Saturday, May 31, 2014

The effect of water vapor on global warming

One of the false arguments global warming deniers make is that CO2 measurements are unimportant because water vapor is much more effective greenhouse gas. This is one of those statements that has just enough truth behind it to obscure the lie.Yes, water vapor is a very potent greenhouse gas, much more so than CO2, but what the deniers don't want to admit is that the reason there is water vapor in the atmosphere is because something else warmed it up in the first place.

This process makes water vapor a positive feedback agent with the potential to approximately double the amount of warming due to other sources. As the atmosphere gets warmer the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere also increases. The increased level of water vapor will then trap more heat, resulting in warmer temperatures and even more water vapor. But, the water vapor cannot do it alone. There must be some agent to start the process and that agent in our current situation is CO2. By dumping billions of tons of CO2 in our atmosphere every year, we trap heat in the atmosphere that would otherwise radiate into space and this leads to warmer atmosphere. This warmer atmosphere then leads to more water vapor.

Since water vapor is so important in the process we need to know just how much effect it has on the climate. A team of scientists used measurements from instruments onboard the Aqua spacecraft to make direct measurements of this effect. According to their work, water vapor amplifies global warming by 2.2 watts per square meter per degree Celsius (plus or minus .4 watts per square meter per degree Celsius). In comparison, the solar index (the amount of energy reaching Earth from the Sun) is about 1360 watts per square meter. For every one degree Celsius change in temperature, water vapor increases the amount of energy stored in the atmosphere by about .16%. It may not sound like much, but you keep doing that every day for a long period of time and it will add up to a very large amount of energy stored in the atmosphere that we would not otherwise have.

The scientists point out that this is only a short-term measurement because the amount of data is small. This figure is subject to short-term changes in the weather and climate fluctuations. They used these figures in models to try and determine a long-term value and the models suggested it is between 1.9 and 2.8 watts per square meter per degree Celsius. As more data is collected this figure will be refined to a more accurate value.

Friday, May 30, 2014

NASA facilities threatened by sea level rise - Guess who pays?

A recent article reported on how NASA launch pads at Cape Canaveral and Mission Control in Houston are being threatened by rising sea levels. I have lived in the vicinity of both facilities and can personally attest that they are only a few feet above sea level.  In fact, NASA stated that rising sea levels are the single biggest threat to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Other NASA facilities being threatened by rising sea levels include Wallops Flight Facility and Langley Research Center, both in Virginia, and Ames Research Center in San Francisco.

The problem with the rising sea level is not that the facilities are threatened with inundation in the near-term, but with all of the other kinds of damage that come with rising sea level. Things like beach erosion and storm surges are greatly affected by how high sea level is. Increase the sea level and you increase the damage that results from those actions.

The forecast for Hampton, VA is for a five foot rise in sea level by the year 2100, or 60 inches in the next 86 years. If we were to assume a constant rate of rise (a bad assumption, but it gives us something to work with), that comes out to .7 inches (1.8 centimeters) per year. That means something that is currently 7 inches above the storm surge will be in the storm surge 10 years from now. These are very low-lying areas, 7 inches will make a big difference. And, that is only in 10 years. Twenty years from now the sea level will be more than 14 inches higher, on average.

Let me put those time frames into perspective. Ten years ago was 2004. George W. Bush was President of the U.S. and defeated John Kerry in his bid to win reelection. The Summer Olympics were in Athens, the U.S. was bogged down in an insurgency in Iraq, and a 9.3 magnitude earthquake occurred off the coast of Indonesia, sending a devastating tsunami across the Indian Ocean.

Twenty years ago was 1994. Bill Clinton was President, 100,000 people were slaughtered in Rwanda, former President Richard Nixon died, Nelson Mandela became President of South Africa, O.J. Simpson was arrested for the murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman and the Chunnel opened for business, connecting France and Great Britain with an underground rail line.

Consider those events and think back to where you were in those years. If you are more than 20 years old, you will probably realize that these time-spans are not great. The time it takes to prevent damage to the NASA facilities is not at some point in the future. In fact, it isn't even now. It was at some point in the past. Fortunately, they have already been engaged with making preparations and adjustments. That is the only way they can keep ahead of the threat.

