David R. Henderson  

Los Angeles Times Distorts

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Los Angeles Times reporter Brian Bennett, in the first paragraph of a recent news story, writes:

Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, a GOP star and possible 2016 presidential contender, does not believe human activity is causing climate change, he said Sunday.

That statement of Bennett's is consistent with the headline of the story: Marco Rubio says human activity isn't causing climate change.

But then Bennett goes on to quote what Rubio actually said. Bennett writes:

"I do not believe that human activity is causing these dramatic changes to our climate the way these scientists are portraying it," Rubio said on ABC's "This Week."

Do you see the difference between Bennett's statement about Rubio's thoughts and Rubio's actual statement of his own thoughts? Bennett didn't. At least, that's the charitable interpretation. Rubio appears to be talking about extreme weather events. And Rubio is not alone. Even the latest IPCC Report expresses skepticism that there is much connection between greenhouse gases and recent extreme weather events.

In short, Brian Bennett, and the Los Angeles Times, distorted.

Bennett goes on to quote Rubio. Bennett writes:

"Our climate is always changing," Rubio said. "And what they have chosen to do is take a handful of decades of research and say that this is now evidence of a longer-term trend that's directly and almost solely attributable to manmade activities."

It's clear from context that Rubio doesn't agree. But the statement Bennett quotes allows for three possible things for Rubio to disagree with. Rubio could disagree that:
1. Some changes in the last few decades [neither Bennett nor Rubio specifies which, but it could be global warming] are evidence of a longer-term trend directly attributable to man's activities.
2. Some changes in the last few decades are evidence of a longer-term trend that is almost solely attributable to man's activities.
3. Assuming that the "this" in Rubio's statement is the extreme weather events referred to earlier, that these events are due directly or almost solely to man's activities.

In context, my money is on the third interpretation.

If the first possibility is the right interpretation of Rubio's statements, then Bennett's claim about Rubio's beliefs is correct.

If the second possibility is the right interpretation of Rubio's statements, then Bennett's claim about Rubio's beliefs is wrong.

If the third possibility is the right interpretation of Rubio's statements, then Bennett's claim about Rubio's beliefs is wrong.

Note, by the way, that even Jonathan Karl, in his interview with Rubio, rigs the debate by asking [at the 5:30 point] "Do you agree with the science on this?" as if "the science" is really clear. And this is just after ABC News has highlighted [at about the 5:20 point] Obama's shrill statement that climate change is already affecting us, something that, if Obama meant anthropogenic warming, is at odds with the IPCC report. Karl could have just as easily asked, except that he would probably not have had access, Obama "Do you agree with the science on this?"

HT to Tom Lee.


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COMMENTS (12 to date)
Josiah writes:

Your third interpretation doesn't work because Rubio claims that he is disagreeing with what scientists say, whereas as you point out, the IPCC etc. don't claim that current extreme weather events are the result of climate change.

Jeff writes:

Not surprising. This is how the consent is manufactured.

Steve writes:

Rubio says "dramatic changes to our climate" and you interpret that as "extreme weather events." Given how often both sides emphasize the difference between weather and climate, How do you justify your interpretation?

Andrew_FL writes:

@Steve-Because a change of about a whole Kelvin over a period of 150 years in the mean temperature of the air near the surface of the whole Earth is not "dramatic" under any reasonable definition of the word "dramatic."

But under the definition of "climate change" meaning "bad weather" (not increasing bad weather, just, bad weather) the adjective "dramatic" makes sense...even if the term "change" does not.

David R. Henderson writes:

@Steve,
Andrew_FL answered your question well.

Tom Lee writes:

Great post, David, thanks!

Charlie writes:

It seems silly to discuss what Rubio "believes" as if an interview would tell you. What we 're really talking about is what public position he will take.

In fairness to the LA Times interpretation Rubio is responding directly to a question about global warming as caused by CO2 produced by human activity.

"KARL: But let me get this straight, you do not think that human activity, its production of CO2, has caused warming to our planet.

RUBIO: I do not believe that human activity is causing these dramatic changes to our climate the way these scientists are portraying it. That's what I do not -- and I do not believe that the laws that they propose we pass will do anything about it. Except it will destroy our economy."

That said, I think he probably doesn't want to take a position on global warming yet and just botched the response. I think he's trying to pivot back to his talking point, which appears to be not believing humans are causing extreme weather events. Still, he botched it, and it was in response to a very direct question. I am not sure the LA Times has a duty to fix the ambiguity or try to read between the lines.

Of course, if Rubio wanted us to know his position, he could just put it on his website.

Charlie writes:

Also, it's a little surprising that you would omit Karl's question. That is the biggest evidence in favor of the times' interpretation. I think omitting it distorts the exchange in a way that is unfair to the Times. I'm curious why you disagree.

MikeP writes:

In fairness to the LA Times interpretation Rubio is responding directly to a question about global warming as caused by CO2 produced by human activity.

The amount of the interview you quoted is very misleading. I'm usually annoyed by arguments of parsing, but your comment caused me to watch the segment.

Rubio is clearly responding to the set up of the conversation, which is the Obama Administration's alarmist report that claims that dramatic events observable today are attributable to climate change. And, frankly, the way ABC cut and framed the question with the over-narration and the Obama soundbite, we have no clue whatsoever exactly what was said by the reporter to Rubio about what those claims are.

What is obvious is that the certainty implied by the Times article...

Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, a GOP star and possible 2016 presidential contender, does not believe human activity is causing climate change, he said Sunday.

...is completely unsupported by what we saw in the ABC segment.

It depends on what the meaning of the word "is" is. It's not a small distinction. For instance, I believe in anthropogenic global warming. But I do not believe there is enough evidence of effects today -- i.e., "dramatic changes to our climate" -- that can be attributed to such warming. The reporter and at least one editor for the Times seem incapable of grasping that distinction. Of course, neither does anyone involved with the ABC segment either.

Josiah writes:

Good discussion.

For what it's worth, this isn't the first time that Rubio has questioned whether human activity was causing climate change. Here is a previous example.

Charlie writes:

"The amount of the interview you quoted is very misleading."

I find this statement pretty ridiculous, since the part of the interview you accuse me of omitting (the lead up question) is, in fact, already in David's post. The exchange goes: Q -> A -> Q -> A, and I pointed out David discussed everything but the middle Q, which is pretty important to the LA Times' interpretation. If you have a problem with the way the first question was parsed, then you have a problem with DH's post, not my comment.

"The reporter and at least one editor for the Times seem incapable of grasping that distinction. Of course, neither does anyone involved with the ABC segment either."

Again, pretty ridiculous to criticize the ABC segment. The interviewer asks a crystal clear follow up question to clarify Rubio's view. Our alternative interpretation of Rubio's all rest on our view that Rubio was probably trying not to answer the follow up question and deliberately obfuscating his own view.:

How could this follow up be clearer?

"But let me get this straight, you do not think that human activity, its production of CO2, has caused warming to our planet."

MikeP writes:

Our alternative interpretation of Rubio's all rest on our view that Rubio was probably trying not to answer the follow up question and deliberately obfuscating his own view.

Rubio's a politician. A large part of his job is not answering questions he doesn't want to answer.

Bennett is a reporter. A large part of his job is reporting only known facts. Rubio did not answer "yes" or "no" to the last question: he answered a different question. No one, especially a reporter, should act like he answered the last question.

Again, pretty ridiculous to criticize the ABC segment.

You're right. My mistake. I watched the segment again. The ABC voiceover did not imply that Rubio answered the last question in the affirmative -- only that Rubio thinks conservative voters will like the answer to the question.

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