HOWELL (3/18/07): The story on the ouster-that-backfired of eight U.S. attorneys around the country kept getting deeper last week as media and congressional scrutiny continued.Who is the White House trying to fool? Theyre trying to fool the Malcolm Tanigawas—and in many cases, theyre still succeeding. Howell went on to explain, quite clearly, why Tanigawas challenge makes little sense. But it was quite amazing when Wolffe and Olbermann expressed their puzzlement over this matter. For at least the past fifteen years, people like Tanigawa have heard every type of crackpot claim from various conservative and mainstream sources—and they have believed almost all of these claims. Indeed, our politics has been driven by bogus tales over the course of the past fifteen years. On Wednesday evening, Woffe and Olbermann still didnt seem to have heard.
Readers' complaints sounded generally like this one from Malcolm Tanigawa of Fairfax: "Regarding the front-page article 'Firings Had Genesis in White House,' I request that you look into why [reporters Dan] Eggen and [John] Solomon saw fit to avoid any mention of the firings of all U.S. attorneys by President Clinton. For the younger generation and people with short memories, the article would imply that such firings are a new thing."
BROAD (3/13/07): Hollywood has a thing for Al Gore and his three-alarm film on global warming, ''An Inconvenient Truth,'' which won an Academy Award for best documentary. So do many environmentalists, who praise him as a visionary, and many scientists, who laud him for raising public awareness of climate change.Hollywood has a thing for Al Gore—but Don J. Easterbrook has some real data! As Broad continues, he is soon vouching for the motives and good faith of Gores critics:
But part of his scientific audience is uneasy. In talks, articles and blog entries that have appeared since his film and accompanying book came out last year, these scientists argue that some of Mr. Gore's central points are exaggerated and erroneous. They are alarmed, some say, at what they call his alarmism.
''I don't want to pick on Al Gore,'' Don J. Easterbrook, an emeritus professor of geology at Western Washington University, told hundreds of experts at the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America. ''But there are a lot of inaccuracies in the statements we are seeing, and we have to temper that with real data.''
BROAD (continuing directly): Mr. Gore, in an e-mail exchange about the critics, said his work made ''the most important and salient points'' about climate change, if not ''some nuances and distinctions'' scientists might want. ''The degree of scientific consensus on global warming has never been stronger,'' he said, adding, ''I am trying to communicate the essence of it in the lay language that I understand.''Got that? Because theyre scientists, Gores critics are sensitive to [the] details and claims in Gores film. Thats a sweeping, blanket statement; it excludes other explanations for these critics pursuit of Gore. Gores critics cant be advancing their claims because theyre jealous or angry or kooky or dumb—or because theyre industry-supported hacks, or because they have some sort of politics. Nor are advancing their claims because theyre just plain wrong, and Gore isnt. Indeed, the good faith of Gores critics is even advanced in the headline atop this lengthy piece. Heres the headline which appeared on page one of Science Times and inside, on page D6:
Although Mr. Gore is not a scientist, he does rely heavily on the authority of science in ''An Inconvenient Truth,'' which is why scientists are sensitive to its details and claims.
NEW YORK TIMES HEADLINE (3/13/07): From a Rapt Audience, a Call to Cool the Hype.The critics are rapt—theyre deeply attentive, not deluded—and they want Gore to tone down the hype. In short, by the time youve read that headline and those first five paragraphs, youve been exposed to some fine propaganda; Herr Broad has largely chosen a side. And in paragraph 6, he continues his tilt. Note how Easterbrook is described—and note what gets smuggled past readers:
BROAD (continuing directly): Criticisms of Mr. Gore have come not only from conservative groups and prominent skeptics of catastrophic warming, but also from rank-and-file scientists like Dr. Easterbook, who told his peers that he had no political ax to grind. A few see natural variation as more central to global warming than heat-trapping gases. Many appear to occupy a middle ground in the climate debate, seeing human activity as a serious threat but challenging what they call the extremism of both skeptics and zealots.Don Easterbook? Hes just a rank-and-file scientist, Broad says—although we are told, very much in passing, that a few of Gores critics see natural variation as more central to global warming than heat-trapping gases. That means that these critics are far outside the current scientific consensus, although Broad doesnt take the time to specify that basic fact.
