I’ve been in two minds about whether to write this post. On the one hand, it’s a pretty amusing story and highlights just how absurd one can be while collecting what I imagine is a decent paycheque from a major media outlet. On the other hand, it’s so obvious that it barely needs to be written about. I don’t even know what has tipped me toward publishing this post, but now that we’re started I’ll go ahead and state my point.
Piers Akerman appears to be foaming at the mouth.
There, I’ve said it. Based on his published work, he’s howling at the moon, prophesying doom, and warning of the omens. And he’s doing it all without any evidence or reasoned analysis.
Like I said at the outset, I don’t expect this to come as a great surprise to you. It doesn’t exactly shock me. But I still think it’s notable. As a climate change denying pundit, Piers is in a league of his own. The Bolts and Blairs of the world try to tie their claims to some form of evidence. It might be distorted, fabricated or cherry-picked, but they’ll present it and try to convince you that it is substantial. But Piers assumes that his word is enough. Or, if he does grab something that might resemble evidence, he really doesn’t mind if it’s so outrageously incredible that even a devotee of denialism would chuckle at it.
Here’s the column of his that brought me (again) to this realisation. Piers doesn’t believe in global warming. And he doesn’t think much of the Rudd Government or its policies. But he takes these starting points and whips himself up into a rhetorical frenzy of alarmism – all without bothering to provide an argument to convince readers that he is right.
How silly is the idea of an emissions trading scheme?
It is sheer lunacy …
It is just as insane …
It is nothing short of colossal vanity …
Tell us why, Piers! If you want to argue a point, feel free to provide logical or empirical evidence to back it up.
But Piers seems to think that his opinion is equivalent to commonly accepted wisdom. Of course, if this was true then his columns would be entirely redundant anyway. But it isn’t true – counter-arguments and opposing views get no recognition in an Akerman column. He holds his truths to be self-evident, and he ploughs ahead under the assumption that you know he is right.
And then the real fun begins, because he goes from denialist to counter-alarmist:
Not only is the globe predicted [NB: no citation of who is making these predictions] to be markedly cooler this year, and so it has been so far [NB: two weeks does not a year make], in the northern hemisphere [NB: if you want to cherry-pick, it’s even cooler in my freezer], but a new report in the Russian newspaper Pravda this week says there is a “large and compelling body of evidence from within the field of climate science” which shows the Earth is “now on the brink of entering another Ice Age” which will continue for the next 100,000 years.
Piers is not just arguing that global warming is not a problem. Instead, he claims that we are very close to encountering the real global climate crisis – an Ice Age that will begin Real Soon Now and last for a hundred thousand years. But note that this is the only scientific or economic argument in his column that Piers bothered to support by referring to any source other than his own understanding of what is “universally recognised”.
So, I thought it would be a claim worth checking out. Here is the Pravda article – written by Gregory F. Fegel, it argues that the scientific evidence suggests a highly regular pattern of Ice Ages lasting 100,000 years separated by interglacial periods lasting 12,000 years, and it notes that under this pattern, the current interglacial period is due to end. “If we are lucky,” Fegel argues, “we may have a few years to prepare for it.”
This is an extraordinarily disturbing claim, and since it is the only evidentiary foundation Akerman provides for his argument, I thought it was worth giving serious consideration to. So I started looking into it.
First, I thought I should check on the credentials of the author. Is he a scientist, or a science journalist? It turns out that Gregory F. Fegel is an interesting character who has written about his views on issues other than climate cycles. Here’s an article he wrote for Pravda earlier in 2008:
Impeachment is Not Enough
Indict all of the US government officials and their allies who planned and carried out the 9/11 attacks
A preponderance of evidence shows that the highest officials of the Bush Administration, in collusion with many other officials from the Pentagon, CIA, FBI, FEMA, NSA, NORAD, New York City officials, air-traffic contollers, airline executives, controlled demolitions experts, computer graphics technicians, media executives, and others together planned and committed the horrible attacks of 9/11/2001 against the Pentagon and the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. The 9/11 attacks were immediately blamed on some bogus ‘Arab highjackers’, a half dozen of whom were later confirmed to be still alive, and therefore innocent, after the 9/11 attacks.
The Pentagon, CIA, FBI, and other agencies and officials of the US government have perpetrated many crimes, assassinations, and false-flag bombings and attacks against US citizens and US interests during the past fifty years, including, but by no means limited to, the State political assassinations of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Robert Fitzgerald Kennedy, and Martin Luther King; the 1988 Berlin Disco bombing; the 1993 World Trade Center bombing; the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing; and the anthrax letter attacks of October 2001. The US government and its allies also committed the Bali bombings of 2002 and 2005; the Madrid train bombings of 2004; the London 7/7/2005 bombings; and the recent spate of bombings in Ahmedabad, Jaipur, Bangalore, and at the Indian Embassy in Kabul during the summer of 2008.
Oh dear. And it wasn’t the first time Fegel had written this kind of stuff. This didn’t appear to bode well for Fegel’s opinions – although, as Tim Lambert notes, some denialists managed to turn this into a plus for his climate prophesies:
How delicious that an America-hating Truther who contributes to Pravda has a firmer grasp of climatology than Nobel Laureate Al Gore, James Hansen, Gavin Schmidt, and most of the folks at the IPCC.
Now I could have given up on Fegel’s column providing any sort of foundation for Akerman at this point. But that would be ad hominem reasoning. Maybe, despite being a 9/11 conspiracy theorist, he had some solid evidence for his views on Earth’s climate?
So, I went searching again. Fegel’s argument about the inevitable and impending Ice Age is based on the notion of Milankovitch cycles – a series of cyclical patterns in changes to the concentration of sunlight reaching Earth (due largely to changes in orbit).
Unfortunately for Fegel, and for Akerman’s argument (although more fortunately for humanity), the evidence about how soon the next Ice Age will arrive is less clear and compelling than he made out. I found plenty of sources with varying views based on different scientific findings, but James Hrynyshyn has a concise summary.
Which means that, in the end, Piers Akerman thinks you should believe him – not because he has science on his side, and not because he has a carefully constructed argument that demonstrates the validity of his opinion, but just because he is certain that the sky is going to fall. Is that really a convincing way to argue an opinion?
I guess it’s up to you.