I have mentioned these NASA facilities, but this same threat extends to anything close to the coast, including all of the private homes built with a view of the sea. They are now more at risk and that risk will increase at an alarming rate in the next few years.

And, by the way, let's be clear about this, we are the ones that will have to pay for it. One more example of how you need to take your checkbook out and send money to the deniers every time you reject the reality of global warming.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

What about that expanded harvest?

So, to recap, deniers first said there was no global warming. Then, they said any warming was so small that we didn't need to worry about it. Then, they said it was all just a natural cycle. Now, they are saying it is actually good for us. Do you see a trend here?

One of the things they are now claiming is that global warming will increase the zone where we can grow crops and increase the length of the growing season. In this way, it is actually  good for us. So, how is this turning out?

I have always been very skeptical of this claim, mainly because I grew up in agricultural areas and have always followed agriculture. I do some work in the local vineyards with some friends in this area. Growing a crop is about a lot more than planting seeds and then kicking back until harvest time. You have to worry about weeds, disease, insects, watering and weather - just to name a few things.

Droughts and heat waves have a devastating effect on crops. Just take a look at what is happening to the farms in California right now. They are having to plow their crops under because they don't have enough water. On the other hand, too much water can be just as bad. A flooding rain can wash a whole farm out in a matter of a few hours. The evidence shows that overall, droughts and floods have been about the same so far, but dry areas are getting drier and wet areas are getting wetter. So, areas with droughts are getting worse and areas with floods are also getting worse.

Another weather event that farmers fear is the hail storm. A severe hail storm can pound a crop into the dirt in just minutes.

Of course, the obvious point is it doesn't matter how long the growing season is if you don't have a crop.

And, a warmer climate will also result in better conditions for insects and diseases that destroy crops.

None of this takes into account the fact that grain crops such as corn and wheat are very sensitive to heat. The yield goes down once the temperature gets higher than a certain point.

I had all of this in mind when I read an article in the May 13 issue of Eos, Transactions, American Geophysical UnionClimate change, water rights, and agriculture: A case study in Idaho reports on an investigation into the effects of climate change on agriculture. Their findings?

"They found that if climate change increases the volatility of the temperature and the water supply, irrigated agriculture in the region could face significant damages. In fact, crop revenue losses could be up to 32%."

This is just one study for one particular region, but the point is pretty clear. Just because more land is available for growing crops and the length of the growing season is longer, it doesn't mean there will be a larger harvest. Climate change will make certain things better for crops, but it will also make a lot of things worse at the same time.

Again, we see that all of us at the bottom will have to foot the bill for all of this. This time, in the form of higher food prices.

The Polarization of Climate Change

We have entered a huge public debate concerning climate change. The science is irrefutable, and yet we have this enormous debate. Some of it is understandable. The fossil fuel industry fears it has a lot to lose, so it is funding denier agencies to the tune of about $70 million per year to keep it going. Still, there is more to it than that. I have long believed that much of the debate has nothing to do with science and more to do with politics. A recent article I saw in the Wall Street Journal supports my case.

The Wall Street Journal is an excellent paper and is the go-to source for news on business. However, they have taken a very severe climate change denier position, often making very unsubstantiated claims, such as this editorial here. This one was bad enough to motivate a response, written by Jerry Melillo, the chair of the independent Federal Advisory Committee that produced the National Climate Assessment. The WSJ, for whatever reason, included a response by a Weldon Wilson of Sherman Oaks, CA. I did some searching and the only Weldon Wilson I found in Sherman Oaks, CA is the chair of an insurance company. How this makes Mr. Wilson credible enough to debate climate change with Dr. Melillo is beyond me. But, let's look at Mr. Weldon's last statement,

I for one prefer to leave my grandchildren with the risk from fossil fuels rather than the consequences of the Obama agenda.

Whaaat? The Obama agenda?

To keep the facts straight, manmade climate change has been an active topic since the early 1980s, at the very least. That was long before Obama ever showed up. But, I think this statement illustrates much of the problem at hand - agreeing that we are changing the climate equates to agreeing with Obama in the minds of many people.

For the record, I am not a fan of Obama at all. He did not get elected with my vote. If I was to go off and voice my opinion of him I'm afraid the things I have to say about him would result in the Secret Service knocking on my door to ask me some questions.

But, climate change is not about Obama and it is not about Al Gore, either. It is about the science and the science is undeniable. Really, the only possible way for anyone to deny man made global warming is to reject science. The science has nothing to do with any individual or political party. But, we have managed to make it look like it does.

In the minds of too many people, climate change means Obama. Denying climate change means the Republicans. This is too bad for the Republicans. I'm not a Republican either, so it doesn't really bother me that they are driving over a cliff. But, if the Republicans want to move forward and win elections then they need to start doing things like embracing climate change and fighting the effects it is having on the electorate. More and more people are becoming convinced it is real and we are at fault and something needs to be done. Political campaigns may get money from the fossil fuel industry, but its the people that vote and if the people reject the message it will be harder to win at the ballot box.

The real problem with that is it will simply politicize the public debate even more.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Greenland Mass Loss

The two graphics below come from the Polar Portal and show the change in the total mass of Greenland (with its ice sheet) between June 2006 and December 2013. As you can see, the total mass is consistently declining after averaging the seasonal increases and decreases. The data for these plots comes from the GRACE - the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment. GRACE consists of twin satellites with the ability to measure to make extremely precise measurements in the strength of the gravity field. Since gravity depends on the amount of mass present, the gravity maps it makes indicates the amount of mass in the area it is flying over. Comparing the gravity maps over a period of years can show how much the amount of mass in that area is changing. In this case, it is decreasing.

Of course, this would not be happening if it were not for the fact that the ice is melting and flowing into the ocean. And, it takes heat to melt ice, especially the amount of ice we are talking about here - well over 2000 gigatons since 2004.

Forest Fires and Arctic Melting

The summer melt season of 2012 was very dramatic. Take a look at this plot from the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC).

The dark, solid line is the 1989-2010 average Arctic sea ice extent. The dotted line is the 2012 sea ice extent. The light gray line on the left is the 2014 sea ice extent. We can see from this plot that the 2012 extent was pretty average for what has been observed this century all the way up to early-June. At that point, it took a severe turn for the worse and the extent simply collapsed, reaching the all time record low in September.

Something similar was observed in Greenland at the same time. Normally, the ice on top of the ice sheet doesn't melt, or melts very little. It is over 2 miles high in places and the highest elevations remain below freezing, even during the summer. But, in the summer of 2012, 97% of the ice sheet was melting at one time. This was the most extensive melting event since 1889.

A new study done by researchers at Dartmouth College found evidence that this extensive melting on Greenland was not due solely because of global warming, but by a combination of warming and soot from wildfires. In particular, extreme forest fires in Siberia sent soot and particulate matter high in the atmosphere and some of that matter settled on the Greenland ice sheet. By making the ice slightly darker (known as lowering the albedo), the soot increased the amount of sunlight absorbed by the ice and increased the melting. There is evidence something similar may have occurred in 1889, as well.

The question I now have is, did this also happen to the sea ice? The fires of 2012 may have been responsible for the Greenland melting, but wouldn't explain the sea ice melting. The fires didn't start until July, so the smoke could not have been on the sea ice at the beginning of June. The smoke was blowing across the Pacific by early-July, so it is possible it fell on Greenland in time for the big ice melt.

However, there were also massive forest fires in Siberia two years earlier, in the summer of 2010. If the smoke from those fires was lofted high in the atmosphere it might have taken over a year to fall in the Arctic region. We would need to get some ice cores that included that time frame and see if there are traces of soot in the ice. Then, we would need to check the composition of that soot to try and identify where it came from.

This doesn't mean climate change is off the hook. Even with the soot, global warming is responsible because it made the Arctic region warmer (allowing the ice to melt) and it is also responsible for the events in Siberia that led to the wildfires (putting the soot in the air).

This year might be a test of the hypotheses. If it took 1-1/2 to 2 years for the 2010 smoke to get to the Arctic ice, then that would be a good starting guess for how long it took the smoke from the 2012 fires to get there. If so, this might be a very bad year for Arctic sea ice melting.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Undeniable is on Nook

My latest book, Undeniable: Dialogues on Global Warming, is now available as an ebook on Barnes and Noble for the Nook. It was previously only available through Amazon for the Kindle.


Severe Weather in the United States

There was a very interesting article in the May 6th issues of Eos, Transactions, American Geophysical Union. The article, Severe Weather in United States Under a Changing Climate, takes a thorough look at the way various aspects of severe weather have changed since the 1950s and the message is pretty definitive. There is a nice graphic (figure 1 in the article) that shows the frequency of different kinds of severe weather in each decade since the 1950s. It takes a little bit of reading because there is so much information in the figure, but certain things really stand out right away. Below is a summery of some of the information in this paper.

Damages due to billion dollar events
The NOAA/NCDC Billion Dollar Weather website lists 151 weather/climate disasters resulting in at least $1 billion in damages that have occurred since 1980. The damages for these events have all been adjusted to reflect constant dollar values (2013 dollars). The total amount of damages exceeds $1 trillion. That comes out to about $3000 for every person in the U.S., or roughly $100 per year on average. The total for 2011 was for about $200 for every person ($60 billion total) and $360 per person in 2012 ($110 billion total). These costs are only as a result of the billion dollar-plus events and include such events as major heat waves, severe storms, tornadoes, droughts, floods, hurricanes and wildfire. The list does not include expenses such as increased expenses for utilities, food and increased insurance that are the result of daily climate change conditions.

Temperature extremes
The article states the average temperature has increased by 1.5 degrees F since 1895 with most of the warming occurring since 1970, "culminating with the warmest year on record in the United States in 2012." They found there has been a significant increase in the number of record high temperatures the last two decades. There has been a significant drop in the number of record low temperatures over the same period. Heat waves have become more frequent across the U.S.

Precipitation extremes
Over the last three decades the heaviest rainfall events in rainy areas have become more frequent and the amount of rain in heavy rain storms has been significantly above average. Other areas have seen significant decreases. The total number of extreme snowstorms has been substantially higher the last three decades.

Floods and droughts
There has been no nation-wide trend detected for droughts, but regional trends have been detected. In particular, the on-going drought in the western U.S. has resulted in the driest the region has been in 800 years. Floods have followed the same pattern. We don't know enough yet to detect a nationwide trend, but regional trends have been detected. In other words, it appears the regions that tend towards the dry end are getting drier and regions that tend toward the wet end are getting wetter.

Hurricanes and severe storms
There has been an increase in the intensity, frequency, and duration of category 4 and 5 (the strongest) storms in the Atlantic. The number of category 3, 4 and 5 storms in the North Atlantic since the year 2000 is the greatest since the 1950s. This increase in activity is linked to higher sea surface temperatures. The number of strong tornadoes and East Coast winter storms have not been seen to have changed over the last 60 years.

As we all know, weather forecasting is complicated and difficult. So, too, is the climate. But, what we see is a very clear picture that severe weather in the U.S. is becoming ever more severe. We may not have all of the details worked out just yet, but there can be no doubt that the weather is changing in response to a changing climate. And, once again, we see the end user is the one that gets stuck paying the bills. Everyone always passes increased costs on to their customers. The people at the end have no customers to pass it on, so they get stuck.

So, when you decide to deny climate change and resist efforts to do something about it, be sure to pull out you checkbook and make out a check to the rich and powerful.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Why Haven't the Deniers Taken the Challenges?

So far, the deniers keep talking about how the science is overwhelmingly in their favor and climate change advocates are ignoring the science.

Fine. So, I made a venue for them to prove their claims, the $10,000 Global Warming Skeptic Challenge and the $1000 Scientific Evidence Challenge. I am disappointed, but certainly not surprised, that there have been no challenges in either case. Why do you think that is?

