What Fresh Hell Is This?

September 1, 2011

Jack Kelly Debunked In The P-G

While I've been debunking Jack Kelly for some time now (and Ed Heath's been doing a bang up job over at Cognitive Dissonance as well), it's always good to read other debunkings - especially when they're by real honest to goodness experts.

Witness Wednesday's piece in the P-G from Brenda Ekwurzel (Ph.D. in isotope geochemistry from Department of Earth Sciences at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, by the way). No ambiguity in her point of view when she opens with:
Post-Gazette columnist Jack Kelly may feel comfortable using inaccurate statements and cherry-picked data to attack climate science and scientists ("Chicken Little Gore Goes on a Tirade," Aug. 24), but as one of those scientists, I can look at the Pittsburgh streets I grew up on and see how climate change is already shifting the baselines of "normal" weather.
"[I]naccurate statements and cherry-picked data"? Really?? That sound an awful lot like Jack to me.

Ekwurzel thumbnails the science and starts in on our Jack:
Scientists have been studying climate change for a very long time. The idea that adding extra carbon dioxide to the atmosphere could trap heat and drive climate change has been known by scientists since 1896. Over the past 150 years, burning coal and oil and destroying tropical forests has increased the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere 38 percent, to more than 385 parts per million, its highest level in more than 800,000 years.

The result is a warming world. The four scientific agencies that track global temperature all agree that the 2000s were the hottest average decade since reliable record keeping began in the late 1880s. Before that the hottest average decade was the 1990s and before that it was the prior decade. Scientists know it's better to take a long view to identify climate trends, but Mr. Kelly cherry-picked figures from 1998 to draw misleading conclusions about climate change.
That would be when Jack wrote:
Global temperatures peaked in 1998. People have noticed winters are getting colder.
Note he's using anecdotal evidence ("People have noticed...") to support his argument. Which people? When? Where?

Reminder to Jack: Anecdotal evidence is not scientific evidence.

Back to Ekwurzel:
That was just one of many misleading aspects of Mr. Kelly's column. He also pointed to previous eras in Earth's history when carbon dioxide levels and global temperature differed greatly. But he failed to acknowledge that natural climate change in the past was due to changes not only in carbon dioxide levels, but also in the planet's orbit, the sun's output of energy and even the shifting of continents over thousands and sometimes hundreds of thousands and millions of years. Modern climate change is different because we are rapidly introducing extra carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and seeing resulting changes in our own lifetimes.
Whah? So Jack left stuff out?? Inconceivable! She addresses Jack's take on Climategate:
Further, Mr. Kelly personally attacks scientists based on a misreading of emails that hackers stole from a British university in late 2009. Yet he fails to mention that no less than six independent investigations have cleared the scientists involved, including a three-part investigation by Penn State University.
Like this one.

Dr. Ekwurzel ends with this:
In order to succeed with anything, we need to start with facts. Misleading columns like Jack Kelly's are a harmful distraction from the challenge we face when it comes to climate changes.
Unfortunately as we've seen over the years, Jack Kelly is more likely to mislead than he is to accurately reflect reality.


Clyde Wynant said...

Guys like Jack and Jim Quinn do what they do for one reason only; money. If Jack or Jim thought the prevailing wind was blowing towards "liberals," they'd change their stripes in a minute. Dennis Miller, Pittsburgh's native son, did the same thing; he went for the money. Classy lot, one and all

Everything else you say about them is just pointless. They are whores.

EdHeath said...

You know, I wonder if liberals/progressives make up "facts" and deliberately misinterpret economics or science to further their case for some program or policy. Probably some have done so (as I am sure conservatives would say), although liberals/progressives seem to like using technology to solve problems, and so often rely on the support (and good wishes) of parts of the scientific community to advance their agenda. Similarly liberals/progressives seem more inclined to listen to scientists when the scientists sound an alarm.

This post from Grist backstops Dr Ekwurzel's points about Jack Kelly. Various well known conservative pundits are trying to explain what Rick Perry means when he says climate change is a hoax. For me, it comes back to the Tea Party Declaration of Independence, where they said they don't trust (so-called) "educated elites" to tell them what to do. This tail of the Republican party (and for all their denials, they are inextricably woven into the fabric of the Republican party) is trying to wag the whole dog, and wag it in a know nothing, self destructive direction. They don't want to drive smaller cars slower on the highway, so scientists become hucksters. They want to use the bible to maintain sexism in the workplace and home as well as prevent gay marriage, so evolution becomes a "theory with problems". They want to allow banks to do anything the banks want to do, so macro economics in general and Keynesian theory specifically becomes "fringe economics", and the history of the Great Depression is re-written.

Maybe Sally Kalson or Dan Simpson gets stuff wrong sometimes, misunderstands things. That's really what letters to the editor are for. But every week Jack Kelly distorts facts to blatantly attempt to generate support for the Republican/Tea Party. If Tea Party candidates dismiss scientists, then Kelly also expresses his contempt for science. Better hope the engineers who design the weapons our soldiers use were more committed to science than Kelly is.