How climate change denial works

Chris beat me to the ludicrous ‘Global Warming is Over‘ story by David Rose in the London Daily Mail last October, but I wanted to finally delve into the issue a bit more, as it’s a great illustration of how climate change denialism works.

The Daily Mail attempted to claim (with the subsequent aid of Fox News, of course), that recent data proved that global warming had ended.  Or, at best, Fox claimed, scientists were conflicted about whether global warming was still happening.

Of course neither claim was true.  What the Daily Mail had done was choose a short-term period in which temperatures had cooled, and ignored the longer-term warming that has been happening for a while now in spite of these occasional mini-cooling respites.  (And since the early 80s, even the cooling is warming – look at the rate of cooling, it’s decreasing.)

What really caught my eye was this graph from Skeptical Science showing how the climate change deniers manipulate the data.  If you only look at a given 8 -year or so period, it looks like the temperature trend is downward.  It isn’t until you look at all the data spanning the last 40 years that you realize the trend is quite clearly in the direction of global warming:

skeptscience-realistclimateXX

The Daily Mail report that kicked off this last round of climate-change denialism makes clear that the reporter was aware of the data from 1980 to 1996 that refutes his argument. But he chose to only show the data from 1997 to 2012.

Looking at the complete data series shows why.  It shows absolutely no hint of the alleged ‘plateau’ in temperatures.

Temperatures were hotter in 1997-8 because of the El Niño event, which is a cyclic phenomena that causes temperatures to spike up. La Niña events have the opposite effect, causing temperatures to cool. So reporter Rose chose a year when El Niño caused temperatures to rise at the beginning of his ‘plateau’ and a La Niña event at the end.

But when you look at the past 62 years, even taking El Niño and La Niña events into account, it’s clear that the overall average global temperature is warming:

Data Source: NOAA Global Annual Temperature Anomalies 1950–2011 from State of the Climate : Global Analysis : Annual 2011, Graph via Wikipedia

Data Source: NOAA Global Annual Temperature Anomalies 1950–2011 from State of the Climate : Global Analysis : Annual 2011, Graph via Wikipedia

It’s difficult to believe that the Daily Mail’s error happened by accident. Especially when the reporter talked to experts who made clear that the problem is long-term warming, not what may or may not happen in the short term (i.e., the difference between “weather” (short term) and “climate” (long term)).

A “mistake” like this can only happen by searching through vast quantities of data, and then cherry-picking the data points that tell the story the propagandist wants to tell while ignoring all the rest.  Speaking of propagandists, look who was thrilled to repeal the lie:

And Fox’s broadcast was really quite ingenious. They can claim they presented “both sides,” when in fact there were never two sides to the question. One side was science, the other was manipulating data in a way that any reputable scientist would tell you was erroneous. But it permitted Fox to claim that “scientists” are now debating whether global warming is over, when they’re not doing any such thing – thus furthering the GOP propaganda claim that global warming might not be real, when it is.

The real climate change hoax is being perpetrated by those who claim it never existed in the first place.

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  • Rica Eine

    Climate change is a natural phenomena.
    _______________________________________________________________________________

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  • squidbreath

    To me, the question is not “has there been warming”, or even whether human activity and carbon fuel burning has been a contributing factor. Instead it is “have humans done enough warming activity to head off the next ice age?”

    There seems to have been a regular cycle of ice ages in the past. In my view they are likely caused by milankovich’s cycles. But, whatever the cause, we are due for another cold spot in that cycle. Whatever warming humans are causing, fortunately, may be just delaying the onset.

    See this chart: http://a-sceptical-mind.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/Ice_Age_Temperatures.jpg

  • Bob Bingham

    If you read a sea level chart the same way the sea level is rising at 10mm a year.http://climate.nasa.gov/key_indicators#seaLevel

  • http://twitter.com/BillFromDover Bill from Dover

    If the fossil fuel industries can just sow doubt in your mind, they have won this battle.

    Add this to the fact that conservatives choose what to believe as the truth and we end up with a dying planet.

    And when the damage is said, done and irreversible, ya can bet your ass that they will blame it all on the liberals for covering it up.

    Welcome to the age unlimited lucre to spend on misinformation and supreme ignorance.

    You go, cockroaches and don’t bitch about what we didn’t leave y’all.

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    Time to but beachfront property in Prudhoe Bay!

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    Me too.

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    We buy some of our seeds and root-plantings from Burpee’s, which has as its practice not to send you what you’ve ordered until it’s right for it to go into the ground where you are.

    They’ve been adjusting all of their zones northward.