The deniers, I am sure, are saying the reason they don't submit anything is because I'm the sole judge. Yes, that is a true statement, but its my money. However, I also said I will post any challenge and I will show why the challenge does not meed the standards, in the case it doesn't. What this means is that I am putting my credibility on the line. If someone makes a valid challenge and I dismiss it, it will be there for the entire world to see.

Besides, if I am giving a critique, all a denier has to do is take that critique, address my criticisms and submit it again. There is no entry fee and you can keep submitting for as long as you like - or win, if that happens to be the case.

Someone criticized me with the statement that I wouldn't enter a challenge with those terms. In fact, I did just that. I submitted an entry for the Junk Science Ultimate Global Warming Challenge. Junk Science (what an appropriate name for an organization that deniers global warming and says DDT is harmless for the environment) had their challenge in 2007-2008. They promised a $500,000 award to anyone that could prove global warming is real and is harmful. He also charged $15 to make a submission.

Oh, by the way, he was the sole judge.

I made my submission, but not because I thought there was ever any chance he would admit his mistake and award the money. I am very suspicious that he never had the money anyway. I did it to illustrate the point that he had no credibility. He cannot make a valid claim that no one could do it. By the way, he just said my entry didn't succeed, he never gave any reason for his decision. But, we know his reason, he never intended to give the money away to anyone.

No, the real reason no one has taken the challenge is because they can't. There is no scientific evidence supporting the claims of the deniers that man-made global warming isn't real. The science is overwhelming. It is not possible to prove, via the scientific method, that it isn't real. And, I stand by my statement that there isn't even any scientific evidence at all to support the deniers.

Their silence says everything that needs to be said. I know it, they know it and now you know it.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Cold Front Doesn't Mean No Warming

We just had a cold winter and we have even had a few cold fronts recently, including one right now. Its pretty pleasant and I wish this would happen more often. We also got some rain out of it and that was sorely needed in these parts (rural central Texas). I measured that we got about 2.25 inches over a period of about 36 hours at my house. It was a nice, soaking rain. To put that in perspective, we were almost six inches behind for the year and we only get about 28 inches for the whole year. We got a one-inch rainfall last week (May 8) and that was the first significant rain since before Christmas. The total amount of rain we had received for the entire year before that was measured in hundredths on an inch (Yes, that was the total for the year-to-date!). So, this cold front was a real blessing. Out here, if you aren't making your living off the land, your customers probably are.

But, as usual, the deniers are twisting the facts to deceive people. I have already heard deniers using the example of the winter and even these recent cold fronts as evidence there is no global warming. They are deceiving people two ways when they do this. A local weather event does not mean anything about the globe. Global warming means the entire planet, not just the American Midwest.

Also, they are trying to equate weather to climate. They are related, but they are not the same thing. As an example, let's say you watch the TV weather report on the evening news and the weather man says, "Today's high was 92 and the average high for today is 89." In this case, the high of 92 is the weather, the average high for today of 89 is the climate. Related, but different. Climate is the weather that prevails over a long period of time- the long-term average of the weather.

This current cold-front and this past winter do not mean global warming has stopped. Take a look at this plot from the Climate Change Institute Reanalyzer. It shows the difference between today's temperature and the 1979-2000 average.:

You can see that we in the Midwest are experiencing that cold snap I referenced above (big blue area). You can also see that there are many places that are hotter than average (red areas). More importantly, take a look at the average temperature difference for the different regions of the world, shown below the globe. Each region listed has an average temperature that is higher than the 1979-2000 average. In other words, every part of the planet is hotter now than during the 199-2000 period.

So, when the deniers point at the weather and tell you that there is no global warming, you now know it isn't true.

Excellent Anit-Denier Demonstration

This has been making the rounds and I have to say it is one of the very best demonstrations of how silly the denier claims are. I particularly love the part where he has the panel discussion.

Read the article and see the video here.

