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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Andrew Revkin's Dot Earth blog on the NYT: Ike Solem describes Roger Pielke Jr.'s straw man fallacy concerning David Chu, the new Secretary of Energy

BLOGGER'S NOTE: I must reluctantly admit that until now I did not actually know the definition of the term "straw man" argument, even though I had seen it used many times over the past 18 months in the comments sections of climate science blogs. I was too lazy to look it up. Fortunately, today, I came across Ike Solem's marvelous description, which I am posting below:

From Andrew Revkin's Dot Earth blog on the New York Times:

Comment #27: February 12, 2009 7:07 pm


Straw man argument: "The Straw Man fallacy is committed when a person simply ignores a person's actual position and substitutes a distorted, exaggerated or misrepresented version of that position."

A further tactic is to then use the discredited straw man as a launching platform for attacks on legitimate science. A good example of that is Roger Pielke Jr.'s all-out assault on the new Secretary of Energy, David Chu, who pointed to the issue of permanent drought in California as one reason to move quickly on carbon emissions and renewable energy.

Roger Pielke Jr. then authored a Feb 4th blog titled "Can Someone Point to the Science?" and asked "Can someone point me to a study suggesting that there will be no more agriculture or cities in California by 2100? What does the IPCC say? What is the consensus view?"

Well, there are numerous published studies that Pielke could have referenced --
Barnett et. al Science 2007

Seager et al Scienec 2008

as well as many references within, reports of the AGU, etc. The effect is based on tropospheric warming and the expansion of the Hadley cells, and it is resulting increased drought and wildfires in Europe, California, Australia, Indonesia, as well as hammering sub-Saharan Africa -- and it will only get worse as mountain glaciers melt in these regions. It's predicted by climate models, and can be observed in the real world.

This could result in the end of California's export agriculture, especially if the state population continues to grow. That is probably what Chu meant to say. Even in a desert, you can eke out subsistence from farming using modern technology -- but water limitations are water limitations -- and crops need water. California produces 1/4 of the nation's fruits and vegetables -- just imagine a 50% reduction in agriculture.

However, by misrepresenting the position of climate scientists ("no more agriculture or cities") and asking a straw man question, Pielke manages to raise doubt -- but notice that he didn't ask about predictions of a permanent drought across the American Southwest as global warming proceeds.

This is an area where the hype is real, not manufactured. Severe droughts exacerbated by powerful heat waves are to be expected with increasing frequency in the subtropical zones, interspersed with very large rainfall events at certain times of year.

Unfortunately, very few press outlets in the U.S. will mention "global warming" in the same article with "drought" or "wildfires." If we are to believe the press, the fires in Australia are all due to out of control arsonists, and the record drought looming in California is all due to La Nina, even though we've had La Ninas every few years for centuries that didn't result in epic droughts. That is nothing but deliberate propaganda intended to draw attention away from the role of global warming.

— Ike Solem, CA

Link to Dot Earth blog thread:

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