Open Mind

What We’re Up Against

April 24, 2007 · 49 Comments

A lot of people have spread a lot of misinformation about global warming. Some of it is deliberately deceptive, as illustrated in my last post. Some of it is so ridiculous, it’s hard to fathom how people can believe such things.

Here, for example, is the text of a letter to the editor printed in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on April 16 of this year.

You may have noticed that March of this year was particularly hot. As a matter of fact, I understand that it was the hottest March since the beginning of the last century. All of the trees were fully leafed out and legions of bugs and snakes were crawling around during a time in Arkansas when, on a normal year, we might see a snowflake or two. This should come as no surprise to any reasonable person. As you know, Daylight Saving Time started almost a month early this year. You would think that members of Congress would have considered the warming effect that an extra hour of daylight would have on our climate. Or did they ?

Perhaps this is another plot by a liberal Congress to make us believe that global warming is a real threat. Perhaps next time there should be serious studies performed before Congress passes laws with such far-reaching effects.


The person who notified me about this is one of the most reliable I’ve ever known. But it’s so unbelievable, I had to investigate for myself. The web page he referred to also includes a scanned image of the newspaper itself:


It’s starting to look like a legitimate letter published in a real newspaper. Still, I wanted to be sure. Some online searching turned up a website which archives news stories from Arkansas papers, and lo and behold, here is their archive of the letter itself. Apparently the letter-writer, Connie Meskimen, is a lawyer (!) in Arkansas.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Categories: Global Warming · climate change

49 responses so far ↓

  • plum // April 24, 2007 at 4:31 pm

    I thought I was a bit of a connoisseur of global warming denial, but this one is hands down the best example I have ever seen. Congratulations! I love how the typo in the headline so elegantly completes the circle of battiness.

  • Global warming lets loose a river in Egypt « memorypocket // April 24, 2007 at 4:37 pm

    [...] warming lets loose a river in Egypt 25 04 2007 Great example of global warming denial found by Open Mind. I’ve pretty much got to the point where I think open scorn and derision [...]

  • fermiparadox // April 24, 2007 at 4:40 pm

    I am still not sure if this is satire, but just like a lot of right wing talk it is sometimes hard to tell. I originally found it here.

  • George // April 24, 2007 at 5:21 pm

    Part of the problem is that there is no downside for non-scientists making incorrect statements (whether wittingly or unwittingly) about science. The people making the statements are not held accountable in the least.

    If a lawyer were to make an idiotic statement about most other things (besides science) in an editorial, they wold probably be taken to task — and perhaps even lose credibility.

    This fact tends to make people careful when it comes to publicly commenting about most things with a right and wrong answer (other than science) — knowing that their statements may be scrutinized and that they may be taken to task for making them.

    On the other hand, when lawyers and other non-scientists make statements about science that are just as idiotic (and just as false), they are essentially given a pass.

    If the idiocy of her statement is pointed out by someone else (in a subsequent letter, for example), most people (who know no science) will either conclude that it is a “she said/he said” situation with no right answer or that it “makes no difference if a lawyer is wrong about science”.

  • Peaseblossom // April 24, 2007 at 5:42 pm



    That takes a special level of “speshul” right there.

  • The Daily Spatial » Such indignation! // April 24, 2007 at 6:16 pm

    [...] is from an apparently genuine letter in the April 16 Arkansas Democrat-Gazette: You may have noticed that March of this year was [...]

  • nanny_govt_sucks // April 24, 2007 at 6:56 pm

    You would think that members of Congress would have considered the warming effect that an extra hour of daylight would have on our climate. Or did they ?


    Obviously this is a joke that you just didn’t get. The fact that people would take it seriously certainly adds to the humor.

    Unfortunately, I don’t think Sheryl Crow is joking when she says:

    “I propose a limitation to be put on how many squares of toilet paper can be used in any one sitting. I think we are
    industrious enough people to make it work with only one square per restroom visit, except, of course, on those pesky occasions where two to three could be required.”

  • Bob // April 24, 2007 at 7:20 pm

    nanny_govt_sucks - can you please prove that this was in fact a joke? I don’t naturally assume editorial letters in reputable newspapers are jokes - thus the misunderstanding.


  • tamino // April 24, 2007 at 7:27 pm

    Obviously this is a joke that you just didn’t get.

    I seriously doubt that it’s a joke. When I searched the website for “Meskimen,” the results gave me the ipression that Meskimen is a serial letter-to-the-editor writer. And however foolish I think people can be, they regularly exceed even the worst of expectations.

