Rubio Right, PolitiFact Florida Wrong on Climate Statement

PolitiFact Florida failed to get basic climate facts right in a “fact check” on a Marco Rubio statement that humans are not causing dramatic harmful climate change. In giving Rubio’s true – or at worst uncertain – statement a “False” ruling, PolitiFact Florida’s liberal bias and scientific ignorance rate a “Pants on Fire.”

Earlier this week, Rubio responded to a controversial Obama administration report on global warming by telling ABC News, “I do not believe human activity is causing these dramatic changes to our climate the way these scientists are portraying it.” PolitiFact Florida, an arm of the liberal Tampa Bay Times, decided to fact-check the statement.

As an initial matter, PolitiFact Florida deviated from its own mission in fact-checking Rubio’s statement. The supposed purpose of PolitiFact is to inform people about which politicians are prone to being truthful and which politicians are prone to telling lies. It does not claim to be an assessor of a politician’s judgment, but rather of his or her truthfulness. Rubio simply stated his judgment on the scientific evidence. Unless PolitiFact Florida secretly owns the world’s first mind-reading machine, it cannot render a ruling on whether Rubio is being honest or dishonest in stating he does not agree with an Obama administration assertion about global warming. PolitiFact Florida claims it “fact checks” a politician’s honesty, not his or her judgment.

Regardless, PolitiFact Florida is flat-out wrong regarding its scientific assertions. PolitiFact Florida justified its “False” ruling by claiming, “A May 2013 report analyzing all scientific papers that address the causes of climate change showed 97.1 percent of scientists agree that there’s been a negative human impact on the atmosphere.”

Objective observers have pointed out many flaws in the study referenced by PolitiFact Florida. For example, the findings were based on the authors’ subjective interpretation of scientific papers, yet the authors had little climate science education and were well-known global warming activists. The subjective opinions of global warming activists with little climate science education are hardly objective and compelling science. This is especially the case when many of the authors of the scientific papers assessed in the PolitiFact Florida-cited study say the PolitiFact Florida study misrepresented and misclassified their papers.

Nevertheless, even taking the study at face value, the study does not remotely claim what PolitiFact Florida says the study claims. The global warming activists simply reported that in their judgment, 97.1% of the papers they examined did not dispute that humans have caused some global warming. However, virtually all prominent skeptics in the global warming debate acknowledge that humans have contributed at least a portion of the global warming that occurred during the last century. The global warming debate centers around many factors, including the proportion of human vs. natural warming; the modest pace of recent warming; the context of current temperatures relative to warmer periods when human civilization also thrived; and determining whether a colder climate or a warmer climate is beneficial to humans, and to what extent it is harmful or beneficial.

Importantly, many of the papers assigned to the 97.1% category in PolitiFact Florida’s cited study were written by climate scientists who agree with Rubio that human activity is not causing dramatic, negative changes to the Earth’s climate. Many of the papers explicitly or implicitly acknowledge that humans may be causing some global warming, and then report that global warming’s impact on human welfare, weather events and ecosystems is marginal or even beneficial.

Ignoring the basic inquiry of the study, PolitiFact Florida falsely asserts that when a scientist merely acknowledges that humans may have caused a portion of recent global warming, that scientist is necessarily reporting that humans are causing dramatic negative climate changes. Common sense and the explicit text of the papers examined in the study say otherwise.

PolitiFact Florida claimed, “Not only is Rubio incorrect, but he’s ignoring a mountain of concrete, scientific research. We rate his claim False.” In reality, not only is PolitiFact Florida incorrect, but it is ignoring a mountain of concrete, scientific research. Exhibiting its longstanding liberal bias and/or its rank scientific ignorance, PolitiFact Florida earns a resounding “Pants on Fire.”