|Schulte's Paper--Another Look
We left off Part III in the midst of examining a long post by Inhofe staffer Marc Morano, in particular, a list of 15 items, all of dubious significance. Number 6 on the list concerned the original subject that touched off this series:
6) A July 2007 review of 539 abstracts in peer-reviewed scientific journals from 2004 through 2007 found that climate science continues to shift toward the views of global warming skeptics. Excerpt: "There appears to be little evidence in the learned journals to justify the climate-change alarm." (LINK)
It was later updated:
Update - August 29, 2007: SURVEY: LESS THAN HALF OF ALL PUBLISHED SCIENTISTS ENDORSE GLOBAL WARMING THEORY - Excerpt: "Of 539 total papers on climate change, only 38 (7%) gave an explicit endorsement of the consensus. If one considers 'implicit' endorsement (accepting the consensus without explicit statement), the figure rises to 45%. However, while only 32 papers (6%) reject the consensus outright, the largest category (48%) are neutral papers, refusing to either accept or reject the hypothesis. This is no 'consensus.'" (LINK)
Several things are worth noting here. First, the orginal link is to Monckton's paper. Morano's uncritical link puts him in the same league with Monckton and Schulte. All three have uncritically cited or accepted papers as dissenting from the consensus which clearly do not--including one paper that is purely about people's attitudes and opinions, not about the climate itself at all. The best Morano could possibly claim is that he didn't actually read what he was linking to. He's either an unwitting dupe or a knowing fraudster. (The truth will out below.)
Second, the quote in the update is from material available in Monckton's paper, raising the question of why it is presented as if it were something new. The update link is to another post on the Inhofe blog by another staffer, quoting the entire Michael Asher post at Daily Tech.
Thus, Inhofe's blog is being used to deliberately dribble out bits of the paper that no one else has seen except true believers. But all we know so far was actually published by Monckton back in July. Indeed, there's something important in Monckton's account that I skipped over before which is worth a closer look--the Schulte paper's abstract:
"Fear of anthropogenic 'global warming' can adversely affect patients' well-being. Accordingly, the state of the scientific consensus about climate change was studied by a review of the 539 papers on "global climate change" found on the Web of Science database from January 2004 to mid-February 2007, updating research by Oreskes (2004), who had reported that between 1993 and 2003 none of 928 scientific papers on "global climate change" had rejected the consensus that more than half of the warming of the past 50 years was likely to have been anthropogenic. In the present review, 32 papers (6% of the sample) explicitly or implicitly reject the consensus. Though Oreskes said that 75% of the papers in her sample endorsed the consensus, fewer than half now endorse it. Only 7% do so explicitly. Only one paper refers to "catastrophic" climate change, but without offering evidence. There appears to be little evidence in the learned journals to justify the climate-change alarm that now harms patients."
So, this is how a medical doctor comes to do a literature review of the global warming literature: fears of global warming can "adversely affect patients' well-being," and so he must investigate. He does investigate, and finds, in the end that "There appears to be little evidence in the learned journals to justify the climate-change alarm that now harms patients."
So, although even his own flawed data finds 45% support for the IPCC/National Academy of Sciences/American Meteorological Society/American Geophysical Union/American Association for the Advancement of Science consensus, versus 6% dissent, this constitutes "little evidence." With this sort of ludicrous claim in the abstract, directly contradicting the very data it presents, there is every reason to regard the paper itself as little more than propaganda.
But, of course, we already knew that from Tim Lambert's quick review of the seven abstracts Monckton presented from Schulte's paper. We already knew that the underlying data was unreliable. We now know that his presentation of his findings contradicts even his own flawed data. What more is there to say?
Well, we can look at Schulte's narrative, the little story that his abstract tells. We already know it contains at least one obvious lie. How plausible is it as a whole? Intepid doctor out to save patients from unwarrented fears? Just how much sense does this story make?
First off, Schulte is a specialist in endocrine surgery, "which involves operating and treating endocrine glands, ie, the thyroid, the parathyroid, the adrenal and the pancreas." Not an awful lot of opportunity for his patients to share their fears of global warming with him.
Or maybe he read about those fears in a journal somewhere. Maybe there were even several thousand such articles, just as there are several thousand articles on global warming itself. But why trust those articles, rather than the articles about global warming? Schulte doesn't say. In fact, he doesn't even mention such articles. Not one. We're just supposed to take that throw-away line on faith. We're certainly not supposed to think critically about what he's saying here. He's a uniter, not a divider, see?
Second, polls show that people have become significantly more convinced that global warming is real, and is already starting to have an effect, but they do not rank it very high as a concern. Although it topped other environmental concerns in a recent Newsweek poll, at 38%, that is far from overwhelming all other environmental concerns. Furthermore only 4% of voters cited it as their single most important concern "in determining your vote for U.S. Congress next year."
