ANYTHING GOES: For information, see page D3!


Part 1—The two percent misperception: In this morning’s New York Times, the truth appears on page D3.

On that page, Justin Gillis does a Science Times report about climate change. As he starts, he describes how easy it is to get mis- and disinformed about this particular topic:
GILLIS (2/11/14): At the exact moment President Obama was declaring last month that “climate change is a fact,” thousands of drivers in Atlanta were trapped in a grueling winter ordeal, trying to get home on roads that had turned into ribbons of ice.

As the president addressed Congress and the nation in his State of the Union speech, it was snowing intermittently outside the Capitol. The temperature would bottom out later that night at 13 degrees in Washington, 14 in New York, 1 in Chicago, minus 6 in Minneapolis—and those readings were toasty compared to some of the lows earlier in January.

Mr. Obama’s declaration provoked head-shaking from Congressional climate deniers, and unleashed a stream of mockery on Twitter. “As soon as he mentioned ‘climate change’ it started snowing on Capitol Hill,” said a post from Patrick J. Michaels, a climate skeptic at the Cato Institute.
Disinformation is everywhere in our modern, corporatized pseudo-news culture. By contrast, if it’s information you want, you may have to turn to D3.

As he proceeded, Gillis challenged the inanity of messages like the one Michaels delivered. If you turned to page D3 today, you could have learned these facts:
GILLIS (continuing directly): The chortling was predictable, perhaps, but you do not necessarily have to subscribe to an anti-scientific ideology to ask the question a lot of people are asking these days:

If the world is really warming up, how come it is so darned cold?

The question might say more about how humans perceive the world than it does about the climate. After all, in principle, we are all supposed to know that climate and weather are not the same thing. But we have a strange tendency to think that whatever is happening to us right now must be happening everywhere.

Scientists refer to global warming because it is about, well, the globe. It is also about the long run. It is really not about what happened yesterday in Poughkeepsie.

The entire United States, including Alaska, covers less than 2 percent of the surface of the earth. So if the whole country somehow froze solid one January, that would not move the needle on global temperatures much at all.
According to Gillis, global warming concerns the whole globe. Our own country represents less than two percent of that sphere!

Gillis goes on to describe the very high temperatures occurring in other regions at this time. You could read all about that today, if you reached page D3.

Reading Gillis’ piece today, we had the same sort of thought we had last Friday, when we read this column by Paul Krugman: Why is this information on page D3, inside the Science Times section? Why isn’t this information on the newspaper’s front page?

Patrick Michaels is a major player in the world of climate change skepticism and denial. As Gillis noted, the recent cold weather also inspired the standard inanity from some members of Congress.

Whenever it snows or gets cold in the winter, citizens are now exposed to this nonsense. Reading Krugman, then reading Gillis, we found ourselves asking a familiar question:

When citizens get disinformed in major ways, why isn’t that front-page news? Why isn’t it major news when people get disinformed about major topics?

Gillis described a type of two percent misperception. We humans! Foolishly, we tend to think the entire globe is like our own little hill of beans!

In this, the age of disinformation, we get a lot of help in forming such misperceptions. This week, we’ll wonder again why this sort of thing is permitted to stand—why you have to read D3 to get today’s information.

We’ll also ask if our own liberal world is getting into these dis- and misinformation games. We liberals have always complained about this when it’s done from the right. As our own “liberal” news organs form, are we doing this sort of thing too?

Gillis presents an interesting report. His report appears deep inside the Times.

The bullroar is quite widespread these days. It's almost like anything goes!

The bullroar is quite easy to find. Sometimes, information seems hidden.

Tomorrow: Last Friday’s column by Krugman


  1. Excellent essay, both essays were excellent today, Bob.


  2. OMB (An Inconvenient Truth)

    We get a lot of the things we “know” from our ruling elites.

    Our elites settle on a “fact.” We all get told that it’s true.

    It’s a bad way to proceed. Obama made a misleading statement in his State of the Union address. This time, the claim is one we liberals enjoy.

    "Climate change is a fact"

    Please note two key facts:

    "Change" is a fuzzy claim. Obama didn’t say that the globe is getting warmer. He didn't even imply it. For all he knew half his audience, some shivering trapped in their cars in Atlanta could think "change" meant thigns are getting colder. He said it anyway.

    We will assume that he knows one of the possible meanings of his fuzzy claim is false.

    Also note this: Gillis never said that Obama told us the world we live in is warming. He merely said Obama said "climate change is real."

    In that passage, the public is being misled by both Obama and Gillis. Almost surely, they both know that the public is being misled.

    What is wrong with the hoary claim about climate chage is real? It isn’t a measure of temperature, as Obama and Gillis both know. It isn’t a measure of melting ice caps and rising sea levels.

    For various reasons, our elites agree to tell us various things which are fuzzy. These claims are constantly pimped by dumb or dishonest press.

