The End of the Scientific Era? A Rhetorical Analysis of the Future of the Paris Climate Accord

Analysis of article presented in Genius

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The reality of global climate change has been nearly universally accepted, save for some that still believe in a multinational “green conspiracy” that is threatening to overrun the American economy. However, these people are merely choosing to live in a realm of alternate fact, because on our planet, there is undoubtedly a global climate crisis occurring, and not enough is being done to properly address it. In 2015, under the Obama Administration, it appeared as though the United States was taking positive steps towards confronting the issue with the signing of the Paris Climate Accord, an agreement among 195 countries vowing to cut carbon emissions. With the recent election of Donald Trump, focus on preserving the environment launched a downward spiral. His promise to retreat from the Paris Accord and his commitment to rolling back Obama-era regulations have thrown the future of the fight against global catastrophe into doubt. His supporters have been bullish in their assertions over the future of both climate change and the Paris Accord, calling the former a hoax, and pleading for Trump to uphold his promise on the latter. Journalists are in on this debate, of course, and those in favor of Trump’s plans have not held back in their accusations.

An article published by Breitbart, a heavily conservative media outlet, entitled “And So It Begins, Trump’s Great Climate Purge…” had some interesting things to say on the topic of climate change and the current political agenda against it. Author James Delingpole, a notorious right-wing columnist, made many bold and seemingly unprofessional comments within his piece. He immediately began with an attack on those w2017-05-22ho don’t share his views. For example, after the new EPA director Steve Pruitt, a climate change skeptic, fired some agency employees, a recently laid-off Michigan professor named Robert Richardson sent out a tweet about his recent termination. Delingpole picked up on this tweet and launched a direct attack at the man’s profession, openly mocking his livelihood, while completely disregarding any work Richardson had actually done. Later in the article, he attacks another journalist, David Roberts, an environmental writer at Vox, claiming that everything he says should be “taken with a pinch of salt.” In these two instances, Delingpole directly and abusively attacked the men, without providing any sound, logical argument as to why they are wrong. In doing so, he is committing logical “Against the Person” fallacies, by offensively degrading the men, rather than creating his own argument as to why he is correct. This blatant slandering is an attempt at discrediting them before hearing anything they have to say.

Delingpole’s article regularly demonstrates another example of a logical fallacy, Ad populum, as well. Although 97% of scientists agree that man-made global warming is a Image result for zorppertinent problem in today’s society, there are 3% that disagree. And with millions of scientists in the world, that means that in terms of size, there is a significant portion that do not believe that carbon emissions are a threat to Earth. Delingpole chooses to pluck his false information from this marginal 3%, and in doing so, he disregards the overwhelming majority of people saying otherwise. That is like saying out of the 7 billion people on Earth, 5,000 are in a sadistic cult that believe a 500-foot lizard is going to come down from an asteroid and devour all human souls until there is nothing left. Of course, this isn’t going to happen. But according to Delingpole’s logic, 5,000 people believe it, therefore it must be true. Therein lies the issue with the Ad populum fallacy; just because a group of people believe something to be true, it doesn’t mean that it is, especially if all scientific evidence and the rest of the world believe otherwise.

In attempting to appeal to his readers, Delingpole uses antagonistic language, meant to stir up emotional fire in the reader’s mind. Sentences such as “The important thing is for the U.S. to pull out of Paris not in order to facilitate exit from Obama’s Clean Power Plan or to avert legal action from politicized litigators like the Sierra Club but purely as an upward Image result for screamingextension of the presidential middle finger to the bloated, corrupt and overmighty Climate Industrial Complex,” are geared towards enticing an outburst of both anger and smug satisfaction at getting one over those perceived as the “bad guys.” This type of crude, powerful appeal is known as the rhetorical tool, Pathos, which is an appeal to emotion, and in this case, meant to create feelings of superiority and defiance, as well as anger at a “corrupt” organization. Delingpole continues to use this sort of language throughout the article, and he obviously knows his target audience, as many of the comments share the same derogatory terminology.

Finally, the simplest and most recognizable fault in Delingpole’s article is his complete disregard for scientific fact. In the article’s final sentences, he calls global warming a “Great Global Scam” and throughout the article, he ignores the findings of nearly every scientific organization on the planet. In a quote pulled from Pruitt, stating that man-made climate change is a hoax, the beliefs held by the author are quite clear. He seems almost excited by the statements made by Pruitt and calls the purging of climate change believers from the EPA “bold,” implying that he approves of the action being taken. He also continuously refers to a “green blob,” which I can only infer refers to those who believe in climate change within Trump’s administration. In referring to this green blob, he uses words such as “slaying” and “purging.” These are all indicative of Delingpole’s negative stance on global warming. However, nearly every scientist in the world attests that man-made climate change is real. It has been observed over decades and warned against for nearly as long. Disregarding it as nonfactual is not only incorrect, but inherently naïve. Living in a world without fact is where Delingpole seems to be most at home, and judging from his writing, it would take a 50-foot tidal wave for him to wake up and smell the rising sea levels. It doesn’t take much fact checking to find out that Delingpole is wrong. Simply googling “climate change facts” brings you to NASA’s website, where a long list of factual evidence is provided from multiple sources.

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In terms of writing, I don’t believe that race, class or gender had anything to do with his writing. On his twitter page his bio says “I’m right about everything,” and clearly Delingpole obviously wasn’t right about everything, especially if he disregards scientific evidence of climate change. His article was biased, and fell short of any proper Image result for breitbartarguments for his claims. Littered with fallacies, the article was impetuous, as he lashed out at those whose views opposed his own, attacking them personally versus challenging their views with facts. Unless the reader’s views coincided perfectly with Delingpole’s, I can’t see anyone viewing this article as actual journalism, since it is almost entirely fallacious. The logical fallacies, in addition to the stubborn, incorrect worldview all contribute to a drop in Delingpole’s credibility and influence. It is important that journalists remain neutral in their writing, presenting the facts as they are, and not as what they want them to be.

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