Prosecute the torture.

May 17, 2014

More Non-Science At The Tribune-Review

Something must be in the water over there at Scaife's Tribune-Review.  They seem to be pushing the anti-science a bit more these days.  Three days in a row, I think.  Well if they want to keep going, I can keep debunking.

Eric Heyl's doing his best to spread the word with this week's "Q and A" column.  Let's get the easy stuff out of the way first.  Here's Heyl's opening:
James M. Taylor is a senior fellow at The Heartland Institute, a Chicago-based think tank, and managing editor of Environment & Climate News, a national publication focused on free-market environmentalism. He spoke to the Trib regarding a White House report released on Tuesday on the supposedly dire effects of climate change.
Here's Taylor's bio at the Heartland Institute website.  And here's what it says about his academic background:
Taylor received his bachelor's degree from Dartmouth College where he studied atmospheric science and majored in government. He received his Juris Doctorate from Syracuse University.
You'll note, of course, that he's not actually a climate scientist. He's a lawyer with, according to desmogblog, no research published in any peer-reviewed science journals. So, no. He's not a climate scientist.

But he works for the Heartland Institute, a conservative think tank funded by (among others) Exxon Mobil, and two foundations controlled by the owner of the Tribune-Review (The Sarah Scaife and Carthage foundations).

Summing up - James M. Taylor's a non-scientist funded (at least in part) by the petroleum industry and a buncha conservative foundations - I am sure he's completely non-biased.

But let's take a look at what he said (now that we've undermined whatever scientific credibility he would claim to have).  When asked about the "obvious flaws" in the recently released National Climate Assessment, he said:
Most prominent among the flaws are the assertions that global warming is causing an increase in extreme weather events and similar climate catastrophes. The assertion is that global warming is not only increasing extreme weather events, it's also increasing drought, it's increasing wintertime temperatures that have negative consequences for pine beetles, etc.

But all of these assertions are clearly contradicted by the objective data. For example, we know that winter temperatures in the United States have been declining for the past 20 years. Yet here we have in this document the assertion that winters are becoming warmer and this causes pine beetle outbreaks. There is nothing more obviously and blatantly false than that assertion.

(The study) goes on to make other assertions about heat waves and extreme weather events, and it's the same thing. The objective data are clear that as our planet has been modestly warming, we are seeing less frequent and extreme severe weather events. And this is just not reflected in the document. That just speaks to the overt political agenda in this document rather than objective science.
Well then, let's take a look at the scientific data, if only to see if the non-scientist is right.  First we'll take a look at his contradictory data.  Taylor asserts that "winter temperatures in the United States have been declining for the past 20 years" as a counter to the whole of the global data.  This should raise more than a few cherry-picking red flags.  Three by my count:
  • winter temperatures - why not yearly temperatures?
  • temperatures in the United States - why not global temperatures?
  • the past 20 years - why not a larger time frame?
Each of those filters, presumably, would allow Mr Taylor to show you only what he wants you to see.  But let's open up a few of those filters.  If, as he asserts, "winter temperatures in the United States have been declining for the past 20 years," then how is it possible for Canadian winters to be getting warmer over a longer period?  Our friends up north even have a graph to illustrate:


How about Europe over an even longer period, say 100 years?  NOAA has a map for that:


See all the browns and yellow?  Those are the places where it's been colder on average in the United States over a century.  You see, by concentrating on a limited time frame (only winters and only in the last 20 years) and a limited geographic space (the United States), Taylor's able to skew the numbers as he sees fit.

By the way, he attempts to undermine the credibility of the authors of the report with this:
This report is the predictable result of setting up the environmental activists to write a report for the Obama administration. Among the lead authors you have staffers for the Union of Concerned Scientists, the Nature Conservancy and then other environmental activist groups.
Let's just look at the section of the report dealing with "Recent Temperature Trends."  Who wrote it?  Here's the list of Lead Authors:
Katharine Hayhoe, Texas Tech University
James Kossin, NOAA, National Climatic Data Center
Kenneth Kunkel, CICS-NC, North Carolina State Univ., NOAA National Climatic Data Center
Graeme Stephens, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Peter Thorne, Nansen Environmental and Remote Sensing Center
Russell Vose, NOAA National Climatic Data Center
Michael Wehner, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Josh Willis, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory 
I checked.  Each earned a Ph.D. in an actual climate science.  Each is an actual climate scientist.  And yet the non-scientist with a JD from Syracuse University seems to think he has a better handle on the science than they do.

What nonsense.

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