Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The art of denialist bullshit

Denialist comments rarely merit anything but to be ignored, but Robert Parker's brief comments are such a perfect example of the art of bullshit that I'll make an exception.

Here are Robert Parker's comments in full:

"Except the tide only comes in during a warm PDO, and goes out slowly in a cold PDO. We'll see for certain what happens in the next 15 years or so."

His two sentences illustrate perfectly the art of propaganda. For its nefarious purposes, it's as beautiful as haiku. Let's look closely at what he says and how he says it.

1. He makes no mention of the original indicators of climate change, nor does he actually dispute the fact that the bulk of the additional energy caused by CO2 and other greenhouse gases end up in the ocean. Actually dealing with the graphs in the original post would cause him a great deal of trouble.
2. He makes sure that the the comments are maximally confusing.  The first sentence (fragment) certainly qualifies: "except the tide only comes in during a warm PDO, and goes out slowly in a cold PDO."

This is obfuscation raised to an absolute art form. On first reading one might assume it is meant to cast doubt on something, but exactly what is open to question.

This strategy is an essential part of the denialist playbook, and it deserves to be called out as such. Denialists want, first of all, to sow confusion and doubt. So here we have a sentence fragment, asserting nothing in particular, filled with a "sciency" term which will, in all likelihood elicit a "huh?" response from the reader. This is not badwriting! The "huh?" is the whole point.

Notice, please, that this sentence gives no reason why the PDO should affect the graphs presented, nor does it provide any reason why one should believe that climate scientists have misunderstood the effect of the PDO on changing climate (or weather, or anything).

This response could almost be generated by a computer program: ignore the topic at hand, take a few "sciency" terms, combine them in almost random order, making sure that the meaning is unclear, and sit back and congratulate oneself on confusing the issue.

3. But the second sentence gives the game away:

"We'll see for certain what happens in the next 15 years or so."

This is a barefaced call for inaction. Whatever could the motive be? The obvious answer: the coal and gas industries do not want to be regulated. Not now, not in 15 years (or so!!), not in 50 years. Not ever!
In short, Parker's response is irresponsible bullshit, whose evident reason for being is to sow doubt among the truly ignorant and to provide cover for the CO2 lobby.