ROBERTS (3/13/07): Here's something else you never hear about Easterbrook in the piece: he doesnt believe human GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions are causing current global warming. That's fine. More power to him. But it puts him way outside the scientific mainstream; the recent IPCC report put confidence in the culpability of human GHGs at between 90-99 percent. Does Easterbrook's ... idiosyncratic stance on the basic science of climate change not warrant a mention, since he is the critic most prominently featured? Apparently not.Roberts links to this news release about Easterbrooks presentation to the Geological Society of America last October (the presentation which Broad later quotes). But theres no real doubt about Easterbooks views; in the wake of Broads report, he voiced this same view on several cable programs. Here he is on Hannity & Colmes, expressing his outlier outlook:
EASTERBROOK (3/13/07): I don't agree with some of the inaccuracies that are both in the film and the book. And that some of the things that [Gore] alleges are incongruent with logical facts.To Easterbrook, one of the inaccuracies in Gores film and book is the claim that global warming is being caused by humans! As Roberts notes, this places Easterbrook far outside the current scientific consensus. Indeed, how unusual are Easterbrooks views? He predicts global cooling in this century, as we see in last falls news release:
COLMES: You said on October 24, for example, when you gave a speech, you said that the theory that the global warming of the past century was caused by the human input of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere—you questioned that theory. Do you really not believe that human input of carbon dioxide has an atmospheric effect that is harmful to the planet?
EASTERBROOK: I wouldn't say that it doesn't have any effect. I would say it's not the cause of present global warming.
WESTERN WASHINGTON NEWS RELEASE: Easterbrook predicts that temperatures should cool between 2065 until 2100, and that global temperatures at the end of the century should be less than 1 degree cooler than at present. This is in contrast to other theories that there will be a warming by as much as 10 degrees by 2100.Easterbrooks view is in contrast to other theories, his news release modestly said. In fact, his view stands in glaring contrast to the prevailing scientific consensus—a fact which Broad withheld from readers in the course of his lengthy report. Indeed, Broad did more than withhold this fact; he actively suggested that Easterbook wasnt one of the few Gore critics who hold this decided minority view. Easterbook is rank-and-file, Broad said in paragraph 6; this clearly seemed to distinguish him from the few critics who see natural variation as more central to global warming than heat-trapping gases. Later in his piece, Broad identifies one Gore critic, Richard Lindzen, as a vocal skeptic of global warming. But he never tells readers that Easterbrook, his featured critic, fits in that category too. Nor does he identify Robert Carter, who is quoted challenging Gore, as another such warming skeptic. Broad quotes three outlier warming skeptics, but only identifies one.
BROAD: Some of Mr. Gore's centrist detractors point to a report last month by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [IPCC], a United Nations body that studies global warming. The panel went further than ever before in saying that humans were the main cause of the globe's warming since 1950, part of Mr. Gore's message that few scientists dispute. But it also portrayed climate change as a slow-motion process.According to Broad, [s]ome of Mr. Gore's centrist detractors drew that apples-to-oranges comparison. (As youll recall, Gore was discussing what will happen if the Greenland and Antarctic ice shelves break off. By contrast, the IPCC was discussing what will happen if these two shelves dont break off.) Broad never names those centrist detractors—but one of them seems to be Lomborg. Indeed, here is the syndicated article to which Broad refers—and its just as gruesome as Broads overall piece. Indeed, Lomborg pimps that apples-to-oranges comparison; heres what the Gore detractor says about the IPCCs 23-inch prediction:
It estimated that the world's seas in this century would rise a maximum of 23 inches—down from earlier estimates. Mr. Gore, citing no particular time frame, envisions rises of up to 20 feet and depicts parts of New York, Florida and other heavily populated areas as sinking beneath the waves, implying, at least visually, that inundation is imminent.
