One can’t be a blogger for long before being reminded of the sad truth that people tend to believe information that is congenial to their interests and disbelieve that which isn’t. The blogosphere, and the internet more generally, provides people with a ready made source of prejudice-confirming information. There’s a ready-made market then for sites like TechCentralStation that have the convenient look of authoritative sources but are actually largely written by bloggers of a libertarian and/or conservative cast of mind to provide easy, prejudice-congenial op-ed-like material.
I spent some time looking at TCS’s global warming pages at the weekend. These are largely devoted to debunking the view held by the majority of expert opinion that CO2 emissions have contributed substantially to global warming. It would, after all, be pretty convenient if conventional opinion turned out to be mistaken: I haven’t done a survey but I’d be willing to wager that an average member of TCS’s core demographic emits rather more carbon than typical human beings do.
Still, asking “cui bono?” falls short of being an argument. And I’m not a scientist anyway, just a concerned member of the public. I try to make up my mind on the issue by reading the papers and magazines, watching the TV, and so on (like pretty much everyone else). Mostly, I think that the conventional view is probably right, but sometimes I can be shaken into thinking that maybe no-one has good reason to think any particular thing on this subject.
When I’ve been thus shaken into a state of epistemic indifference, I also, naturally, become less supportive of pollution-limiting initiatives. Even if the anti-greens haven’t won the argument at that point, they’ve achieved a good part of their purpose as lobbyists.
One TCS column that caught my eye was one Here Comes the Sun by Lorne Gunter a Canadian newspaper columnist. The supporting text to the link to Gunter’s article reads “Global warming is caused by the SUN, not SUVs.” In the body of the piece Gunter refers to research by a Canadian geologist (Jan Veizer) and an Israeli astrophysicist (Nir Shaviv). Now I’m neither an astrophysicist nor a geologist, but that sure sounds impressive. Here’s Gunter’s take on their conclusion:
far from being a manmade disaster, the warming we have experienced to date is entirely natural [emphasis added].
Good blogger that I am, my first move in investigating further was to feed “Shaviv” and “Veizer” into Google. 314 hits, but rather a lot of them (21 in all) were to material by Gunter – often the same syndicated article. A further 8 hits were to Gunter’s TCS colleague Kenneth Silber. Gunter’s pieces, published by organizations like fathersforlife.org are often accompanied by headlines like this:
Cosmic ray flux zaps pro-Kyoto types: New study puts paid to overheated theories on climate change
But one thing Google did enable me to do was to find Nir Shaviv’s own summary of his research. What is Shaviv’s own view?
Some of the global warming is still because of us humans (probably about 1/3 to 1/2 of the warming).
Now a half to a third is quite a lot, especially when we are talking about a phenomenon that may have significant threshold effects. If I’m up to my neck in water and you raise the level by a further foot, it is no good telling me that your so raising it only added 10%! But this finding, by the very global warming iconoclast he’s drawing on, doesn’t get a mention in Gunter’s piece. The closest he gets to acknowledging it is to say “Shaviv worries anthropogenic CO2 may have some fractional effect.” 1/2 is a pretty big fraction. Presumably drawing attention to what the scientist actually says would detract from the purpose of the article: to provide comfort to SUV owners and energy interests.