OPINION — The Arctic Ocean is dying.
That may sound somewhat melodramatic, but there you go. I don’t make up the facts (not always, anyway), I just report them. And the fact is the Arctic Ocean is about to go belly up. There’s really not anything we can do about it, I just thought you should know. Being as how we’re all going to die, and stuff.
The reason I know this is because I read about it in EcoWatch, the undisputed reigning champion of the Doom & Gloom genre of environmental infonews. EcoWatch is a website self-described as ‘Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life.’ Recent stories include ‘Should You Have Kids Despite Climate Change?’ and ‘Only 366 Endangered Right Whales Are Alive.’ Anytime you find yourself feeling happy and optimistic about things, you should spend a few minutes perusing EcoWatch. They’ll clear that cheerfulness right up for you.
As for the death of the Arctic Ocean, the upshot is that over 300 scientists just got done spending $177 million on a 13-month expedition to the Arctic in a boat called the Polarstern, and they came back just about wetting their Patagonias over what they found. Thin, brittle ice at the North Pole, unfavorable ice pack conditions, and the prospect that the Arctic will be ice-free in summer very soon. Nothing excites climate scientists faster than horrible, catastrophic, planet-ending news. It’s what they live for.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, ‘Didn’t climate scientists say the Arctic would be ice-free before the end of the 20th century back in the 1950s? And didn’t they claim the same thing in 1972? And didn’t Olav Orheim, head of the Norwegian International Polar Year Secretariat, claim there wouldn’t be any ice left in the Arctic by 2008? And didn’t NASA climate scientist Jay Zwally say, about fifteen years ago, that the Arctic would be ice-free by 2012? And didn’t the Arctic scientists say, in 2009, that the Arctic would be pretty much just slush by 2015? And didn’t His Holiness Climate Expert Al Gore make a speech at the Copenhagen Climate Change Summit in 2009, in which he said all the Arctic ice would melt by 2014?’
Well, yeah, all that is true. Climate scientists have been predicting the demise of the Arctic every so often for more than half a century. And it’s true they’ve been wrong, every time. But this time they’re right. You can trust them. They’re the experts. Shut up and put that life jacket on, it’s about to get damp.
Pardon if I sound a little skeptical, although I might point out the most important and valuable attitude in science is skepticism. One of the primary ways we learn new things is by questioning old beliefs, and the claim the Arctic ice is about to disappear has gotten, by modern scientific standards, positively ancient. But then, they didn’t used to have the data they have now, these experts. So there’s that.
But when skeptics, such as myself, point out the scientists have been wrong, every time, and that climate change is not anthropogenic, but natural and cyclic, the cultists don’t just disagree, they get angry. That tends to happen when you threaten peoples’ religion. And instead of discussing the issues reasonably, using facts, they tend to retreat using the ‘bailey-motte argument.’
This is a time-honored strategy used to discredit an opponent’s position, when you’re unable to refute that position through means of factual debate. The moniker derives from the way castles were constructed during medieval times. It works pretty well, sort of like the slight-of-hand magicians use to misdirect attention.
Castles were generally constructed with a courtyard, or bailey, inside an outer wall. Most people usually hung around in the bailey, where they could live and work. When an attacking force breached the wall, the defenders would retreat into a fortified keep situated on a mound, or motte, behind the bailey. From there they could fling arrows and pour boiling oil on the attackers until they decided to go pillage someplace else.
The motte represents established fact, in this case the fact that climate change exists. The bailey is our area of unproven claims, such as the idea that humans cause climate change, or that Al Gore knows how to tie his own shoes. For our immediate purposes, the bailey claim is that the Arctic ice will soon be history.
When I point out there is no real proof the ice will all melt away, the zealots retreat to the motte, shouting loudly that I don’t believe climate change is real. It doesn’t matter that I never said that, and in fact do believe in climate change. Since they have no proof of their bailey claim, the only recourse is to retire to the motte and fling unsubstantiated arrows at my reasonable argument. I suspect that’s where Bill Shakespeare got the idea for the ‘slings and arrows of outrageous fortune’ line in that play he wrote.
Anyway, if you want to write and complain about my stubbornness in not believing in climate change, go ahead. If you want to debate reasonably, using facts, we can do that. We can’t do both.
But bear in mind - I own my own trebuchet . . .