Monday, June 05, 2006

Global Warming and the Liars

So I went and saw An Inconvenient Truth last night. Good documentary. Lucid and persuasive. I hope it gets wider release. If it isn't out in your city yet, you can go to for some of the same info.

It's heartening to see that the mainstream media are at least temporarily taking note of some of the important facts about global warming that the documentary points out. Those facts bear repeating, especially since they're often shrouded in a smog of nonsense produced by polluters whose profits depend on people not hearing the facts. So here are the two facts that impressed me most along with a quick summary of the "smog" (bad logic and misrepresentations) used to neutralize them.

SMOG #1: The oil lobby and the White House (sometimes I feel tempted to write "the oil lobby and its White House") are constantly fighting raising the minimum fleet-wide miles-per-gallon of vehicles sold in America because they claim that that America can't afford to cut down on the carbon-dioxide emissions from car exhaust by making more efficient cars because it would destroy the competetiveness of our car-makers.

FACT #1: Europe, Australia, Canada, Japan, and others all already have much more stringent fleet mpg requirements than we do. So it's not like our car manufacturers would be at a disadvantage against, say, Japanese cars. Making more efficient cars might actually make them more competetive in countries that pay $6-7 per gallon for gas. For example, Ford might be able to sell, say, Expeditions in England if a) the Expedition fit on any of the streets and b) the damn things wouldn't cost drivers $9 a day for a 20-mile round-trip commute.

The biggest bogeyman in this resistance to improved fuel efficiency is China, whose government is probably even more indifferent to environmental issues than the US's. The obfuscators want us to think that if the US raises standards, American automakers never be able to compete with Chinese automakers or in the Chinese market. Which brings me to the single fact out of all the mpg facts that blew my mind:
America's requirements: 25 mpg.
China's: 35 mpg.
Let me repeat. Fact #1: China has stricter mpg standards than the US. China.

SMOG #2: The scientific community is divided between those who believe that global warming is happening and that human activity significantly contributes to it and those who are skeptical of one or both of those beliefs.

FACT #2: The scientific community is divided between those who believe that global warming is happening and that human activity significantly contributes to it and those who get paid by polluters to believe otherwise.

Yes, there are scientists who publish papers disputing the existence of global warming or its connection to human activity. But they get paid directly or indirectly by polluters to do so. Independent scientists find such work unsubstantiated, shoddy, and embarrassing.

Gore points out that Science magazine recently examined a 928-article sample of all the articles (about 9,300, I think) published in peer-reviewed journals from 1993-2003. In those articles not one (!) scientist disputed either the existence of global warming or human activity's contribution to it. Not one.

That's the major distinction between peer-reviewed journals and journals sponsored by Exxon-Mobil. Peer-reviewed journals are reviewed by scientists not on the industry payroll, i.e. scientists whose allegiance is to science. Before the editors of those journals sign off on articles, they have profesionals read them. And people who know what they're doing all say that global warming is real and that we're causing it.

MORE FOG #2. Science also surved a sample of more than 500 articles published in mainsteam newspapers and magazines 1993-2003 and found that 50% of those articles indicated that there is a controversy in the scientific community over global warming.

So the scientists don't think there's a controversy. But many Americans think that scientists think there is. Why? Because there are mind-bogglingly many well-paid groups and people lying to us about global warming.

The lies and the liars range from the systematic to the opportunistic. On the systematic side, for example, we have the fine folks at the Competitive Enterprise Institute (a proxy organization funded in large part by Exxon-Mobil and the American Petroleum Institute) have just launched a pair of sixty-second ads that insist (I kid you not), "Carbon dioxide. They call it pollution. We call it life." (Thinkprogress has a good post on this.)

On the opportunistic side, we have all these pointy little talking heads banging mightily at the leaky and dented pots and pans that they call ideas, all so that somebody will point the camera at them. For example, Jonathan Hoenig recently insisted on Fox News global warming is the mutant brainchild of Luddite fantasists. Drawing on his extensive scientific background as managing member of Capitalist Pig Hedge fund, Hoenig declared:
There's no scientific proof that global warming even exists. To be honest, it's a bogus consensus dreamed up by the greens because they hate industry. They hate advancement and technology. And whether it's drilling in ANWR or any type of medical research on animals, greens will lead us back to the stone ages.

(Caveman Gore, by the way, has put together a slick multimedia campaign and movie that not only highlight the dangers of global warming but also testify to the multimedia power of Mac laptops. Anti-corporate, anti-technology Gore also sits on the board of Apple Computers.)

In addition to the charming false equating of people who don't want the oceans to rise twenty feet to people who don't want Merck to test on chimps, Hoenig also offered up the hilarious false choice: either terrorism is a problem or global warming is. We can't possibly pay attention to both. (Presumably there's no scientific proof that third-graders can walk and chew gum at the same time.) And if we are going to pay attention to more than one threat, Hoenig says, terrorism is by far threat one. Threat two according to Hoenig? "It's the environmentalists themselves," he says. Presumably, if environmentalists weren't afraid of technology, they'd be building bombs and learning to fly airplanes. Thank our unwarming heavens that Hoenig had the guts to go on Cashin' In and expose the peril.

With such lying and stupidity everywhere, it's an uphill battle for people like Gore who spend at least some of their time learning facts and thinking about them. But I'm glad they're doing it. It even seems to be working, at least a little.


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