Guest submission for Dialogues on Global Warming,
RE: If it sounds too incredible to be true, it invariably is;
My experience with writing letters that affirm man's role in climate change to local newspapers has taught me a few basic things about deniers and the news outlets which regularly publish inaccuracies and downright lies told by those whose goal is to defend mega coal and oil companies, as well as the business world in general. One of those is the axiomatic principle that when deniers circulate ideas that sound too bizarre or factually dubious, what they are circulating is virtually always untrue.
I admittedly don't have the educational background or mathematical knowledge to follow some of the more technical, or mathematical computations used to substantiate the rate of global warming, but I do have enough of a science background to appreciate the basic concepts which are currently at work in the changing climate of our world, i.e. that when CO2, (or other greenhouse gasses), in the atmosphere block ever increasing quantities of heat energy from escaping, our finite biosphere reacts in the way so clearly evidenced by those who have spent decades studying global warming. And when more heat energy is introduced into our delicately balanced ecosphere, that ultimately creates more energy to drive more instability in the world's weather systems.
Recently a particular commenter in the Duluth News Tribune, (Larry Hendrickson), has included some “doozies,” in his letters concerning supposed predictions made by prominent advocates of global warming, and which include some downright distortions and lies concerning a televised program aired by ABC in 2009, titled Earth 2100, and which featured some worst cases scenarios portraying the possible effects of global warming (between) years 2015 and 2100. I first became aware of this particular commenter's propensity for using misleading facts and quotes, after one of his opinion letters about Al Gore included the charge that Gore had literally claimed that in 2011, continuing water level declines in the Great Lakes would make it possible that, “ by 2014 we might be able to walk from Muskegon Michigan to Milwaukee without getting our feet wet.” Accordingly, when this rather imaginative and fantastic prediction attributed to Gore did not come to pass, the same commenter took the liberty to say that Mother Nature made a fool out of Gore. In fact after doing some Google searches I found one conservative website after another jumping on the global warming denial bandwagon by publishing this supposed quote of Gore's—but of course I noticed during the process that many of the Google websites that came up in my search, contained the word (missing) with a line drawn through it, whenever this exact quote supposedly from Gore, was referenced. After going to the links included on many of these websites, I also noticed that some of these sites had the story removed, and that almost none of them placed quotation marks around this certifiably insane prediction attributed to Gore. Apparently these omissions could mean either that Gore never said these words, or that what he said was later discovered to have been taken out of context. Nonetheless, dozens and dozens of websites joined in the feeding frenzy concerning this highly unlikely statement by Gore, like a team of piranhas going after a cow's carcass in the Amazon.
Mr. Hendrickson's latest attempt to enlighten us about the supposedly foolish opinions of AGW affirmers, was his reference to the documentary titled Earth 2100, which as I already mentioned, was said to have predicted for a certainty that by a specific calendar date in 2015, New York would be “completely underwater.” Once again the preposterous nature of this claim did not seem typical of the customary caution and reserve shown by scientists in any field of research about making “predictions.” And, again my research proved that no scientist and nobody who worked on this ABC documentary had said anything of the kind. I learned this after accessing all nine parts of the hour and half video on YouTube. What I found was typical of the way deniers take a shred of truth and use it to completely misrepresent the reality of what is really said by scientists, as well as by those who created the video. Here is a link to that video on YouTube:
First of all, although opening scenes in the video portrayed ominous ocean waters closing in on New York, the title of the film, Earth 2100, indicates that the film was not exclusively about any earlier date like 2015, and in fact, explored ecological disasters that might be possible during the entire 21st century. And indeed, after watching the complete video, this fact was completely verified.
The Earth 2100 video which included a hypothetical woman named Lucy, followed her experiences with climate change (between) 2015 and 2100—not, (just during 2015)! In the course of Lucy’s life (which was presented in a graphic cartoon like animation) she did experience a devastating storm surge that flooded much of Miami in 2016, but the actual hypothetical portrayal of New York suffering submersion due to drastically rising ocean levels, was set in the year 2075—60 years later than environmental AGW critics hoping to feast on the film's inaccuracies, had claimed! The only mention of the specific year 2015 being the date of this hypothetical disaster was made by certain amateurs who had taken part in an audience interactive segment, in which they submitted their own fictional predictions of what life would be like (between) 2015 and 2100—again an 85 year period spanning the rest of the 21st century—not just 2015! Yet the mrc News Busters website, as well as other conservative news outlets that took part in the journalistic feeding frenzy, mentioned only one viewer who took part in the interactive audience segment of the broadcast, and who was described as “one expert”—claiming that New York could be completely flooded by 2015, and another “unidentified person” predicting that “flames cover hundreds of miles.” The same reference to this “one expert” was repeated by many internet websites which tried to discredit the reality of man made global warming by creating the impression that “experts” predicted that New York would be completely flooded by 2015---And, here it is appropriate to mention that portions of the New York subway system, and the Holland Tunnel, actually were flooded by the dangerous storm surge created by hurricane Sandy in 2012, and that thousands of square miles of burning forests in our western areas are devastating the environment there. The mrc site also quite casually mentioned that “ABC provides no graphics or identification for any of the individuals/activists featured.” In other words participants in the interactive audience portion of are not even proven to be people who really know anything at all about climate change!
What I learned is that conservative websites totally distorted the claims made in ABC's video—even though the video's narrator mentioned many times during the presentation, that Earth 2100 only suggests things that (might happen) between 2015 and 2100 (if) we fail to take adequate measures to address the threat of global warming—not things that (will happen)! The video's narrator also made several statements affirming that what was depicted was a worse case scenario and may never actually happen as portrayed.
So the rule of thumb I employ when deciding which letters by deniers are obvious fabrications is simply to ask how credible it would be for well educated scientists or informed political activists like Al Gore, to actually say, or predict, the incredibly unfeasible things which are falsely ascribed to them. Invariably such supposed statements are jumped on by deniers as an opportunity to sow doubt about climate change—and my lies and misinformation antennae are now quickly activated whenever I read similarly incredible claims. But the most troubling aspect of these attempts to deny a real problem, is how easily an outlet like the Tribune, (otherwise quite competent and professional) is persuaded to publish such incredible claims from deniers, yet consistently makes me jump through hoops in order to verify the things said in my own letters. Why is it that the press currently seems to not even bat an eye over the proposition that an intelligent person like Al Gore supposedly thought we would be able to walk across lake Michigan by 2014 without even getting our feet wet, yet when someone like me points out facts that are verifiable like those in Earth 2100 are—just by watching the video—invariably we must run a gauntlet of questions and are told to provide numerous links that affirm the things we have found to be true? And even after that process, the actual words a letter writer uses are frequently altered according to established editing protocols?
If I didn't know better I might think that the press is more interested in publishing sensationalistic news articles, then it is in publishing the truth—but thankfully I now do know better---and my suspicions have been repeatedly proven to be correct!
Peter W. Johnson