Writing elsewhere, I noted that while mainstream Republicans might not have signed onto the crazy (IMHO) rumors that have been making the rounds of the Internets in the last few months about HAARP-induced earthquakes, some of them cherish a parallel mad scientist fantasy of their own. They believe that global warming is a fraud, perpetrated on an unsuspecting public by evil climatologists.
Like the HAARP conspiracists, who believe that if they can prove that earthquakes in Haiti, Sichuan, Kobe, and Chile furthered US imperial interests then they have as good as proven that the US military artificially induced them, these Global Warming denialists conflate consequences with causes. If “a” benefits “b,” they seem to be thinking, then “b” must have had a hand in “a.” The existence of anthropogenic global warming necessitates global solutions, which empower international institutions. By the light of their faulty logic it follows that “a” must be a Trojan horse—a fraud concocted out of whole cloth by the International Elites, who are looking to impose their Global Supergovernment on a world that is in reality cooling. Ipso facto, the scientists whose research supports global warming must have been corrupted by the Elite’s money.
Thus “Climategate”—the hacked emails between scientists at the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia. To put a conspiratorial counter spin on the alleged conspiracy, if they hadn’t been discovered, someone would have had to invent them. As early as 2003, Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma, then Chairman of the Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works, had declared that “with all of the hysteria, all of the fear, all of the phony science, could it be that manmade global warming is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people? It sure sounds like it.” Upon the release of the Climategate e mails he swiftly demanded a Congressional investigation of what he called “the greatest scientific scandal of our generation.”
Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann is also a confirmed skeptic on the issue of global warming. Her brother is a “certified” meteorologist, she averred, and “he said there is nothing to this global warming phenomenon. As a matter of fact, we are now in a long-term global cooling stage.”
In this other piece I wrote I noted how fascinating it is that at the same time that Bachmann categorically dismisses the consensus view of the world’s climate scientists (click here before you send links to Lawrence Solomon’s The Deniers) she makes a point of emphasizing that her brother is a certified meteorologist. “One of the impressive things about paranoid literature,” Richard Hofstadter wrote in 1963, “Is the contrast between its fantasied conclusions and the almost touching concern with factuality it invariably shows. It produces heroic strivings for evidence to prove that the unbelievable is the only thing that can be believed.” 9/11 Truthers, as I have noted elsewhere, also pay extravagant obeisance to the scientific method, touting the academic qualifications of the handful of physicists and structural engineers who have signed onto their movement and ignoring the 99.9% of their peers who disagree with them.
But then in today’s NY Times, I read this (click here for the full article):
The debate over global warming has created predictable adversaries, pitting environmentalists against industry and coal-state Democrats against coastal liberals.
But it has also created tensions between two groups that might be expected to agree on the issue: climate scientists and meteorologists, especially those who serve as television weather forecasters.
Climatologists, who study weather patterns over time, almost universally endorse the view that the earth is warming and that humans have contributed to climate change. There is less of a consensus among meteorologists, who predict short-term weather patterns……
Such skepticism appears to be widespread among TV forecasters, about half of whom have a degree in meteorology. A study released on Monday by researchers at George Mason University and the University of Texas at Austin found that only about half of the 571 television weathercasters surveyed believed that global warming was occurring and fewer than a third believed that climate change was “caused mostly by human activities.”
Who knew? The Times asked its sources to speculate about the reasons for the divide.
Heidi Cullen, a climatologist who straddled the two worlds when she worked at the Weather Channel, noted that meteorologists used models that were intensely sensitive to small changes in the atmosphere but had little accuracy more than seven days out. Dr. Cullen said meteorologists are often dubious about the work of climate scientists, who use complex models to estimate the effects of climate trends decades in the future….
Resentment may also play a role in the divide. Climatologists are almost always affiliated with universities or research institutions where a doctoral degree is required. Most meteorologists, however, can get jobs as weather forecasters with a college degree.
“There is a little bit of elitist-versus-populist tensions,” Mr. Henson said. “There are meteorologists who feel, ‘Just because I have a bachelor’s degree doesn’t mean I don’t know what’s going on.’ ”
Whatever the reasons, meteorologists are far more likely to question the underlying science of climate change. A study published in the January 2009 newsletter of the American Geophysical Union, the professional association of earth scientists, found that while nearly 90 percent of some 3,000 climatologists who responded agreed that there was evidence of human-driven climate change, 80 percent of all earth scientists and 64 percent of meteorologists agreed with the statement. Only economic geologists who specialized in industrial uses of materials like oil and coal were more skeptical.
How ironic that weathermen turn out to be the biggest mavericks on TV when it comes to resisting conventional wisdom (even if they’re on the wrong side of the facts). And how telling that scientists whose work is focused on the industrial applications for fossil fuels would have such a different perspective than academic climatologists. It makes you wonder how objective science really is.
In the real world, it seems, some scientists are no less subjective than English professors and politicians. But if it’s lucre that provides the motive for bad science, then it’s worth noting that there’s a lot more of it sloshing around the coal and oil industries (and for that matter, local TV news operations) than can be found at most research universities.