A story appeared briefly yesterday on the CNN homepage titled Ruthless drought in West Timor puts children in crisis. There is no doubt that this particular drought – like so many throughout history – is causing a significant amount of human suffering, much of it being shouldered by children. Having children of my own, including one very young one presently occupying my home, I feel torn inside when I read about or see kids living and dying in such conditions.
Before I clicked on the article to read it in full, a “story highlight” saying the drought was due to climate change caught my eye. I immediately knew the article would not only be heart-wrenching, it would be controversial as well. Seeing that it was posted under the CNN Planet in Peril banner sealed the deal.
The CNN article was one that allowed readers to post comments, and as expected a number of them took CNN to task for claiming this particular drought was caused by Climate Change. A roughly equal number of commenters countered with charges of insensitivity and the turning of blind eyes. Part of me considered commenting that, assuming drought was not a normal condition in West Timor, then the drought was in fact due to a climate that had changed. But of course I am also aware that “Climate Change” is the rebranding of “Global Warming”, not unlike “Death Tax” is the rebranding of “Estate Tax”. The commenters obviously knew this as well, freely substituting global warming for climate change.
One comment in particular caught my eye. The writer was someone who went by the handle of “Marc”, and his response is typical of the type of ad-hominem attacks I’ve seen in a number of other related, but less widely read blogs:
Hmm, so it seems the less-than-stellar scholars on this board disparaging the existence of human caused climate change must also be card carrying members of the Flat Earth Society. How truly noble of you and your tiny-brained ideas.
Other than successfully proving your vast and utter ignorance of science, you’ve achieved little else. Of course you all know more than the dedicated scientists who’ve spent their entire careers studying the history of global climate and the overwhelming volumes of data that now conclusively point to humans as the root cause of impending global climate change.
I bet you also know more than the doctors treating your grandparents’ cancer, the physicists smashing atoms and the biochemists advancing gene therapies to prevent your child’s birth defects. The point is, climate scientists are EXPERTS in their chosen field, just as the experts I’ve listed in the prior sentence. To argue you know more than they, without a shred of contradictory evidence, is sheer lunacy on your part.
Now please get to back to your job and take the customer’s food order, your lunch break is about over.
The reason I fixated on this comment was because I had actually read the article. My guess is that nearly all of the commenters, regardless of opinion, did not read the article but instead read the headline, story highlights, and looked at the pictures. Marc included.
You see, no scientist that I can find has claimed a tie between human caused climate change and the drought in West Timor. Furthermore, CNN did not say a scientist made that claim either. Paragraph four starts with
Maria is fighting to live, wasting away in her remote village where aid officials say climate change has brought on a severe drought in recent years.
That’s right, aid officials made the claim, not scientists. Of course, I am assuming the aid officials are not climate scientists, but I think it is a reasonable assumption.
Marc’s smackdown is one I have seen time and time again. It is a popular tactic of certain posters who regularly bully their way around dotearth and a handful of other, minor blogs (I love dotearth, by the way, and visit it as much as I visit this blog and ClimateAudit). Unless one is a card-carrying board-certified climate scientist then one has no right to dispute the tie between Weather That Causes Suffering and Human Influence On Climate. The rule however, does not seem to work in reverse.