Joe Bastardi, who goes by the title “expert senior forecaster” at AccuWeather, has a modest proposal. Virtually every major scientific body in the world has concluded that the planet is warming, and that greenhouse-gas emissions are the main cause. Bastardi, who holds a bachelor’s degree in meteorology, disagrees. His theory, which mixes volcanism, sunspots, and a sea-temperature trend known as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, is that the earth is actually cooling. Why don’t we just wait twenty or thirty years, he proposes, and see who’s right? This is “the greatest lab experiment ever,” he said recently on Bill O’Reilly’s Fox News show.
Bastardi’s position is ridiculous (which is no doubt why he’s often asked to air it on Fox News). Yet there it was on the front page of the Times last week. Among weathermen, it turns out, views like Bastardi’s are typical. A survey released by researchers at George Mason University found that more than a quarter of television weathercasters agree with the statement “Global warming is a scam,” and nearly two-thirds believe that, if warming is occurring, it is caused “mostly by natural changes.” (The survey also found that more than eighty per cent of weathercasters don’t trust “mainstream news media sources,” though they are presumably included in this category.)
I go off the Good Liberal reservation on global warming. (Cue boos.) This is in large part due to the skepticism of a very smart person who happens to be an expert in energy issues, and who I know very well. (He may or may not be related to me.) He's skeptical, and he's done a big heaping ton of research on the issue, and thus I am skeptical. If we are expected to accept global warming on the strength of the authority of a bunch of scientists we don't actually know, then I feel like I am free to question it based upon the authority of a particular scientist I happen to know very well.
Thus, I get very irked when people who question the legitimacy of anthropogenic climate change are dismissed as charlatans or idiots. Just like Elizabeth Kolbert does above.
I will concede that part of Bastardi's argument is ridiculous. A major part of the argument for climate change legislation is that we are at a critical period to prevent further worsening of the problem. Simply waiting and seeing how things go for the next 20 years or so is not a neutral recommendation, no matter how blithe Bastardi may be about it.
However, the way Kolbert writes about "weathercasters" is also too clever by half. It is impossible to know from what she writes what qualifications the people surveyed have, but presumably a great many of them are meteorologists (like Bastardi). Meteorologists are, in fact, scientists. (I checked.) And while the American Meteorological Society does seem to generally endorse anthropogenic climate change, that does not mean that members of said society ("weathercasters" or otherwise) are not free to dissent. Such dissent is not a de facto negation of their right to be taken seriously, any more than my scorn at the AAP's recommendation that hot dogs be re-engineered voids my certification as a pediatrician.
These people spend their days talking about and studying the weather. Isn't it worth at least a moment's pause to consider if maybe their opinion about the weather is worth being taken the least bit seriously? But no. Instead, Kolbert writes them off because they don't trust "mainstream media news sources." (For what? Information about the climate? I don't trust the mainstream media news sources for information about medicine, either.) Idiots, apparently, every one of them.
As God is my witness, I would rather superglue my fingers together than defend Fox News, but maybe Bastardi chooses to air his views there because only Fox News will give him a say. (I know, I know. This is only because he already tells them what they want to hear. I won't argue that they're airing his views because of a sincere belief in intellectual honesty.) Maybe if "mainstream media sources" hadn't decided that all dissent on climate change is the work of frauds and morons, more of them would express their views in non-Fox media sources.
You know. Like The New Yorker.