Monday, May 1, 2017

NY Times Deserves To Lose Subscribers By Hiring Brett Stephens

Image result for bret stephens
 Climate denier and former WSJ columnist-nitwit Brett Stephens - now hired at NY Times to spew his bunkum. Critical thinkers  have reacted by canceling their  Times' subscriptions.

According to Business Insider, The New York Times - which had gained tens of thousands of new subscribers in the wake of the Trump ascension - is now losing them by the thousands  after hiring climate denier Brett Stephens as a new columnist. What The Times was thinking, if  its editorial board was thinking at all, is a puzzle wrapped in an enigma. Striving for balance? No, you don't hire a dope like Stephens for that, and besides too many savvy liberals are onto the false objectivity spin.

So, it boils down to a simple bone -headed move. The Times, for whatever reason, has sought to "enhance" its stable of columnists but in doing so outraged its readership. And they should be outraged when scientific inquiry is undercut in favor of propaganda from a dedicated climate know nothing and denialist.  Recall how way back on January 23, 2015, Stephens was skewered on Bill Maher's 'Real Time'  for his nonsensical takes when he compared today's consensus on global warming to a spurious one for global cooling in the 70s.  Stephens blurted:

 "What I'm saying is if you look at a Newsweek from 1975 you will see it"

 Whereupon Maher moaned, 'Oh no, not the cooling thing!'

To which Stephens responded: "Yes, the cooling thing!"

For those who may not know, global cooling was once all the rage--  briefly! Some popular  'zines picked it up in the mid to late 70s but it was soon left in the scientific dustbin. This was after it was discovered a decade or so later, that it had been incepted by particulates and aerosols in the atmosphere.  After the Clean Air Act and similar bills were passed overseas (e.g. in the UK), those particulates disappeared and the cooling was no longer evident. (Aerosols remained and gave way to the global dimming phenomenon which also concealed the worst of global warming - but when aerosols were also controlled - after similar legislation, global dimming also receded and warming assumed dominance.)

So what Stephens ought to have read was the  more recent Newsweek piece on the global warming disinformation industry (Aug. 13, 2007, ‘The Truth About Denial’, p. 21) noting the corporate media has been especially guilty in its misplaced notions of objectivity and fairness since they:

qualified every mention of human influence on climate change with ‘some scientists believe’ when the reality is that the vast preponderance of scientific opinion accepts that human-induced greenhouse emissions are contributing to warming”.

Maher then noted 2014 as the hottest year ever and hence asked whether the talking point that warming has halted since 1998 "shouldn't die" - since 1998 was an El Nino year so was an aberration. To which Stephens replied:

"No because it was the hottest year ever by a hundredth of a degree so what the people are pointing out is we've had the same high temperatures for the past fifteen years."

Which is bollocks. First, because the temperature actually rose as a global mean by 1.24F not  "one hundredth of a degree".  Also the deniers never claimed the past 15 years were all high temperature years, they claimed warming had ceased from 1998, which is not the same thing.  The fact that 16 of the past 17 years have all been progressively  hotter puts the kibosh on this flatulence. See also:

When Maher cited work detailing 10,855 peer-reviewed climate papers of which only two rejected the notion of man-made climate change-  2 out of 10,855 - and asked: 'Doesn't that persuade you?' and adding "Don't you think scientists know more about science then we do?', Stephens blurted:

"What doesn't persuade me is that scientists ought to know more about public policy  than we do and ought to dictate what public policy is."

He then cited the example of Bjorn Lomborg "bringing together some of the greatest scientists alive" and  Lomborg had asked them: "What are your priorities?" Stephens testily claimed this lot agreed that the "least amount of resources should be devoted to climate change."

Maher laughed and joked that: "Maybe these were different scientists from the 10,855 I mentioned". He also admitted he was not familiar with "the study"  - but let's provide some contextual  background, in particular first noting it was not a "study" but a contrarian climate convocation and also these were not scientists but economists.

As I observed in a blog post response at the time:

The Copenhagen Consensus – organized by longtime skeptic Bjorn Lomborg, and composed entirely of economists- would naturally have rated global warming lowest in its priorities for challenges facing the world.  But these are not climate scientists, after all! They’d be vastly more concerned with economic blowback.

Hence, they'd invoke agnotology or deliberately casting doubt on the science in order to try to establish the primacy of economics in our lives - never mind lives in the runaway greenhouse wouldn't be livable and no economics of any value would survive.

