Cal Thomas’ climate change references suspect (letter)
July 16, 2018
To the editors: I read Cal Thomas' Sunday, July 1, column "Thirty years of 'global warming' panic" with interest; science is constantly evolving. However, my initial "can that be true?" reaction quickly gave way: The sources and references cited are largely biased and cherry-picked, which begs correction.
First, Thomas and the Wall Street Journal op-ed he cites correctly note that one of James Hansen's 1988 scenarios — Scenario B — most closely matches observed warming, though Scenario B predicted too much warming by about 30 percent.
However, the quip "… the list of what didn't happen is long and tedious …" ignores actions taken since 1988. The Montreal Protocol went into effect in 1989 to phase out industrial use of particularly greenhouse-inducing CFCs and HCFCs. The Kyoto Protocol and Paris Agreement on climate (however imperfect) are other examples. That many nations took action after 1988 to alter global warming's course is important context when judging Hansen's predictions but it's ignored, or intentionally omitted, by Thomas.
Then, Thomas fails to mention that he's citing an opinion piece from the Journal, not a news report. This might seem minor — leveraging the reputation of the Wall Street Journal to bolster an argument — except that the author of the WSJ piece, Patrick Michaels, has a history of important omissions himself.
In testimony to Congress in 1998, Michaels eliminated two of James Hansen's three scenarios, keeping only the most aggressive, to claim Hansen overestimated warming by four times; a blatant misrepresentation.
And in the WSJ opinion piece, Michaels and his co-author state, "Global surface temperature has not increased significantly since 2000, discounting the larger-than-usual El Nino of 2015-16." Surface temperature has increased, and there's no scientific basis cited to discount 2015-16. Or as Andrew Dressler's tweet points out: "Translation: 'Temperature has not increased if you omit the data showing it has increased.'"
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Further on, Thomas cites Richard Lindzen, a climate scientist who rejects the scientific consensus, but does not mention Lindzen is funded in part by Peabody Coal nor question the potential for bias from that arrangement. He cites climatedepot.com as if it were an impartial source, when, in fact, it has an agenda: It was started by a former employee of Sen. James Inhofe, who denies climate change, and is funded by a billionaire with coal and oil investments, as well as ExxonMobil.
Finally, his 2015 Telegraph citation cherry-picks two years (2013-14), when Arctic sea ice increased, and ignores the clear melting trend since 1978.
Thomas can believe the discourse on climate change inspires "panic." But he cannot claim that belief is based on impartial facts.