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It's over

28 Aug 2019 | News Roundup

Also during our two weeks off the debate on climate change ended again. And again. And again. And again. And the public now wants decisive action. (Yawn.) But the struggle against climate change apparently may have ended too: “Amazon rainforest fires could mean ‘game over’ for battle against climate change” blares an NBC email. Unless of course nothing unusual is happening: Les Johnson on Watts Up With That? pulls the “check actual data” dirty trick and finds that the Global Fire Data site shows that 2019 is not an unusual year for Amazonian fires and, what’s more, over the past 20 years the trend has been toward fewer Amazon fires. But this sort of alarmism raises the question of just how fragile modern environmentalists consider the Earth, especially as forest fires have been happening from time immemorial.

It’s a curious paradox of environmentalism that it waxes lyrical over the extraordinary resilience and diversity of nature, while proclaiming that anything humans do could easily smash it beyond repair. (For instance Prince Charles in his children’s book for adults Climate Change, makes the awestruck declaration that in the natural “water cycle and carbon cycle… [a]s is common sense, everything is recycled and reused: in Nature there is no waste” shortly before telling us that unlike the natural kind, manmade CO2 accumulates horribly in the atmosphere because “there is no convenient hole in the sky for it to escape through”.

Environmentalists also insist that we must be lashed into a frenzy over impending doom while assuring us that small measures like driving electric cars can put everything right. The result is a weirdly disorienting mix of panic, factual error and… celebrity gossip. Because so much modern environmentalism is driven by glitzy trendiness not science.

The actual NBC story about the Amazon is a bit more restrained than the “game over” email teaser. It doesn’t say we’ve had it and should throw in the towel. But it does claim that “Record fires sweeping across the Amazon this month are bringing renewed scrutiny to Brazil’s deforestation policy and have environmental researchers and conservationists worried that the blazes will only aggravate the climate change crisis.” And noted experts expressing concern include “Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, rapper Lil Nas X and U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres.”

Alas, reality once again pours cold water on a great climate alarm. SEE SCIENCE ITEM BELOW. The BBC's evolving coverage of the Amazon fires, now points out that some of the inferno porn going around the internet consists of pictures from years ago, or from places that aren't even in Brazil. (One tweet of an old Alamy stock photo by Leonardo DiCaprio has had over 3 million “Likes” because he’s the king of the Internet or something.)

As for alarming data on the number of fires, as Robert Walker at Science 2.0 explains, the claim of a massive jump compared to last year comes from people misusing a preliminary data set produced by the Brazilian National Institute for Space Research called DETER, which is meant only as a real-time alert program for fire control. The satellites that produce those data have difficulty seeing through clouds and may count the same fire multiple times, so they are not recommended for official fire counts. The official numbers are produced using NASA satellites which have higher resolution and better quality control. And the NASA satellites indicate nothing unusual this year in Brazilian forest fire counts. Walker concludes:

To my mind this politicization of science is quite shocking. To take the INPE DETER observations which are known not to be reliable for this and released with a big warning and publishing their figures and not even mentioning the NASA figures.

Nice to know there's someone out there who can still be shocked upon seeing data cherry-picked to promote green alarmism.

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