As you might expect, with the drought in California and the big snow storms and freezing weather along the East Coast, we are hearing everyone from Secretary of State John Kerry to none other than President Obama himself make claims that say that these weather anomalies provide proof that climate change is a reality and that we humans are the cause of it.
Kerry, of course, is a politician, not a meteorologist, and his pronouncements on climate have to be taken not with just a grain of salt, but a whole shaker full. Even though he strongly opposed the Kyoto agreement on global warming of 1997 when he was in the Senate, he now thinks the U.S. is idiotic for not having followed it. You may recall that when he served in Vietnam, he was awarded a medal. He then came home to oppose that war. His mind forever has been as changeable as underwear.
For his part, the president is also just a politician, after all, and he, like Kerry, is content to place the blame for climate change directly at the feet of his political opponents.
Both of these inestimable weather experts, however, are guilty of several faults — or fallacies — of logic.
Here are some of them:
- Hedging — This is where one begins by calling something by one name (global warming) and then by calling it by another (climate change) when the original term doesn’t stand up to investigation.
- Fallacy of the Single Cause — An assumption there is only one cause (humans burning fossil fuels) when there may be a number of jointly responsible causes — or perhaps there is no cause at all.
- Argumentum ad hominum — Directing the attack at the opponents (the “idiots” who question some climate change assumptions) instead of the facts (climates have changed throughout time).
- Begging the question — Using the conclusion of an argument as its premise.
- Circular cause and consequence — Where the supposed consequence of a phenomenon also is supposed to be its root cause.
And so forth.
Obama and Kerry aren’t the only shaky logicians in the climate discussions — just the ones who have spoken most recently. Hot air comes from both sides of the argument.
The historical fact is that climatic warming and cooling have occurred over millions of years, even within recent recorded history, and those cycles likely will continue. Can we do anything about it? Probably only in a very minor sense. For example, we can clean up air pollution to some extent, as we in California have shown. But will that have an effect on the global climate? Don’t hold your breath.