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December 02, 2003

Next Stop, "Many"

Another small media beachhead has been established by the so-called "climate skeptics" in their battle against the Michael Mann inspired Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which posits human rather than stellar activity as the primary impetus for global warming.

For years, whenever global warming was mentioned in the media, it was sure to be accompanied by sentences similar to the following (emphasis mine):

Greenspirit
The great majority of the world's climate scientists have concluded if we don't cut our emission of greenhouse gases, temperatures will arise and will disrupt the global climate.

The White House At Work
The overwhelming majority of the world's climate scientists have concluded that if we don't cut our emissions of greenhouse gases, temperatures will rise and we will disrupt the global climate.

Former President Clinton, via the EPA
The vast majority of the world's climate scientists have concluded that if the countries of the world do not work together to cut the emission of greenhouse gases, then temperatures will rise and will disrupt the climate.

Alternative Fuel News
Responding to the vast majority of the world's climate scientists who believe human activities (primarily burning fossil fuels) are adversely influencing global climate, 160 nations recently reached a historic agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by harnessing the forces of the global marketplace to protect the environment.

The State of Vermont's Climate Change Action Plan
WHEREAS, the scientific evidence, reviewed by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and an overwhelming majority of the world's climate scientists, indicates greenhouse gases are accumulating in the Earth's atmosphere as a result of human activities...

GreenLeft
The latest evidence from a majority of the world's climate scientists that the world is warming up, the result of human-induced changes to the atmosphere, is cause for real concern.

For years, the only acknowledgement in the media that there might be some dissention to the idea that human activity was behind the rise in temperatures was an indirect one, the implication that there might be a tiny minority who did not agree with the "great", "overwhelming" and "vast" majority.

Thankfully the truth of a particular idea, in the West, at least, is not determined by the number of people who claim adherence to it, but rather through the empirical processes championed by Francis Bacon. The ideas of the climate skeptics have prospered despite the plethora of dismissive media rejections arrayed against them.

Case in point; a single sentence from the New Scientist story Global warming threatens ski resorts

To predict the fate of the ski resorts, Búrki's team used temperature forecasts produced by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which represents the view of 2000 of the world's climate scientists.

Note that the Mann numbers are still being used by the IPCC, but the number of climate scientists associated with the hypothesis is no longer vast or overwhelming. There's just 2000 of them. New Scientist is hardly a friend to the climate skeptics, so it still attempts to sway the reader through the use of a largish number, but when it comes to rhetorical power, "2000" doesn't pack nearly the punch that "overwhelming majority" does.

The use "2000" is an admission that the tide is turning, though it may be an entirely unconcious one on the part of the New Scientist. As a illustration it is much more evocative of the widening cracks in the conventional global warming wisdom than it is purported scientific truth of that wisdom.

Posted by Bigwig at December 2, 2003 03:57 PM | TrackBack
Postscript:
First time visitor to House Hraka? Wondering if everything we produce could possibly be as brilliant/stupid/evil/pedantic/insipid/inspired as the post you just read? Check out the Hraka Essentials, the (mostly) reader-selected guide to Hraka's best posts, and decide for yourself.
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