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Armadillos and Ice Bergs and Polar Bears, Oh My!

They say a picture is worth a thousand words.

Consider this heart-rending portrait of the dangers of man caused global warming.

The clear implications of this photo are summed up in the words of former Vice President Al Gore.

“Their habitat is melting… beautiful animals, literally being forced off the planet,” Mr. Gore said, with the photo on the screen behind him. “They’re in trouble, got nowhere else to go.”

How can one argue with such compelling, undeniable evidence that our environment is on the edge of catastrophe?

You could start by asking a few simple questions.

Like what was the setting of this photograph?

And what do we know about polar bear behavior that could confirm or deny the seemingly dire circumstances these beautiful animals found themselves in?

The answers to these questions might raise an eyebrow or two.

Remember that wonderful picture of stranded polar bears on an ice floe that were used by folks like soon-to-be-Dr. Al Gore to demonstrate how dire the man-made global warming issue is?

Well, ABC television in Australia, on a show called “Media Watch,” recently debunked the entire issue (video available here, h/t NB member dscott).

It turns out — as NewBuster Jake Gontesky reported on March 20 — the picture was taken in August, “when every year the fringes of the Arctic ice cap melt regardless of the wider effects of global warming.”

The photographer, Australian marine biology student Amanda Byrd, didn’t think the bears were in any jeopardy:
They did not appear to be in danger…I did not see the bears get on the ice, and I did not see them get off. I cannot say either way if they were stranded or not.
Denis Simard of Environment Canada agreed:
You have to keep in mind that the bears are not in danger at all. This is a perfect picture for climate change…you have the impression they are in the middle of the ocean and they are going to die…But they were not that far from the coast, and it was possible for them to swim…They are still alive and having fun.

How far from the coast would a polar bear have to be in order to be in danger?

Quite a ways.

Maybe that’s why they are called “Sea Bears”.

The polar bear’s Latin name, Ursus maritimus, or “Sea Bear,” refers to the animal’s close association with the Arctic’s chilly waters. The polar bear is the only bear considered a marine mammal.

Polar bears spend as much time on the ice as they do on land. Polar bears are often seen along open leads, where they hunt seals, as well as on the sea ice. They depend on the ice to hunt, breed, and in some cases to den.

Polar bears are champion swimmers and divers, an adaptation that allows them to swim from one ice floe to the next. They have been known to swim more than 60 miles without a rest and have been clocked swimming as fast as six miles per hour.

Another icon bites the dust.

Kind of like the armadillo.

In the SRL Files under “Hysteria Repeats Itself”, did you know that we have already gone through a climate change scare way back in the 70’s?

And no, it had nothing to do with the dangers of polyester poisoning.

As Gary Sutton of Forbes Magazine recalls:

Many of you are too young to remember, but in 1975 our government pushed “the coming ice age.”

Random House dutifully printed “THE WEATHER CONSPIRACY … coming of the New Ice Age.” This may be the only book ever written by 18 authors. All 18 lived just a short sled ride from Washington, D.C. Newsweek fell in line and did a cover issue warning us of global cooling on April 28, 1975. And The New York Times, Aug. 14, 1976, reported “many signs that Earth may be headed for another ice age.”

How did we know that a new ice age was coming?

The proof came from the behavior of another, well, not so beautiful endangered icon.

Science’s prediction of “A full-blown, 10,000 year ice age,” came from its March 1, 1975 issue. The Christian Science Monitor observed that armadillos were retreating south from Nebraska to escape the “global cooling” in its Aug. 27, 1974 issue.

That armadillo caveat seems reminiscent of today’s tales of polar bears drowning due to glaciers disappearing.

The predictions of cross-country skiing in Tucson never came to pass.

And here is our problem.

To accurately predict the behavior of a system of  off the charts complexity like the atmosphere around our Earth is a dicey business indeed.

And whenever a scientific establishment attempts to either recreate events from the past or make predictions of the future that are not subject to direct experimentation, observation and confirmation, it is no longer engaging in science, but in speculation.

And isn’t it interesting how when people are caught promoting politics or philosophy as fact, suddenly the debate takes a turn toward the dark side.

Ed Morrisey presents a classic case of this phenomenon at  the Hot Air Blog:

Mr Brown last night insisted that the science on climate change in settled, and accused those who question the consensus of being outdated.

He said: “With only days to go before Copenhagen we mustn’t be distracted by the behind-the-times, anti-science, flat-earth climate sceptics. We know the science. We know what we must do.”

Greg Clark, the Conservative shadow energy secretary, told the Daily Telegraph the emails were a cause for concern.

“This has clearly concerned a lot of people, including myself. You need to be able to rely on the scientific opinion. It is important that we should be able to have confidence in the research,” he said.

Announcing a review of the case, Dr Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), said the matter could not be “brushed under the carpet”.

“Anti-science”?  Maybe those in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.  As Dr. Pachauri himself notes, the entire issue with the East Anglia CRU is that they weren’t doing science, but advocacy.  They conspired to silence critics, refused to release their methodology, used “garbage” data to bolster their claims, and then destroyed the raw data on which they based their models and conclusions.  What about that is pro-science?

Perhaps Gordon Brown needs to familiarize himself with actual science rather than political hackery. Actual science gets conducted in the open, and needs repeatable conclusions and full data sets to be considered “settled.”  It welcomes scrutiny and testing; actual science doesn’t hide from scrutiny, or conspire to block it, and actual scientists don’t plot ways to ruin the careers of those who question the models or results.

Brown has put himself clearly in the “Shut up, he explained” school, which isn’t science at all.  It’s what leaders of a cult say when the brainwashing starts to weaken.

The more we see the facts in this debate, the less global warming comes across as “settled science”.

And if it isn’t settled, why not encourage discussion and put a hold on drastic policy changes until the picture becomes clearer?

Unless, of course,

maintaining grant money,

or getting published in the right scientific journals,

or maintaining personal prestige,

or pursuing  political power mean more than really getting at the truth.

The principle we see in play in the global warming debate is one we need to pay close attention to in our spiritual lives as well.

Have you ever found yourself in a church setting where you had honest questions about where the group was coming from doctrinally, or in their practices?

What was the response when you brought those questions up to a leader in the group?

Did they commend you for asking?

Or did they condemn you for rocking the boat?

Did they go straight to the Bible to provide answers?

Or did they point to their own credentials as experts and belittle your lack of education or experience?

Did they respect the point of view of those who might disagree with them on a non-essential issue of the faith?

Or did they resort to ridiculing anyone who didn’t see it their way?

In the book of Acts we find the account of a group of people who were more interested in truth than personalities.

Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. Therefore many of them believed, and also not a few of the Greeks, prominent women as well as men. (Acts 17:10-12)

Notice that the Bible commends the Berean believers for checking out the message for themselves – even a message that came from the apostle Paul.

Just because someone has a PhD, or the title “reverend”, or a radio or television program doesn’t make them infallible.

The safest sources of input in our lives will readily admit this.

But when people start fudging facts or resorting to snarky sarcasm or engaging in haughty appeals to their own authority to “settle” a debate – they inevitably become the best argument against their own position.

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