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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

George F. Will's Pants on Fire Lies about U.S. wildfires

Spreading like Wildfire

Twice we’ve examined the fakery from George Will about the danger of wildfire in the U.S. and its relation to global warming. It’s hard to imagine being more ignorant about this issue than George Will. Or, is he simply willing to mislead people deliberately, to expose our nation and our people to extreme danger, just to push a political agenda? Or … both?
This much is certain: George Will is completely wrong about wildfire risk in the U.S. But he is oh so right about propaganda! To create doubt about the scientific truth of increased wildfire risk, all you need to do is say whatever you want. No matter how wrong, it will be repeated by those who push your same political agenda. Doubt is their product.
Case in point: Fox “news” is repeating Will’s claim as though it had any relevance at all to the issue. Media Matters reports the whole thing, including video.
This is how denial works. Create doubt, either based on a fact which is irrelevant to the truth of the matter, or based on an outright lie. Push that doubt along, by repeating what you’ve heard from uninformed, ignorant, biased sources again and again. Whether or not it’s relevant at all, whether or not it’s even true at all, makes no difference. Just make sure the doubt spreads — like wildfire.
What I noticed of interest in the report from Media Matters was this graph, showing that acres burned per fire by wildfire in the U.S. increased from 1983 through 2008:
I tested this data for statistically significant trend, using both least-squares and non-parametric (Theil) regression:
Solid blue shows a least-squares regression fit. Dashed blue shows a Theil regression fit. Both are statistically significant. The red line is a lowess smooth.
But, the graph shown in the Media Matters report is out of date, only going as far as 2008. We’ve witnessed four more years since then. And what have those years brought? This:
Although 2012 didn’t have as many wildfires as 2006 (or many other years for that matter), it still brought tremendous wildfire damage because in 2012 the acres burned per wildfire was far more than any previous year. In fact, by any trend you care to use, a least-squares regression line, or a Theil regression line, or the lowess smooth, the trend has more than doubled acres burned per fire since 1980.
Of course, in 2012 the acres burned per fire was extra high because it also showed an upward fluctuation. But that upward fluctuation was on top of an upward trend — and when that happens we’re in real trouble.
If we give any credence to the climate science fakery constantly spewing forth from George Will and from Fox “news,” then we’re in even worse trouble.

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