by James Taylor
Every now and then I read a blog post that melts my heart. I truly feel the pain, anguish and anger of the writer. I may not always agree with the writer’s point of view, but I empathize with the writer’s pain nonetheless.
Reading Peter Gleick’s January 5 blog post here at Forbes.com, I experienced that empathy in full force. Gleick’s global warming beliefs are misguided and unsupported by sound science, but I nevertheless empathize with his pain and frustration that few people seem to agree with him. A person of thinner skin than me might be offended by Gleick’s frustration-induced rant, but I believe the best remedy is truth and understanding. Accordingly, I understand Gleick’s pain and I will present some truths that might ease Gleick’s anguish if he listens to them with an open heart and mind.
Gleick sets the tone for his blog post in the very first sentence, where he begins his column by stating, “The Earth’s climate continued to change during 2011….” Here, in the first eight words of his column, Gleick unwittingly reveals one of the primary reasons why he is so wrong in his dire warnings of a human-induced global warming crisis. Gleick and his fellow global warming alarmists are the ultimate climate change deniers.
They present changing climate as unprecedented and unavoidably harmful. They act as if the climate never changed before now. In reality, however, the earth’s long-term, mid-term and short-term climate history is defined by frequent and substantial climate change. Of course, as Gleick states, “The Earth’s climate continued to change during 2011”! When was the last time the Earth’s climate was not undergoing some change? Please, global warming alarmists, stop denying climate change!
Gleick finishes his opening sentence by asserting, “a year in which unprecedented combinations of extreme weather events killed people and damaged property around the world.”
That is quite a bold, unsupported statement. Just what were those extreme weather events? Gleick doesn’t say. Perhaps we can speculate.
It certainly wasn’t hurricanes, as Ryan Maue at the Florida State University Center for Ocean-Atmospheric Prediction Studies documents that global and U.S. hurricane activity has been remarkably quiet for the past few years. During 2009, global accumulated tropical cyclone energy reached a record low, and has remained abnormally quiet in the two-plus years since.
It certainly wasn’t tornadoes, as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports 2011 continued a long-term trend in declining frequency of strong tornadoes. Yes, there were some strong tornadoes in 2011, but there are strong tornadoes every year. The only thing climatically remarkable about the 2011 tornado season is that the relatively few strong tornadoes that did occur happened to beat the odds and touch down more often in urban areas than is usually the case. Unless Gleick is arguing that global warming somehow causes hurricanes to wickedly target disproportionately urban areas, tornadoes like hurricanes are becoming less of a threat during recent decades as the planet has modestly warmed.
It certainly wasn’t drought, as multiple peer reviewed studies report global soil moisture has consistently improved during the past century as the planet has warmed. (See, for example, this study.) Yes, some droughts are going to occur somewhere on the planet each year, as they always have, but cherry-picking one of the increasingly less frequent droughts that still do occur does not constitute evidence that global warming is causing more extreme weather events.
Perhaps Gleick can identify some alternative candidates to tornadoes, hurricanes and droughts by which global warming allegedly caused “unprecedented combinations of extreme weather events [that] killed people and damaged property around the world.” But don’t hold your breath.
Gleick, like so many of his alarmist colleagues, believes that anybody who disagrees with his scientific theories is “anti-science.” Yet it is hard to imagine objective tornado data compiled by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to be “anti-science.” But Gleick apparently believes it so.
It is hard to imagine objective tropical cyclone data compiled by Florida State University Center for Ocean-Atmospheric Prediction Studies to be “anti-science,” but Gleick apparently believes it so.
It is hard to imagine objective soil moisture data compiled by several independent teams of scientists to be “anti-science,” but Gleick apparently believes it so.
The term “anti-science” most appropriately applies to those who refuse to consider competing evidence and scientific theories that raise doubts about their own theories. This term applies in spades to Gleick.
In the very same sentence that Gleick rants about people who disagree with him being anti-science, he accuses them of being financially bought off. Gleick asserts the people who disagree with him are part of a “concerted, well-funded, and aggressive anti-science campaign” [emphasis in the original] that is “focused on protecting narrow financial interests.” That is a very curious accusation, considering that environmental activist groups like Gleick’s Pacific Institute receive a great deal more funding than the free-market, sound-science groups that he claims are “well-funded” and overly concerned with the role of the federal government.
For example, Gleick twice directs his wrath at the Heartland Institute. The Heartland Institute does indeed receive approximately $7 million in annual funding (with relatively little coming from corporations and only a very small fraction coming from corporations having anything to do with the global warming debate). By contrast, the Natural Resources Defense Council receives close to $100 million in annual funding, Greenpeace receives close to $200 million in annual funding, the World Wildlife Fund receives approximately $600 million in annual funding, etc., etc., etc. Which groups, indeed, are the “well-funded” entities “focused on protecting narrow financial interests?”
Gleick continues his blog by venomously attacking by name people and groups with whom he disagrees on the science.
He begins by singling out everyone who is a candidate to lead the Republican Party. Whether one is a Republican, a Democrat or a member/sympathizer of any other political party should be irrelevant regarding scientific inquiry and truth, but prominent global warming alarmists such as Gleick seem obsessed with bringing political party affiliation into the discussion. Give us a break!
Curiously, Gleick claims some of these Republicans “intentionally distort science because it conflicts with deeply held political or religious ideology.” Yet in the very same paragraph Gleick praises a prominent global warming alarmist who “happens to be an evangelical and speaks regularly to conservative groups.” Well, which is it? Is it acceptable to view scientific issues through the prism of religious beliefs and political ideology or is it not appropriate? Gleick betrays his lack of objectivity and his agenda-driven worldview by imposing such a blatant double-standard on those who disagree with him.
Gleick follows up the imposition of his double-standard by writing about the evangelical alarmist, “She was also targeted by these activists for personal abuse – a tactic often pursued by climate deniers and contrarians.” As is the case throughout his blog post, Gleick fails to present any facts to back up his assertion. Specifically which activists targeted her for personal abuse, and specifically what personal abuse occurred? Also, specifically who, how and when was this “tactic often pursued by climate deniers and contrarians”? Furthermore, assuming any such personal abuse indeed occurred, how is it any different from the personal abuse heaped upon skeptics? Gleick, not surprisingly, provides no such examples or explanations.
Gleick then writes three predictable paragraphs targeting those few members of the national media who are not in the back pocket of global warming alarmists and environmental activist groups. Heaven forbid even a few media personalities or media outlets present anything other than Gleick’s side of the debate!
Gleick then pours his wrath out on scientists who oversee NASA satellite instruments showing little or no recent global warming. Gleick accuses the scientists, without presenting any facts or evidence to back it up, of presenting “misleading” testimony to Congress. He then says one of their papers “turned out to contain serious scientific errors according to experts working in this field.” Gleick conveniently forgets to mention that the so-called “experts” he describes consist almost entirely of Gleick and his cabal of outspoken, agenda-driven global warming alarmists. Talk about “misleading” statements!
After this, Gleick singles out several more people and groups for his wrath. To be honest, I started falling asleep at this point, as the blog post was becoming exceptionally redundant and predictable. Suffice it to say that I feel Peter’s pain and empathize with his anguish. At some point, however, one must either move on to more interesting topics or risk falling asleep in the midst of empathy.