Andrew Bolt’s “The Death of Global Warmism”: how Andrew poisons the well (part 2 of 11)

Putting Andrew's claims to the test

Putting Andrew’s claims to the test

Part 2 of a line-by-line examination of the claims made by Andrew Bolt in his article The death of global warmism.

Summary of Bolt’s argument in the opening paragraphs: The claims of scientists don’t stand up; they have engaged in dubious, if not illegal activities and need to be held to account.

Summary response: Andrew Bolt’s opening is a text-book example of a logical fallacy – poisoning the well. He prefaces his article with an attack on the credibility of scientists, implies their activities are both self-seeking and perhaps even criminal. He cherry picks his sources and employs a number of logical fallacies.

Logical fallacies present: Poisoning the well (x1); argument from personal taste (1); guilt by association (x2).

———

Introduction: poisoning the well

Andrew Bolt is a master of employing rhetorical devices to prejudice his audience against those he sees as his opponents – in this case scientists and those accepting the scientific consensus on climate change.

The death of global warmism opens with the (informal) logical fallacy known as poisoning the well.

He is priming the reader by preemptively attacking the credibility of scientists and ridiculing the science of climate change. A writer employing this rhetorical device will employ emotive terms, typically negative.

An example of poisoning the well would read thus:

“You may not wish to listen to the evidence of my opponent, as they have been proven time and again to be a liar and fraud”

Or:

Any claims made by person X cannot be relied upon because of Y

The following is a deconstruction of the opening paragraphs.

Bolt: “The 10 signs of the death of the scare are unmistakable. Now it’s time to hold the guilty to account.”

Response: The choice of words helps prime the audience: “scare” and “hold the guilty to account” strongly imply scientists are engaged in something illegal or morally dubious. A text-book example of poisoning the well.

Bolt: “Just why did we spend the past year paying the world’s biggest carbon tax, which drove our power bills through the roof?”

Response: There is very little evidence to support his claim – and Bolt offers none. While Australian electricity prices have been increasing, the impact of the carbon tax has been negligible. Six months after its introduction the government reported a 9% reduction in emissions from power generators. As I noted earlier, the Australian economy has not collapsed with 50,000 jobs added in the last quarter.

Bolt: “Why were our children forced to sit through multiple screenings of Al Gore’s dodgy scare-flick An Inconvenient Truth?”

Response: Bolt implies the forced watching of Al Gore’s film was a form of child abuse. He offers no evidence to support the claim it was a negative experience for children.

Bolt: “Why did we scar the most beautiful parts of our coast with ludicrously expensive wind farms?”

Response: Wind power is a rapidly growing source of energy in Australia: in the five years prior to 2011 the annual rate of growth in installed capacity grew by 35%. In South Australia wind power accounts for 21% of electricity production in the state – it is neither a marginal source of power, or “ludicrously expensive”.  Bolt’s main objection appears to be based upon his own aesthetic values: however to quote the old Latin maxim “In matters of taste, there can be no disputes”.

Bolt: “And why did so many people swallow such bull, from the British Climatic Research Unit’s prediction that “children just aren’t going to know what snow is” to ABC science presenter Robyn Williams’ claim that 100m rises in sea levels this century were “possible, yes”.

Response: The quote “children just aren’t going to know what snow is” was cherry picked from an article published by the Independent in 2000. It misrepresents the words of  Dr David Viner (CRU). Viner prefaced this statement by saying snowfall will become “a very rare and exciting event” – he did not claim snow would stop falling.

In 2007 episode of the ABC’s Science Show, Robyn Williams spoke about how coral reefs have helped science understand how sea level rises and falls in response to global temperatures.

He noted:

“How are ancient sea levels determined? It’s with corals. They act as bathtub rings. Ancient reefs now exposed can be dated and placed in time. Sea level has been 100m higher than present, when there were no ice sheets, and about 120m lower than present during glacial periods.”

Bolt took this to imply Williams was arguing we would see a 100m sea level rise this century.  Bolt and Williams argued this point in a heated exchange on The Science Show on (10 March 2010):

Andrew Bolt: I ask you, Robyn, 100 metres in the next century…do you really think that?

Robyn Williams: It is possible, yes. The increase of melting that they’ve noticed in Greenland and the amount that we’ve seen from the western part of Antarctica, if those increases of three times the expected rate continue, it will be huge, but the question…

Williams notes it is possible that if we see warming of 3-degrees this century, we may see a significant increase in seal level rise. I will not argue whether or not Williams is correct: but I will note he is drawing his conclusion based upon the paleoclimate record.

In choosing these two quotes Bolt is employing the guilt by association fallacy – citing these as examples of poor predictions by scientists, he implies all the claims made by scientists are equally poor.

To given another example of the guilt by association fallacy:

Bob has a black beard, he also has a history of robbing banks: therefore all men with black beards are bank robbers.

Given that thousands of papers on climate change are produced every year supporting the scientific consensus, Bolt’s conclusion is as absurd as the claim all men with black beards are bank robbers.

Bolt: “Yes, we may yet see some warming resume one day.”

