Oregon's largest newspaper, the Oregonian, is not-so-slowly sinking into irrelevancy. That's my considered opinion, at least.
As noted in a recent post about a global warming story that downplayed scientific fact and played up a local meteorologist's unscientific denial of climate change, I've noted a distinct right-wing tilting in both the news and editorial sections during the past few years.
After reading an absurd January 19 op-ed by Gordon Fulks, "The Changing Climate of Climate Change," that was prominently displayed by Oregonian editors, I'm even more convinced that the newspaper has joined the Republican war on science.
It pains me to copy and paste even one word of Fulks' bullshit, but I'll force myself.
The evidence causing great grief is the refusal of the global temperature to increase for the past 15 years. It sloshes back and forth as one would expect on a planet with vast oceans and atmosphere that are never in equilibrium, but does not warm as some claimed it would with slowly increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide. Consequently, cracks are developing in the scientific facade supporting the dogma.
Reading the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences is much like reading Pravda during the Cold War: You do not look for beliefs, but for hints of change. In a recent paper (not peer-reviewed), newly elected members touted their belief that they had found the "fingerprint" of greenhouse gases.
Likely the Oregonian will start publishing op-ed screeds denying evolution and the big bang.
Basically there's as much scientific evidence supporting human-caused global warming as there is for how life came to be as it on our planet, and how the universe came into being. Anyone who peruses the Climate Progress posts would know this.
The Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature Study (BEST) has finally published its findings on the cause of recent global warming. This Koch-funded reanalysis of millions of temperature observations from around the world, “A New Estimate of the Average Earth Surface Land Temperature Spanning 1753 to 2011,” concludes:
… solar forcing does not appear to contribute to the observed global warming of the past 250 years; the entire change can be modeled by a sum of volcanism and a single anthropogenic [human-made] proxy.
...Muller further explained:
Our results show that the average temperature of the earth’s land has risen by two and a half degrees Fahrenheit over the past 250 years, including an increase of one and a half degrees over the most recent 50 years. Moreover, it appears likely that essentially all of this increase results from the human emission of greenhouse gases.
These findings are stronger than those of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the United Nations group that defines the scientific and diplomatic consensus on global warming.
The black line, with 95% confidence intervals on either side, shows the observed global temperature (more accurately measured since the early 1800s). The red line comes from a mathematical climate change model using only volcanic activity and human-caused carbon dioxide emissions.
Bingo. The two lines coincide closely, showing that Gordon Fulks is wrong, wrong, wrong.
So the Oregonian wasted a lot of paper and ink on an op-ed that contained not even a scrap of valid opinionating, because Fulks denies a core fact: the Earth is rapidly warming, and human activity is the cause.
The editorial board should be embarassed.
There's plenty of room for different opinions about how the United States should deal with global warming, including how actively governments should act to reduce carbon emissions, versus leaving this to voluntary efforts.
But giving major op-ed "air" time to someone who is horribly ignorant about basic scientific facts, that should be a journalistic no-no. Several letters to the editor that were published a few days later (kudos to the Oregonian for that) showed how scientifically off-base Fulks is.
Here's one of the letters:
As a climate scientist who actively works and publishes in this field, I know what most of my colleagues also know. Temperatures and sea levels are rising, glaciers and sea ice are melting, and man-made greenhouse gases are to blame.
Gordon Fulks, however, in his Jan. 20 column ("The changing climate of climate change"), disagrees. Can he be right? Let's examine his arguments.
Fulks claims that global temperatures have not risen during the past 15 years. This is not true. Most heat trapped by carbon dioxide and other gases added to the atmosphere is absorbed by the oceans, as clearly seen in measurements available at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration website. Could the warming observed during the past 100 years be from heat that "sloshes back and forth" between the oceans and the atmosphere, as Fulks claims, or changes in the sun? No.
Even former climate skeptic Richard Muller, who has recently re-examined the surface temperature measurements, comes to the same conclusions as other climate scientists before him: Humans are the main cause.
Fulks flunks climate science. He cherry-picks information that supports his conclusion and ignores the rest. That's not science. Could it be that Fulks is right and a new ice age is imminent and all the academies of sciences that predict further warming are wrong? Of course.
But it is similarly unlikely that smoking is healthy and all medical associations are conspiring to fool you with their "radical" views on tobacco.
Schmittner is an associate professor in Oregon State University's College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences.