Questionable Science On James Taranto's 'Best of the Web'


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James Taranto, the extreme right-wing Wall Street Journal pundit responsible for the 'Best of the Web' column has a knack for being selective in his commentary if it helps him score quick points with his conservative readers. In an attack yesterday on Al Gore, Taranto made a significant slip-up in his rush to smear Gore's reputation.

In his column, Taranto reproduced this Gore quote:

Consider this tale of two planets. Earth and Venus are almost exactly the same size, and have almost exactly the same amount of carbon. The difference is that most of the carbon on Earth is in the ground--having been deposited there by various forms of life over the last 600 million years--and most of the carbon on Venus is in the atmosphere.

As a result, while the average temperature on Earth is a pleasant 59 degrees, the average temperature on Venus is 867 degrees. True, Venus is closer to the Sun than we are, but the fault is not in our star; Venus is three times hotter on average than Mercury, which is right next to the Sun. It's the carbon dioxide.

Gore was attempting to refute the notion that has become wildly popular amongst Global Warming apologists: Rises in temperature are due to cycles of the sun, and temperatures are rising on all planets in the solar system.

Taranto's disingenuous response:

Can you trust Al Gore's scientific claims in support of global warmism?

[T]he atmosphere on Mars is 95% carbon dioxide, just shy of Venus's 96%. (The Earth's atmosphere, by contrast, is less than 0.04% CO2.) Average temperature on Mars? Eighty-one below zero.

What did James "half-truth" Taranto leave out? Well, how about the fact that Mars has almost no atmosphere compared to Earth and Venus?

Mars may have the same percentage of CO2 as Venus, but that's about all it has. Compared to Earth, Mars has 1/100th the particles in the atmosphere and Earth has 1/90th the particles of Venus. That gives Mars an atmospheric density of 1/9000th that of Venus. The fact that both have about the same fraction of CO2 is a truly selective way to view the problem. Mars' atmosphere simply lacks the particle density to hold the heat that Venus can.


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