I have very little patience for scientific illiteracy. Global warming denial, whether deceitful or otherwise, qualifies. My frustration is simply that in the year 2014, with near ubiquitous access to credible information, ignorance of the reality of global warming is both willful and inexcusable. With that context in mind, my pen was ignited by Marietta Daily Journal columnist Don McKee’s piece; wherein he tied the occurrence of a rare polar vortex, to some chink in the science that explains why the earth is warming. The link to his column is here:
Critical thinking is vitally important on many fronts, one of which is recognizing bad arguments, particularly bad public arguments. In this case, the bad argument from Mr. McKee was that global warming is not real. In the absence of publishing my own column alongside Don’s, letters to the editor are the only recourse the scientifically literate among us have, to combat specious claims.
My letter is below. Enjoy.
DEAR EDITOR: Don McKee’s column “Polar vortex sets record low temps deep sixes global warming” Jan. 8, is yet another painful illustration of abject scientific illiteracy. Allow me to use his column to help readers recognize what scientific illiteracy looks like.
First on terms: Everyone who can read should by now know that weather does not equal climate. Donald Trump, Don McKee, and a host of other climate contrarians seem to struggle with this fact. Dictionaries are your friends, use them.
Second on evidence: Related to the first point, a sudden drop in temperature for a few days where you happen to live is not sufficient evidence to contradict the decades of scientific evidence which show the average temperature of the planet is warming. Don’t be willfully ignorant.
Third on sources: The New American is a publication of the John Birch Society. Scientific information should be gathered from scientific sources, not magazines which reside on an ideological fringe of the political spectrum. Even if the New American had it right, it would not be a credible source. Understand that credibility matters.
Finally on half-truths: This statement, “ice covers in both the North and South polar regions have expanded,” is both vague and misleading. Ice covers and polar regions? Is Mr. McKee talking about continental polar ice shelves, which are unequivocally receding, or is he talking about polar sea ice coverage, which ebbs and flows with each season? Is he talking about just this season or does he mean over the past thirty years? And so on. Use critical thinking skills to analyze claims.
One needs to recognize that statements such as, “it’s cold outside therefore global warming isn’t real,” or “some ice somewhere is increasing, therefore global warming isn’t real,” are nothing but bite-sized non-sequiturs set out to feed the confirmation bias machine. Neither claim deserves a seat at the grown-up table when discussing actual scientific evidence.