    I don’t think Sheryl Crow’s suggestion is a joke either. I think they’re both examples of — well, there’s no polite word for it.

    And they’re both examples of what we’re up against. The level of critical thinking about global warming among those who are not climate scientists is abysmal. Yet we continue to hear folks like Martin Durkin, Connie Meskimen, and yes, Sheryl Crow, opine about climate science and/or what we should do about it. It’s this lack of critical thinking and objectivity that leads booogiemann to see Al Gore’s documentary as a pack of lies while praising Durkin’s as “… very informative even if it is flawed in some ways.”

    Perhaps the most revealing article I’ve seen about applying some common sense to global warming, was when RealClimate did a post not too long ago, during the extraordinarily warm December-January, cautioning readers that the extreme heat could not be taken as proof of global warming. They made it clear that “anything less than an entire season is just weather,” and that even an entire season wasn’t indicative of a genuine trend. The blogosphere’s most effective advocates of global warming science, climate scientists themselves, were warning their own supporters not to accept invalid evidence uncritically.

    That’s why I don’t take Al Gore’s word for it, or Durkin’s, or Meskimen’s, or Crow’s, or even the actual climate scientists at RealClimate. I go looking for the data and analyze it myself. My opinion: Gore did a damn fine (but not perfect) job of presenting the truth, Durkin is worse than worthless, Meskimen and Crow have nothing worthwhile to add to the discussion, and the good folks who run RealClimate haven’t steered me wrong yet.

  • You Decide: Remarkably Stupid or Satire : Atmoz // April 24, 2007 at 7:44 pm

    [...] Open Mind: What We’re Up Against. You may have noticed that March of this year was particularly hot. As a matter of fact, I [...]

  • N. Johnson // April 24, 2007 at 7:49 pm

    “I don’t think Sheryl Crow’s suggestion is a joke either. I think they’re both examples of — well, there’s no polite word for it.”

    A bull’s number two.

  • Fielding Mellish // April 24, 2007 at 8:22 pm

    That’s either the wittiest thing I’ve seen in a newspaper for quite awhile or the most pathetic thing I’ve seen in a week or so. It reminds me of a letter/series of letters purportedly to/from the Smithsonian regarding the prehistoric or extraterrestrial nature of household items a would-be donor dug up in his back yard. I don’t want to convict without proof, but I’ve been hardened some by the begat-begat-be-6000-year- old- earth crowd. It’ll be interesting to see if the wingnuts propagate the letter as fact.

  • paul smatatoes // April 24, 2007 at 9:50 pm

    fyi, sheryl crow was joking.

  • inel // April 24, 2007 at 10:12 pm

    Er, this is the first time I have agreed with ngs on anything, so watch out! But even before I read what he/she said, I have to admit that letter reads like a hoax to me. In fact, it looks like something straight out of Private Eye. I mean, Connie (to start with) and a surname that is shared by the guy who does JibJab and appliedsilliness.

    When I went looking for March snow in Hot Springs, Arkansas, and snakes that crawl, I came across this, which preceded Connie’s letter by several weeks.

  • Peaseblossom // April 24, 2007 at 10:15 pm

    Wasn’t it Gallagher who said that he even uses two squares for a booger?

  • inel // April 24, 2007 at 10:34 pm

    P.S. Private Eye example.

  • tamino // April 24, 2007 at 10:55 pm

    My curiosity piqued, I did a little more net searching. Connie M. Meskimen is the real name of an attorney practicing in Arkansas. The purveyor of JibJab and appliedsilliness identifies himself as Jim Meskimen, and is in the 818 area code, just north of Los Angeles. There appears to be no connection between the two.

    Apparently a large number of blogs picked up on the letter. One went so far as to post a lengthy treatise on the earth’s rotation, complete with nicely done illustrations, in order to prove that daylight saving time doesn’t really affect global warming.

    Most of the blog posts express the opinion that the letter is in earnest, and therefore indicative of an unintelligent public. Comments to said blog posts are split about 60/40, most opining that the letter is for real, but a sizeable fraction considering it to be a hoax.

    A number of people wrote subsequent letters to the editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette complaining of the ridiculous nature of Meskimen’s letter; I found no indication that the newspaper has said anything about it (other than printing letters from readers).

  • It's a vast government conspiracy! « I am the Lizard Queen! // April 24, 2007 at 11:11 pm

    [...] [h/t to Gristmill; you can see the actual newspaper clipping here] [...]