Response: Bolt makes a concession – warming may resume.

Bolt: “But we will be wiser. We have learned not to fall so fast for the end-of-the-world sermons of salvation-seekers and the tin-rattling of green carpetbaggers.”

Response: In this final sentence of the article’s introductory paragraphs Bolt implies scientists and activists have a hidden agenda: either converting people to a set of beliefs (salvation-seekers) or venal self-interest (green carpetbaggers).

This is a variation of the climate sceptic myth that scientists are perpetrating a hoax for funding, while green activists are employing the global warming “scare” to destroy capitalism and usher in a one-world-government.

It is yet again an example of the guilt by association fallacy.

Next: Part 3, Andrew continues to claim the world isn’t warming despite the overwhelming evidence.

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12 thoughts on “Andrew Bolt’s “The Death of Global Warmism”: how Andrew poisons the well (part 2 of 11)

  1. mgm75 says:

    This – all of this, his entire “argument” – is reminiscent of the same sort of devices used by creationists proclaiming “the death of Darwinism”, “we are on the brink of revealing the truth” and “they have deliberately obscured the truth for their own personal, selfish and malevolent agenda”.

    It is the same tactics over and they are used by all major anti-science movements including the anti-vaccine crowd. The true tragedy is that most people are just too ignorant to realise their own paranoia is being fed in every case.

  2. BBD says:

    It is very important to be clear that whatever Viner and Williams said is irrelevant to the mainstream scientific position on AGW. What a couple of people said or did not say makes no difference.

    This nonsensical pretence that these or any other statements actually matter is a classic of false equivalence. These people are not “climate science”. They do not embody it or represent it in any meaningful sense and their statements cannot invalidate the standard scientific position.

    Deniers don’t see it, but their incessant recourse to false equivalence is straight out of the demagogue’s playbook. It is the old demonise and personalise tactic. There could be no clearer indication of just how weak their position actually is.

    When confronted with science, they respond not with scientific argument (for they have none) but with the cheapest and nastiest rhetorical tricks. It is a miserable, repellent spectacle and God knows how they live with their consciences.

    • Nick says:

      Bolt either has no conscience,or is disconnected from it. He’s a warrior and mercenary living in constant denial and fear…it’s primal. Switching between insensitive aggression and exaggerated personal sensitivity..he was the noisiest man ever publicly gagged,over his defamation guilt.

      He’s cultivated a permanently aggrieved manner, and is rarely capable of moderate argument;everything is hyperbole,exaggeration,drama….he creates an environment in which it is basically impossible to have a rational,nuanced discussion. Everything is personalised and heightened. Accusations and dismissals,then on to the next subject on which he is miraculously equipped to dispense advice. When he personally moderated his blog he would not be corrected unless the tone was reverent,and would edit replies or censor them altogether,even attempting to smear his correcters good faith. His behavior towards various science communicators is unforgivable,as unforgivable as his laughable rationalisations and self-justifications.

      Then he despairs about a loss of reason in politics….!

      His presence in Australian public debate,even at its fringe, is a disaster,enabling fools [promoting Ian Plimer,for instance] and aggressors, perpetuating half-assed reasoning,spreading disinformation, a Trojan-horse for neo-liberal lunacy… and disenfranchising anyone who has no taste for confrontation.

  3. Steve says:

    The increased price of electricity is certainly a major factor in our own attempts to reduce the amount of electricity we use. In our household and two businesses we have reduced our electricity consumption by a lot more than 9%, and despite the price increase per unit are actually paying less money than before.
    Only part of the price increase is from the carbon tax. South Australia has high electricity prices anyway, partly because of government decisions in the past. One of the arguments being used for more wind power generation is to reduce the cost of power generation. Unfortunately the cost of generation is only one of the reasons for the high price; market manipulation by some companies is another factor in our high prices.
    With the anticipated closure of the sub bituminous coal fired power station at Port Augusta some people have realised that Port Augusta is an idea place for a solar thermal power station.http://repowerportaugusta.org/.

  4. Nick says:

    You’ve highlighted Bolt’s confusion,unintentional and intentional,very well.

    Bolt does not understand that for science all the evidence has to be considered: palaeo evidence of the full range of sea level variation is what underpins informed consideration of what is possible,and cannot absolutely be ruled out. And for Williams,who has no skin in the game, he can speculate without inhibition from his general knowledge…not anticipating what a piece of work the political animal Bolt was and is.

    It is no crime to ponder possibilities,but to Bolt it was an opportunity to portray Williams as a scientist off with the fairies,and in the context of the interview ,Williams did not have the time to refine his thoughts. After all,it wasn’t about him,it was Severinghaus /Bolt….

    Then with the ‘right’ Boltian framing,Williams was an ‘authority’ and making a ‘prediction’ that had ‘status’…Bolt does this in his sleep,for reasons best explored by his analyst.

  5. Moth says:

    Bolt: “Why were our children forced to sit through multiple screenings of Al Gore’s dodgy scare-flick An Inconvenient Truth?”

    Response: Bolt implies the forced watching of Al Gore’s film was a form of child abuse. He offers no evidence to support the claim it was a negative experience for children.