    This is not a good way to proceed. In this case, the fuzzy claim for which everyone cheered is the marker of a progressive elite that doesn’t know how to make its case about real issues affecting our planet.


    1. An incisive comment.


    2. Alone at last.


    3. For all he [Obama] knew half his audience, some shivering trapped in their cars in Atlanta could think "change" meant things are getting colder.

      And if they thought that things might be getting colder in some places as the climate changes, they would be exactly right. If the melting arctic ice cap dumps enough fresh water into the ocean to disrupt the so-called North Atlantic Conveyer, the Gulf Stream will no longer approach the south coast of England, which will get much colder.

      How is this misleading the public? The claim isn't "fuzzy" in the sense that it's impossible to find out what it means. It "means" many things, including changes in the growing season, an increase in the severity of storms, a rise in ocean levels, a redistribution of rainfall, and the movement of the mean temperature in many places.

      Climate change isn't a "measure" of anything; it's a set of consequences of the rising average temperature.

      What exactly is your complaint about the statement? Not enough footnotes?

    4. KZ is helping at least me understand how important it is for the President to explain what is meant by climate change and why it is important and take nothing for granted since the subject can easily be confusing.

      I thought KZ made quite a thoughtful comment.

    5. So you didn't understand the importance of Presidential explanations. That would be a problem, albeit a small one.

      You're relying on KZ to improve your understanding.

      Now you've got two problems.

    6. Paying close attention to articles on climate change, I too find the subject complex and difficult to properly understand. I rely on clear explanations and think the President has been remiss in not teaching on the subject.


    7. I think Obama is ambivalent about pursuing climate policy so he doesn't want to open new cans of worms by being specific. On the other hand he doesn't want to appear to do nothing.

    8. I hate to be rude, but, ….

      Oh, hell, no one whose read any of my comments would believe such an egregious lie, so let me just apologize in advance.

      Paying close attention to articles on climate change I don't believe you've paid the slightest attention to articles on climate change. Have you checked out the Wikipedia article on global warming? Here's how it starts:

      Global warming refers to an unequivocal and continuing rise in the average temperature of Earth's climate system.

      Too complex and difficult to "properly" understand? Now Wikipedia is not my idea of a repository of original research, but the overviews are good and they're copiously sourced.

      I …think the President has been remiss in not teaching on the subject. The President is neither the Teacher-in-Chief nor the Scientist-in-Residence. He's a politician. Perhaps he's been remiss in not speaking about policy questions involved, but he has been busy.

  3. Thank again, Bob and KZ, and even DR, though I wish Dr had explained his position more fully.


  4. IMHO the President's statement that "climate change is a fact" was so vague as to be meaningless. E.g., here are just of few of his many conceivable meanings:
    1. The climate is changing
    2. The earth is warming
    3. The earth is warming due mostly to man's activity
    4. The earth is warming and that warming will be catastrophic
    5. The earth is warming, but there's great uncertainty about the rate at which it's warming
    6. Various actions proposed by the EPA are necessary to prevent catastrophe
    7. Various actions proposed by the EPA are sufficient to prevent catastrophe.
    8 IPCC reports on climate change are reliable

    1. I usually regard you as an expert on the vague and meaningless, but you seem not to have understood some simple English. Consider your list:

      1. Yes.
      2. Yes, on average.
      3. True, but not what the President said.
      4. Also true, but not what the President said.
      5. False, but not what the President said.
      6 & 7. No one knows, but not what the President said.
      8. True, but not what the President said.

      What the President said and meant was that the climate is changing. I think we can take it as a given that this is an enormous problem, and that it's the job of Presidents to solve problems.

      This doesn't mean that the President's view of the problem is correct or that his policies are the best responses. And that's why we have debates about policies.

      But the scientific evidence about the existence of the problem has been delivered. It's time to move to a discussion of the solutions, if any.

      Out of the many "conceivable" meanings of the President's statement, this one has the advantage of actually being what he meant.

    2. As much as I find you to be an insufferable know-it-all, you turned in a crackling good rejoinder here. Kudos.

    3. Deadrat, first of all the climate is always changing. So, saying that the climate is changing saying nothing at all.

      Second of all, to say that the climate is changing isn't to say that it's changing for the worse. You jump to the conclusion that we need a solution, so you evidently believe it's changing for the worse.

      Third of all, even if the climate is changing for the worse, it's by no means clear that even a Democratic President can fix the problem.

      E.g., after a beneficial warm spell around 1000 or 1100 AD, the planet went into the Little Ice Age, which was quite harmful. Even with today's supposedly "settled" climate science, nobody knows what caused the Little Ice Age nor what could have been done to prevent it. This example explains why the mere statement that the climate is changing evidently contains all sorts of hidden meanings.

