Friday, September 19, 2014

A Few Links to Dispel Conservative Myths Part Two: Climate Change

The more I've researched the fascinating world of myth and misunderstanding in which my right-wing friends live, the more I've realized that dispelling those myths is not something I can do in just a couple of blog posts. So here's Part Two in what is now a series on conservative misbeliefs and some sources of accurate information one can use to combat them. As I said in Part One, you shouldn't expect your conservative friends to believe the information in these links. But who knows, maybe a little genuine learning will seep through from time to time.

I've been reading Naomi Klein's new book, This Changes Everything, about the monumental tasks that are ahead of us if we want to keep man-made climate change under control and keep the earth habitable for the human race. Of course the first thing we have to do is to admit to ourselves the enormous scope of the problem and the danger if we don't act. So it's a good time to review and debunk myths about climate change.

Part Two. Climate Change Myths
Myth: There is no significant climate change. The earth's temperature has not increased and is not increasing. The oceans are not rising or acidifying.
Fact: I thought that everyone was at least agreed that the earth has warmed a bit since the start of the Industrial Revolution, even those who don't believe believe human activity is the principle cause. But an acquaintance of mine said even that is a myth. So let's begin at the beginning.
Average temperatures have climbed 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit (0.8 degree Celsius) around the world since 1880, much of this in recent decades. The rate of warming increased in the 1980s and 1990s. The 20th century's last two decades were the hottest in 400 years and possibly the warmest for several millennia.  Between 1870 and 2004, global average sea levels rose a total of 195 mm (7.7 in), and 1.46 mm (0.057 in) per year. From 1950 to 2009, measurements show an average annual rise in sea level of 1.7 ± 0.3 mm per year, with satellite data showing a rise of 3.3 ± 0.4 mm per year from 1993 to 2009. Arctic ice is rapidly disappearing, and the region may have its first completely ice-free summer by 2040 or earlier. The world's oceans have become 30% more acidic since the Industrial Revolution began more than two centuries ago, imperiling marine life.

Myth: There is ongoing debate among scientists as to whether climate change is caused by human activity, specifically, anthropogenic CO2 pollution. Or, as Joseph Bast of the conservative Heritage Institute has said, "The assertion that 97% of scientists believe that climate change is a man-made, urgent problem is a fiction."
Fact: Technically, Mr. Bast is right about that 97% number. It's actually more like 99.99%. Earlier this year, geochemist James Lawrence Powell in an ongoing project reviewing the literature on global warming, went through every scientific study published in a peer-review journal during the calendar year 2013. Of 10,885 total articles, a mere two (2) rejected anthropogenic global warming. Of 9,136 authors publishing between November, 2012 and December, 2013 exactly one (1) proposed a fundamentally different reason for temperature rise than anthropogenic CO2. Mr. Powell also notes:
"Very few of the most vocal global warming deniers, those who write op-eds and blogs and testify to congressional committees, have ever written a peer-reviewed article in which they say explicitly that anthropogenic global warming is false. Why? Because then they would have to provide the evidence and, evidently, they don’t have it."

Myth: A 2013 study found a majority of scientists skeptical of a global warming crisis, as reported in an opinion piece in Forbes magazine.
Fact: The Forbes article is a fraud. The survey in question was of engineers and physicists working on Canadian oil sands projects, not of climate scientists. The Forbes article took that fact that only 36% of those surveyed fell into the category, "most supportive of climate action" and twisted it into an expression of "skepticism" of a global warming "crisis." Ironically, what this survey actually found was that even among oil industry engineers, a group notoriously hostile toward climate science, a majority (58%) believe that humans are influencing the climate.

