Saturday, June 09, 2007

Time For A Check-Up?

Generally, I enjoy Rex Murphy's peculiar commentary. However, when it comes to the issue of global warming, I find Murphy's opinion both intellectually dishonest and irresponsible. I commented a few months ago on one of Murphy's columns, wherein he came across as part of the cranky, dinosaur fart crowd. Well, Rex is at it again, claiming that the entire climate change debate is more cause than science:
Global warming is the new Key to All Mythologies. It is a vast and total reading of our world, and because it is vast and total it calls up responses from changing light bulbs to rearranging the economies - and the politics - of the world. It pits the industrial countries against the developing ones, it "relates" a flight from Ottawa to Montreal to the future impoverishment of some Pacific island, it speaks in the doom-laden accents of pure certitude of what will happen in 50 or 75 or a hundred years from now - and, with the same ferocious certitude, demands decisions of immense consequence be made now to forestall its bleak and definitive projections.

There is so much of blind or casual acceptance of global warming as the crisis of our time, or its high "moral" essence, and such an overwhelming pressure to accept its tenets and claims as to amount to a stampede.

Global warming has some science at its core. But it has been overlaid with a vast engine of continuous alarmism, propaganda, relentless campaigning, facile projections, and not a little bullying righteousness by some of its celebrity proponents.

It is, for all that is shouted to the contrary, more a cause than a science.

Murphy grudgingly admits "some science at its core", which is complete crap. The overriding body of scientific study is driving the debate, unless of course the 1000 odd scientists who have issued the "alarmist" predictions are part of the cause.

Murphy acts as though urgency and passion somehow equates to propaganda and fear mongering. If that sentiment does exist, it comes from what the scientists are telling us- we must act now, we must act decisively, we can't accept delay. If, what the scientists suggest is true, then yes, this is the "crisis of our time" and for Murphy to flippantly, and sarcastically, scoff at that notion says far more about his personal anti-global warming bias, than it does a careful read of the proponets.

The use of the word "mythology" is powerful, and it reveals Murphy. The term implies a non-truth, a delusional quality that doesn't relate to the real world. Murphy is entitled to his opinion, but he ever so conveniently attachs the activist angle, to deflect from the scientific root. People are taking their cues from the science, people are not driving it.

There will always be stragglers, no matter the evidence. Reading stories on the Creation Museum, erected in Alberta, provides a excellent example of peoples ability to deny the objective reality, no matter what science says, no matter the certainty. Does science have all the answers on global warming, in terms of scope, severity and predictable models? Probably not, there is plenty of room for error and some debate. Having said that, this admission doesn't extrapolate into the idea of doubting the premise all together. In fact, people constantly operate and make decisions based on the best knowledge available.

Global warming is not a cause, but it would appear those that don't take the science seriously, heed the warnings and demand we act accordingly, are really the ones who operate in the realm of mythology. Murphy's commentary reads like a stubborn mule, flailing away in disgust, like a wanting rebel who needs a CAUSE.


Karen said...

I was perplexed too Steve, when I read the article this morning. Well, perplexed might not be the right word, because every time Rex speaks to this issue, he takes this position.

For a clever man, it is odd to me that continues down this path.

Perhaps he thinks he has cover with our current government?

Global warming has some science at its core.

Sigh...perhaps we should write him to get his opinion on the Creationism Museum.

Steve V said...

I enjoy Murphy on almost every issue, except this one. It seems like he has a blind spot that makes him sound like a crank.

Ti-Guy said...

I never noticed the alarmism until the well-organised, well-funded campaign to counter the GW science, not with evidence to the contrary, but with simple doubt. That's alarming. As we've seen with evolution, with heliocentrism, even with Thabo Mbeki and the AIDS virus, people can be persuaded by doubt to become indifferent or hostile to actual evidence and accept fabrications as a substitute. Doubt for doubt sake isn't science; it's brain-washing.

This is what Murphy is over-reacting to. An alarmism that has arisen as a result of vested interests deciding that what is scientifically verifiable can be made to disappear, or ignored safely for just a little while longer. Just the attempt to do so by bright, educated, powerful people is alarming.

Murphy is now part of that campaign of doubt, whether he realises it or not. And that's why he's no longer worth listening to. I used to enjoy him as well, but this latest phase just makes me think he's past his sell-by date.

Karen said...

I have nothing against Rex and like you, usually enjoy his quirky banter, but yes, this is not a topic he should engage.

It's odd though isn't it? The man is so incredibly well read, so historically informed, I wonder why he chooses not to inform himself on this topic?

Mental block perhaps? Mine is in-depth economics and tech manuals, (it's taken me forever to figure out many aspects of posting at my blog). Even as I attempt to inform myself on these subjects, I cannot help but glaze over and not absorb what I'm reading.

Maybe that's what happens to him when reading about the environment, :)?

Steve V said...


You can introduce doubt on almost every topic. There's a school of thought in the philosophy of science that argues that everything is a theory, the only variable, predictability. The doubt crowd in this instance doesn' offer a credible alternative, rouge studies aside, it just waits for the absolute, and within that vein it can still argue.


The man, as you say, is so well versed on so many topics, but here he just sounds ignorant. Stick to what you know Rex, bashing politicians :)

Karen said...

btw, I was equally ticked at Blatchford today. I expect her to be conservative, but she so missed the point, sounded like a 12 yr. old, all the while assuming we would all hold the same disdain for the CBC that she does. It gave me pause.

It told me that the Haperites, Blatch would be included, really believe that they have critical mass. It's now acceptable to simply dump on the CBC for no valid reason. They miss the fact that they represent 30% of the population.

We really need to reduce that number, or at the very least keep it there.

Mark Dowling said...

For me, the global warming debate is something of a sideshow. In some ways it allows some fairly dubious justifications in terms of stuff like Al Gore's offsets.

For instance - if you drive an old truck with high sulphur fuel, offsetting the CO2 might deal with the climate change aspect, but what will offsets do about PM10 particulates and sulphur oxides which aggravate asthmatics? Nothing.

That was why I was encouraged that initially the Tories were approaching this subject from the point of view of a Clean Air Act - not seriously enough, obviously, but it's important to stress that improving the efficiency of our processes that continue to burn fossil fuels will reduce not only CO2 but SOx and NOx and particulates (plus mercury and radionuclides for coal).

Now all the emphasis seems to be on CO2 - which is actually good for coal burners like AB, BC and ON as long as they can keep talking about offsets.

Even if China came up with some way of sequestrating massive amounts of CO2 (oil field injection or whatever) their coal plants toss huge amounts of particulates into the jetstream. They coat the BC Rockies and the extra insolation (black absorbs heat) melts the snowcaps. Same at the polar cap.

We need to incentivise owners of older cars and trucks to scrap them using a combination of taxes and subsidies.

We need to make the DriveClean programme more than window dressing, including disallowing testers to perform repairs and to do "secret customer" audits on facilities.

We need to force oil companies to invest in refineries to produce cleaner products in a cleaner way.

All that's just for starters - but it's harder than planting a few trees, isn't it?