Sutter reports back from Oklahoma

As mentioned in the previous post, CNN climate evangelist John Sutter went off to deepest Oklahoma for a couple of weeks – one of the most climate-sceptical parts of the US.

He’s now reported back with an article Woodward County, Oklahoma: Why do so many here doubt climate change? This is, of course, a potentially interesting question. But it’s one that he completely fails to answer.

His article is full of amusing sound-bites from sceptics:
“I think it’s a big fat lie.”
“I think all this global warming crap is overblown.”
“The most ludicrous myth that has been forced upon the Earth since the world began.”
But despite the length of the article, there is virtually no attempt to look into the details or the reasoning of sceptic arguments. At one point he does try to do this, but gets hopelessly confused, claiming that climate sceptics show graphs of the upper troposphere when they should be looking at the lower troposphere. No John, it’s the lower troposphere data that sceptics point to, and it shows that the observed temperature is significantly below the model predictions.

There are two rather unpleasant sections, which show just how low people like Sutter are prepared to go. In one, he finds a statue of a stegosaurus with a sign saying it lived 5,000 years ago. Later, he finds some people whose relative died in a fire, and tells them that wildfires are predicted to increase.

There are some amusing aspects to Sutter’s piece. Despite claiming that he went to Oklahama to listen to the climate sceptics, he seems to have been so freaked out by having his cosy metropolitan-elite values challenged that in desperation he tries to find people who share his own views. He “made it a personal mission” and “wandered all over the county on a scavenger hunt for believers”.

His second defence mechanism is to go back to reciting his credo (the climate is changing, we are responsible, 97%…) and to seek support from other climate propagandists. The article, which, remember, is supposed to be about the views of climate sceptics, cites Lewandowsky, Marshall, Hayhoe, Leiserowitz and the Pope!

The only little piece of progress comes right at the end of the article, when he learns that climate sceptics do in fact care about the environment, and admits that it took him far too long to realize it. He quotes one man who describes climate change as “baloney” : “I’m a steward of the land out here. It’s my responsibility to see that even in drought times, the land is taken care of and the land is respected.”

Update 6 Aug:

Sutter has now updated his confused paragraph about the troposphere (suggesting that he may have read this blog). The edited version is just as confused and misleading, and it seems that this is thanks to the intervention of the notoriously unreliable Katie Hayhoe.  The new  inserted sentence from Hayhoe claims that “there were errors in troposphere data, which are commonly misused by climate skeptics”. I’ve asked Sutter if this latest RSS data showing the model/reality mismatch, linked above, contains “errors”.

Roger Pielke on twitter is not impressed by Sutter’s piece:
Wow. @CNN sends a condescending reporter to Oklahoma to find out why people there are so stupid. Reminds me of Borat.
If you want to understand why climate politics is pathologically politicized in the U.S. Read this mocking MSM “news”

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10 thoughts on “Sutter reports back from Oklahoma

  1. And, clearly most important, a cowboy would ask me why I was wearing stretch pants to a cattle auction. (They were Levi’s 511s.)

    Which have 1% spandex and so can be called stretch pants.

    Part of me wants to write off the skeptics in Woodward County — to think that these views, especially the pants critique, are so out of sync with the modern world,

    So… he knows what the “modern world” considers appropriate attire to a cattle auction?

  2. Thanks for this Paul.

    Very reminiscent of a visit from the Jehovah’s witnesses: simplistic, smug certainty. He nearly won me over with his 3 knockout punches though: we can see climate changing, it’s not natural or sunspots and 97% of priests believe in religion. Jeez is that it. Not really close to the Scientific Method is it, yet that is what he chooses to hide behind: The Science TM.

    Yet he has the nerve to look down his nose at his bemused hosts whose experience and intuition leads them much closer to the truth.

    One thing the internet teaches you is that there is always someone smarter than you out there* (Hi Lucia, spandex as well as maths eh!), yet folk like Sutter really do seem to talk/write like they are a higher species. It hasn’t crossed his mind for a second that he may be wrong on this.

    (* maybe not for SteveMc)

  3. SimonW,
    I see Sutters ‘stretch pants” comment as an attempt at condescension that only succeeded in showing that Sutter is narrow minded parochialist. A guy at a cattle auction sees the pants and correctly recognizes that Sutter is wearing stretch pants, and Sutter insinuate that this is some sort of evidence that the guy is disconnected with the real world? Uh… no.

