, black people want Chinese kids to be kept out of elite schools (you know, oppressed) so more black kids can take those spots. As Aretha Franklin asked, “Who’s zoomin’ who?” I guess it’s hard to keep score without a program.

  9. “If you thought that science was certain – well, that is just an error on your part.” – Richard Feynman

    The beauty of the climate-change scam – and scam it surely is – is that because it’s phony, no measure a government takes to take away your freedom will ever move the needle on the problem. “You need to give up your car”…”you need to give up air travel”….”you need to give up your vacation plans”. When none of that fixes the non-existent problem, it will be, “now you need to move out of your home into this little apartment we have for you”…”no more fossil-fuel anything for you”…”we need to monitor your utility usage and shut it off periodically”. When the ocean level still refuse to fall (though they’ve risen any faster now than they have the last 150 years), it will be, “now we need all your money, your pension, and your 401k”.

    See how the scam works? Create a problem that doesn’t exist, then take everybody’s stuff trying to fix it.

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