Barley, Beer and BS
News Analysis by Kip Hansen
Oops, can I say that here? BS? Oh, pretend it means “Barley Science.”
It does, sort of, especially in this instance. You see, it isn’t really science. It is an even worse word than “BS” — it’s the “P-word”. Luckily, I am not shy about using the P-word — so if you are a snowflake, cover your eyes. It Is Propaganda.
Our friend Wills E. covered this story originally here in his piece: “Climate Beer Goggles” our ever-striving editor, Anthony Watts followed up with “Climate Change to cause “dramatic” beer shortages”, and two days later, our 3-hole batter , Eric Worrall, rounded off the story with “Brewers Strike Back at Fake “End of Beer” Climate Change News”. Today, I’m the cleanup hitter on this story.
Beer, apparently, is Big News. It is also very Big Business: over $111 Billion in the United States alone 2017.
In the United Kingdom, the land from whence this story emerges, there are 2,250 active beer/ale breweries.
The original paper was: “Decreases in global beer supply due to extreme drought and heat” by Wei Xie et al. and published in the journal Nature Plants. Among the authors is Dabo Guan.
Ah, but you see, Dabo Guan has been talking out of school — that would be the University of East Anglia — to a journalist from the New York Times, and has let the proverbial cat out of the bag.
James Gorman, on the New York Times’climate beat, writing in their little climate alarm newsletter Climate Fwd:, interviews Dabo Guan and shares the scoop with us:
“Some stories just jump right out at you. When I saw in an email from a scientific journal that they would be publishing an article titled, “Decreases in global beer supply due to extreme drought and heat,” I first thought, “Oh no!” Nobody wants a beer shortage.
Then, I thought, wait a minute, if nobody wants a beer shortage, this is going to really affect views on the importance of climate change. Then I turned to the report itself and the job of interviewing one of the authors. I assumed that the scientist, like the paper, would be, if you’ll excuse the pun, rather dry.
Not so. The scientists were way ahead of me. They had already calculated the appeal of their study. They had talked, over beer, of course, about researching the effect of extreme climate events on what they called “luxury essentials.” Their idea was that the people in rich countries might, rightly, think that possible food shortages and severe economic dislocation would have the greatest impact on the poorest people and nations. They might think that their own lives would not be seriously disturbed.
But, if a beloved alcoholic beverage were at risk, that might catch the attention of the residents of relatively rich countries like the United States and Britain. They might not starve, but sports fans do not live by pizza alone.
So the researchers chose to look at what droughts and heat caused by a changing climate would do to barley, which is a main ingredient of most beers, and which is sensitive to heat and drought. The results were as they expected. Extreme climate events would hurt the barley supply, which would raise beer prices and cause shortages.
Dabo Guan, the researcher I spoke to, talked about the dread possibility of not having a pint at hand when you were watching football. I think, since he is at the University of East Anglia, he may have meant soccer. But the principle is the same, whatever kind of ball is involved.”
I did feel a bit as if I had been hooked by publicity-savvy researchers. But the analysis made sense and checked out with another expert, so it was still a good story.”
The story, manufactured based solely on “IPCC projections” of possible future droughts and heat waves was a propaganda stunt from the beginning. Propaganda hook discussed first, “study” done to fit the desired propaganda narrative. The authors set out to create a paper that they hoped would “catch the attention of the residents of relatively rich countries” and thus encourage them to support the climate policies promoted by the IPCC (and apparently, the University of East Anglia).
I leave it to readers to decide if they think that this is a form of scientific misconduct.
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Author’s Comment Policy:
I have been saying on these digital pages for years that many Climate Science stories and journal articles are written primarily as propaganda. Various Junior Defenders of Climate Science always pile on in comments with accusations of groundless charges being made without any proof. Maybe these people will wake up and see the sunset of science in this little example.
My thanks to Jim Gorman of the New York Times for the details.
Definiton: “Hook” in Journalism: All good stories need a hook—or an interesting angle early in the story—that draws the reader in. In journalism, your hook is what makes the story relevant and grabs the attention of the reader long enough to get them to keep reading.
Competing Interests: The author is a teetotaler and does not drink beer or any other alcoholic beverages, thus has no interests competing with the beer industry.
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