  • George // April 24, 2007 at 11:25 pm

    Some of us are all too familiar with the sad state of science literacy among the general populace in this country, having dealt with people who are as (or even more) clueless than the writer of the letter (assuming it was not a joke).

    Sadly, that’s also why some of us are willing to entertain the possibility that it may be real.

    I’d say the key question about the letter is not whether it was a joke, but whether anyone challenged the it (eg, by writing a rebuttal letter to the editor).

    Presumably one could determine that by searching the paper’s archives.

  • inel // April 24, 2007 at 11:30 pm

    Hi tamino,

    Yes, I know Connie M. Meskimen is the name of a real attorney in Hot Springs. I agree with you that there need be no connection between the two Meskimens. It is just amusing.

    Funnily enough, I share my real name with a comedian too. There is nothing to prevent my comedian namesake writing into a newspaper using my real name and the letter would be authentic, though it would not be from me!

    In this case, we do not even know whether the letter was written by the person whose name is on it. The best hoaxes are often like this.

    All I can say is that I would not want this letter-writer as my attorney ;-)

  • nessasarie // April 25, 2007 at 12:11 am

    I have to chuckle anytime I hear anything claiming “liberals” are fabricating the idea of “global warming as a real threat.” I mean come on, isn’t it comical at this point? Practically the entire world considers it the biggest global issue at hand and is acting accordingly- except the United States, the biggest offender. It’s too late to blame it on the liberals… the gig is up, and it’s time to stop pointing fingers - and start holding hands.

  • D // April 25, 2007 at 12:47 am

    I’m not a scientist. I’d never think to claim I’m even close to having a scientific mind. But I think I understand the concept of scientific rigor. I know enough to know that I do not even approach the level of study and knowledge it requires to legitimately call myself a “scientist.”

    But I think I’ve figured out why every loon on the street thinks he or she can argue on a scientific level.

    It’s easy to become a minister or church leader — all you have to do is send away for a plaque saying you know The Mind of God inside and out.

    The people who set themselves up as experts in imaginary giant invisible sky apes — and becoming a voice of said imaginary spirit for $5.00 and postage — are the same people who think they can fully understand and argue scientific theory or proofs.


  • tamino // April 25, 2007 at 12:59 am

    I doubt that the letter-writer was anyone other than the Connie M. Meskimen who resides in Arkansas. Newspapers usually confirm the authorship before printing letters.; when my letters are published, I invariably get a phone call from the editor beforehand, confirming that the letter is genuine.

  • ks // April 25, 2007 at 4:28 am

    Earlier today a contrarian tried to use Sheryl Crow’s statement in what I presume was a guilty by association attack. I couldn’t believe that she would actually be that stupid to suggest it, so I wanted to find a credible source for the quote (they linked a crappy blog which cited another crappy blog) and found

    The author of that article speculates a reference to a Seinfeld episode.

  • What We're Up Against « Open Mind « Catnippet // April 25, 2007 at 5:05 am

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  • biffvernon // April 25, 2007 at 7:28 am

    Who said Americans don’t do irony?

  • Michael Tobis // April 25, 2007 at 3:31 pm

    While I am more inclined to think it a clever joke than the foolishness it appears, I don’t think that matters very much.

    What makes this more important than a joke is that the newspaper printed it.

  • djangone // April 25, 2007 at 3:34 pm

    It’s only with a mean spirit and insular perspective that one would criticize Sheryl Crow in the same sentence as Martin Durkin. First of all, she was joking about the tp. Second, she’s doing good by raising awareness. I don’t think she claims to be a climate scientist, but she does claim a very large, important place in the effort to get good things done.

  • George // April 25, 2007 at 4:15 pm

    Michael Tobis said: “What makes this more important than a joke is that the newspaper printed it.”

    That reminds me of a nonsensical op/ed that I once read in the Boston Globe (just one of many that I have read over the years)

    On this particular occasion, the article was so bad that I wrote to the ombudsman questioning the “facts” in the article and the ombudsman wrote back “We do not have the resources to check facts in Op/Eds”.

    I suspected as much, but it was nonetheless a bit of a surprise to hear it directly from a newspaper official.

    If a newspaper like the Boston Globe is not willing to allocate resources to check facts in Op/Eds, I somehow doubt that a smaller newspaper would allocate resources for checking facts in letters to the editor.

    Apparently, it’s too much to ask a newspaper to check facts these days.

