January 8, 2010

It's pretty much getting to the point where, if you heard it on Fox, you can pretty much be assured it's a lie. Especially when the subject is global warming.

It's not just Sean Hannity, though he's bad enough. It's pretty much every single anchor and reporter they have. On the subject of global warming, they seem incapable of reporting a single straight fact.

Take Neil Cavuto yesterday. He opened the segment by talking about how cold temperatures are right now. This is a big surprise, since we're in the dead of winter.

But this is part of the larger theme: It's colder than crap here in America, so that must mean there's no global warming! We're hearing it constantly.

Fairly typical of this approach was the e-mail we got yesterday from a reader who wanted to defend Hannity:

Sean Hannity may be many things, but your claim his statement about 2009 being colder is a lie doesn't hold water. In fact, Accuweather.com says this winter may be the worst and coldest since 1985.


Please stop misleading people into this global warming crap.

Dave Boylen

Maui, Hawaii

If you go to the story he links, you'll find a story about how we're getting record-cold temperatures this year in the United States.

Because, of course, the USA is the only part of the globe that matters. Temperatures elsewhere? Who cares?

It's the same approach Cavuto's guest, a Palin fan who built an ice sculpture showing Al Gore blowing hot air, took in the above segment.

Even though the reality, as we explained, is that in terms of global temperatures, 2009 will go down as one of the hottest years on record.

Cavuto and his guest also plop out the polar-bear canard -- that polar-bear populations are actually at new heights. This, too, is just a flat-out falsehood:

First, it's important to note that scientists lack historical data on polar bear numbers—they only have rough estimates. What we do know, though, is that in the 1960s, polar bear populations dropped precipitously due to over-hunting. When restrictions on polar bear harvests were put in place in the early 1970s, populations rebounded. That situation was a conservation success story ... but the current threat to polar bears is entirely different, and more dire.

Today's polar bears are facing the rapid loss of the sea-ice habitat that they rely on to hunt, breed, and, in some cases, to den. Last summer alone, the melt-off in the Arctic was equal to the size of Alaska, Texas, and the state of Washington combined—a shrinkage that was not predicted to happen until 2040. The loss of Arctic sea ice has resulted in a shorter hunting season for the bears, which has led to a scientifically documented decline in the best-studied population, Western Hudson Bay, and predictions of decline in the second best-studied population, the Southern Beaufort Sea.

... At the most recent meeting of the IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group (Copenhagen, 2009), scientists reported that of the 19 subpopulations of polar bears, eight are declining, three are stable, one is increasing, and seven have insufficient data on which to base a decision. (The number of declining populations has increased from five at the group's 2005 meeting.)

Warming deniers like Hannity and Cavuto lie with impunity, and the worst part is, no one will ever hold them accountable. In 10 years, when they are proven catastrophically wrong, they'll find ways to claim they were actually right.

It might be helpful for the rest of us, though, to understand some of the dynamic involved here. You see, sharply colder wintertime temperatures in the United States -- and particularly along the Atlantic seaboard -- may well in fact be part of a larger global warming trend.

That's because of something called thermohaline circulation, which is the phenomenon behind the North Atlantic Current. This current, of course, is responsible for the relatively warm temperatures enjoyed by western Europe and Eastern North America.

It's not any news that global warming may affect these currents -- and indeed, we've been recording a weakening of the NAC for several years now.

We won't know, of course, for several years, when all the data is in and analyzed, but it's certainly reasonable to believe that our current colder winters are likely being deepened by the shutdown of thermohaline circulation.

What we do know for certain, though, is that believing that our ultra-cold winter is some kind of evidence against global warming is, well, pure mendaciousness. And the people who believe it are gullible dumbasses.

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