Monday, May 12, 2014

West Antarctic Ice Sheet Has Passed the Point of No Return

Researchers with NASA and the University of California - Irvine have released the results of their study of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) have found the ice sheet can no longer be prevented from melting into the sea. They studied how the speed of the ice has increased over recent decades, the slope of the land that it is traveling over and how much of the ice sheet is floating on sea water.

A key part of their research is the finding that the grounding line is retreating for all of the glaciers studied. The grounding line is the last location where the glacier is supported by land. Seaward of that line the ice is floating in sea water. This sea water is warmer than the ice and melts it. Over recent decades, the grounding line has been retreating as the glaciers get lighter and float higher. At the same time, the water has been getting warmer, melting the ice at a faster rate.

This information, combined with the finding that there is no landform under most of the glaciers to slow them down and they they reach the conclusion the melting will continue. But, much of the land the ice is located on is actually below sea level, so as the glaciers retreat, the sea water will follow and continue to melt the ice. All of these findings lead to the conclusion that it is now inevitable the ice sheet will completely melt.

How long will it take to melt all of the ice sheet? Probably centuries before it is all gone. But, there will be substantial effects to the world's sea level starting even today and getting worse over time. By itself, the WAIS will increase the world sea level by about four feet.

So what? If it isn't going to happen for centuries then we really don't have to worry about it now. Let the people centuries from now worry about it. They will probably have better technology to deal with the problem that anything we have today. That is the position of the climate change deniers and, just like everything else they say, it is wrong.

It may take some centuries for the sea level to rise by the total four feet, but we will be seeing increases of inches within the coming decades and that is enough to lead to substantial coastal flooding and loss of land. What this means is that we are going to incur the cost of this sea level rise today. Not centuries from now. Today.

So, once again, take out your checkbook and made out a check to the climate change deniers. They keep telling us there is nothing to worry about and we keep believing them.

Denier Funding

Climate change deniers like to say that the science behind climate change is not 'settled science' and that there is no consensus among scientists. These, of course, are false statements. The fact is, 97% of all climate scientists agree that climate change is real and is due to manmade emissions.  Here is an excellent report on the very subject. The science is very real and scientist who work in this field of study are in overwhelming agreement.

Deniers also reject the claim that they are funded by the fossil fuel industry to undermine the valid science and to inject doubt into the minds of the public. Below is a list of some of the denier sources and individuals receiving those funds. The challenge to me was to produce documents that could used in the event I received a subpoena in a slander/libel lawsuit. I have indicated my sources of information and they satisfy that requirement. The information provided here has been gleaned from tax documents, SEC filings, statements by the individuals themselves, court papers and articles vetted by major news media (also one of the standards demanded by the denier).

So, I'll say it to be perfectly clear:  

Some organizations in the fossil fuel industry are funding climate change deniers for the purpose of undermining climate change science. 

If someone would like to sue me for slander/libel, then the documents below would be enough to get the case thrown out of court. Of course, the deniers will claim otherwise, but they live in a fantasy world that does not accept reality.

The denier disinformation campaign is very well funded and very well organized. A study done at Drexel University found 140 foundations provided $558 million to nearly 100 climate change organizations between 2003 and 2010. That comes out to an average of almost $70 million per year. That is some serious money and you don't provide that kind of funding just to have a tax-write off. This funding is done for a purpose. What I find very telling is the fact that traceable donations have disappeared and been replaced with untraceable donations to third-party proxies. In fact, one climate change denial proxy, Donors Trust (along with the associated Donors Capital) accounts for fully 25% of all climate change denier funding. Why are they hiding their donations? Are they afraid that people would question their motives?

Many of the organizations providing funding for climate change denial are among the world's worst emitters of greenhouse gases. The original paper on sources of greenhouse gases can be found here. This list represents who stands to lose the most if we do something about the problem. In other words, people making a bunch of money hurting the rest of us are convincing millions of people that we shouldn't do anything about the problem. And, millions of people simply take out their checkbook and agree with them.

Here are some of the funding organizations and funding receivers. This list is not even close to being exhaustive, it is here merely to illustrate the debt of the problem.