Myth: In a scandal now known as "Climategate," emails between British scientists that were stolen by hackers in 2009 proved a conspiracy to misrepresent climate data. Or, as Oklahoma Senator Jame Inhofe, author of the climate change denying book The Greatest Hoax said, "Then we pursued some of these fine scientists who said that the U.N. had rigged the science; then of course in ’09 when ClimateGate came, people realized the United Nations committee, the IPCC, had rigged the science on this thing."
Fact: Eight (8) formal governmental and academic committees investigated the allegations and found no evidence of fraud or scientific misconduct. From
"Claims that the e-mails are evidence of fraud or deceit, however, misrepresent what they actually say. A prime example is a 1999 email from (University of East Anglia climatologist Phil) Jones, who wrote: "I’ve just completed Mike’s Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (i.e., from 1981 onwards) and from 1961 for Keith’s to hide the decline." Skeptics claim the words "trick" and "decline" show Jones is using sneaky manipulations to mask a decline in global temperatures. But that’s not the case. Actual temperatures, as measured by scientific instruments such as thermometers, were rising at the time of the writing of this decade-old e-mail, and (as we’ve noted) have continued to rise since then. Jones was referring to the decline in temperatures implied by measurements of the width and density of tree rings. In recent decades, these measures indicate a dip, while more accurate instrument-measured temperatures continue to rise."

Myth: Global warming has "paused." "The global average atmospheric temperature has not significantly increased for the past 17 years, a "pause" not predicted by the computer climate models."  - Ronald Bailey,
Fact: From Mark Strauss of
"Although the rate of increase in the globally and annually averaged temperature of the atmosphere near the surface has slowed since around 2000 compared to the rate of increase over the preceding three decades, near-surface warming of the atmosphere has continued. The 2000s were warmer than the 1990s, and the 2010s so far have been warmer than the 2000s." 2014 is on track to be the warmest year on record.

Myth: The relationship between CO2 pollution and global warming alleged by scientists is not valid if the level of CO2 in the atmosphere continues to increase yet global warming slows down.
Fact: There are many natural reasons why short-term climate change may occur exclusive of human activity. The fact that concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere has continued to rise in recent years while global warming has slowed is explained by the warming and cooling cycles in the heat sinks deep in the Atlantic and Southern oceans. A study from Ocean University of China demonstrates that (from Scientific American),
"about half of the warming in the last 30 years of the 20th century was due to global warming, while the other half was from the heat cycle in the Atlantic that kept heat near the ocean's surface." "Based on previous trends, the current "cooling" cycle is likely about halfway over." "Rapid warming is expected to resume again in about a decade, though exact predictions are difficult to make."

Myth: Arctic sea ice is expanding, an indication that scientists may be wrong about global warming.
Fact: From Tim Radford of the Climate Network for the Guardian:
"German researchers have established the height of the Greenland and Antarctic ice caps with greater precision than ever before. The new maps they have produced show that the ice is melting at an unprecedented rate."
The source of the myth is the fact that summer ice coverage of the Arctic sea was greater in 2014 than 2012. Phil Plate of explains:
"In 2012, a mix of unusual causes created conditions where the minimum reached a record low, far below normal. The next year, in 2013, the ice didn’t reach quite so low a minimum extent, and this year looks very much the same as 2013. But saying the ice is “recovering” is, to put it delicately, what comes out the south end of a north-facing bull. You can’t compare two years with a record low the year before that was due to unusual circumstances; you have to look at the average over time."
A 2013 study found that Arctic ice has melted over the last 30 years at a rate of 8% per decade.

Myth: Recent cold weather in North America indicates that climate change models predicting global warming are wrong. Senator Inhofe (again, sigh), "Now they’re trying to say this cold thing we’re going through now is just a bump in the climate. That isn’t true at all. It is a hoax."
Fact: As the world gets warmer, parts of North America, Europe and Asia could see more frequent and stronger visits of cold air. Studies indicate that this is the result of shrinking ice in the seas off Russia. As the ice melts, it creates large pockets of very cold air, which can precipitate a large-scale cyclone, known as a "polar vortex," that circles either of the planet's geographical poles.

