Free Markets, Free People

Eric Cline

“Check your premise”

One of the first things you learn when you’re putting an argument forward is to check the premise of your argument to ensure it is valid.  Obviously if it isn’t, then you end up battling a straw man and looking like a bit of a fool.

We have a practical example of not checking your premise (that’s giving him the benefit of the doubt- in fact it may be a case of creating a false premise on purpose) in the New York Times today by a professor of classics and anthropology at George Washington University.  Professor Cline writes an op/ed there in which he attempts to prove that climate change doomed the ancients and that the history of that time replicates the danger we face at this time.

Uh, ok.  But, of course, that’s not the real purpose of his history lesson as soon becomes evident.  It is to take a political shot at “climate deniers” by using Senator James Inhofe  as a proxy for AGW skeptics – without ever naming them as such:

THIS month, a report issued by a prominent military advisory board concluded that climate change posed a serious threat to America’s national security.

The authors, 16 retired high-ranking officers, warned that droughts, rising seas and extreme weather events, among other environmental threats, were already causing global “instability and conflict.”

But Senator James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma, the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee and a stalwart believer that global warming is a “hoax,” dismissed the report as a publicity stunt.

Perhaps the senator needs a history lesson, because climate change has been leading to global conflict — and even the collapse of civilizations — for more than 3,000 years. Drought and famine led to internal rebellions in some societies and the sacking of others, as people fleeing hardship at home became conquerors abroad.

Note how he switches from “global warming” to “climate change” – a term he will use throughout the rest of his article.  He knows “global warming” has become a loaded term.  But it is clear, the premise he is putting forward is that Senator Inhofe is denying the climate is changing and calling it all a hoax.

But, in fact, Senator Inhofe has never denied “climate change”.  Who would?  Our climate changes – constantly.  Instead,  what he has denied is that man is causing it.  He’s been quite clear about that.

Inhofe, former chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, does not believe that human activities cause climate change.

[…]

“I have to admit—and, you know, confession is good for the soul… I, too, once thought that catastrophic global warming was caused by anthropogenic gases—because everyone said it was.” [emphasis mine]

That’s right – everyone said it was.  And some never bothered to investigate it themselves, but took it on faith that the nonsense being touted was factual and true.  But subsequent study of the actual science, not that which had been manipulated (and now discredited), as well as the history of temperature change in the last 17 years (it hasn’t changed) vs what the models said would happen, have led him and many others to believe the entire basis of AGW was flawed and a “hoax”.

Go figure.

By leaving out the fact that Inhofe thinks that ” man made” climate change is a “hoax”, Cline creates a false premise – that Inhofe doesn’t believe climate change is real.  And by addressing only “climate change”, he then can attempt to make Inhofe look like a science denier who isn’t acting in the best interest of our nation and our military.  By doing that he marginalizes Inhofe.

So why would Senator Inhofe call a report on the impact of climate change on our national security a hoax if we all know the climate always changes and, at some point in the future, could indeed impact our national security?  He probably wouldn’t.  He didn’t call it a hoax for that reason.  He called it a hoax because of a couple of paragraphs in the report’s executive summary that clearly, if not implicitly, put AGW to the fore as the reason for this climate change as well as calling for emissions to be limited:

“Scientists around the globe are increasing their confidence, narrowing their projections, and reaffirming the likely causes of climate change.  As described in Climate Change Impacts in the United States: The Third National Assessment: “Heat trapping gases already in the atmosphere have committed us to a hotter future with more climate related impacts over the next few decades.  The magnitude of climate change beyond the next few decades depends primarily on the amount of heat trapping gasses emitted globally, now and in the future.”

And:

Climate mitigation and adaptation efforts are emerging in various places around the world, but the extent of these efforts to mitigate and adapt to the projections are insufficient to avoid significant potential water, food and energy insecurity; political instability; extreme weather events; and other manifestations of climate change.  Coordinated, wide-scale and well-executed actions to limit heat-trapping gasses and increase resilience to help prevent and protect against the worst projected climate change impacts are required – now.

Obviously you can’t stop or limit the “amount of heat trapping gasses” emitted by nature, so what gasses are the authors talking about here? Why what else – those emitted by man.  IOW, they’ve carefully danced around not saying “man-made global warming” but it is precisely what they’re talking about.  And that, given the evidence now available in the present, is what Inhofe is calling a hoax.

Cline lays out his history lesson based on this false premise.  As far as the history goes, meh, it’s okay.  I’m not sure it proves much of anything concerning whether or not this was happening globally, but the regional change obviously had an effect.  A hint that it was a regional phenomenon is found in one of Cline’s paragraphs:

While sea levels may not have been rising then, as they are now, changes in the water temperature may have been to blame for making life virtually unlivable in parts of the region.

Guess the glaciers and such located around the globe must have been pretty stable, even while all this was going on in the area noted, huh?

Anyway, he concludes with this little gem:

We live in a world that has more similarities to that of the Late Bronze Age than one might suspect, including, as the British archaeologist Susan Sherratt has put it, an “increasingly homogeneous yet uncontrollable global economy and culture” in which “political uncertainties on one side of the world can drastically affect the economies of regions thousands of miles away.”

But there is one important difference. The Late Bronze Age civilizations collapsed at the hands of Mother Nature. It remains to be seen if we will cause the collapse of our own.

And there it is.  While refusing to call it “man-made global warming” through the entire piece,  his last few words give away the game [emphasis mine].  He’s just another pedantic alarmist using a false premise to try to attack someone who disagrees with the obviously flawed “consensus”.  Somehow he thinks relating a cyclical climate event from centuries ago where man obviously couldn’t have influenced it even if he tried to what is happening (or  not happening in reality) today somehow makes a compelling case.  You know, it couldn’t just be the same cause that precipitated the events back then coming to visit us again could it?  Nope, it has to be man.

This guy is teaching your children folks.  And this is the quality of his work.  The irony is he just prostituted his academic credibility to take a political shot at someone – and missed.

~McQ