Chicken Little never takes a vacation when it comes to environmental scares. A spring without birds, overpopulation, mass famines, resource exhaustion, rainforest destruction, mass extinctions, global cooling, acid rain, ozone depletion, global warming … the list could go on and on.
Just on the topic of global warming Chicken Little touts a new alarm pretty much every day.
Chris Mooney, a Chicken Little eco-alarmist if ever there was one, trumpeted another last week in the Washington Post: “Scientists stunned by Antarctic rainfall and a melt area bigger than Texas” began with this shriek:
Scientists have documented a recent, massive melt event on the surface of highly vulnerable West Antarctica that, they fear, could be a harbinger of future events as the planet continues to warm.
In the Antarctic summer of 2016, the surface of the Ross Ice Shelf, the largest floating ice platform on Earth, developed a sheet of meltwater that lasted for as long as 15 days in some places. The total area affected by melt was 300,000 square miles, or larger than the state of Texas, the scientists report.
That’s bad news because surface melting could work hand in hand with an already documented trend of ocean-driven melting to compromise West Antarctica, which contains over 10 feet of potential sea level rise.
The article goes on with equal terror.
But it’s same-old, same-old Chicken Littleism: big scares couched in language that makes them, unlike genuine science, impervious to empirical testing:
“… that, they fear, COULD be a harbinger of future events as the planet continues to warm ….” And then of course it might not be. And of course everything hings on whether the planet continues to warm, and at what rate, and for how long. But those qualifications go unstated.
“… surface melting COULD work hand in hand with ….” And then of course it might not, but we’ll mention only the possibility that supports our case, not the possibility that doesn’t.
“It provides us with a POSSIBLE glimpse of the future,” and then again the future might be very different.
“… In the future, we COULD see action at the surface ….” And then again we might not.
Similar statements abound.
Of course! Grant all the assumptions, and the conclusions follow!
This isn’t scientific reasoning, it’s speculative prognostication driven by a precommitment to fearsome scenarios.
Ah, but there were two concrete, unqualified, testable claims: the “sheet of meltwater … lasted for as long as 15 days in some places” and “The total area affected by melt was 300,000 square miles, or larger than the state of Texas ….”
I have no reason to doubt the truth of those claims. But as I pointed out a few years ago in a take-down of another hyped story about continental ice melt, “There are ways to deceive that don’t require outright lying. One is to present facts without enough context to make them meaningful. That’s a specialty of the Green movement: using facts without context to generate fears.”
That’s what Mooney—and the scientists whose article he reports on—do.
Wow! Fifteen whole days (in some places—maybe two or three in others?)! That’s 1/750th of the thirty-year period climate scientists say is long enough to justify claims about trends, and it’s 1/337,500th of the 13,500 years it would take the whole of Antarctica’s net annual contribution to sea-level rise (about 3/4 inch per century) to turn my home—17 miles inland and 8 feet above sea level in south Florida—into a beach house.
And then there’s the fact that most of Antarctica, unlike the small West Antarctic peninsula, is gaining ice, not losing it, as shown in this NASA chart. Neither Mooney nor the article on which he reports mentions that.
And “larger than the state of Texas”? That sounds big—till you calculate that it amounts to 0.15% of Earth’s surface.
I.e., what Mooney reports is an interesting fact about what was happening on less than 1/666th of the planet’s surface (And forget about the miles-thick atmosphere or the miles-deep oceans, which together dwarf the surface.) during 1/25th of a year, but it means NOTHING about GLOBAL climate.