‘Just Propaganda’

April 30th, 2012 · No Comments · Uncategorized

By Denise Tessier

Yet again, the Albuquerque Journal has published a local column “debunking” global warming.

And yet again, editors gambled on the chance that another local columnist would set the record straight with a nearly point-by-point rebuttal. One did, and the Journal ran it two days after the first.

Paul Krugman of The New York Times once joked that if one party or group declared that the earth was flat, “the headlines would read ‘Views Differ on Shape of Planet.’”

In essence, that’s what we have here: Editors running anything that comes their way instead of throwing questionable – in this case, disputable — columns in the circular file (the trash).

The “debunking” column in question ran April 23 with the blatant-statement headline “Global Warming Is Just Propaganda.” How many readers saw that headline and didn’t have the time or inclination to read or investigate further? How many trust the Journal not to run pieces shaky on facts?

Those who read the column on the Journal’s website didn’t even have to wait for the rebuttal that the Journal ran two days later. If you clicked on the “Suggested Reading” links just below the column, all four stories – both local and national — contradicted what the “propaganda” column said.

The column in question was written by a man identified as a “Bernalillo resident” who took issue with another column, “Climate Future Hangs in Balance,” and with its syndicated author, Amy Goodman, whom he said “is clearly affiliated with the group of activists that she refers to as ‘climate activists.’”

I will leave the point-by-point rebuttal of “Propaganda” to Mark Boslough, a member of New Mexicans for Science and Reason, whose own column, “Climate Change Is Based Only on Fact” ran two days after.

Not only does Boslough contradict the Bernalillo resident’s credentials, he corrects the errors the column contained, saying:

Lewis Green asserts that there is no global warming. His conclusion is based on his master’s degree in mechanical engineering and a few years “reading up on climate change.”

But despite his professed science background (engineers are required to take some science courses), his column is riddled with factual errors about science.

I have respect for engineers. Even after earning a Ph.D. in physics and taking graduate-level courses in mechanical engineering, I do not consider myself competent to challenge established engineering facts. Appeals to supposed authority are dangerous. In science, the ultimate authority is the list of facts.

Boslough then lists the facts. Among them is the answer to this question by Green:

If scientists cannot predict tomorrow’s and next week’s weather accurately, how can they using similar tools expect to predict the weather patterns for the next century?

Boslough answers:

♦ Fact: Climate and weather are not the same thing. Climate can be predicted far into the future, even though weather can’t. Physicists understand that air temperature is a measure of the average speed of molecules. We can describe temperature and predict how it will change without being able to predict the speed and position of every single molecule. Likewise, we can predict it without knowing what the weather will be.

Green’s column made other assertions and statements based on his personal interpretations of “reading up on climate change.” He offered anecdotes about weather and the dust bowl and gave us his beliefs:

I believe that the left-wing activists have taken misinformation to a new and dangerous level where it is affecting national and worldwide policies that can have a major negative impact on the U.S. and world economies at a time of significant economic weakness.

I believe that we are more likely to experience global cooling over the next 50 to 100 years than global warming. The focus should be on getting the world economies moving forward and not focusing on the nonexistent global warming.

Journal editors ran this, even though it is inconsistent with stories that have run on the Journal’s own pages and with the four stories listed below “Propaganda” on the Journal’s website as “Suggested Reading.” Here are those four stories:

An excerpt from this article:

WASHINGTON — A prominent physicist and skeptic of global warming spent two years trying to find out if mainstream climate scientists were wrong. In the end, he determined they were right: Temperatures really are rising rapidly.

The study of the world’s surface temperatures by Richard Muller was partially bankrolled by a foundation connected to global warming deniers. He pursued long-held skeptic theories in analyzing the data. He was spurred to action because of “Climategate,” a British scandal involving hacked emails of scientists.

Yet he found that the land is 1.6 degrees warmer than in the 1950s. Those numbers from Muller, who works at the University of California, Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, match those by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA.

I wonder if Bernalillo resident Green were to read this excellent column by Bill McKibben, if he might be persuaded to change his “beliefs.”

This reportage by Journal staff writer Aurelio Sanchez quotes Boslough as one of a panel of physicists saying that climate change brought on by global warming is real, and to ignore it is to increase the chances of a global catastrophe:

“It’s like playing a game in which you shoot a gun into the air,” said Mark Boslough, a physicist with Sandia National Laboratories.

In running “Global Warming Is Propaganda,” Journal editors perpetuate the controversy, mislead readers and stymie public policy because prudent decisions cannot be made in the absence of a consensus that there is, indeed, a problem. In continuing to run these pieces, the editors eschew responsibility and hide behind the appearance of being “balanced.”

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  • Carol

    Thanks for pointing out the absurdity of giving so much space to an opinion piece that runs counter to what scientists have been trying to tell the public about global warming. The focus should be on human factors contributing to the problem.

  • Dave Thomas

    While kicking around a response at NMSR, we reallyt did wonder if the Journal was just baiting us to stir up op-eds (and readers).

    Lots more on our AGW fact sheet page,

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