Star Tribune Fooled by Cherry-Picked Data: How the Left Demagogues on Climate Change

A recent Star Tribune editorial (“Climate change is real in Minnesota, too,” Sept. 13) compared precipitation for two periods, 1941-70 and 1981-2010, and found that in the Twin Cities it was up 20%, and some counties in south-central Minnesota saw 30-35% increases.  This info was “told” to an editorial writer by climatologist Mark Seeley.

Now I’m not a climatologist, but I’m not bad at math, and I’m suspicious when I see arbitrary time periods and relatively small geographic areas (counties?) compared to make a point.  Therefore, I looked up the numbers for the whole state of Minnesota on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration website.

When the above decades are compared for the whole state there is only a 5.3% increase.  And if a 35-year period, 1941-1975 is compared to 1976-2010 the increase is only 3.5%.  People can and do play with numbers to advance their agenda so I’m very disappointed that the Star Tribune was taken in by this cherry-picked data.

But I guess that is to be expected in an atmosphere where the Left has declared the debate over and acted with breathtaking demagoguery.  How has the Left demagogued the issue, you ask?  Let us count (some of) the ways:

1. Declared the debate over and branded anyone who challenged their assessment a “denier.”

2. Use alarmist rhetoric to push impoverishing policies whose effect on the climate won’t even be measurable 75 years from now.

3. Ignore more accurate satellite datasets that show a gradual warming of 0.13 C/decade and focus only on surface thermometers that are compromised by the urban heat island effect.

4. Refuse to acknowledge the error of alarmist climate models that consistently overpredict warming by a factor of three times above observed temps.

5. Used their power during the Obama administration to label CO2, also known as plant food, as a pollutant.

Permit me to make a few more points about climate change that I’ve never seen made in the Star Tribune:

1. Nearly everyone acknowledges that the climate changes, humans probably play some role, and that the earth has been gradually warming since the end of the Little Ice Age around 1850. The important issues to debate is whether the warming is catastrophic, whether energy poverty or prosperous adaptation is better for the world, and whether an energy poverty strategy would even make any difference.

2. We need to see and understand how driving up energy costs truly harms the poorest among us, and around the world, the most.

3. CO2 is a trace gas and our climate is a very complex system, influenced by many little-understood mechanisms and dynamics involving the sun, clouds, oceans, etc. Temperature changes since 1910 have not correlated with the rise of CO2, and historical data show CO2 levels lagging temperature changes, not leading them. Some studies suggest solar activity correlates much better with global temperatures.  Our climate may just not be as sensitive to CO2 as is assumed by all the climate models that consistently overestimate global warming by a factor of three.

4. CO2 is hardly a pollutant. The opposite is true: It’s a raw material that makes life possible for both plants and animals. As CO2 has increased slightly in the atmosphere, plants have been growing faster, using less water, and demonstrating more resistance to drought.  Increasing CO2 in the atmosphere “greens” the planet and helps feed the growing human population.

The Star Tribune editorial ends with a plug for an upcoming climate adaptation conference for local officials and I do agree that planning and adaptation is a superior strategy for dealing with climate uncertainty.  Here is the important prosperity component to an adaptation strategy from the Wall Street Journal that I hope the conference will mention:

The best insurance against adverse climate risks is robust economic growth.  The wealthier the world is in 50 or 100 years, the more resources and technology it will have to cope if the worst predictions come true.  But that requires free-market, pro-growth policies that are the opposite of the statist fixes pushed by the climate alarmists.

Peter Zeller is Director of Operations at Center of the American Experiment.