Hondo Arendt writes the Northern View about columnist Tom Fletcher. (File photo)

LETTER: Anyone can cherry-pick data to make a point

Hondo Arendt responds to columnist Tom Fletcher’s take on climate change

Editor:

A few weeks ago there was a letter to the editor which asked the question: “Where does Tom Fletcher get his data?” Tom, of course, is the person who writes [a column] that [appears] in the Northern View.

Tom frequently writes about how climate change is a myth. In his editorials he usually starts by explaining that someone has suggested that some event (for example, a forest fire or a hurricane) is likely a sign of climate change. He argues that it is stupid to infer that climate change is real from a single example. He then produces some counter-example and ends by smugly congratulating himself for proving that climate change is a myth based on his single counter-example.

Since Tom will never actually answer the question (where does he get his data?), I will try to help out.

READ MORE: Fletcher on Polluting the climate change debate

For the most part, Tom says true facts – after all, anyone can cherry-pick data to make a point. It is true that he often presents his facts in a pretty deceptive manner. For example, in July Tom wanted badly to prove that this was just a normal forest fire season. He stated that the number of fires in B.C. this year were pretty much the same as last year (up to that point), ignoring the fact that the same number of fires in 2017 had burnt almost four times as much territory. More recently, he pointed out that a NOAA report said that they can’t yet fully conclude that climate change is causing increasing numbers of hurricanes in the Atlantic. He didn’t mention that the report actually (a) came out before this year’s hurricane system and (b) came out three weeks after Donald Trump replaced the government minister overseeing the NOAA with Wilbur Ross, a multibillionaire who gained much of his wealth in the coal industry. Wilber Ross is famous for praising Trump as the “Environmentalist President,” and was also put in charge of withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris Climate Accord.

READ MORE: Fletcher on Myths of our marine environment

However, if Tom can’t find a handy fact or present only a portion of the truth, he will often simply make things up (“Not a single hurricane hit North America last year,” “Coming off the coldest winter in recorded history for much of B.C.”). One recent doozy was that there have been “zero hurricanes since Katrina.” There have, of course, been literally hundreds of hurricanes just in the North Atlantic basin alone over those years.

Perhaps Tom isn’t actually lying, but just isn’t paying attention. He recently attacked the new Al Gore documentary “An Inconvenient Sequel”, arguing that it was foolish to make a sequel because predictions from the original documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” haven’t happened. He specifically pointed out how Antarctic ice sheets aren’t breaking up which seemed like an odd thing to claim just weeks after piece the size of Prince Edward Island broke off the Larson Ice Sheet.

But instead of asking “Where does Tom get his data?” a better question might be “Why is a small city paper – which usually specializes in local issues only – constantly filling up space with climate change conspiracy rants by a someone who is so out of touch with the accepted facts and attitudes of society that he comes across like a 1960s Mississippi mayor desperately proclaiming that his wildly outdated beliefs are still true?”

Hondo Arendt

Prince Rupert, B.C.

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