This is one of the principles that that describe my pragmatic environmentalist beliefs.
I updated this on May 8, 2017 to add references for the lake effect snowstorm example and lake temperature data.
Alberto Brandolini: “The amount of energy necessary to refute BS is an order of magnitude bigger than to produce it.”
Brandolini’s link is to a presentation on the problem and includes recommendations for dealing with it in the context of the managerial leadership. However it is directly relevant to environmental issues as well.
Consider this example of global warming causing severe weather. In November 2014 there was a massive lake-effect snow storm in Western New York. New York’s Attorney General said the snowstorm was evidence of needed action on climate change. Slate followed the event with an article “proving” the claim.
In order to repudiate the global warming trigger claim the lake effect mechanism has to be explained and the relevant data from the event compiled. The Slate article explained that lake effect snow is caused by a temperature difference between a body of water and the air over the lake. The BS claim is that because the water is warmer then the storm was worse. However the alignment of the wind with the lake, the depth of the cold air layer, and the change of wind direction with height all contribute to the severity of a lake effect snowstorm.
To repudiate the BS claim these other factors have to be explained and the necessary data to show how they affected the storm compiled and presented. It turns out that the primary factor causing the extraordinary snow amounts with this particular storm was that the wind direction stayed constant for much longer than normal. That being the case how did global warming contribute to constant winds? Moreover, when I checked the actual lake temperature with the average lake temperature it was more or less the same as the average. The Slate article relied on average temperature data but not the data from the event. If global warming were the cause then why wasn’t the lake warmer than average during the event?
Update May 8, 2017: References for the lake effect snowstorm example and lake temperature
Average Lake Erie Temperature Period of Record 1992 – 2016
- November 19: 9.7 deg. C
- November 20: 9.5 deg. C
- November 21: 9.4 deg. C
Actual Lake Erie Temperature during the event – All three days were colder than average!
- November 19, 2014: 8.9 deg. C
- November 20, 2014: 8.2 deg. C
- November 21, 2014: 7.5 deg. C