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The experts agree; if you don’t, shut up

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By Debra J. Saunders
Published:
It is a happy conceit in the climate change community that true believers are sophisticated, fact-based practitioners of science and that skeptics essentially are a bunch of superstitious nitwits who refuse to respect the — all bow — climate change consensus.
If that were true, you would expect the science-loving know-it-alls to welcome opportunities to challenge the arguments of “deniers” of global warming. To the contrary, climate change groups have been engaging in a spirited battle to muzzle dissenters and pressure news organizations not to publish skeptical opinion.
Last week, Charles Krauthammer, a physician by training, wrote a column that took on what he called the myth of “settled science” on climate change. Krauthammer observed that the consensus can be wrong — as a new study that rebuts the efficacy of annual mammograms suggests. He pointed out the weaknesses of climate models, referred to the “pause” in the rise of surface temperature over the past 15 years and then compared climate change Cassandras to religious zealots.
Critics were free to rebut Krauthammer point by point. Alas, some preferred to respond without content or argument. Under the hashtag “Don’tPublishLies,” Hill Heat Editor Brad Johnson joined a campaign to pressure The Washington Post not to run the Krauthammer column. He later boasted that 110,000 people had joined his censorship crusade.
The muzzle-the-critics corner has friends in the media, too. Last year, the Los Angeles Times revealed it won’t print letters that deny a human cause to global warming.
On Sunday, Brian Stelter of CNN’s “Reliable Sources” contended that “some stories don’t have two sides.” There’s no need to present climate change dissenters, he argued, because “between 95 percent and 97 percent of scientists agree that climate change is happening now, that it’s damaging the planet and that it’s man-made.”
That’s one of those factoids that warming believers love to repeat. Apparently, it is an amalgam of two statistics. A 2013 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report found a 95 percent certainty that humans are the cause of global warming. A 2013 British study of peer-reviewed papers found that of the 33 percent of papers that had taken a position on global warming, 97 percent endorsed the “consensus” position.
That is hardly a surprise. True believers have been hounding dissenters out of the climate community for years. I’ve written about skeptical state climatologists who were stripped of their titles. Former Delaware climatologist David Legates once told me he warned students to keep their mouths shut if they had doubts about global warming. The grant money goes to the believers. Hal Lewis, professor emeritus of physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara, resigned from the American Physical Society to protest “global warming corruption.”
It makes you wonder: If climate change alarmists are so thoughtful and smart and fact-based, why do they deny the existence of serious critics?
The choice, after all, has them peddling an odd scientific proposition: The experts all agree, and they’re always right.
Email Debra J. Saunders at dsaunders@sfchronicle.com.

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