  • Zorba

    Unfortunately, I do remember this, K. :-(

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    Remember this: “”Are they taking DDT?” — Vice President Dan Quayle asking doctors at a Manhattan AIDS clinic about their treatments of choice. (NY Post, early May 92)?”

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    Sounds like the convenience of being born again. Maybe the great Sky abuser is punishing us. Anyone named Moses, get your act together.

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    It pretty obvious here in CA. It’s May and July sunflowers are blooming. The vineyards are moving higher into the Sierras.

  • http://www.facebook.com/artsmasher Paul Loovis

    Climate change deniers have a serious conflict of interest problem. Whether or not we intentionally skew data, we all have a strong desire to hear any message that absolves us of the possibility that we are doing irreparable harm to future generations. Denialism does just that. It provides a convenient argument that absolves us, while demonizing those who contradict the message.

  • Zorba

    I’m certainly not too young to remember the lying sacks of shit that constituted the tobacco lobby, Becc. Not to mention the DDT liars (back in the day, and that was eventually won, as was asbestos-use) and now the oil industry and off-shore drilling liars, including the Keystone Pipeline liars, the fracking liars, and on and on and on.

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    Many of you are probably too young to remember, but the climate deniers are using the same tactics and strategies used in the past by many industry groups to protect whatever profits they might be making.

    Cigarette manufacturers, tobacco growers, and their paid/bribed lackeys insisting “the science is still out” on whether smoking causes cancer.

    Car manufacturers fighting against having to include seat-belts and, later, air bags.

    Aerosol and freon companies insisting there just is no viable substitute for the chemicals that were eating the Earth’s ozone layer. Again, this may be before the time of some you younger folks, but I remember crazy news stories talking about predictions of mass starvation as produce and meats would rot before food could make it to people’s kitchens.

    Unfortunately, what we’re fighting here is one of humanity’s biggest and most powerful capitalist concerns: The fossil fuel industry. From the companies that pull it out of the ground, whether it’s oil, natural gas, coal or tar-sludge, all the way through the refiners and distributors, and all the industries that depend on fossil fuel production, such as the car companies. It’s the biggest behemoth — a vampire squid — and sadly the one doing the most lasting damage to the environment.

    Yet the tactics remain the same. Deny there’s a problem. Assert that there just is no affordable alternative. Refute real science with phony science.

    I suppose the one hope we can take from this is the fact every one of those battles I described was eventually won. Not always completely — tobacco remains legal, for instance — but we did eventually prevail for the most part.

  • Dano2

    The important thing in the last chart is that the data are from all three major measuring networks. And 2010 was the hottest year in the instrumental record, and 2012 the warmest La Nina. Not hard to grasp at all, unless your job is to mislead, or you are a person whose self-identity can’t handle reality.

    Best,

    D

  • MyrddinWilt

    He didn’t believe his own lies until he was completely broken by the party.

    But even though he expresses cynicism about production quotas being met, it is Julia who points out that the war reporting is fake and likely the party drops the bombs themselves.

    I don’t doubt that the person who fiddled the graphs above knows they are fake. But one of the people on an alumni mailing list works at a K street lie machine and is paid to put out this crap. He very obviously believes the lies put out by his competitors, which is quite likely why he is not very successful at that game.

    It is an interesting study in denial and lying. I think deep down he knows that he is paid to tell lies and he hates the fact. He never wants to discuss the issues in private and he won’t tolerate anyone else discussing them. But even though his whole job is to lie for a Judas coin, he clearly believes the truth of what he is writing.

    When Jarred Diamond was mentioned, he tried to smear him as a racist because his books mention some theories by Thor Hyerdall that turned out to be wrong and involved race as any theory about who settled the islands had to. Only Diamond himself points out the theories were wrong as whoever concocted the smear had to know.

    And all in the hope of becoming a Koch-sucker at a more upmarket K-street lie machine than his current one.

  • http://www.facebook.com/monoceros.forth Monoceros Forth

    Well, to be fair, Winston Smith did not believe his own lies during his employment with the government.

  • Bill Butler

    I have more on this subject including details of the Daily Mail “report” at:
    The “Global Warming Stopped in 1998” Lie
    http://www.durangobill.com/GwdLiars/GwdGlobalWarmingStoppedIn1998.html

  • UncleBucky

    Reading this about bagguer science “is like hitting your head against the wall. It feels so good when it stops”. (quote from Movie “Good Neighbor Sam” with Jack Lemmon)

  • MyrddinWilt

    What I find astonishing is that the people who spend their time intentionally skewing the data this way genuinely believe in their conclusions. It is like in 1984 where Winston Smith believes the lies of the party even though he spends his time making them.

  • ronbo

    The Devil is in the details…and FOX Mews.

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