Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Warrantless Blogtapping Program

Issue: Misrepresenting Critics of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

Cassy Fiano is a conservative blogger who constantly parrots the most reactionary conservative talking points regarding global warming and climate change. Cassy Fiano, who constantly refers to Al Gore in a belittling way as the "Goracle" (but who couldn't handle my referring to her as an acolyte of conservative blogger John Hawkins - even though that's exactly what she is), as far as I can tell, has absolutely ZERO background in the science that shapes the global warming and climate change debates. Because of that, she is reduced to dealing with the issue exclusively from an unscientific and irrational ideological point of view. Consequently, her commentary on global warming and climate change is almost always ideologically hyperbolic; and her interpretation and understanding of the positions of environmental scientists, even those scientists she considers to represent her own views on the subject, are often mistaken. Cassy Fiano seems to be a nice-enough person, but she is an uncritical and uninspiring thinker. Unlike her sharp and smart mentor, John Hawkins, owner of the conservative Right Wing News blog, Cassy Fiano is, in my view, not all that smart. I have strong opinions about John Hawkins, his ideology and politics, and what I think is his cowardly behavior toward his critics, but there's no denying that he is a smart, intellectually sharp, well-informed, and critical thinker. The same can't be said, I'm afraid, of Cassy Fiano. In the end, Cassy Fiano's deficits in the critical thinking department, when coupled with her ideological fundamentalism and rightwing rigidity, make for some sloppy blogging. This posting, for instance, references an open letter written by the Science and Public Policy Institute (SPPI) to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Cassy Fiano, however, doesn't actually link to the letter written by the SPPI, though she does post a pretty long section of this letter on her website. Instead, in a "Hat Tip" afterward, she links to a posting on the SPPI's open letter from a website/blog called "Moonbattery." Nothing wrong with that, I guess, except that she uncritically parrots the Moonbattery assessment of this letter as a demand by the SPPI to the United Nations IPCC to "stop pushing the global warming hoax." She doesn't stop to think whether "Moonbattery" got it right. And, in fact, a closer reading of the SPPI's open letter reveals something quite different than what either "Moonbattery" or Cassy Fiano argue. The way Cassy Fiano writes this posting indicates to me that she either doesn't have the mental faculties to read the SPPI's open letter correctly, or that she actually has no interest in doing so without superimposing an ideological position that isn't there on the content of the SPPI's letter.

Before I show you specifically what I mean, let me step back and declare my own "bias," if you will, on the subject. First off, I am not an environmental scientist, so I make no claims to speak as an authority on the subject. Moreover, I recognize that there are dissenting viewpoints within the scientific community on the subject of global warming and climate change, especially when it comes to the impact of human behavior on such processes. However, I also personally believe that behaving in ways that help to preserve our physical environment is commendable and advisable. What's wrong with recycling? What's wrong with reducing one's carbon footprint? To listen to folks like Cassy Fiano, one would come to the conclusion that there is nothing humans do that can negatively affect the earth's natural environment. That just flies in the face of common sense, if you ask me. But, that's neither here nor there. My point with this posting is to show how Cassy Fiano is a sloppy blogger, driven more by ideology, in how she misinterprets the "science" of global warming and climate change and how she, in point of fact, misrepresents the content of the SPPI's open letter to the UN.

Let's start with how Cassy Fiano starts her blog posting. She writes:

One hundred scientists from around the globe aren't drinking the Goracle's Kool-Aid, and have petitioned the UN to stop pushing the global warming hoax, and the hysteria associated with it.
First, the SPPI's open letter never refers to global warming as a "hoax." In fact, the letter notes that global warming does indeed appear to be happening. It does not contest the data indicating as much. What it does challenge are two things: (1) that this global warming is an "abnormal" phenomenon and (2) that human behavior plays (or can play) a decisive impact in reversing this current global warming trend. Its beef with the UN is that it is advocating for policy changes that it believes will have no impact on global warming and climate change and that it believes will waste valuable human energy and resources that would be better spent preparing individuals to deal better with these inevitable changes. Its basic argument is that people would be better-served by policies that give them the means to deal with the consequences of global warming and climate change, and not by policies that seek to prevent global warming and climate change from occurring. In fact, the very text of the letter that Cassy Fiano cites in her own blog posting says as much. Here's one part of the letter that Cassy Fiano cites in full on her blog which should have given Cassy Fiano pause:
The current UN focus on "fighting climate change," as illustrated in the Nov. 27 UN Development Programme's Human Development Report, is distracting governments from adapting to the threat of inevitable natural climate changes, whatever forms they may take. National and international planning for such changes is needed, with a focus on helping our most vulnerable citizens adapt to conditions that lie ahead. Attempts to prevent global climate change from occurring are ultimately futile, and constitute a tragic misallocation of resources that would be better spent on humanity's real and pressing problems.
The places of emphasis in the above citation are mine. Note that the scientists aren't saying climate change is a hoax. Just the opposite. They accept it as "inevitable" and even consider it to be a "threat." They recognize that people are "vulnerable" to climate change. They basically are arguing that climate change is real, it poses danger, and we can do nothing to stop it. To these scientists, the only thing we can do is be as prepared for it as we possibly can. When you think about it, it is clear that their recommendations are predicated on the fact that climate change is NOT a hoax! But Cassy Fiano either cannot see this point or refuses to do so. Instead, she ends her posting without any analysis or interpretation of the content of the letter. She refers to the signatories of the letter as an impressive cadre of scientists as if their names on the list somehow proves her point that global warming and climate change are hoaxes perpetrated by kindergartners imagining things out of thin air. Forget the fact that there are as many respected scientists who arrive at different scientific conclusions about human behavioral factors involved in global warming and climate change. It seems clear to me that Cassy Fiano is not really interested in science. And it's safe to say that she's apparently not really even interested in carefully reading what scientists who critique the conventional wisdom on the subject are saying. No, she just throws out the usual diatribe against the entire establishment that reads the science behind global warming and climate change differently than she, in all her own scientific wisdom and knowledge on the subject, does. Here's, specifically, how she concludes her blog posting:
The list of signatories is impressive. But what would they know compared to the Goracle, a politician who was a C student in science? Besides, abandoning the global warming hoax means abandoning the perfect excuse to inflict socialism and economic ruin on Western Civilization -- and of course, blame the United States for yet another catastrophe. Why would the Goracle and the bureaucrats at the UN possibly give that up, no matter how much the science disagrees with their agenda?
How does one even begin to approach the anti-intellectualism and the chain of non-sequiturs that both constitute this rant and expose the mediocre and unserious mind behind it. What does Cassy Fiano have to say about the scientists with "impressive" credentials who arrive at different conclusions? What do Al Gore's grades in science have to do with his current knowledge of the subject or with the validity of his conclusions? And how in God's good creation does she leap from efforts to address the negative impacts of global warming and climate change -- impacts which even the signatories of this open letter seem to accept as realistic -- to the "economic ruin of Western Civilization" and some sinister global socialist conspiracy? Cassy Fiano throws out science as if the degree of its validity depends on the degree to which it conforms with her ideology. All one needs to do is to observe the "scientific" method Cassy Fiano uses to criticize Al Gore's arguments to know that one is dealing with an unserious charlatan. I will, though, agree with Cassy Fiano on one point -- there certainly is an agenda being pushed here that is at odds with science. And one need look no further than Cassy Fiano's blog posting on the subject to find it.

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