Myth: The most prominent scientific body studying global warming, the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), has dramatically overstated the danger to mankind from climate change, as it demonstrated by the fact that its past predictions have not proven true. A recent study by Professor Matthew England demonstrates that the planet hasn't warmed as the IPCC predicted.
Fact: In the more than twenty years that the IPCC has been making predictions of future climate change, it has been proven extremely accurate. Critics of the IPCC have used fraudulent data. Furthermore, England's study found only that IPCC climate models had not been geared to account for the current two decade-long period of strong trade winds in the Pacific, and thus the temperature on the earth's surface is 0.2C less than some climate models thought it would be. England has made clear that his study in no way indicates that global warming has paused or stopped.

Myth: "You know, the elimination of essentially every automobile would be offset by one volcano exploding." - Wisconsin Public Service Commissioner Mike Huebsch, appointed by Republican Governor Scott Walker
Fact: "Human activities generate about 35 gigatons of greenhouse gases per year, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, while all the world's volcanoes combined spew something in the range of 0.13 to 0.44 gigatons per year. That means the human influence on the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is 80 to 270 times greater than that of volcanoes." - Kate Sheppard, Mother Jones

Myth: Al Gore was wrong. His documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, is a fraud.
Fact: The 2006 movie An Inconvenient Truth is widely credited for raising international public awareness of climate change and for energizing the environmental movement. The Associated Press contacted 19 climate scientists who had seen the movie. All said that Gore accurately conveyed the science, with few errors.

Myth: The Vikings settled the land west of Iceland and called it Greenland because it was green and pleasant at the time, but it later turned much colder. This tends to contradict the idea that the polar regions have long been warming.
Fact: According to the Icelandic sagas, Erik the Red named it Greenland in an attempt to lure settlers in search of land and the promise of a better life. The Greenland ice sheet is at least 400,000 years old, and is currently melting due to global warming.

Final note. For more myths and more reality on climate change, visit

Next time: Myths about the economy? Myths about the growth of government? There's oh so much more to cover.

Saturday, September 06, 2014

A Few Links to Dispel Conservative Myths, Part One: Obamacare

I've been discussing politics with liberal friends since I was a kid. But it's only been since I joined facebook that I've debated facts and political philosophy with conservatives. It's been quite an experience. Most arguments follow the same flow chart:
I. Conservative friend begins with a false claim, such as: "Single-payer health care can never work. It's bankrupting the countries that have it."
II. I respond with the facts, accompanied with web links. For example: "Not true. Countries with single-payer spend far less per capita than the US."
III. Conservative friend then responds in one of three ways:
     A. Dismiss any and all facts I link with the statement, "I refuse to believe left-wing web sites and/or the "lamestream media.""
     B. "Joe you're too stupid for me to argue with."
     C. Conservative friend turns into a WWII veteran suburban father lecturing his lazy hippie son. "Single-payer can never work because it's something for nothing! You need to realize that every bum has to pull his own weight!"

Maybe it's pointless to keep linking conservatives to actual facts. But I like to think it's possible for a little light to shine through the curtain of ignorance and prejudice from time to time. So here's Part One: a catalog of links to facts to counter the most common conservative myths, misconceptions and outright lies about the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare.

Part One. Obamacare Myths
Myth: Obamacare has caused health care premiums for most Americans to skyrocket.
Fact: 80% of Americans get health insurance through their employer or a government program. Under Obamacare, U.S. employers are experiencing the smallest increases in health care costs in 15 years.

Myth: "There are less people today with health insurance than there were before this law went into effect." - Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner
Fact: By March of 2014, nearly 10 million previously uninsured people gained insurance thanks to Obamacare. The percentage of uninsured Americans is now the lowest on record, having fallen from 18% in 2013 to 13.4% in mid-2014.

Myth: Obamacare will explode the federal budget deficit.
Fact: In 2010, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimated Obamacare will reduce the deficit by $143 billion through 2019, and an additional $1.3 trillion (that's trillion with a "t") between 2020 and 2029. In 2014, despite some changes in implementation of the law, the CBO confirmed, "the agencies have no reason to think that their initial assessment that the ACA would reduce budget deficits was incorrect."