Bjorn Lomborg, a statistician and political scientist in Denmark long skeptical of catastrophic global warming, said in a syndicated article that the panel, unlike Mr. Gore, had refrained from scaremongering. ''Climate change is a real and serious problem'' that calls for careful analysis and sound policy, Dr. Lomborg said. ''The cacophony of screaming,'' he added, ''does not help.''
LOMBORG (2/7/07): This [prediction] is especially interesting since it fundamentally rejects one of the most harrowing scenes from Al Gore's movie "An Inconvenient Truth." In graphic detail, Mr. Gore demonstrated how a 20-foot rise in the sea level would inundate much of Florida, Shanghai and Holland. The IPCC report makes it clear that exaggerations of this magnitude have no basis in science—though clearly they frightened people and perhaps will win Mr. Gore an Academy Award.Maybe Lomborgs just stupid—or perhaps hes dishonest. For the record, heres how Times Andrew Goldstein reviewed his controversial book, The Skeptical Environmentalist:
GOLDSTEIN (8/26/02): The book, which was published in English last year, became a best seller, and conservatives worldwide use its ideas to justify inaction on such issues as deforestation and global warming. "...We cant judge the overall controversy RE Lomborg. But is he guilty of selective use of data? He certainly was in that syndicated column, pimping that apples-to-oranges comparison. And William Broad—dumb or dishonest?—rushed to repeat this perfect cant. Lomborgs bull-roar had appeared in the New York Sun. Thanks to the hapless (or dishonest?) Broad, it soon found its way to the Times.
Some scientists say they initially hoped to ignore Lomborg but in the wake of his book's popularity have reacted with a fury rarely seen in academia. Peter Raven, chairman of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, calls Lomborg "the prime example in our time of someone who distorts statistics and statements to meet his own political end." A dozen esteemed environmental scientists, including Raven and Harvard's Edward O. Wilson, are demanding that Lomborg's publisher cut him loose...
The problem is, Lomborg gets many of his facts right—and provides 2,930 footnotes to make them easy to check. Some scientists and environmental advocates have made exaggerated claims about environmental doom, and it's not surprising that they have finally been catalogued. Yet Lomborg is as guilty of exaggeration and selective use of data as those he criticizes. He is right that air and water quality and agricultural productivity have improved in much of the world. But to look at the data on global warming, biological diversity, marine depletion and deforestation and still say things are generally getting better takes a willful blindness.
BROKAW (7/9/06): About 10 percent of the earth's surface is covered by ice, most of that in the polar regions. But if enough of that ice melts, the seas will rise dramatically, and the results will be calamitous. If the temperature rises more than four degrees, many believe it could trigger irreversible, runaway melting ice at both poles.We cant speak to the science here; Broad actually could have informed Times readers if he had tried to evaluate these claims. But Brokaw presented the same worst-case scenario for which Broad chose to ridicule Gore (by adopting Lomborgs apples-and-oranges). This catastrophe could happen in this century, Hansen said.
OPPENHEIMER: The Greenland ice cap contains an equivalent of about 23 feet of sea level rise. The west Antarctic ice sheet contains an equivalent of about 20 feet. If we lose a significant part of either of them, coastal civilization as we know it will disappear.
BROKAW: If this worst-case scenario should occur, in the coming centuries, New York could be abandoned, its famous landmarks lost to the sea.
HANSEN: Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, Miami—they would all be underwater. In fact, the entire state of Florida.
BROKAW: This might be the view of Miami 50 miles out to sea. Across the Atlantic, the water would reach all the way to central London. And low-lying countries such as Bangladesh, with much of its land mass at sea level, would be almost wiped off the map.
How long would that take, that kind of apocalypse of water, if you will?
HANSEN: Well, the temperature change would be this century, and how long would it take the ice sheets to respond? That could be 50 years from now, could be 100 years from now, but it's not 1,000 years from now.