Upper Left Coast

Thoughts on politics, faith, sports and other random topics from a red state sympathizer in indigo-blue Portland, Oregon.

Friday, February 15, 2008

The 'science' of global warming

That "science" is on full display on the front page of today's Oregonian, where Michael Milstein writes about the "dead zones" in the ocean off Oregon's coast. I'll say up front: I'm no scientist. But Milstein uses such sweeping generalizations that the opposite conclusions could be drawn.

For example, here is Milstein's lead (all emphases in this post are mine):
The eerie "dead zones" that suffocated marine life off the Oregon coast in recent summers are unlike anything recorded over the past 50 years and could be driven by stronger winds that might reflect global warming trends.
Could be. Might. But remember, the debate on global warming is over. There's no doubt. We have an overwhelming consensus.

Here's a rewrite that seems equally valid:
Despite claims that they are a recent phenomenon, the eerie "dead zones" that suffocated marine life off the Oregon coast in recent summers have been known to local fishermen for many years. In addition, there's little evidence that the zones are tied to global warming, much less that stronger winds are somehow tied into warmer temperatures.
Even though Milstein is quoting an article in the journal Science, he calls it a "conclusion" despite its lack of certainty.

I do credit the headline writer for ignoring Milstein's lead and telling the truth -- " 'Dead zones' off coast tell no tales" -- and give Milstein points for including Lincoln County Commissioner Terry Thompson in the story. Thompson, a commercial fisherman and three-term state Democratic legislator, told Milstein that he's skeptical about the zones being a recent phenomenon. "Fishermen have known for years that you don't fish in that area in the summer. We just didn't go there," he said.

As we keep reading, we see that the waters off the Oregon coast "may be coming to resemble other areas of ocean off South Africa and Chile -- where low-oxygen, or "hypoxic," conditions are more common and may themselves be worsening."

So isn't it equally fair to say they may not be coming to resemble other low-oxygen areas, and may not be worsening?

We see that lead author Francis Chan searched 50 years of records to find previous evidence of such zones, and "found little evidence before 2000 of such severe low-oxygen conditions along the undersea shelf that traces the central Oregon coast, and no evidence of the conditions pressing so close to shore."

But that means he did find some evidence that this has existed in the past. What is that evidence? Why has it been discounted?

We see that in 2006, crabs crowded coastal bays, "probably to escape the low-oxygen waters."

So is it fair to say we don't know why crabs crowded coastal bays?

And finally, in two of the last three paragraphs (#16 and 17) of Milstein's story, we see this:

Global warming is expected to heat the air over land more than over the ocean, creating the potential for the increased differences in temperatures to drive more winds, [Jack Barth, an OSU professor of oceanography and co-author of the research] said. That might fuel more upwelling, although it remains difficult to blame any single phenomenon on global warming.

"We don't have proof of the climate change signal, but the physics is consistent," Chan said.

In other words, we can't find a link to global warming, but we're going to push for that conclusion because it fits with the "overwhelming consensus."



  • At 2/15/2008 10:30 AM, Blogger MondaythroughSunday said…

    Great post!

  • At 2/15/2008 7:59 PM, Anonymous Jared said…


    I'd like to get into contact with you. Could you shoot me an email....

    OregonConservative AT gmail DOT com

  • At 2/16/2008 4:33 PM, Blogger MAX Redline said…

    Dang. Such a bummer that Canadian scientists recently published a study that indicates that the sun is currently entering what appears to be a long low-energy phase. Their prediction? Why, we're entering a period of global cooling.

  • At 2/17/2008 5:23 PM, Anonymous Lee's Walk said…

    I just cringe every time I see "science" being reported in popular media. It's not that they necessarily get it wrong. Rather, they get it right AND wrong. It's truly sad sometimes. Granted science is supposed to be tentative (especially when we’re talking about “cutting edge” science) but you hit the nail on the head in terms of balance, accuracy, fact-checking and true scientific understanding. So often science “news” is needlessly confusing or just plain stupid. For example, we all know now that eating chocolate cures cancer AND that eating chocolate causes cancer. Oh and I have recently been informed that Flu viruses form mutation committees and caucus for the best strategies to withstand the effects of our newest drugs. See, Darwin was right! The pundits always think the latest scientific pronouncement is Gospel, and, from what you say, this story isn’t much different from the hundreds of voices screaming the latest pronouncements from the Scientific Mt. Sinai. Nice response to this story, Ken.

    Lee (not an Oregonian reader)

  • At 2/29/2008 9:09 PM, Blogger Klockarman said…

    I've been reading The Oregonian nearly every day since the 4th grade (I must be a glutton for punishment). Only the Lord knows how I ended up being a conservative after the daily self-inflicted liberal indoctrination I put myself through.
    Anyway, I read the same article and had the exact same reaction.

    The Oregonian: "I'll be surprised if it didn't happen again next year," said Jack Barth, an OSU professor of oceanography and co-author of the research.

    Gee, does that sound like a scientist. It almost sounds like he's hoping it will happen so he can get his name in the paper next year.

    I'm glad you posted on this article. I was going to post on this article on my blog, and ran out of time.

    Keep up the good work.


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