Myth: Obamacare will cause the cost of individual health care policies to skyrocket.
Fact: Health insurance premiums rose 4% for family coverage in the first year of Obamacare. That was half the 8% average of the previous decade. Across the country, rates for a benchmark silver plan will actually go down slightly in 2015 over 2014. Furthermore in July of 2014, the Department of Health and Human Services issued a report explaining that the Affordable Care Act has already saved consumers $9 Billion since it was enacted. The bulk of the savings was in reduced premiums. But it also included $330 million in 2013 alone of refunds to consumers when their insurance companies had engaged in the now prohibited practice of spending more than 20% of premiums on overhead.

Myth: Millions of people have lost their health insurance.
Fact: Only about 5% of Americans have non-employer provided individual plans. It's true that certain health care plans in this market are no longer available due to changes in the law. But many of these were not insurance at all, but junk plans that didn't offer real coverage.  Furthermore, Obamacare is not the reason why most of those folks who are changing plans this year are doing so. On the individual health insurance market, plans typically are sold with one-year contracts that change prices and/or benefits year-to-year. Even before Obamacare, only 17 percent of consumers in this market kept the same plan for two years or more. Fewer than one million people who previously had individual market insurance transitioned to being uninsured.

Myth: With Obamacare policies, millions can no longer see their doctor of choice.
Fact: There’s no evidence that those who had individual market policies that were discontinued ended up not being able to keep their own doctors under their new Obamacare-compliant policies. There is no data that indicates that those on plans from the new exchanges have more or less narrow networks than existed in the individual market previously.

Myth: Because Obamacare insurance plans are required to cover contraception, even for unmarried women, the taxpayers are being forced to subsidize sexual promiscuity. "What does it say about the college co-ed Sandra Fluke, who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex? What does that make her?" "It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex. She’s having so much sex she can’t afford the contraception. She wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex. What does that make us? We’re the pimps." - Radio personality Rush Limbaugh, speaking on women's health advocate Sandra Fluke in 2012.
Fact: Many women are prescribed birth controls pills for non-contraceptive reasons.

Myth: Doctors are leaving the medical profession because they don't like Obamacare. There's going to be a terrible shortage of physicians.
Fact: This myth comes from the distorted analysis of a couple of dubious survey questions. One was a poll of members of a right-wing fringe group called the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons that largely exists to fight health care reform. The other was a Physicians Foundation survey of 13,000 doctors which discovered that 60 percent of respondents would retire today if they could as compared to 45 percent who gave the same answer before Obamacare was passed into law. They were not asked whether their feelings on retirement were related to Obamacare.

Meanwhile, in reality, the American Medical Association, the American College of Physicians, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Osteopathic Association, the American Psychiatric Association, and the American College of Cardiology all endorsed the health care reform law. The number of primary physicians in America per 100,000 population increased from about 44 in 2010 (the year the law was passed) to 46 in 2012, the most recent year for which data is available. The number of specialty physicians increased more significantly, from 60 to 65 per 100,00 population over the same time frame.

Myth: Under Obamacare policies, "You have insurance in places like U.K. and Canada, where they say, oh we cover you. But you don’t get it, because it’s rationed. That’s what’s going to happen." - Florida Governor Rick Scott
Fact: The health care law "rations" care no more nor less than the current health care system does. (The United Kingdom and Canada don't ration care either.)

Myth: Obamacare is incredibly unpopular.
Fact: It's true that slightly more people describe themselves as against the law rather than for it. However most of the folks who are against it don't have Obamacare policies. More than 70% of those who do have the policies rate them as "good" or "excellent". And despite Republican efforts to repeal Obamacare, a majority of Americans want to keep the federal health care law as is, or make some changes to improve it. It's also the case that many of those who describe themselves as against the law are Democrats who feel that the law does not go far enough to reform health care. Most of the law's key provisions are very popular. In a 2012 poll, 61% of respondents favored allowing young adults to stay on their parents’ insurance plans until age 26. 72% of respondents wish to maintain the requirement that companies with more than 50 workers provide health insurance for their employees. 82% of respondents favored banning insurance companies from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions.

