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Saturday, January 12, 2008

Global warming: True or not?

Sen. James M. Inhofe once famously called global warming the "greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people." It's a deliciously concise phrase – so well said, in fact, that it demands repeating, because it is so sure of itself, and so wrong.

In the delirious tradition of American conspiracy theories (like that old farce, the Apollo 11 moon landing) Inhofe backs up categorical declarations with voluminous documentation.

Inhofe's latest claim is that "Over 400 prominent scientists from more than two dozen countries recently voiced significant objections to major aspects of the so-called 'consensus' on man-made global warming." It's a claim backed up by honest-to-goodness research, of the cut-and-paste kind.

Like any conspiracy theory, the sheer magnitude of the effort lends it a first-blush air of credibility. And, like any conspiracy theory, it just doesn't hold up under scrutiny.

But it takes a Hercules up to 12 labors-worth of boredom to prove it. Our Hercules is Mark V. Johnson, who works for AOL's Propeller.com. He endured 413 labors, one for each supposed expert on Inhofe's list, so you wouldn't have to.

He combed through university profiles, oil money think tank rosters, news stories and the now-robust literature of climate skeptic debunking. He couldn't identify every name, and we'll say at the outset that there may well be a handful of skeptics on this list with legitimate knowledge of climate science who question some aspect of the theory. It is, however, useful to remember that a theory, in science, is as good as gold (lest we start doubting something so incredible as the theory of gravity).

Here's a quick breakdown of Johnson's findings
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