Delusion at RealClearPolitics

Robert Tracinski

Robert Tracinski looks like a friendly guy. I’m sure he’s a good family man and that his friends have only nice things to say about him.

Earlier this month he published an avalanche of ignorance in his column at RealClearPolitics. I find columns like these all the time on RCP, but the delusion here is so ripe that I’ve decided to expose it.

Tracinski starts by quoting some musings of philosopher Harry Binswanger, who hasn’t noticed any warming during his lifetime. I’m sorry that Mr. Binswanger doesn’t know anything about climate science.

Then Tracinski quotes a denier’s take on a recent Economist article. The Economist article was itself flawed in multiple ways, but at its bottom line it stuck close to the mainstream assessment of future climate change:

Since CO₂ accumulates in the atmosphere, this could increase temperatures compared with pre-industrial levels by around 2°C even with a lower sensitivity and perhaps nearer to 4°C at the top end of the estimates. Despite all the work on sensitivity, no one really knows how the climate would react if temperatures rose by as much as 4°C. Hardly reassuring.

In Tracinski’s mind, this translates as saying that global warming is “already being proven wrong.”

Why don’t you plot this data on the Kelvin scale? Then it will look really flat!

Next, Tracinski gives us a “zoomed-out version” of global temperature data. He (or somebody else, there’s no attribution) plots global temperature on a scale from 0°C to 15°C, saying that this is shows “absolute measurements.” Apparently he has no idea where the Celsius scale comes from!

How dare such an ignoramus reject NASA, NOAA, AMS, NAS, AGU, ACS, APS, and a dozen other major scientific organizations on questions of science?

His point about “zooming” is also ignorant of our understanding that when the Earth was 3°C to 5°C cooler than now, Manhattan and Chicago were covered by a mile of ice; and when the Earth was just 2°C to 5°C warmer than now, sea level was 6 meters higher. Less than 1°C degree of warming over the last century has already brought dramatic changes. We could get a devastating 4°C of warming this coming century if we stay on our current path.

For pure morbid interest, I read on. Tracinski doesn’t disappoint:

So basically, all that the global warming advocates really have, as the evidentiary basis for their theory, is that global temperatures were a little higher than usual in the late 1990s. That’s it. Which proves nothing. The climate varies, just as weather varies, and as far as we can tell, this is all well within the normal range.

Where to begin? There’s the way he dismisses an entire field of scientists as “advocates.” Or the pseudo-scientific “evidentiary basis” locution. Or his ignorance of the many indicators of warming besides surface temperature, particularly land ice melt and sea level rise. Or the fact that a long-term warming trend is clear beneath the decadal variability of temperature. Or his ignorance of the greenhouse effect. Or his demand for “proof” instead of rational risk assessment. Or his equivalence between weather and climate.

We’re still only halfway through Tracinski’s column.

He goes on for another paragraph about temperature measurements, parroting claims about heat islands that have been repeatedly debunked.

In the last section, he attacks Marcott, et al., a reconstruction of Holocene temperatures published last month in Science, advertised as a new “hockey stick” graph.

Tracinski bases his attack on a critique by Roger Pielke, Jr., a professor of environmental studies, whom Tracinski describes as a “quasi-skeptic.” Actually, Pielke has testified multiple times before Congress on confronting global warming and wrote a book on the subject.

Pielke recently caused a flare-up among climate bloggers with his near-accusation of “scientific misconduct” on the part of Marcott et al. Pielke thought that their paper and press release misrepresented the basis for the “blade” of their hockey stick. That’s debatable to say the least. But Pielke nonetheless accepts the essential conclusion of the paper: global warming this century will raise temperatures well above anything on this planet since the beginning of agriculture.

But Tracinski couldn’t be expected to understand Pielke’s critique. He’s happy to abuse it and throw out the entirety of Marcott, et al. as “fraud.”

Brace yourself for Tracinski’s grand finale:

A theory with this many holes in it would be have been thrown out long ago, if not for the fact that it conveniently serves the political function of indicting fossil fuels as a planet-destroying evil and allowing radical environmentalists to put a modern, scientific face on their primitivist crusade to shut down industrial civilization.

But can’t we all just stop calling this “science” now?

Wow. Climate science in Tracinski’s mind is a “primitivist crusade to shut down industrial civilization.” Could that be more hyperbolic, more detached from reality? Do the sober, rational recommendations of the National Climate Assessment (2013) or America’s Climate Choices (2011) strike anyone as a primitivist crusade?

Such is the sorry state of global warming denial in America. Deniers have formed an epistemic bubble of ignorance and delusion, with no accountability, and with a firm grip on much of our political discourse.

Meanwhile, over the last decade, the imbalance of energy that greenhouse gases trapped in our atmosphere was equivalent to exploding billions of Hiroshima-sized atomic bombs. Greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise each year, trapping more and more energy.

The denial has to stop.