Climate B.S. Award – with a Canadian honourable mention

The Skeptical Science website has announced the 2010 Climate B.S. (Bad Science) Award.  Their four runners-up were:

Fifth Place. Climate B.S. and misrepresentations presented by Fox “News.”
Fourth Place. Misleading or false testimony to Congress and policymakers about climate change.
Third Place. The false claim that a single weather event, such as a huge snowstorm in Washington, D.C., proves there is no global warming.
Second Place. The claim that the “Climategate” emails meant that global warming was a hoax, or was criminal, as Senator Inhofe tried to argue. In fact, it was none of these things (though the British police are still investigating the illegal hacking of a British university’s computer system and the theft of the emails).

And their top choice was

the following set of B.S.: “There has been no warming since 1998” [or 2000, or…], “the earth is cooling,” “global warming is natural,” and “humans are too insignificant to affect the climate.” Such statements are all nonsense and important for the general public to understand properly.

Click here for the full post.

I think the list is well thought out, but with the inclusion of Fox News and Congress, it is obviously U.S.-centred.

Therefore I would like to suggest a Canadian honourable mention: Coverage of Climate Change by the National Post in 2010 was B.S. (Bad Science).

The National Post’s opinion section mounted a full frontal attack on climate science in 2010.  Leading the charge was Lawrence Solomon.  A typical example was his December 30 column “75 climate scientists think humans contribute to global warming”, where he grossly mis-represents an online survey of Earth scientists.  Solomon’s National Post article can be found here and the original survey report can be found here.

The poll showed that as researchers’ expertise increases, so does their agreement with the question, “Do you think human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures?”.  Solomon seizes on the fact that the category of “Climatologists who are active publishers on climate change” only resulted in 77 respondents to that question, with 75 (about 97%) answering in the affirmative, to come up with the headline of his article.  Personally I think it is significant that although, according to a 2008 Gallup poll, only slightly over half of the general public would answer the question in the affirmative, 82% of the 3,146 earth scientists who responded to the survey answered in the affirmative, and that the percentage keeps rising as respondents’ knowledge and expertise in the field increases, right up to the highly specialized category that annoys Solomon so much.

However being an online survey, this study did have flaws. And this is where Solomon’s real duplicity is shown.  The study that is actually used more often to back up the claim that 97% of climatologists support the AGW theory was reported in a peer-reviewed article published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) titled “Expert credibility in climate change” (Anderegg et al. 2010).  Solomon makes no mention of it in his column.

In addition to more articles by Solomon, other B.S. opinion columns in the National Post were written by Lorne Gunter and Rex Murphy (a writer with whom I have agreed on other science-related subjects such as Canada’s sustainable seal harvest).

The reader comments following each of these stories are heavily dominated by AGW skeptics repeating the same tired arguments (they changed the name from global warming to climate change, it’s cooling, the “Climategate” email hack proves that it’s a conspiracy, etc.).

However, in fairness, I must also point to an excellent article by Jonathan Kay in the National Post, where he argues that global warming deniers are a liability to the conservative cause.  So despite the Bad Science they served up in 2010, there may still be hope for that newspaper in 2011.

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