Joe Bastardi was so kind as to grace us with a comment on a recent post. I congratulate him on an impressive achievement that few others could surpass: it would be difficult to squeeze more fallacies into a single comment even if you tried. Bastardi’s lack of comprehension shows such breadth and depth that it’s reminiscent of an elementary-school book report — from someone who didn’t read the book.
He closes by claiming to be in pursuit of a better world. That’s a lovely phrase. But it’s far too vague to identify his real motives or to know how far ideology may have poisoned his understanding. Could it be that Bastardi’s idea of a “better world” is one in which nobody threatens his God-given right to drive a “Hummer”? My idea of a “better world” is one in which everybody has food to eat. That includes (especially) our children and grandchildren.
Truth be told, I doubt Bastardi is capable of learning (perhaps I’m wrong; that would be a pleasant surprise). Much of his problem is that he seems compelled to take a simpleton’s view of just about everything. If reality is even the least bit complicated, if it can’t be summed up in a 10-second (or less) sound bite, if it involves any amount of “take some time and think about that before moving on” effort, it seems too much for him. He’ll substitute some idea which he can wrap his mind around without having to work so hard. Who cares whether it’s right or wrong?
Unfortunately for Bastardi, global warming cannot be learned, explained, or summarized through snappy one-liner comments. Yet it’s so simple, so comprehensible even to a 4-year-old, so persuasive to a lazy mentality to say things like “earths temps have leveled off the past 15 years” (that’s a quote from Bastardi). It’s just not true.
Worse yet for the weak-minded, if you really want to understand something — like, say, how earth’s temperature is changing — then there’s work involved. You need to do some actual statistics — not just eyeball a graph until you think you’ve seen what you want to see. You have to apply significance tests. You have to compensate for the noise in the data, in fact you have to compensate for autocorrelation in the noise. You should allow for the fact that a 130-year (or 160-year) record gives you lots of chances to see strange-looking behavior just by accident. You should take into account all the factors which we know affect global temperature, not just greenhouse gases, not just variations in the sun, and how they have changed over time. And that’s just to get a grip on temperature data! If you also want to understand why CO2 is increasing, where the extra is coming from, that takes more work.
If all that sounds like a lot of work, well it is. Alas, most people simply don’t have the skill to do it. But at least they could understand it if those who do have the skill invest the effort to explain it clearly, and those who want to know invest the effort to comprehend. Alack, far too many don’t even care to hear about it, and far too many others are tricked into misunderstanding when Joe Bastardi and his fellow fake skeptics offer them the cheap and easy chicken-McNugget version of global warming.
But there are people who do want to know the truth of the matter, and who are aware that not everything can be summed up by simplistic platitudes. There are even folks who are willing to work at it. The good news is that you really can understand the truth, you really can get it. It doesn’t take magic, it doesn’t require a Ph.D., but it does take work. This blog is for you.