Myth: Republicans have a plan to replace Obamacare.
Fact: They have no plan, nor have they ever had one. I wrote about this in my last post. While Republicans have made bold talk about passing a comprehensive plan to replace health insurance for tens of millions of Americans in 2014, they are instead offering only a "messaging strategy," while quietly admitting they don't intend to do anything on the issue.

Myth: The President refused to work with Republicans on crafting the law.
Fact: The President sought compromise but Republicans refused to negotiate. Time magazine described a meeting between President Obama and congressional Republicans on health care in this way, "So, right there in the Cabinet Room, the President put a proposal on the table, according to two people who were present. Obama said he was willing to curb malpractice awards, a move long sought by the Republicans and certain to bring strong opposition from the trial lawyers who fund the Democratic Party. What, he wanted to know, did the Republicans have to offer in return? Nothing, it turned out. Republicans were unprepared to make any concessions, if they had any to make." Conservative pundit David Frum, describing the attitude of his fellow Republicans said, "the intransigence of Republican leaders had thrown away opportunities to negotiate improvements in the health bill"..."we would make no deal with the administration. No negotiations, no compromise, nothing."

Myth: Obamacare will kill millions of jobs.
Fact: The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office reports that Obamacare creates jobs. The ACA will, "boost overall demand for goods and services over the next few years because the people who will benefit from the expansion of Medicaid and from access to the exchange subsidies are predominantly in lower-income households and thus are likely to spend a considerable fraction of their additional resources on goods and services." This, the report says, "will in turn boost demand for labor over the next few years."

Myth: Obamacare is turning America into a "part-time nation" by encouraging employers to hire part-time rather than full-time so that they will not have to provide health insurance.
Fact: Private-sector employment has grown for 54 consecutive months, and, the percentage of jobs that are full-time rather than part time is rising.

Myth: The online "exchanges" for Obamacare fell dramatically short of their goals for signing up the uninsured.
Fact: The program set an ambitious goal of 7 million signups through the exchanges in the first enrollment period. The number actually signed up and paid through the exchanges in the first enrollment period was at least 7.3 million.

Myth: The President lied about the cost of Obamacare. He promised the first ten years would only cost $900 million. It will actually cost $2 billion over the next decade!
Fact: The President did suggest that the law would cost $900 million the first ten years. The Congressional Budget Office agreed, saying the expansion of coverage would cost the federal government $710 billion in the fiscal years 2015 through 2019, plus the cost in the early years before the law went fully into effect. Just recently, the CBO has lowered the $710 billion estimate to only $571 billion – the President’s $900 million estimate was actually too high! The CBO did also say that the cost of Obamacare will be $2 billion for a decade, but that's for the fiscal years 2016 through 2025.

Myth: Seniors and the disabled "will have to stand in front of Obama's 'death panel' so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their 'level of productivity in society,' whether they are worthy of health care." - Former Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin
Fact: A provision not part of the final legislation would have insured doctor appointments for seniors who wanted to discuss do-not-resuscitate orders, end-of-life directives and living wills. The visits would have been completely optional and only for people who wanted the appointments.

Myth: Democrats didn't even read the legislation before they passed it. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said, "We have to pass it so we can find out what's in it."
Fact: Nancy Pelosi said, "We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of controversy." And that was true. With people like Sarah Palin spreading bald-face lies to scare people, we DID need to pass the bill so that consumers could find out what's really in it.

Next time I'll be covering myths about the deficit, climate change and a lot of other things. That is, if I can even get all the conservative myths left into only one more post. Good night and good luck.