In the end, the fact that Stephens confused scientists with economists in the "Copenhagen Consensus"  disclosed he's not even remotely qualified to be involved in any climate change-global warming discussion. Hell, he wasn't even aware that global dimming was responsible for the aberration of cooling in the 70s and the fact that "theory" has long since bit the dust

In his debut Times' column, Stephens confirmed he hasn't advanced significantly over his prior climate goofs and gaffes. Therein he mocked the notion of "certainty" in the anthropogenic greenhouse warming model  when no such aspect applies. Thus,  Stephens confuses and conflates a strong scientific consensus with "certainty".

First, no serious climate scientist claims we have reduced  the science to a "certainty".  Rather AGW (anthropogenic global warming) remains in the realm of probability assessment as do all other valid theories including quantum theory and general relativity. The reason is based on the nature of scientific inquiry which advances by successive approximations.

Thus, I offer a hypothesis say X(t1)  at time t1.  This has associated with it come uncertainty + x, so we have:  X(t1)  +  x.

But as more data come in the uncertainty is reduced, say to   +  x/2 by time t2.
  So we now have:

X(t2)  +   x/2

In the next iteration as more and more climate scientists assess the data (ice cores bearing CO2, extent of glacier retreat in m/yr.  CO2 concentration in the ambient atmosphere in ppm etc., ocean pH change) we may find the uncertainty is now   + x/ 4 at time t3. Thus. the hypothesis forecast is now at:

X(t3)   +  x/4

The upshot is that the general hypothesis, call it X(t) has been successively refined over ensuing data integration and the results approximate to an ideal value or expectation, But at no time do we find the uncertainty vanish. This aspect holds as much for Newtonian gravitation as it does for Einstein's general theory of relativity.

Science, which too many (like Brett Stephens)  believe is based on "proof" or "certainty", is actually much more subtle in its evidentiary approaches as I showed above.  In addition, one must distinguish stochastic sciences (like climate science and meteorology - which are not the same, btw) from deterministic sciences like celestial mechanics. In either case we assess the quality of the science not by certainty or proof but the QA (quality assurance) i.e. of the evidence in relation to what is forecast or expected.

My point is that we leave "proof" and "certainty" to the rarefied areas of pure math. In empirical science we instead apply quality assurance (QA) criteria to the evidence available for particular hypotheses. Thus, it is more practical to consider criteria of adequacy, and whether data meet these criteria. For example, a leading global warming hypothesis is that no further ice ages can occur once the CO2 concentration reaches 400 ppm. To substantiate that, extant ice core  records disclose that no ice ages have occurred when the CO2 concentration exceeded 200 ppm. (See e.g. Gale Christianson's book, 'Greenhouse')

In this way, the relative merit of a scientific finding can be adduced based on standards similar to those employed in industrial quality control. If certain minimal criteria or standards are not met, then the finding is regarded with skepticism or rejected outright. So far none of the minimal criteria or standards for the primary hypotheses have been found unmet in the case of global warming.

Indeed, as recent CO2 concentrations have been found to be increasing at a rate of 2 ppm/ yr, Earth temperatures have never been hotter. The temperature of the planet is currently out of balance by 0.6W/ m2  and this is almost entirely due to the annual rate of CO2 concentrations increasing. Further,  every increase in CO2 concentration by 2 ppm increases the radiative heating effect by 2 W/ m2.  Taken in tandem we have the equivalent of 2.5 x 10 7  TJ injected each year into the atmosphere or roughly 400,000 Hiroshima size A-bombs. In most other circumstances a nation lighting up the planet with that many A-bombs would be immediately taken down by the human community

The energy inputs arising from global warming now are of such magnitude that few comprehend them and fewer scientists are willing to discuss them in terms of what the future portends. (See the link at the bottom to get an idea from those who are willing.)

None of this is grasped by Stephens in his inaugural NY Times' codswallop, which is why it is a travesty to have this imp now peddling denial bunkum when we need greater awareness of the scientific facts. (And again, facts have relative degrees of certainty, as I showed - but this doesn't mean we ignore them until all uncertainty vanishes. That will never happen!)

SO,  I am with all those canceling their Times' subscriptions.  Allowing even one "Brett Stephens" to spew his nonsense in a venue supposedly supportive of science is one too many. Am I being "too harsh"  on The Times, and "alienating Climate allies"?  Hell no!  The Times brought this indictment on itself by opting at this late stage to send mixed messages to further confuse readers who may lack the scientific background to distinguish crap from supported research.. "Allies"  who believe Brett Stephens' voice is needed to further delay any feasible action are no allies at all. With "friends" like these we don't need enemies.

The media then have but one task in this respect: focus on the fact that we are facing a planetary emergency and don't fucking obfuscate the landscape by the cynical exploitation of distracting assholes and misinformation. If you can't do that you deserve reader desertions!

See also:

1 comment:

Copernicus said...

To 'Ed": Sorry, no links from climate denier, fake news idiots accepted as comments. If you have a rational argument or case to make - then make it.