Category Archives: Education

Climate Exaggerators

Cliff Mass on the academic wages of debunking them:

Every time I correct misinformation in the media like this, I get savaged by some “environmentalists” and media. I am accused of being a denier, a skeptic, an instrument of the oil companies, and stuff I could not repeat in this family friendly blog. Sometimes it is really hurtful. Charles Mudede of the Stranger is one of worst of the crowd, calling me “dangerous” and out of my mind (see example below).

A postdoc at the UW testified at the Environment Committee of the Washington State House saying that I was a contrarian voice. I spoke to her in person a few days later and asked where my science was wrong–she could not name one thing. But she told me that my truth telling was “aiding” the deniers. We agreed to disagree.

My efforts do not go unnoticed at the UW, with my department chairman and leadership in the UW Climate Impacts Group telling me of “concerns” with my complaints about hyped stories on oyster deaths and snowpack. One UW professor told me that although what I was saying was true, I needed to keep quiet because I was helping “the skeptics.” Probably not good for my UW career.

I believe scientists must provide society with the straight truth, without hype or exaggeration, and that we must correct false or misleading information in the media. It is not our role to provide inaccurate information so that society will “do the right thing.” History is full of tragic examples of deceiving the public to promote the “right thing”–such as weapons of mass destruction claims and the Iraq War.

Global warming forced by increasing greenhouse gases is an extraordinarily serious challenge to our species that will require both mitigation (reducing emissions) and adaptation (preparing ourselves to deal with the inevitable changes). Society can only make the proper decisions if they have scientists’ best projections of what will happen in the future, including the uncertainties.

What a concept.

Demons Under Every Rock

The ever-expanding definition of “climate denial.”

These sorts of attacks, supported by multiple layers of links that never actually materially support the claims that are being made, used to be the domain of a small set of marginal activists and blogs. Atkin herself cut her teeth at Climate Progress, where her colleague Joe Romm has spent over a decade turning ad hominem into a form of toxic performance art.2

But today, these misrepresentations are served up in glossy, big-budget magazines. Climate denial has morphed, in the eyes of the climate movement, and their handmaidens in the media, into denial of green policy preferences, not climate science.

…More broadly, the expansion of the use of denier by both activists and journalists in the climate debate, a word once reserved only for Holocaust denial, mirrors a contemporary political moment in which all opposing viewpoints, whether in the eyes of the alt-right or the climate left, are increasingly viewed as illegitimate. The norms that once assured that our free press would also be a fair press have deeply eroded. Balanced reporting and fair attribution have become road kill in a world where all the incentives for both reporters and their editors are to serve up red meat for their highly segmented and polarized readerships, a dynamic that both reflects and feeds the broader polarization in our polity. It is a development that does not bode well for pluralism or democracy.


[Update Wednesday afternoon]

Related thoughts on the Brett Stephens brouhaha: How to lose friends and alienate people.



Commemorating (but not celebrating) a century of it:

It would be simplistic to blame all of these events on ideology. We live in an imperfect world and those imperfections have been unequally distributed. No conceivable government of Russia, or China, or Venezuela would have left no citizens impoverished or oppressed. Nonetheless, a hundred years of communism has presented us with an intimidating record of catastrophe, in a moral, political, and economic sense. Time and again, ambition has exceeded potential. Time and again, coercion has encouraged conflict. Time and again, violence has perpetuated itself. Time and again, absolute power has hardened into tyranny.

These disasters were concealed, excused and exacerbated by Western apologists and traitors. Walter Duranty of the New York Times lied to America about the scale of the Soviet famine. Intellectuals from George Bernard Shaw to Jean Paul Sartre to Eric Hobsbawm rationalised atrocities. Spies in British and American institutions betrayed military and intelligence secrets. As Europe reeled from the horrors of world war, and as the West endured the austerity of the depression, the impulse towards radicalism was understandable. But as the reality of communism was exposed even dull-minded apologists ran out of excuses.

A recent article in the New York Times offers a nostalgic account of growing up as a communist. Its author implies that the reality of Stalinism was made clear by Kruschev in 1956. But two decades earlier, Gareth Jones and Malcolm Muggeridge had exposed widespread starvation in the Soviet Union. The show trials had been reported across America and Europe. The Madden Committee had revealed the truth of Katyn. Orwell had published Animal Farm, and Koestler Darkness at Noon. By 1956, ignorance was abominable.

And it should be even more so today, but it has a sick appeal to something in human nature.

[Update a few minutes later]

I wish this were less related: The Cruelty Of Blue. As goes Puerto Rico, so will go many Democrat-run cities on the mainland.

Trump’s Knowledge

George Will says he doesn’t even know what knowledge is:

As president-elect, Trump did not know the pedigree and importance of the “one China” policy. About such things he can be, if he is willing to be, tutored. It is, however, too late to rectify this defect: He lacks what T. S. Eliot called a sense “not only of the pastness of the past, but of its presence.” His fathomless lack of interest in America’s path to the present and his limitless gullibility leave him susceptible to being blown about by gusts of factoids that cling like lint to a disorderly mind.

The problem is that he thinks he has “a very good brain.” This is Dunning-Krugerish.

But I’m still relieved that she lost.

That Time Of Year Again

It’s Victims Of Communism Day, 2017:

This year is a particularly important time to remember the victims of Communism because of the approaching one hundredth anniversary of the October Revolution – Bolshevik takeover of Russia. The Soviet Union was not the most oppressive communist regime. It probably did not match the even more thoroughgoing totalitarianism of the Khmer Rouge and North Korea. Nor did it kill the most people – a record held by Mao Zedong the Chinese communists. But the Soviet experiment was the principal model for all the later communist states, and it is hard to imagine communists seizing control of so much of the world without it. In addition to the significant material aid that the Soviets provided to communists in other nations, the communist seizure of power in Russia also greatly boosted the ideology’s prospects elsewhere.