Wall Street Journal's Bret Stephens' Religion of Denial

"Global warming is a sick-souled religion," says Wall Street Journal columnist Bret Stephens, in his screed last week titled, "Global Warming as Mass Neurosis."

Really? I mean maybe an opinion piece like this was cool-in-an-Ann-Coulter kind of way five years ago.

But today? Really?

By default, not only would Stephens be claiming his boss, Rupert Murdoch is sick-souled (an activity I find makes for an uncomfortable workplace environment), but also both presumptive presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama, George W. Bush, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, NASA, NOAA... just to name a few of the individuals and organizations that have accepted the fact that climate change is caused by our insistence on burning more and more oil, coal and gas.

As evidence of this 'sick religion' Stephens points to US temperature records:

"NASA now begrudgingly confirms that the hottest year on record in the continental 48 was not 1998, as previously believed, but 1934, and that six of the 10 hottest years since 1880 antedate 1954."

True enough, NASA did correct their temperature records for the United States. But what scientists are talking about and concerned about is global warming and not United States warming. And global temperature records since 1850 have shown a rapid upswing that you can see in this global temperature record data.

Not to beat a point to death, but when the NASA temperature mistake was discovered, it was considered an insignificant adjustment by none other than Bret Stephens himself who stated at the time that:

I [he] am [is] prepared to acknowledge that Mr. McIntyre's discovery amounts to what a New York Times reporter calls a 'statistically meaningless' rearrangement of data."

A further proof of our (and Rupert Murdoch's) misguided ways, Stephens points to Arctic Sea Ice:

The Arctic ice cap may be thinning, but the extent of Arctic sea ice has been expanding for years."

Yes the Arctic ice cap is thinning and the old, thick ice that can withstand significant thawing under summer temperatures is being replaced by thin, seasonal ice that melts away much quicker in the spring. And this is something that has scientists very concerned, because as the old ice continues to be replaced by seasonal thin ice, the extent of the summer polar ice melting is increasing year-after-year. On the decreasing Arctic sea ice, National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) released a statement last week that:

"Arctic sea ice extent for June 2008 is close to that for 2007, which went on to reach the lowest minimum since at least 1979. More notably, however, satellite data indicate that melt began significantly earlier than last year over most of the Arctic Ocean. The large area of the Arctic Ocean covered by first-year ice (described in our June analysis) coupled with the early onset of melting may mean more rapid and more severe summer ice retreat than last year."

Losing Arctic sea ice earlier and earlier every year is a concern to scientists because the earth's sea ice acts as a massive white reflector, bouncing the sun's heat back out into space - the less sea ice, the less of the sun's heat is reflected back into space, the more heat that is absorbed by the earth, the hotter it gets, the faster the melting. You can read the more scientific explanation of this under the heading Why Earlier Melt Matters, on the NSIDC website.

On Ocean Temperature Stephens writes:

"Data from 3,000 scientific robots in the world's oceans show there has been slight cooling in the past five years, never mind that '80% to 90% of global warming involves heating up ocean waters,' according to a report by NPR's Richard Harris."

Fair enough, this was the initial finding by NASA's gang of ocean-roaming robots. But the initial finding was quickly followed by this statement from NASA:

"Update as of 5/30/07: Recent analyses have revealed that results from some of the ocean float and shipboard sensor data used in this study were incorrect. As a result, the study's conclusion that the oceans cooled between 2003 and 2005 can not be substantiated at this time. The study authors are currently working to correct these data errors and recompute ocean temperature changes." (that's NASA's bold for emphasis, not mine)

It is this brand of inaccuracy and twisting of facts that has led to the growing mistrust in traditional media today, and it is annoying mosquitoes in the big media tent, like us bloggers, that are calling the media on it.

And the inoculation?

There's the one-hour version in which you write posts like the one above and send it to everyone you know. Or there's the truncated 5-minute treatment in the form of a letter to the editorial board at the Wall Street Journal pointing out the inaccuracies in their column and a reminder of their responsibility to reporting the facts and not helping perpetuate a climate of PR spin.