Fake Snow Storm = No Global Warming?
While there is little question within the scientific community about the reality of global warming (95% of scientists agree), still many people remain sceptical about whether global warming exists and if humans contribute a major part to the phenomenon.
In February 2015, the North Eastern part of the United States was hit by an unprecedented snowstorm. However, the predictions on the severity of the snowfall in the New York and New Jersey region were incorrect. The fallacious argument being made here on Fox News compares the incorrect snowstorm prediction to incorrect global warming predictions.
In covering a story about President Obama’s claim that global warming affects people more directly and regularly than terrorism, Fox News questions the accuracy of global warming predictions by relying on fallacious reasoning (at 0:25).“The science is off (about global warming)…We just had a snowstorm, two weeks ago, in New York. They told us that New York City was going to get blown out. We had to give up our freedom and sit in our house, no cars on the road. Guess what? The models were wrong. They got the models wrong on the science 24 hours before. How about those models 10 to 20 years from now?”
Essentially, Fox News is arguing that because the weather models were wrong for the 2015 North Eastern Snow Storm then the weather models on climate change must also be wrong:
- Premise: The NYC snowstorm predictions were incorrect
- Premise: The weather models cannot predict correctly within 24-hour period
- Conclusion: The predictions about global warming, which will happen years from now, must also be incorrect
While generalizations are not always illogical and irrational, in this case Fox News makes the mistake of comparing apples to oranges and therefore committing a Hasty Generalization. While the snowstorm models and the global warming models both pertain to the weather (just like apples and oranges are both fruits), local weather events are much more variable and prone to unpredictable changes than long-term global weather models. As a result, snowstorm models are not representative or comparative to global weather models. Additionally, the specific example of the incorrect 2015 NYC snowstorm prediction is too small of a sample. It is not reasonable to say that something is true about an entire are of study, simply because one instance seems to prove the opposite.
Appeal to Reason
The use of personal experiences to support an argument is a very popular strategy. However, it is important to be sceptical of examples that appear to be rare, too specific, or not truly representative of the larger picture.
It is also important to note that this argument intentionally ignores contradictory evidence from the scientific community that global warming does exist. Any argument about global warming can be supported by facts, not just personal experiences. Fox News’ choice to purposefully ignore facts that undermine their argument is not only dishonest but also manipulating the argument in their favor.
In addition, Fox News’ attempts to play to their audience’s emotions by mentioning the impact of the incorrectly predicted snowstorm on New Yorkers.:
- Premise: The incorrect snow predictions impacted our freedom
- Conclusion: Global warming predictions are wrong
By claiming that New Yorkers had to give up their freedom, Fox News hopes to persuade viewers to accept their conclusion that global warming predictions are incorrect. This tactic is called Appeal to Emotion. Simply because many viewers may be upset about the impact of the incorrect snowstorm predictions, their feelings or experiences have no bearing on the truth of the conclusion about global warming. In fact, their emotions are irrelevant.
Appeal to Reason
Pulling at your heartstrings, just like any form of peer pressure, can be very convincing. We often believe that something is true because of our personal feelings or the feelings of a group of people. However, this is a dishonest way to convince someone of an idea. Be wary of any statement that attempts to evoke a particular feeling within you, as it may be an attempt to distract you from the reasonableness of the argument.