    Sometimes, newspapers don’t even check the spelling! (though the word “:warning” in the title above could be a play on words, since it looks like “warming” if you skim it)

  • George // April 25, 2007 at 4:44 pm

    djangone said: “It’s only with a mean spirit and insular perspective that one would criticize Sheryl Crow in the same sentence as Martin Durkin.”

    By George, you’ve got it!

    “The lurkin by Durkin is no longer workin’ “

  • hazardouswords // April 25, 2007 at 8:08 pm

    Wow. That is amazing. Hard to imagine that it is true.

  • fermiparadox // April 26, 2007 at 12:51 am

    Now snopes has an article. They say it is sarcasm.

  • Outsmarted « Fermi Paradox // April 26, 2007 at 1:26 am

    [...] Jump to Comments This made the rounds around the blogs, see for example here, here and here. A letter to the editor printed in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on April 16 of this [...]

  • nanny_govt_sucks // April 26, 2007 at 1:35 am

    So Crow’s remark WAS a joke. Amazing. Why would she mock her own cause like that?

  • djangone // April 26, 2007 at 3:12 am

    Good lord, n_g_s. In tens of thousands of public words on the subject, anyone with a mature perspective and healthy sense of humor will occasionally, in the odd moment, indulge in mock-heroism and self-deprecation. The bigger question is, why would anyone pick her comment up and try to flack it around knowing it was a joke? Oh yeah, see the title of this thread.

  • inel // April 26, 2007 at 12:25 pm

    I think I shall quote myself:

    It is just amusing.

    You can see how I interpret the letter here.

    I still think Mr. Meskimen of Hot Springs should start his own website or magazine à la Private Eye. With his name and location, he already has a head start on the rest of us ;-)

    (His humor is wasted in a local rag, except when it goes global as in this case.)

  • Peaseblossom // April 26, 2007 at 4:49 pm

    Thank FSM the letter was written as a joke. The scary thing, though, is that we weren’t sure because there really are lots of people who are that level of “speshul”.

    N_G_S? Relax. Maybe step away from the Net a while. It seems that you often post for no purpose other than to try and pick a fight. I can’t speak for anyone else here, but in my opinion it’s getting kind of old.

  • George // April 26, 2007 at 6:52 pm

    The funniest part about this whole thing (if we are to believe the article linked to by fermiparadox above) is the fact that Meskimen has gotten some phone calls from people wanting to explain daylight saving time and/or global warming to her.

    Enough people called that she actually put a message on her answering machine telling people that if they were calling in response to the letter, they should, as she put it “get a life”.

    Who was the joke on again?

  • John L. McCormick // April 27, 2007 at 2:32 pm

    Ms. Meskimen reminds me of the grade school student who wrote his Congressman pleading that he do something to stop the killing of the ‘euthanasia’. It happens.

    Now, we hear a recognized Thai scientist joining the denialists Hall of Shame:

    I did not make this up.. It appeared in the Bangkok Post on Monday:

    Expert predicts no local rise in sea

    (dpa) Global warming is not likely to cause the sea level in the Gulf of Thailand to rise because the body of water is too far from melting glaciers, a leading Thai hydrologist claimed on Monday.

    Recent forecasts by the United Nations’ Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) - which predict a 40 centimetre rise in sea levels by the end of the century will cause flooding for up to 94 million Asians living in coastal areas - may not apply to the Gulf of Thailand, according to Suphat Vongvisessomjai, a former professor in water resources engineering at Bangkok’s Asia Institute of Technology.

    “The climate change panel’s projection was wrongly accepted to apply to the Gulf of Thailand,” Suphat told The Nation newspaper. “We are too far from melting glaciers or ice sheets.”

    Suphat added that, in fact, recent research shows that the average sea levels along some coastal provinces on the gulf have declined 0.3 to 0.6 centimetres over the past eight years.

    The hydrologist, now an employee of Team Consulting Engineering, called on the public not to panic over the IPCC findings.

    “The climate change panel did not deceive us or exaggerate. Its scientific findings are just based on the environment of their scientists, most of who live in Europe,” he told the English-language daily.

  • nanny_govt_sucks // April 27, 2007 at 4:29 pm

    John, I don’t think anyone is saying that sea level will rise uniformly in a warming scenario. Perhaps the professor knows a little something more about ocean dynamics than the average bear.

