Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Junk Man

Irony leadens the title of Steve Milloy's "" Perhaps he is aware of that. Perhaps not. But it was amusing to note the recent story that the Bush administration is considering adding polar bears to the endangered species list:
The Bush Administration yesterday kicked off a process to determine whether polar bears should be added to the United States endangered species list because their habitat is melting. The action is "a significant acknowledgement of what global warming is doing to the Arctic ice."
And it was amusing because back in November of 2004, Steve Milloy saw fit to cast aspersion upon warnings back then that polar bears were having a difficult time in their native habitat. Global warming, Milloy says, was a fiction and polar bears were doing just fine. Naturally enough, this opinionating appeared, among other trusted science forums, on Fox News:
I’m not quite sure what the future holds for polar bears, but it doesn’t appear that any alleged manmade global warming has anything to do with it.
He further opines about the wisdom of Bush in sedulously refusing to acknowledge that anything is happening to the global climate. That was little more than a year ago.

Milloy arrives at his ill-considered opinion by a variety of techniques: specious reasoning, cherry-picked data and hand-waving argument. Hilariously, he claimed to "debunk" a comprehensive scientific study, the
Arctic Climate Impact Assessment. Just how Milloy's goes about this in a brief column is a classic demonstration of the usual insights that come to us by way of pseudo-scientific hackery, all sponsored, of course, by his many corporate donors.

He disparages the report by saying that the study's own data refute its conclusion. And he does this by picking out one graph from 1000+ page report, claiming the data don't show anything like a severe warming trend and that the current trend is simply the last in a cycle. That much is true, but his stance that the trend is not out of the ordinary is utterly false.

I am willing to grant that he must just have been confused when he mish-mashed warming and cooling trends within his own article -- at one point the period 1950-1990 is a "cooling phase" only to become a warming phase later on -- but he seems completely unable to even read the graph. Milloy cites the "warming phase" of 1920-1950. Readers might look at the graph and wonder what other-world arctic Milloy is talking about.

The cooling phase (negative slope) is clearly from ~1938 - 1970, the warming trend beginning then (positive slope) until 2000, though the trend does continues upwards today. The previous warming phase was from ~1918 - 1938. In fact, Milloy's statement,
the 1950-1990 Arctic warming period
is utterly baffling. To anyone actually looking at this graph, the period 1950-1990 is assuredly not "a warming period." That period encompasses a cooling phase until about 1970, at which point a local minimum is reached and the temperature trend line becomes postive, i.e. warming. Given Milloy's blatant inability to read a simple graph, can we expect anything other than tripe in the rest of his "analysis"?

Nope. The tripe is shoveled forth as Milloy attempts to elicit doubt about the current trend, which is very obvious from the graph he cites (above), with this statment:
The report’s claim that increased manmade emissions of greenhouse gases are causing Arctic temperatures to rise is debunked by the same graph, which indicates that the near surface Arctic air temperature was higher around 1940 than now....
Apart from misreading graphs, this is what passes for "debunking" in Milloy's FoxNews world of statistics: on
e or two data points that are at least one sigma from the mean. This is his argument in debunking the trend: hey, it was hot in 1940! Stop freaking out.

One need not be a statistician to see the obvious trend, the trend so maladroitly belittled by Milloy; the cold phases have become less cold, the warm phases warmer -- noticeably warmer. Of course, Milloy doesn't actually show you the graph, expecting his FoxNews hounds to simply believe him when he says there is nothing there.

But we'll return to the polar bear issue and see what further "debunking" Milloy offers up.

Recent reporting has described the alarming reduction in arctic sea ice, with the smallest area of coverage ever recorded this past summer. This is devastating for polar bears, which depend on the ice to hunt seals. When not drowning from swimming after seals, the bears are now trapped on land and have been raiding villages, starved and looking for food. But to Milloy, polar bears raiding arctic villages is actually a sign of a robust population:
in three Arctic villages, polar bears are so abundant there’s a public safety issue.
There certainly is a public safety issue, but it has little to do with the bears being abundant. And like any predator population, especially bears, once they get an idea of how easy picking through human garbage actually is, they are very reluctant to give it up.

Yes, Steve Milloy is the author of
As a tool of oil companies and big tobacco, does Milloy know just how accurate the name of his disingenuous, politically-biased crap really is? Even the Bush administration appears to have finally conceded on the issue of global warming, though they may still choose to do nothing about it. I haven't seen a word about this from Milloy.

[Read more about the corporate tool here
and here]


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