One More Time

Think Progress offers nothing new in its latest post about my NR cover story. It says Pat Michaels is wrong in believing that Curt Davis’s study of Antarctic ice shows that the ice sheet was growing through 2002, and calls Michael’s opinion of the study “key” to my piece. In doing so, it retreats into irrelevancies. Prior to Think Progress’s latest post, I had already acknowledged that Michaels might be wrong. I had also pointed out that, if he were, it would not affect my argument, which from the beginning has conceded that the latest studies show net ice losses in both Greenland and Antarctica. The claim that this shouldn’t scare us into capping CO2 emissions does not depend on showing that Antarctica was gaining ice until the last three years; this would simply be one addition to the many other considerations that weigh against alarmism. If Michaels is wrong, all of the following nevertheless remain true: (1) estimates of the mass of the entire Antarctic ice sheet exist for only the past three years, a period too short to establish the existence of a climate trend or recommend an appropriate policy response; (2) natural phenomena can be invoked to explain a significant portion of observed ice-cap melting; (3) the evidence is as yet insufficient to prove that melting will cause sea-level rise of a dangerous level; and (4) CO2 controls along the lines of Kyoto would have a negligible impact. That’s more than enough to justify both the words on NR’s cover and the substance of my argument. 

Keep in mind, moreover, that Michaels’s being wrong about the Davis study doesn’t mean that Antarctica was losing ice between 1992 and 2003. It just means we don’t know. Think Progress’s position essentially amounts to this: “Part of Antarctica was gaining ice. Another part was losing it. What was happening on balance? Beats us. But, by all means, be very worried.” (If Think Progress were always so compelling, how would we on the right stay in business?) 

Not only has Think Progress not addressed my central contentions, it has also failed to correct the errors and omissions I have pointed out in its replies to me. These include its assertion that I wrote that when you factor coastal ice loss into Davis’s study, it still shows that the Antarctic ice sheet is growing; its claim that my discussion of Ola Johannessen’s study of ice buildup in interior Greenland failed to acknowledge coastal loss; its claim that my discussion of Greenland’s temperature history is contradicted by average global temperature records; and its implication that I’d denied that human activity causes warming, when what I’d said was that there is disagreement about how much warming it causes. When Davis explained the mistake I’d made, I immediately corrected myself. Think Progress seems constitutionally incapable of acting likewise. This isn’t just sloppy argumentation; it is intellectual dishonesty. As I see little point in further debating such an interlocutor, I’ll sign off here, wishing Think Progress luck in pleading the case that we should all hyperventilate over something we don’t know. 

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