In short, while people are growing concerned about global warming, it seems like quite a stretch to say that fear of global warming can adversely effect their well-being. Is it giving them ulcers? Turning their hair prematurely grey? Disturbing their sleep? What? And what exactly did Schulte do to determine this, in the face of the facts just cited? According to the abstract, nothing, so far as we can tell. Yet, this is the whole rationale for his paper in the first place!
Third: Not only that, by the end of the abstract Schulte has dropped the more cautious "fear...can adversely effect" language, and is now talking about "climate-change alarm that now harms patients." Harm to unidenfied patients has now gone from an unsupported concern to an established fact, without any study of patients themselves in Schulte's research. Just abracadbra! Something unstudied by Schulte--patients' fears--goes from a possibility ("can adversely affect patients' well-being") to an established fact ("now harms patients"). That's not science. That's magic. Stage magic. Where everything hinges on misdirection.
It may seem a bit presumptuous on my part, but I'd like to suggest that being a doctor, it would be a little less removed from his base of expertise if Schulte were to first try to prove the existence of "climate-change alarm that now harms patients," before he sets off to try to prove that such harmful alarm is unwarranted. He should get back to us just as soon as the top six medical associations have all issued statements confirming the existence of the harm caused by "climate-change alarm."
Finally, if the good doctor is really so concerned about "alarm that now harms patients," he might want to do a study focused on debunking homophobia. Unlike the case of global warming, the evidence for mental distress caused by homophobia is extremely well-documented. It can take years--even decades--to recover from the debilitating effects of being raised in a homophobic environment. Far too many teen suicides prevent gays from ever having a chance to recover. If he really wants to study something useful, let him study that.
On the Other Hand...
In one sense, Schulte does have a point. People are suffering from fears of climate change. In Australia, a record drought--lasting for years until torrential rains hit in June--has lead to a wave of suicides, and the severity of the drought itself was directly linked to global warming more than four years ago. It was the worst drought in 1,000 years, and was far worse than earlier forecasts.
Last November, the New Zealand Herald reported:
Australia's dry horrors 'worst for 1000 years'
CANBERRA - Australia is facing its worst drought in 1000 years.
The prediction, made at an emergency summit on Australia's mounting water crisis, is 10 times worse than earlier forecasts and prompted urgent action to secure drinking water supplies for Adelaide and rural towns.
South Australian Premier Mike Rann said the prediction was worrying. "We are into uncharted territory," Mr Rann said.
His state government is making plans for an emergency weir on the lower Murray River to ensure Adelaide's water supply.
Adelaide relies on the Murray for up to 90 per cent of its water in drought years.
The weir would restrict flows into Lake Alexandrina, where most of the water would evaporate.
Mr Rann said the drought was "a frightening glimpse of the future with global warming".
And regarding the suicides, the BBC reported the month before:
Australia drought sparks suicides
By Nick Bryant
BBC News, Sydney
Australia's severe drought has led to an alarming rise in the number of suicides among farmers.
One farmer takes his life every four days, according to the national mental health body Beyond Blue.
The group has called for psychologists to tour agricultural areas to combat anxiety, stress and depression.
Earlier this week, Prime Minister John Howard tried to address the growing problem of rural poverty by announcing a $263m aid package for farmers.
With the drought now in its sixth year, Australia's big dry is the worst in over a century.
Farmers have been hardest hit, forced to make a living sometimes in dustbowl conditions, raising emaciated cattle.
With no prospect of significant rainfall before the New Year, the situation has reached crisis point and hope is as scarce as rainfall.
Many farmers are being forced to sell up, leaving land which often their families have worked on for generations.
The suicide rate among farmers is already twice the national average.
Now, Beyond Blue has produced new figures showing that one farmer commits suicide in the country every four days.
It also estimates that more than 300,000 rural Australians experience depression each year, but only a small number seek help.
So, Schulte was onto something, after all. Only it wasn't unwarranted fears of global warming that were harming people's mental health--even driving them to suicide. It was the actual consequences of global warming that were to blame.
Of course, the climate system is complex, and no single weather event--even a prolonged drought, such as Australia's--can be directly attributed to anthropogenic global warming alone. But two points need to be kept clearly in mind.
First, contrary to everything the denialists claim, global warming is now so widely accepted and broadly understood that scientists are turning their attention just such regional climatic phenomena. A report in Science Magazine, 25 May 2007, for example, reported on a projected transition to a more arid climate in the North American Southwest:
How anthropogenic climate change will affect hydroclimate in the arid regions of southwestern North America has implications for the allocation of water resources and the course of regional development. Here we show that there is a broad consensus among climate models that this region will dry in the 21st century and that the transition to a more arid climate should already be under way. If these models are correct, the levels of aridity of the recent multiyear drought or the Dust Bowl and the 1950s droughts will become the new climatology of the American Southwest within a time frame of years to decades.
