By Phil Plait
8 July 2013
(Slate) – If you’ve read my blog for any amount of time, you know I am no fan of the Wall Street Journal op-ed section. In fact, I think it’s simply awful: They will print mind-numbingly bad and outright ridiculous climate change denial articles like clockwork.
The other day, though, a slightly different kind of opinion article appeared there. It’s not outright denial but shows many of the same signs. It was penned by Matt Ridley, a British science writer. He claims he does not deny the reality of global warming or even that it’s caused by carbon dioxide; he just claims the future effects of it are exaggerated.
But given what he wrote for the WSJ, I'm skeptical. Titled “Science Is About Evidence, Not Consensus,” it dances around the topic, making confused and ultimately erroneous points about global warming. The headline is ironic as well, since the evidence he cites is uniformly wrong.
In his efforts to downplay the effects of global warming in the future, Ridley makes two claims: One is that in the past, rising temperatures started before the rise in the amount of carbon dioxide in the air (therefore implying the addition of more atmospheric CO2 is not driving increased temperatures); the other is that Michael E. Mann’s famous “hockey stick” temperature graph has been proven wrong.
Folks, let me give you a very useful piece of advice: When you hear a claim that goes against the consensus opinion of climate scientists, type that claim into Google followed by the words skeptical science. Because the website Skeptical Science is very thorough, and it rebuts both claims by Ridley. […]
Ridley claims that “In the ice cores, it is now clear that temperature drives changes in the level of carbon dioxide, not vice versa.” I’m puzzled by this; is he saying CO2 does not cause increased temperature in modern times? He never comes out and says this (except with that one sentence, and with the caveat "in the ice cores"), but he implies it pretty strongly. But that contradicts his stated stance that CO2 is a greenhouse gas, and humans are at least partly responsible for global warming. His position on this appears to be untenable. [more]