  • tamino // April 27, 2007 at 4:51 pm

    The Thai researcher’s statements were posted in a comment on RealClimate. A later comment mentioned his credentials, and pointed out that “local” sea level depends not only on the level of the sea, but on the level of the land — which also changes in ways that vary from place to place.

    But the comment still seems to me to be not only wrong but idiotic; it’s the comment that “We are too far from melting glaciers or ice sheets.” If he had said that isostatic rebound or continental uplift would protect Thailand from sea level rise, that’s one thing. But being too far from glaciers or ice sheets, seems utterly foolish.

  • Hank Roberts // April 28, 2007 at 12:50 am

    Maybe if we subtracted the extra Daylight Savings days from the date that letter was written, we’d find it was actually written on April 1 after all.

  • Dennis // April 28, 2007 at 1:14 pm

    Here’s a story to perhaps put all the stories and misinformation in perspective. It’s what I think of as a big-picture sort of view that gives perspective:

  • ks // April 28, 2007 at 2:48 pm

    I personally do not find it comforting that sea levels may not rise in Thailand. I live on the other side of the globe as do most of the people reading this blog. Even if it were true, it would be inconsequential to us, sea levels are still expected to rise in our neck of the woods.

  • george // April 29, 2007 at 2:44 am

    I would have to agree that the “We are too far from melting glaciers or ice sheets” comment is just stupid, whatever way you interpret it.

    But quite apart from that, the latest IPCC report effectively leaves out from their sea level rise estimate the possible effect of disintegrating ice sheets (eg, Greenland and West Antarctic Ice sheets) on sea level rise.

    If such disintegration were to occur, it would lead to multi-meter sea level rise which would affect Thailand quite drastically (though the time frame over which that would occur is uncertain).

    In fact, a 2 meter sea level rise would put Bangkok, (one of the largest cities in the world and Thailand’s Capitol and economic center, accounting for almost half of Thailand’s GDP) under water

    While some think that a disintegration of the large ice sheets that would lead to such multimeter rises in sea level would take something on the order of a millenium to occur (based on an assumption of linear melting), others are not so sure.

    NASA’s James Hansen is one of the scientists who believe that the latest IPCC estimate for sea level rise this century could be a large underestimate if the great ice sheets undergo nonlinear disintegration (as some recent studies seem to show they are doing already)

    According to Hansen:
    “this [IPCC] approach cannot be taken as a realistic
    way of projecting likely sea level rise under BAU forcing. “The linear approximation fits the past sea level change well for the past century only because the two terms contributing significantly to sea level rise were (1) thermal expansion of ocean water and (2) melting of alpine glaciers.”

    “Under BAU forcing in the 21st century, sea level rise undoubtedly will be dominated by a third
    term (3) ice sheet disintegration. This third term was small until the past few years, but it is has at least
    doubled in the past decade and is now close to 1 mm/year, based on gravity satellite measurements
    discussed above. As a quantitative example, let us say that the ice sheet contribution is 1 cm for the
    decade 2005-2015 and that it doubles each decade until the West Antarctic ice sheet is largely depleted.
    That time constant yields sea level rise of the order of 5 m this century. Of course I can not prove that my
    choice of a 10 year doubling time for non-linear response is accurate, but I am confident that it provides a far better estimate than a linear response for the ice sheet component of sea level rise.
    An important point is that the non-linear response could easily run out of control, because of
    positive feedbacks and system inertias.”

  • jcrue // April 30, 2007 at 7:23 pm

  • Steve Bloom // May 1, 2007 at 6:37 am

    This is a bit of a two-fer in the “What we’re up against” category.

  • the Grit // May 1, 2007 at 8:05 pm

    Hi tamino,

    Why so surprised? Don’t you know that sixty something percent of the American population believes in astrology, or that an even higher fraction is sure that UFOs are space craft piloted by space aliens, or that a majority of people under 30 rely on the Daily Show as their only source of news? Really, my friend, you need to get our to the lab more often ;)

    the Grit

    [Response: I suppose I shouldn't be surprised. I wonder if my horoscope says the space aliens will save us from global warming? That's be quite a story for the Daily show.]

  • Kim // May 6, 2007 at 6:14 pm

    For the record:

    >> On Monday August 8, 2005 President Bush signed into law a broad energy bill (Energy Policy Act of 2005) that will extend Daylight Saving Time by four weeks in 2007…

    For more info:

    ….Liberal congress my ass. If u kept up with the news, lobbyists from the golfing industry, outdoor-events industry etcetera were vying for this to increase their sales. Supposedly it was to have a significant impact on American economy.

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