The Inane Ramblings of a Climate Change Denier

Glenn Beck: Where’s the warming?

NOTE: I do not intend this as a straw man against climate change skeptics who have the ability to apply statistics and logic to their analysis. This is simply a critique of some terribly constructed and false arguments.

Glenn Beck on his radio show today:

All right, let’s see. Well, first of all, they are not remaining constant because they are going down. So you are wrong there. But I’m trying to get my arms around this “Natural variation would mask the warming thing.” Let me see, because I’m an alcoholic, I speak bullcrap fluently. Let me see if I can translate that from bullcrap to English. They’re saying that cooling will mask the warming. Cooling will mask the warming. See if I have this right. I mean, I’m not a scientist, but I’m a thinker, and help me out. Stu, if cooling is masking warming, then wouldn’t it just be cooling?

For a little bit of context, he is referencing the idea that variation in temperature can mask an overall rise of .3 degrees celsius by 2015.

The fact that CNN continues to employ someone with such poor reasoning abilities testifies to the decline of their journalistic integrity. Clearly, he is neither a scientist nor a thinker.

First, as Glenn so eloquently stated, the report said that variation, not cooling specifically, would cover the small rise in temperature. Now, you don’t need to be a scientist to understand statistics. Most random data is assumed to have a normal distribution, with most variation occurring within a few standard deviations. When taking measurements as imprecise as those of average temperature in as complex of a system as the entire Earth, you are bound to have a good deal of variance. In addition, any data solely from 10 years or less will not be indicative of a trend. As Glenn also mentioned on his show, the decline since 1998 has only been 20% of the total warming trend over the past century. Meanwhile, the total warming trend is still statistically significant. Hopefully, this answers why “cooling masking warming” can’t just be cooling.

But there’s more:

GLENN: All right, let me try this, see if I understand this. Let’s take your oven, okay? Let’s say you turn your oven on.

STU: Okay.

GLENN: And then you open the outside door in your Boise apartment where it’s snowing today. Then I guess you could say the cold is masking the warmth, but it still would be getting colder, right? I mean, if anything —

STU: No, no, not at all because you’d have the oven on. The oven is on. That’s manmade warming.

GLENN: Right. Wouldn’t you just — I mean, wouldn’t you just be saying that natural cold is overpowering the manmade warmth? I mean, wouldn’t that be good? I mean, look, if the cooling is masking the warming, the warming, according to these pinheads, is caused by man. The cooling is not caused by man. So wouldn’t it mean that the non-manmade cooling is actually winning out over man? Almost like it’s weird how the whole system works itself out.

Yes, Glenn, the cooling would be “good” if the warming were at a critical point, but since we cannot imply a reversed trend out of a limited amount of cooling, we cannot consider the issue resolved.

This whole analogy is quite ridiculous. It is basically saying that the Earth is so large (like an Idaho winter) that any warming will be reversed by this great outside force. But can we count on the Earth to always reverse the warming trend caused by this hypothetical oven? In reality, the Earth varies in both directions from year to year naturally.

A more accurate analogy would be an oven and a door kept open all year. In this hypothetical situation, the season shifts much like the variability of the Earth as it moves through cycles. The temperature outside will climb as the Idaho spring and summer set in. The oven will still be contributing to this warming, and cause an overall increase in temperature inside the house. These times represent the “warmer” periods. When winter comes again, the cold outside air will have to cool down an even warmer house. This will cause a long-term increase in temperature in the house.

Now, imagine the strength of this oven increasing, eventually contributing massively to the warming of the house. The cold outside air eventually becomes incapable of cooling the house. During the “summer”, the temperature is even hotter than ever before. This is the type of scenario predicted for later in the century with no action.

And finally, one last quote.

I thought it was the warmest there. It’s weird how all of Al Gore’s spending of several hundred million dollars on a mass campaign of convincing you that global warming is real has resulted in less than 20% of the American people who actually agree with him. Think of this. Think of the propaganda: Less than 20%.

Let me ask you this: Is it possible that the Earth forgot to show up at Live Earth? Because it looks like the Earth doesn’t even agree with global warming. Is it possible the climate didn’t hear Madonna when she instructed people to jump up and down for the climate? Is that possible? Is it possible that maybe people like me are not going to be able to say these things on the radio very much longer?

A few things here. First, the 20% figure he quotes is (possibly) from here. In this global poll, that 20% actually represents those willing to spend extra money to fight climate change, not those who “agree.” In the same poll, 47% said they would make personal lifestyle changes to fight global warming, and 37% would spend extra time. Both numbers are understandably down from a year ago due to the economic crisis. Even with the economic problems, the poll indicates that 43% of people see climate change as a bigger issue than the economy (for now I’ll ignore the fact that these two options are by no means mutually exclusive). To top it off, 78% of people in this poll wanted their governments to do their “fair share” to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It’s curious how Glenn Beck feels so comfortable cherry picking numbers to speak on behalf of all the people of Earth.

It’s even more curious how Glenn Beck continues to be employed.


One Response

  1. Glenn Beck is from the all-too-pervasive school of thought that being wrong loudly is being a cutting-edge, irreverent news personality.

    Like Brian, I am completely astounded by this oven analogy. Glenn Beck never actually mentions his source of “cooling” so this seems entirely to be Beck’s own imagination. As is pointed out in the main post, natural variation is not cooling. Much like the natural fluctuations in the stock market, the results of a given year may vary, but the empirical long-run trend is upward. The small scale of measurement of worldwide temperature change might obscure the trend, but the scientific consensus is that if humans do not change our lifestyles, climate change will continue to increase at an increasing rate as buffers such as peat bogs and the ocean’s ability to sequester carbon are exhausted.

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