    4. Oh, sure, the climate is always changing, and when the sun becomes a red giant in about five billion years and engulfs the earth, that will be some real global warming, so why worry about the piddling temperature increases we see now, right?

      The climate is changing and will change within the span of a few human generations. And nobody but a fool would interpret the statement any other way. The President is not proposing we plan to deal with the red giant phase of the sun.

      Could things change for the better? Sure, and when my car careens out of control and heads for the plate glass window of the 7-11 that happens to be in my way, I'll be sure to think, "This could work out just fine. Perhaps the impact will jar their lotto machine into coughing up the winning ticket which will fly into my pocket unimpeded by the windshield that's sure to disintegrate upon impact."

      Physics is one reason not to bet on that winning ticket. The warmer temperatures melt ice, so the ocean rises and so does the intensity of storms. Biology is another. Evolution isn't equipped to deal with very rapid change. Maybe Monsanto can just genetically engineer our mono-cultivated crops to deal with things, but I wouldn't bet on the rest of the food chain being so lucky.

      Yeah, no one knows for sure what caused the Little Ice Age. For one thing, we don't have accurate data. That doesn't mean that we don't have some possible explanations, and all of them point to the sensitivity of the feedback systems that run the climate.

      It's by no means clear that anyone has a good solution or that any solution exists. That's why we have policy debates. But before we get to those discussions, it helps to have people understand that science is telling us we have a problem. And that's what the President means when he says that climate change is real.

  5. Two points:

    1. A quote attributed to Yogi Berra and to Niels Bohr is that prediction is difficult, especially about the future. We know that the planet has been warming since the end of the Little Ice Age. We know that it warmed rapidly from about 1970 to the late 1990s and that there has been little or no warming since the late 1990's. We don't know what will happen in the future. Oh, yes. And we know that the IPCC has done a piss poor job of predicting temperatures.

    2. It's conceivable that the planet might experience severe future warming and that this warming might be harmful. However, the warming and rise in CO2 have so far been quite beneficial. They've resulted in more food, greater amount of forest and fewer deaths due to cold. There have been more deaths due to heat, but deaths due to cold are much common.

    So, it's conceivable that future warming, if it happens, might be harmful. However, the actual results of the last 250 years show that it might conceivably be helpful.

    1. What about the impact on plant and animal species and problems like the drought in Syria?

    2. There's no evidence that these have been caused by the warming to date. There have always been droughts. Droughts are no more frequent today than they were in the past. Of course, this could change in the future.

    3. That doesn't sound like Bohr unless he was talking about electron energy transitions, and I can't find the provenance for the attribution.

      Nobody can make accurate predictions of global temperatures on a year-to-year basis, but the IPCC has done a bang-up job documenting the decades-long trend upward.

      But I don't know whether to laugh or cry. The average global temperature is rising about half a degree F per decade, much of it in the oceans, and you think one of the benefits will be fewer deaths from hypothermia.

      Now, you're just fuckin' with me, right?

    4. deadrat, some corrections, with links.

      Death from cold isn't the same thing as hypothermia. The UK counts deaths from cold. 31,000 people, mostly elderly, died of cold in the winter of 2012-13. Many of these deaths were could have been prevented if fuel hadn't been so expensive. The price of fuel had been driven up in an effort to reduce CO2 emissions.

      Global temperature in the Lower Troposphere has risen by less than 0.5 degrees C since 1979 Other measures of temperature give slightly different figures, but this is the best one for trend, because it isn't distorted by the urban heat island effect and many adjustments.

      The global sea surface temperature has risen by around 0.35 degrees C since 1980

      The models have way overestimated the trend in warming as you can see at

      The alleged Bohr attribution is mentioned many places. See

    5. I haven't looked at all of the "about 460K" hits from the google, but the one's I have looked at give no provenance for the quote. Which, puts that claim in the same company as your "price of fuel driven up by an effort to reduce CO2."

      You want to quibble that death from hypothermia is only deaths directly due to decreased body temperature? OK. That won't make your claim any less dumb.

      As usual it took one click in the google to dismiss your claim about climate models. From Wikipedia:

      Spencer is a signatory to An Evangelical Declaration on Global Warming, which states that "Earth and its ecosystems – created by God's intelligent design and infinite power and sustained by His faithful providence – are robust, resilient, self-regulating, and self-correcting".

      Leave it to you to quote an IDiot. I suppose you're not accepting my claim about evolution 'cause that's just another theory.

      The models, being just models, can't track changes accurately from year to year. What has been demonstrated is that the climate has and is changing. Just like Obama said.

    6. deadrat, there's no reason why someone can't be both religious and a good scientist. Nobody has ever criticized Spencer's science. Note that he has provided actual data from the Troposphere. Nobody has ever said that this data was inaccurate.

  6. See what happens when we get rid of all those nasty trolls.