Memo to the Big Three

Uh, when you're busy planning your restructurings, you might want to consider something along the lines of what Nissan's doing. (MSN)

Rex Murphy: A Second Opinion

He's a contrarian asshole. No, seriously.

How's that for a second opinion?

By disputing climate change in Canada's paper of record based on his (irrelevent) personal observations of local weather conditions and on Ian Plimer's discredited anti climate change book book Heaven + Earth, Rex Murphy casts doubt on what scientific consensus says is a clear and present danger to civilization that requires immediate action.

Murphy's article is appalling. It's like defending smoking as harmless. In fact it's worse, because unlike smoking, climate change is a threat to our standard of living, our civilization and possibly our species.

There's just too much at stake to let Murphy's column pass without comment. First, about Plimer's book, which Rex Murphy is enamoured with. Is it any good? Not according to this July 10 column by the Guardian's science editor, George Monbiot:

"Seldom has a book been as cleanly murdered by scientists as Ian Plimer's Heaven + Earth, which purports to show that man-made climate change is nonsense. Since its publication in Australia it has been ridiculed for a hilarious series of schoolboy errors, and its fudging and manipulation of the data."

You can read the full thing here. Monbiot's column is a rebuke to a British newspaper, The Spectator, that published a glowing feature about Plimer's crappy book.

Second, if we're going to throw around anecdotes about weather, here's one that's worth a little more than Murphy's. It's from Canadian astronaut Bob Thirsk, who's currently enjoying the view from the International Space Station. Thirsk, who was last in space over a decade ago, has some observations:

"This is probably just a perception, but I just have the feeling that the glaciers are melting, the snow capping the mountains is less than it was 12 years ago when I saw it last time."

You can read the full story with that quote here (Montreal Gazette). Thirsk's "perception", incidentally, agrees with U.S. satellite photos which Dechene posted about earlier today.

The science editors and astronauts agree: we've got a global warming problem, Houston. Too bad a few days of mellow weather and a crappy book convinced a Globe And Mail columnist there's nothing to worry about.

U.S. Spies Prove Climate Deniers Wrong

Following up on this post, one of Ian Plimer's many ridiculous claims in Heaven and Earth is this one:
The good news is that alpine valley glaciers are not retreating. Measurements of retreats and advances from glaciers in the period 1946–1995 for 246 glaciers show that there is no sign of any recent global trend towards increased glacier melting.
It leaves one with the impression that we've little to worry as the world's glaciers aren't disappearing.

Well, as is being reported in the Guardian, the Obama administration has recently declassified a whole whack of satellite photos of the arctic, and the photo evidence is undeniable: arctic and glacial ice is retreating at an alarming pace. (More on that story here. And a really scary gallery of photos here.)

How could Plimer (and by extension Rex Murphy) get things so wrong? Well, as Enting points out, the first sentence in that quote above doesn't follow from the second. Plimer, it seems, is confusing speed with acceleration. The source he's using there did indeed show that glacial melting is not speeding up from year to year. But that glacial melt isn't accelerating doesn't mean that it isn't happening. In fact, that's exactly what Plimer's source shows (and the spy satellite pictures prove once again): Glacial ice is reteating at a steady (a more literate columnist might say "inexorable") pace.

Message to Rex Murphy: Cut That Out Right This Minute

Yet more evidence that having a really marvelous grasp of the English language doesn't mean you actually know anything -- or, rather, that critique is not the same as analysis: in his Globe And Mail column last week, Rex Murphy attempted to make the case that global warming isn't happening. His evidence? He stepped outside, apparently. I guess if things are chilly in Toronto then so goes the globe.

It's a loathsome position Mr Murphy is staking out for himself but fortunately it's one he should find he's rather isolated in. I have to wonder if he knows what he's getting himself into. Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin, Bill O'Reilly, George Noory. Not exactly the class of people I expect Rex is used to palling around with. What will they talk about? He'll have to buy all his new chums pocket dictionaries.

But that's the hell he's condemned himself to.

Thing is, while having such an eloquent voice out shilling for the forces of ignorance is a VERY dangerous thing, I can't help but feel a little sorry for the cranky ol'coot from Newfoundland (my current favourite province, I should note). It seems he has fallen under the spell of one of those lengthy tomes of shoddy, conservative-pleasing, quasi-science that pop up in airport bookstores now and then: Ian Plimer's Heaven and Earth: Global Warming - the Missing Science. It's over 500 pages long, has a raft of citations throughout and has both a colon and an N-dash in the title, I can see how Rex might be tricked into thinking it's legit.

As it turns out, it's anything but.

You can find a list of rebuttals of Plimer's book here. A particularly good one is a point-by-point analysis by mathematical physicist Ian Enting. The thrust of his critique is that Plimer's work has numerous internal inconsistencies and that despite extensive referencing, his more controversial claims lack citation or the contents of his reference are mis-quoted.

In short, Plimer never actually manages to prove that humans aren't causing climate change but that fact is obfuscated by all his misleading assertions, phony references and deceptively rendered graphs.

Meanwhile, Rex Murphy calls the book "fearless" and practically dares us to read it. Which, admittedly, I won't be doing. But then, I haven't read any of the more recent works on UFO research, homeopathy or cryptozoology but still I'm confident they're crap.

This Week At City Hall

Have to say, I'm not minding this new one-week-on, one-week-off summertime council schedule. Looks like this is an off week as there are no meetings listed.

Six In The Morning

Back from Winnipeg! And, you think the Riders suck? You should've seen the unhappy Bomber fans this weekend. Hahaha! Anyway:

1 CONWAY RUNNING FOR COUNCIL Former School Board member John Conway has thrown his hat into the ring for this fall's municipal election. You can read Joe Couture's Leader-Post story here. Prairie dog readers will recognize John for his political column, which appears in most issues but is currently on summer hiatus. Conway will contest Ward 3, which includes the Cathedral neighbourhood and downtown. The ward is currently served by five-term councillor Fred Clipsham. The municipal election will be held Wednesday Oct. 28.

2 JUST BECAUSE ALBERTA DOES IT DOESN'T MEAN WE HAVE TO Our Western neighbours are offering everyone free flu shots this fall. Saskatchewan, however, is not. You have to be in an at-risk group if you want a free jab. On the bright side, Swine Flu vaccination will be free. (StarPhoenix, CBC)

3 RELIGIOUS OBJECTOR LOSES APPEAL This is last week's news but we haven't had anything on it so here it is now: Tough luck Mr. "God Hates Homosexuals"-- If your job is marrying people in civil ceremonies, you have to marry them. Your personal hang-ups, sorry, "beliefs", are irrelevant. If you don't want to marry gays and lesbians, become a priest/pastor/whatever and go not-marry people for a real church or other recognized religious body. Thank you and have a nice day.

4 SEALED AND DELIVERED Europe bans Canadian seal stuff (with exemption for traditional hunters). Canada goes tattling to the World Trade Organization. (Globe And Mail)

5 "THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO PLAN" Sarah Palin, proud recipient of 20 ethics complaints, is done in Alaska. (New York Times)

6 FIVE NHL GAMES IN SASKATOON? Not a bad idea but I doubt the NHLPA would go for five extra road games.