Why dismiss Worthington

Here’s what I wrote to the Toronto Sun in response to a recent Peter Worthington column:

I have just read Peter Worthington’s recent piece entitled “Why Dismiss Dissent?” and was completely horrified by the misrepresentations and the complete lack of any journalistic standards.

For example, Worthington states that the Kyoto accord “cannot be effective if the world’s two greatest polluters — China and India — refuse to join”.  He seems unaware of the fact that China and India are Kyoto signatories, whereas the United States are not.  At the time the Kyoto accord was negotiated, developing countries were not asked to make specific cuts.

Worthington dismisses the work of real scientists and makes ridiculous assertions such as that rapid uncontrolled warming now will help us face an impending unpredictable ice age.  This is akin to suggesting that sticking your head into a hot oven in the summertime is a good idea because it is incontrovertible that at some unpredictable time that no scientist can tell you, winter will come.  And no scientist could possibly predict winter, since there’s only a 60% chance of accurately predicting the weather tomorrow, according to Worthington’s logic.

He states that “common sense dictates” that no harm can come from driving SUVs or burning leaves in driveways, and seems unaware that burning leaves does not contribute to global warming.  I would suggest that most people’s common sense indicates that rather a lot of trouble can come from driving large, unstable vehicles.  More importantly, common sense also dictates that the world is flat and that the sun revolves around it.  It takes the precision and understanding of science to discover things that don’t seem obvious, like the ozone hole that’s now being repaired, even though most people were completely unaware of it.

Towards the bottom of his article, Worthington points to three internet sites and one google search he recommends.  One of his recommendations is not like the others, and I can only imagine it was inserted in error.  sourcewatch.org is operated by the Center for Media and Democracy and adds transparency to the climate “debate”, a debate which does not exist among real scientists doing careful analyses of the empirical evidence.  Sourcewatch has nothing to say about the science at all.  Instead it evaluates the biases of sources, and has rather damning evaluations of the sources Worthington seems to favour.

The Sourcewatch entry on Friends of Science, for example, which Worthington suggests as a worthy source, reveals that “In an August 12, 2006, article The Globe and Mail revealed that the group had received significant funding via anonymous, indirect donations from the oil industry”.  It also reveals that the president of “Friends of Science” is an independent consultant to the oil and gas industry.  While a few of the principal participants in Friends of Science appear to have some worthwhile credentials in climate science, further investigation on SourceWatch itselt reveals that even these are compromised by lack of relevant research, by questions of scientific ethics, and by ties to the oil industry.

Worthington’s article is shoddy journalism which does not deserve to be printed.

Adriana Mugnatto-Hamu
Climate Change Critic
Green Party of Canada

2 responses to “Why dismiss Worthington”

  1. Feyman & Coulter's Love Child writes:

    First off, you aren’t exactly meeting top notch standards in representation either. Sure China and India signed onto Kyoto. Your dog could have signed onto Kyoto too, but the idea of having countries sign treaties that specify negative things others have to do while they have no obligations is hardly equivalent to having them “on board” to do the same undesirable cutting that the rest of us do.

    Burning leaves does not produce CO2? Which peers-we-like-but-not-peers-we-don’t “peer reviewed” study on SuzukiWantsYourMoney.org did you read that sort of claptrap on? If you insist that CO2 is causing global warming, then anything which produces CO2 (ie. burning leaves, or on the macro level forest fires) causes global warming. Or is this a case where Warmmongers flying en masse to Copenhagen isn’t bad for the environment, but me leaving my truck to warm up in -36°C is?

    Finally, who cares if a scientist is “funded by the oil industry”? Big government and environmental groups are funding scientists all over the world. They have far more self-interest in getting research to show we need a big social engineering program than any oil company has to show that their oil exploration helps rather than hinders the planet. I tell you what: you refuse to consider any research supporting global warming funded by government agencies or left-wing/environmental agencies, and I’ll let you discount studies performed by oil companies.

  2. Adriana Mugnatto-Hamu writes:

    Dear Love Child,

    I’ll agree with you that it was easier for China and India to sign onto Kyoto when their obligations were minimal. I did mention that they had no specific emissions reduction obligations. Worthington’s facts were simply wrong.

    On the issue of burning leaves, the burn merely hastens a natural process. If leaves aren’t burned, they’ll decompose and emit carbon dioxide over a few months. Burning arguably decreases overall warming, since accumulated heaps of leaves can create anaerobic conditions which release methane, which is even more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas.

    Scientists recognize, of course, that carbon dioxide exists naturally in the atmosphere and that some is absolutely vital to creating a climate that sustains us. Carbon dioxide is only a pollutant in excess (like many other substances such as mercury, lead and even arsenic, which we need in appropriate amounts). So carbon only causes global warming when it is removed from a naturally sequestered state and released into the biosphere. Leaves were already in the biosphere. Their carbon is accounted for. Next year’s leaves will take up the carbon that this year’s leaves release into the air.

    Flying to Copenhagen is quite different, since it requires the input of fossil fuels. Yes, of course it contributes to climate change, and that’s a big part of the reason I’m staying right here in Canada. But then, I don’t have a truck, either.

    On the government funding front, I’m just not understanding your logic. Governments have been avoiding the implications of the science. They dread being forced to make unpleasant and unpopular changes. The notion that Stephen Harper, himself elected largely on the basis of oil industry support and funding, is actively promoting the science of Canadian climatologists is pretty laughable.

    But the problem with the Friends of Science isn’t just that they’re supported by the oil industry. Take someone like Tim Ball for example, who makes false claims of being Canada’s first climatologist – he hasn’t published anything in a peer reviewed journal in decades and has never published a single paper in climatology. I don’t have to dismiss his research – he has none to dismiss. All he has are opinions, which he’s paid to promote by the oil industry.

    Hope this helps,

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