Mazzuca: Honest illustration or legerdemain |

Mazzuca: Honest illustration or legerdemain

In Middle French, people who were clever enough to fool others with fast-fingered illusions were described as “leger de main,” literally “sleight of hand.” English speakers later condensed that phrase into a noun when they borrowed it in the 15th century. And in more modern times the word “legerdemain” can mean almost any kind of trickery or deceit.

One of the great debates of our time centers on climate change; but I don’t believe the topic’s contentiousness arises from disagreement that the climate is changing because reasonable people understand that it is. Rather the problem begins when legerdemain is used to illustrate arguments.

Recently I watched the Netflix climate film “Life on Our Planet” narrated by David Attenborough. The cinematography was outstanding and the narration heartfelt; however, the message was tedious and predictable. Attenborough detailed how we are now living in the Holocene epoch, the geologic period that began after the Little Ice Age. In the film, Attenborough describes how humankind is about to sacrifice our idyllic climate unless we “go green” and do it quickly.

After watching the movie, I was compelled to ask why Attenborough repeatedly referred to the end of the Little Ice Age when the answer should have been obvious because that’s precisely when earth’s climate began warming 11,000 years ago. This is just one more example of the adroitness of climate activists when they selectively choose only those time periods that advance their position

If climate activists were interested in presenting climate data in a straightforward and factual manner, they would begin by using consistent timelines for measurement. High school chemistry class taught us about controlled experiments; experiments that eliminate or at least minimize the effect of variables. And it’s patently disingenuous for activists to predicate climate arguments using ice core samples from one time period, sea level measurements from another and temperature measurements from a third.

The International Panel on Climate Change has cried wolf on this matter for years giving cause to question many of its declarations. So, here are two suggestions for the activists. First, when presenting your case, use consistent time periods for all illustrations, regardless of whether that period began 50 years ago, 150 years ago, 1,000 years ago or a million years ago.

Second, when comparing time periods, don’t cherry pick; compare as many aspects of environmental change as possible, i.e., average temperatures, hottest days, sea ice concentrations, sea level, carbon dioxide levels, snowpack, glacier recession, volcanic activity, hurricanes and typhoon frequency, wildfire frequency, etc. And if the data is solid, there’ll be no wiggle room for the skeptics and deniers.

Having said that, we must also acknowledge that any plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that doesn’t include immediate and verifiable changes from China is flat out disingenuous, because until China gets its greenhouse gas emissions under control, the Paris Agreement or any other international agreement for that matter won’t be worth the paper it’s written on.

However, when it’s all said and done, instead of deconstructing climate data to fit agenda-driven conclusions, perhaps climate activism’s most strident voices, people such as Al Gore, Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez and John Kerry should first help us to understand the statement of Dr. Ottmar Endenhofer, co-chair of the IPCC working group on Mitigation of Climate Change, who said: “We (the UN-IPCC) redistribute de facto the world’s wealth by climate policy. … One has to free oneself from the illusion that international climate policy is environmental policy. This has almost nothing to do with environmental policy anymore.”

Quote of the day: “This is the first time in the history of mankind that we are setting ourselves the task of intentionally, within a defined period of time, to change the economic development model (i.e. capitalism) that has been reigning for at least 150 years, since the Industrial Revolution,” — Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of U.N.’s Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Butch Mazzuca, of Edwards, writes biweekly for the Vail Daily. Follow him on his blog at

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