Beware of "journalists" doing science

Matthew Hoy
By Matthew Hoy on May 22, 2009

Courtesy of James Taranto at "Best of the Web Today," comes this hilarious link by a "journalist" covering the global warming debate.

Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) (above) on how carbon dioxide is harmless because it's in cola...Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.) echoing House colleague Michelle Bachmann's (R-Minn.) recent "harmless gas" routine by saying that CO2 just can't be bad because we breathe it out. Dave Roberts of Grist has compiled videos of these and other "vintage fruitloopery" coming from House GOP members during this week's energy-and-climate bill markup.

It strikes me as important to keep in mind that we are paying these elected officials as they take up everyone's time in the House and go before the media, with this stuff. It's not merely unscientific, but runs counter to this nation's best economic, environmental, and security interests, and too few of their colleagues, as well as mine, seem ready to call them on that.

[[Reps. Bachman and Shimkus could conduct some empirical research, by covering their heads with plastic bags, breathing in and out for a few minutes, and then getting back to the voting public on just how harmless carbon dioxide is.]]

For someone who claims to be an experienced journalist and editor, it's a little bizarre that Emily Gertz would use double brackets for no discernable reason.

However, as Taranto notes, Gertz's claim that one can prove CO2 is dangerous by putting a plastic bag over one's head misunderstands the science:

The way this works is that your respiratory system takes in oxygen and converts it to carbon dioxide. It is true that you will suffocate if you put a sealed plastic bag over your head--but what kills you is the lack of oxygen, not the presence of carbon dioxide. Apparently Gertz's theory is that "global warming" occurs because carbon dioxide emissions somehow remove oxygen from the atmosphere. This is certainly novel, but it's not scientific.

For those interested in a meatier discussion of the issues, go to Anthony Watts' site and check out this article by contributor Jeff Id. The article is not an easy read, but here's the basic point of it: The article published in Nature earlier this year claiming that Antarctica is warming appears to be fatally flawed. It apparently suffers from the infamous "Mann hockey stick" problem -- no matter what numbers you put in, warming always results.

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