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.