    Other gems
    “I get the sense that many people in Woodward are scared of what the “industry” might think of their views on climate change — and by “industry” they mean oil and natural gas. “
    Interesting insinuation by telling us his “sense”. Perhaps people didn’t pour our their hearts to Sutter because they sensed he thought they were disconnected with the modern world and found him condescending, or annoying. Perhaps he approached many when they were busy. Perhaps they sensed if they were polite enough to do him the favor of spending their time indulging a few of his questions, he might use that as an opportunity to waste theirs by launching into a “patient explanation of the truth as Sutter sees it”. Perhaps they decided he was a complete waste of time when it became clear he didn’t know the upper troposphere from the lower troposphere– and in fact appears to have little idea what the tropopshere is. Perhaps they didn’t cotton to this weird talking, spandex wearing city slicker. Perhaps they sensed he was the snide sort who would nick-name people things like “YellowHat” and preferred not to assist that sort of discourteous fellow.

    Or maybe he’s right and they are all afeard of “industry”. Who knows?

    But Sutter’s writing might give some readers the reason Sutter’s “sensed” what he did is that it’s somehow a more plausible explanation than the other reasons.

    Now turning to what I “sense”: I “sense” the digression into his inefficient sounding attempts to find the “Sutter Ranch” is intended to be condescending and make Oklahoma sound like some sort of backwater. But at least he does wedge in an admission that he kinda-sorta didn’t really try to listen to people. He writes
    “I intended to come to Woodward County to listen to people. But I actually was tallying them up, putting them into categories: believer vs. skeptic; rational human vs. little-girl-on-the-back-of-a-stegosaurus statue owner. I was trying to convince them I was right, not listening to where they were coming from. “
    Yep. That self diagnosis seems spot on. And it seems to me convincing people his is right the main goal of his current article. It’s certainly not to report what people in Woodward County really think.

    In the end, Sutter’s article seems to suggest that he thinks he has come to some sort of epiphany of patiently understanding what’s truly important. Perhaps he has. Or not.

  4. Sutter’s article doesn’t allow comments.
    I thought he is supposed to be interested in open and honest debate about climate ?
    To me it’s a dead give away that the almost all alarmist blogs don’t allow free discussion : either not allowing comments or selectively deleting them.
    Surely honest people wouldn’t want to lose credibility in that way ?

  5. Thanks Lucia, “Perhaps they didn’t cotton to this weird talking, spandex wearing city slicker” LOL.

    I’m still not sure about Sutter – whether he genuinely wants to understand the thinking of sceptics, or just wants to portray them as ignorant rednecks. There seems to be a bit of both in his article. I think he’s just a bit confused. I try to give people the benefit of the doubt.

    Stew, yes, this article doesn’t allow comments, but his previous article (link in previous post) did, and there are 1236 mostly sceptical comments there, so maybe they thought that was enough!

  6. @Paul true : yes to give him credit his previous article did allow comments.
    This time his article was such unreadable tosh that I immediately looked for the comments to seek a clearer explanation ..and found there weren’t any.
    – The point is almost all skeptic articles do allow comments, cos it is one place alarmists reveal the weakness of their own arguments.

  7. Did I or did I not nail Sutter in the last post?

    He’s a typical Democrat/city dweller out to paint the Republican/rural dwellers as a bunch of idiots and weirdos. It’s a typical fight strategy that Dr Lew knows all about. Dissuade people from being part of the enemy by trying to ridicule them and make your own crowd look and feel superior. Ha, it might be a good way of trying to gain a slight political advantage but cutting CO2 is going to need considerably more than a slim majority. If this tactic worked, the US would have never had a Republican leader in a century but history speaks for itself.

    As a Brit, in some ways I feel more at home with the urban Democrats. America’s religious heartland is just a mystery to me but if I wanted people like that to consider the concept of evolution I wouldn’t do it by making fun of their beliefs. Sutter has written for the amusement of his own kind and nothing else. His claim to want to under stand is bogus.

    If he is too inflexible to deal with the culture change between himself and the people of Oklahoma perhaps he should hunt down urban climate sceptics. People who probably don’t disagree on quite so many issues. He might then learn something… most important of all that climate scepticism isn’t the preserve of dunces and yokels (no reference to Oklahoma but of what Sutter thinks) and that there are good reasons to be asking difficult questions about CAGW.

  8. There is one more point where Sutter is wrong (most likely, he lies): “Step three: More than 97% of working climate scientists agree that we are causing climate change by burning fossil fuels and chopping down forests. ”

    The link he provides to NASA says: “Multiple studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals1 show that 97 percent or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree: Climate-warming trends over the past century are very likely due to human activities.”

    So, no “fossil fuels” and no “chopping down forests”. If Sutter is a journalist as opposed to an activist, he will correct his article and make it clear that his claim isn’t true. I don’t hold my breath.

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