The 28 November 2009 issue of The Economist (TE) includes an opinion column by an unnamed source, titled: “Heated debate“, denying conclusive evidence for global warming. Nothing new from a conservative magazine principally concerned with wealth management and financial advice aimed at the upper crust. The argument ran three parts deceit, with a smidgen of truth.

The initial attack turns scientific methodology upside-down, suggesting that “the majority of the world’s climate scientists have convinced themselves -sic- that the Earth’s climate is changing -sic- for the worse”, while “a minority, though, are sceptical”. Coincidentally, skepticism — a critical mindset with no preconceived beliefs — is usual fare for the natural sciences, not some aberrant practice of those at odds with a majority viewpoint. TE’s co-opting of the scientific process allows their writer to question the validity of any historical data which suggests global warming, by characterizing as sufficient, any empirical evidence still deemed inconclusive. This is a purely colloquial use of the term skeptical, defined as a lack of conviction for any and all process. The reasoning employed by TE is circular, providing a convenient refutation against any convincing argument.

The TE author acknowledges but does not concur with the current scientific consensus; that evidence strongly suggests human activity as a major contributing factor in unwanted climate change. Rather, the columnist accuses most scientists of bias, alleging conclusions drawn based largely on political expediency, using fallacious arguments; while a skeptical minority of experts, holds out for “longer-term evidence”. In the words of TE, current data is “actually too flaky to be meaningful”. (No doubt “flaky” is an industry-specific term here, though “anomalous” or “irregular” might have offered a more statistically nuanced definition. However, I am not an economist.)

TE wishes us to call foul on existing evidence, and refute that which a majority of climate scientists have concluded. The author implies that the antithesis of scientific procedure has occurred — a disingenuous conceit at best — offered under a callous assumption that human nature will always fix-the-game when the price is right, science being no exception to this rule. That is, scientists remain bound by empirical data only when the stakes are low, but will cook-the-books for issues on the scale of global warming.

What justifies such a preposterous assumption? What begets comparable disregard for scientific investigation? We must recall the periodical hosting this assessment and examine the values of its author for sufficient answer. The writer states — “the stakes in the global-warming debate could scarcely be higher.” What are these enormous stakes? Perhaps survival of the species? Not hardly. What constitutes jeopardy for an opinion editorial from TE (for no evidence is forthcoming in support of such pessimistic appraisal), is simply that “a lot of money and many reputations are involved”. You just cannot make this stuff up.

It certainly solves a puzzling equation, knowing that which a columnist for TE values above all else — wealth and prestige. Yet when did we agree upon the precedent that a lot of money and fame equals truth?

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