The Weather Channel threw their “two cents” into the debate about credible journalism by calling out Breitbart on a climate change denial story. Their willingness to step up and explain to viewers why the Breitbart position was completely bogus could be a sign that more sources will call out such stories. I hope that happens. I loved this so very much: Breitbart misleads Americans on Climate Change. The headline was great, it used correct and consise words and The Weather Channel is generally seen as a reliable source of information to the public – possibly because it’s rather difficult to fake standing in feet of rain or snow, or attempting to stand upright in hurricane force winds.
TWC took offense at the Breitbart bullshit (a technical term meaning communication that lacks content, logic or truth from the perspective of natural science) because one of their clips was used in the piece. The Breitbart piece claimed that global warming was an unwarranted “scare” that will soon die considering this “new” revelation. That revelation was a cherry-picked, deceptive ploy by a writer at the Daily Mail to suggest that El Nino effect, not human-induced climate change, was responsible for record high temperature of recent years. The Daily Mail piece, written by David Rose, was roundly picked to shreds by climate scientists.
This article is a textbook case of cherry picking—it selects only one record, ignores the limitations of the data it comments on, and forms an argument based on only a few months of a much longer record. This is akin to claiming that sea level rise has ended because high tide in one area has ebbed.
Other climate experts (ACTUAL experts) also called the piece “incredibly misleading” (Zeke Hausfather), “flawed to perfection” (Stephen Lewandowsky) and the argument made by Rose “completely bogus” (Stephen Sherwood).
It seems kind of pointless to try to precisely attribute why one year was warmer or cooler than the last; this is basically just due to climate variability (including but not limited to El Niño). The broader point is that all evidence suggests that the long-term global surface warming trend has continued. There is no evidence that the rate of warming since 1998 is statistically different from the long-term trend since 1950.
– Kyle Armour, U. of Washington
Rose appears to have deliberately picked out only a portion of the data showing land temperatures from the past few years that do not apparently rise. This careful selection of data is difficult to do by accident. Rose also is deliberate in his assertion that things are very simple – El Nino was to blame for the warming – ignoring the various factors that play into GLOBAL climate change including ocean temperatures and the 30-plus year crystal clear trend of warming that shows no sign of abating. It’s wrong to confuse small-scale fluctuations in the data with long-term trends just as it’s silly to say there is no global warming because we’ve had a few days of a cold snap.
This commentary suggests quite deftly that Rose considers his readers too stupid to understand how he manipulated the data and ignored actual references to science and expert opinion. But Rose was appealing to cognitive bias and his actions achieved their goal of effectively skewing the truth.
The Weather Channel did an OK job of calling out Breitbart perhaps because the US House Committee on Science, Space and Tech endorsed the Breitbart piece with a retweet. (Whomever runs this Twitter account has previously made callous, ignorant quips against “green” organizations concerned about global warming.) It’s now common for UK tabloids to write a bullshit story and have the American propaganda outlets co-opt it for clicks, and then such nonsense is taken seriously by our anti-science legislators. At least this lapse in judging credibility got some attention.
But, hang on, Breitbart quoting the Daily Mail? Yep, it’s turtles all the way down. We’re seriously falling down on media literacy these days.
Sadly, climate change is in the headlines today also due to the President-elect’s choice to head the EPA. Several headlines in major news outlets call Scott Pruitt out as a “climate change skeptic” – an irritating and poor choice of words. It’s not clear if Pruitt does not subscribe to climate change because he is in denial of the scientific consensus or if he just doesn’t want to face uncomfortable action such as restrictions on fossil fuel burning and increased environmental regulation which he is obviously not fond of. Either way, he’s no “skeptic”, he’s not doubtful or withholding judgement, he is actively in denial about the serious consequences the world will face.
How long can this theater of lies and denial about global climate change continue? The evidence is compelling and dozens of scientific specialty fields have independent data pointing to the effects of climate change happening today. Just as with evolution denialism, research will be flawed and useless if objective truths are rejected. Your predictions will fail and potentially dangerous consequences will befall society when we fail to accept those objective truths that have been demonstrated to exist by multiple means. Public consensus has shifted towards acceptance of climate change and greater concern over what it means for all life on earth, particularly for humans (and polar bears). Will it shift again as this fallacious position becomes prominent with the incoming wave of science denialists? That’s hard to say. But I commend the Weather Channel for speaking out in clear, understandable terms to their audience who needs to hear it exactly this way. It’s fruitless to throw scientific studies and point-by-point refutation of bogus news stories out to the public. They won’t read them nor understand it. Climate change is complicated scientifically, politically, and socially. We need to talk about this subject in terms everyone can comprehend and address the values that are threatened. Climate change is not stopping. The more everyone can individually press, however they can, to make that fact clear, the harder it will be for unscrupulous media outlets and ignorant politicians to play this dumb game.