McClaughry: Sloppy climate change thinking by the Washington Post

By John McClaughry

A January 9 article in the Washington Post exemplified the sloppy reporting endemic to the debate over what the enviros and the media call “climate change.”

Referring to meteorological activity in the western United States, its headline read “Scientists say atmospheric rivers are fueled by climate change.”

This formulation exemplifies the “reification fallacy.” It’s defined as “the act of changing an abstraction — that is, a thought or idea or label — into something real and measurable.”

An accurate statement would be something like “increasing air temperature differentials over Western North America are causing large air masses to move like rivers.” A scientist can produce evidence of the increasing temperatures, from ground stations, microwave satellites, and radiosonde balloons. He or she can explain how the temperature differentials produce the river effect in the atmosphere.

But saying “climate change causes atmospheric rivers” is plain foolishness. Listen carefully: there is no such thing as “climate change” — that’s a description, not a phenomenon. It has no metric — as in “climate was 5 back in 1940 and it’s now 14.”

To give another example, take “addiction.” People who exhibit addictive behavior, say to alcohol or drugs, speak of addiction as a thing, floating around in the sky to descend upon hapless mortals. There is no such thing. Addiction is a label for a certain kind of behavior, not a thing.

The next time somebody says “climate change is causing this or that,” that’s reification, not science.

John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute. Reprinted with permission from the Ethan Allen Institute Blog.

Image courtesy of Public domain

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