Alas, a favorite climate change denial trope is on its deathbed. Specifically, the zombie lie that modern polar ice sheets formed during a period of rising carbon dioxide. New analysis of CO2 levels from the time, about 33 million years ago, show the greenhouse gas dropping sharply and the ice caps forming right along side:
Scientists investigated alkenones — tough organic compounds only produced by certain types of algae — to find the carbon dioxide signatures of this period. These photosynthetic organisms would have used carbon dioxide that entered the water from the air, so looking at the chemical makeup of ancient deposits of alkenones can give an idea of what levels of the gas were like in the past.
These researchers committed an act of science by meticulously examining ratios of carbon isotopes in algal remains and working backwards to what concentrations of CO2 in the ancient air at the time would have had to be. Textbook, investigative science published in a peer-reviewed journal, the kind of work that could make a career. Aww, but this is the science pf paleo-climatology, marked for demolition by the energy industry and their GOP puppets as surely as an accused witch awaiting trial in a 17th century prison.
Imagine if we applied the reasoning and tactics used by the denial industry to any other disaster. Defense industry scientists genetically engineer a new strain of deadly influenza. The bug is accidentally released into the environment, an epidemic of virulent flu sweeps the planet with an epicenter at the point of release. Wingnut shill after wingnut shill goes on Fox News and announces “Scientists themselves aren’t sure what caused it, and besides, epidemics have been happening since history began.” Or a massive forest fire rips through a national park. Forest rangers find the ash footprint points back to a blackened ruin of an RV parked too near a drunken bonfire. Kochwhore after Kochwhore decrees that forest fires are ‘perfectly natural, they’ve been happening for millennia without the help of mankind … and isn’t it just as possible the rangers are exaggerating the severity of the fire? As part of a vast conspiracy with rogue wild-fire fighters to secure their sweet government jobs? Look! Here’s a hacked email where one fire-fighter writes to another, “Think of it as job security,” so that proves it!’
That’s what climate scientists face these days. In this case its Mark Pagini and Matt Huber, who I’m told by expert sources are among the best in their fields, but it could be anyone. If these results hold up, anyone involved in the initial or subsequent research may pay for their respective acts of science with harassment and demonization for the rest of their professional lives, thanks to legions of ignorant know-nothings commandeered by an elite squad of well-paid rhetorical hitmen.