Skeptical Science has been running a series of articles pointing out that anyone who is skeptical about global warming is comparable to those arguing that smoking isn’t bad for you. Truly it is a textbook example of strawman arguments where they make a poorly related claim and then use that to degrade the opposition. It is a despicable practice, but one that is very common in many of the debates that have become politicized in today’s world. The current debate about the roles of public unions and the benefits of the civil servants is another example of a topic that intelligent discussion is unlikely to happen today.
Some examples from their latest strawman to climate science are as follows:
2. Anyway smoke is a naturally occurring substance in the environment. It has been around for thousands of years. Actually fire and smoke is necessary for some plants and seeds to grow in parts of Australia. It is vital so what can be wrong with smoke?
This is similar to the argument that climate has been changing for thousands of years so what is new? CO2 is also natural so it cannot be harmful and in fact is essential to life. Increasing levels of CO2 is good for us. It actually improves crop yield so how can CO2 be a problem?
The logic of this comparison is lacking to say the least. Comparing the product of forest fires (the natural cause of smoke) to the primary gas of respiration for plants is a perfect strawman. That some seeds use fire as part of reproduction is real, but plants would survive without smoke. However if CO2 were removed from the system all plants would die. In fact, below 100ppm pretty much all plants on Earth would die of asphyxiation. So it seems related, but in reality it is not in any way related. A perfect strawman argument.
5. By current estimates, tobacco use causes 440,000 deaths per year and costs about $157 billion in health–related losses. On average, men who smoke cut their lives short by 13.2 years, and female smokers lose 14.5 years. Since the 1964 surgeon general’s report, more than 12 million people have died from smoking–related illness. Counter argument: How can this be proved? No one knows when they are going to die so how can anyone say their life is shortened by this or that amount? What about the chap who lived over 100? Was his life shortened by 13.2 years? Not likely.
This is like saying the models cannot predict weather accurately for regions so how can we take them seriously. We all know extreme events have killed many in the past before warming so the latest examples don’t mean anything special. Its all a beat up.
This is a fun one because it gives estimates for the impact of smoking in graphic detail. The reason that is needed is because there is no evidence of the impact of global warming. So they are avoiding the entire lack of evidence by pointing out that there is evidence for the impact of smoking. Another clever use of a stawman argument, but a critical one because they simply have no evidence that anything significant is happening.
7. We can all relate stories about people we know who get cancer but have never smoked. So cancer is caused by things other than smoking. This “proves” that smoking is not the “bad” thing it is made out to be.
This is similar to the sceptic suggesting that we have had catastrophic weather events ie hurricanes and cyclones before so just because we get severe events again does not prove it is due to warming. We will get these events anyway.
This is similar to the previous example. They have no evidence that weather is changing, but they can use a smoking example to make it appear that they have a point to make. What exactly that point is I am not sure as it seems that they are arguing the tremendously de-bunked idea that there will be more hurricanes as a result of global warming. Of course since the evidence of global warming is hard to find, they are using a strawman in place of evidence.
Needless to say when I read this article I was less than impressed by the usefulness of it. So I left the following comment on their website.
This was certainly on topic and related to the discussion, but they didn’t seem to like a contrary view and refused to let it stay on their website. They did let the following comments stay up on their website though.
Perhaps I was harsher than necessary, but their article was very insulting to everyone that is honestly skeptical of global warming. Such insulting articles are not helpful and only cause greater contention in the debate. They quickly silenced the dissent rather than discuss it. I am proud to say that I do not remove such comments from this website and I have learned from the open discussion that is allowed here.