The second point is that--as the Science paper on the North American Southwest reminds us--what Australia is experiencing now is clearly the sort of climate that global warming will bring to many parts of the globe, and clearly we should expect more of the same in the way of suicide and depression. There is nothing mysterious about this, requiring years of peer-reviewed studies. It's happening right now, and experts are observing it first-hand.
While drought-driven suicides may be dramatic, they are hardly the only fatalities that can be laid at the feet of global warming. But they will do for a start. If Schulte's paper really were motivated by a concern for patients' mental health, then it would have looked comprehensively at all possible factors related to global warming--balancing negative consequences from unwarranted fears against negative consequences from warranted ones. It would have asked the question, are more people likely to be harmed from unjustified fears, if, indeed, fears are unjustified? Or are more people likely to be harmed from justified fears, if fears are justified?
By Schulte's own calculus--again, ignoring the fact that his data is unreliable, just for the sake of argument--peer reviewed papers favor the consensus view 7 1/2 to 1. So--crudely speaking--for the harm of unjustified fears to be higher, we would need at least 7 1/2 times more deaths by suicide than have been reported in Australia so far in order to for his point to supported. Is there any evidence whatsoever of any such suicide epidemic anywhere in the world? Because that really would be news.
Of course, Schulte has attempted nothing remotely like this. Either his entire narrative is a cheap scam, or he has mental problems of his own that need attending to, if his thinking is honestly that muddled.
Finally, a few words about the man pushing all this at Senator Inhofe's blog.
Marc Morano is communications director for the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. Morano commenced work with the committe under Senator James Inhofe, who was majority chairman of the committee until January 2007. In December 2006 Morano launched a blog on the committee's website that largely promotes the views of climate change sceptics.
Morano is a former journalist with Cybercast News Service (owned by the conservative Media Research Center). CNS and Morano were the first source in May 2004 of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth claims against John Kerry in the 2004 presidential election  and in January 2006 of similar smears against Vietnam war veteran John Murtha.
Morano was "previously known as Rush Limbaugh's 'Man in Washington,' as reporter and producer for the Rush Limbaugh Television Show, as well as a former correspondent and producer for American Investigator, the nationally syndicated TV newsmagazine." 
First Generation Swiftboater
"As a reporter for the conservative Cybercast News Service from 2001 until earlier [in 2006], Morano peppered his climate reporting with skeptics' views that have surfaced as themes in [James] Inhofe's recent press attacks. Earlier this year, for example, Morano wrote about NASA scientist James Hansen's contributions to the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee, Sen. John Kerry (Mass.). ...
"Morano, who worked as a producer in the mid-90s for radio commentator Rush Limbaugh, was also among the first reporters to write about the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth campaign scrutinizing Kerry's Vietnam War record. And earlier this year, Morano penned an article questioning the Purple Heart medals of Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), a leading critic of Bush's Iraq policy." 
On May 3, 2004, Morano penned the CNS article "Kerry 'Unfit to be Commander-in-Chief,' Say Former Military Colleagues". See Swift Boat Veterans for Truth article for details.
It was also Morano, with CNS's Randy Hall, who penned the January 13, 2006, articles "Murtha's Anti-War Stance Overshadows Abscam Past" and "Murtha's War Hero Status Called Into Question".
Morano "co-wrote the smear job on Rep. John Murtha in January -- you know, the one that featured the dead, the disgrunted and the incapacitated casting aspersions on Murtha's military record," Terry K. of ConWebWatch Blog commented June 28, 2006. See Swiftboating John Murtha for details.
In short, he's your typical GOP smearmeister. Exactly as one might expect. I just wanted to save the best for last.
What does all the above show? First, obviously, it shows that the right is desperately trying to mount some sort of counter-attack against the massive shift in public opinion about global warming. Second, they're going for something big--trying to discredit the whole notion of a consensus "in one fell swope," as it were. And third--they've got nothing.
Fourth, it shows that the latest attempt is part of an ongoing pattern of lies and obfuscation--but we already knew that.
And fifth, it shows up a similarity so obvious that it mostly goes without notice: Just as the rightwing chickenhawks and members of the 101st Flying Keyboard Brigade are braver and more patriotic than anyone who actually goes out and risks their lives for America on the battlefield--like, oh, say George McGovern, John Kerry, Max Cleland or John Murtha--so, too, the Mouseclique Scientists are more rational and objective than any Nobel Prize-winner you ever met.
This is hardly surprising, since in essence movement conservatism is a form of identity politics, in which all virtues are the exclusive property of conservatives, and all vices are the property of liberals. Hence, it was always a foregone conclusion that global warming was all a pack of lies.