    I’d got further: “forced” “scare-flick” brings up Orwellian styled emotional response in itself – ie. “five minutes of hate”. It screams of that government intrusion paranoia.

    • Nick says:

      It’s an absurd and hysterical charge….and an example of exactly the kind of hyperbole that apparently offends Bolt so much.

      What ‘multiple screenings’? .How many, where,and when? It’s not a matter of opinion, Bolt should be able to support the claim.

  6. Mark says:

    In the past, whenever I read something by John Pilger I found that I did so with a certain bias, assuming that I was being lied to by someone with an agenda. Consequently I found that I would interpret every ambiguity in the worst light and often not take the correct meaning. I think I’ve overcome that these days and now just assume I’m being lectured by someone with an agenda.

    If you read Bolt with the assumption that he is lying and place the worst possible meaning on each ambiguity, then you end up with something as above.

    I don’t intend to Fisk the entire WTD article but just a couple of examples

    The choice of words helps prime the audience: “scare” and “hold the guilty to account” strongly imply scientists are engaged in something illegal or morally dubious. A text-book example of poisoning the well.

    When I read those words (“hold the guilty to account”) I didn’t think it at all applied to scientists working in the field and I think your reading of this implication is seriously astray. I think that Bolt is thinking of those who’ve misused the science for other agendas. Top of the list would be the current Federal govt who have used it as a political tool. He would also be thinking of Gore who made a fortune from massively exaggerating the scare. Then there are the myriad careerists in the UN and other bodies who have ridden the scare.
    When he talks about holding them to account, I see that as ensuring that they don’t just walk away from their previous exaggerations and scare-mongering without at the very least it being noted. In an ideal world people like Karoly would have every new piece of work they ever do prefaced with words to the effect that he was massively wrong once, so be careful. That’s the type of holding to account that I’d imagine.

    We all remember how those who profited from the Y2K scam just walked away when it became clear that they were scare-mongering. I think there is a real determination in the sceptic community that the worst of the CAGW spruikers don’t go the same way.

    Bolt: ”And why did so many people swallow such bull, from the British Climatic Research Unit’s prediction that “children just aren’t going to know what snow is” to ABC science presenter Robyn Williams’ claim that 100m rises in sea levels this century were “possible, yes”.

    Response: The quote “children just aren’t going to know what snow is” was cherry picked from an article published by the Independent in 2000. It misrepresents the words of Dr David Viner (CRU). Viner prefaced this statement by saying snowfall will become “a very rare and exciting event” – he did not claim snow would stop falling.

    I won’t go to the 100metre story again. I fear for Nick’s well-being every time its mentioned. But the Viner story is a good example of how the scare-monger worked. I’d have been surprised if Bolt hadn’t mentioned it as such an example. To suggest that its invalid to point out that highly inappropriate and ultimately inaccurate statements were made over the years is to misunderstand the issue. While we had scientists in the background working away on the issue, we equally had propagandists misusing the science to try to convince the public to follow a particular agenda. When Viner made these statements, there was no outcry by the consensus that he was exaggerating. He wasn’t rushing to assert that he’d taken out of context. The claim was allowed to sit there as another tool to justify the so-called de-carbonisation of the British economy, and it was only after the climate made a fool of the assertion and the asserter that we suddenly found out that he hadn’t really meant it. Its a perfect example of how the whole scare worked.

    Bolt is not implying that “all the claims made by scientists are equally poor”. I see no such implication and it takes, I think, a certain degree of misreading to find that implication. But this and myriad other patently silly claims were made over the years and were faithfully regurgitated by the AGW cheer-squad, particularly in the left leaning press. These are the people that need to be “held to account”.

    • Mark says:

      oops, looks like I missed an “/blockquote” somewhere there.

    • Nick says:

      Bolt is holding no one to account,Mark, he’s just clocking on for another days well-remunerated bullying,and delivering his self-serving rationalisations to any chump who’ll listen.

      Are there any other ways you can continue to delude yourself about Andrew Bolt’s motivation and behavior? I think you’ve done enough. “When Viner made those statements” ….as reported by Charles Onians,some within quotes and some paraphrased…you have no idea,really,do you,what Viner really did say and how Onians and his subs reduced,extracted and sliced and diced it. But what the hell you have an opinion…

      I fear for your intelligence every time you blunder through this issue,Mark. Stay safe.

    • FrankD says:

      Whoops, is it 2020 already? I must have been asleep.

      The problem with validating predictions is that you have to wait for the timeframe included to pass before you can assess whether they were right or not.

      The only timeframe Viner is quoted as using in that interview in 2000 was “in 20 years”. The “children aren’t going to know what snow is” remark had no timeframe quoted (only the Independent reporters assertion of “in a few years”). So we won’t know whether Viner’s comments were right or not for another seven years.

      “ultimately inaccurate statements “, “only after the climate made a fool of the assertion and the asserter”?
      Fortunately, Mark has come from the future to let us know how it played out.

      Or is he as dumb as Bolt in thinking that because a prediction of what might happen in the future did not come to pass immediately it must be wrong.

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