Funding Organizations

ChevronTexaco - Provides funding to the American Legislative Exchange Council.
Source: Think Progress

ExxonMobil - Exxon reports show donations to the Heartland Institute between 1998 and 2007 of $676,500. Exxon donated more than $28 million to the American Enterprise Institute (see below). Along with the Marshall Institute and Fred Singer's group, they proposed a $5 million campaign, according to a leaked eight-page memo, to convince the public that the science of global warming is riddled with controversy and uncertainty. Exxon was called out by a number of senators for giving over $19 million to fund groups "producing very questionable data" on climate change. Studies have found Exxon to have been "heavily involved" in denier funding between 2003 and 2008 and donated more than $16 million during that time. Exxon has since changed and says it no longer gives to climate denier organizations and there has been no publicly traceable denier funding from Exxon since 2008.  There are reports it continued to provide denier funding through at least 2011. However, there are still proxies that Exxon donates to, so it is not possible to verify it has stopped all funding.
Source: Greenpeace USA, Newsweek, Scientific American, The Guardian , Huffington Post

BP - Provides funding to the American Legislative Exchange Council.
Source: Think Progress

Shell - Provides funding to the American Legislative Exchange Council.
Source: Think Progress

Koch Brothers - The Koch brothers and their interrelated corporations and foundations have been responsible for millions of dollars in donations to denial organizations, including the Cato Institute, Competitive Enterprise Institute, Heartland Institute and Heritage Foundation. They have also had to pay tens of millions of dollars in fines and hundreds of millions of dollars in clean-up costs as a result of violating environmental safety guards. They have been very critical of environmental safety laws, both on the books and proposed. Between 2005 and 2011 the Kochs would provide over $43 million to denier organizations, more than three times what Exxon provided during the same time period. The Kochs have become the largest single source of funds for denier organizations. They provide funding to the American Legislative Exchange Council.

Source: Huffington Post, Think Progress

Peabody Energy -Peabody is the world's largest private-sector supplier of coal and sold more than 246 million tons of coal in 2010. Peabody supports American Legislative Exchange Council and the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, both very active climate change denial organizations.
Source: Polluter Watch, SourceWatch

Chrysler - Chrysler donated $105,000 to the Heartland Institute between 2004 and 2006.
Source: Huffington Post

General Motors - GM donated $165,000 to the Heartland Institute between 2004 and 2010. They donated $95,000 to the Cato Institute between 2003 and 2009. 
Source: Huffington Post

Western Fuels Association - Supports the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, a major climate change denier organization.
Source: The Nation

And, take a look at who is getting the funding. The people and institutes here are among the most notorious of the climate change deniers or proxies.

Funding Receivers

Donors Trust -  According to IRS tax returns, between 2002 and 2010, Donors Trust provided over $90 million in funding ($90,989,710 to be exact) to 84 groups that deny the scientific realities of climate change. Between 2004 and 2010, the partner group Donors Capital Fund, provided more than $28 million in funding ($28,490,862) to 75 groups that deny the scientific realities of climate change. They receive their funds from conservative sources, including the Koch Brothers, Heritage Foundation and the Cato Institute. Charles Koch donated $2 million in 2010 alone.
Source: DeSmogBlog, Mother Jones, Huffington Post,

The Heartland Institute - Possibly the organization most guilty of false-science and efforts to undermine valid climate science. The Heartland Institute once compared climate scientists to terrorists, including the Unabomber, Charles Manson, Osama bin Laden and Fidel Castro. They stated, “the most prominent advocates of global warming aren’t scientists. They are murderers, tyrants, and madmen.” Heartland's president, Joseph Bast, has called Heartland "the world's most prominent think tank promoting skepticism about man-made global warming." Several internal documents were obtained by Peter Gleick and posted online. These documents revealed they were receiving funding from the fossil fuel industry and were engaged in campaigns to undermine climate science with school-based programs. Heartland demanded Gleick be charged and threatened lawsuits against anyone reposting the documents or even discussing them (I guess I'm in trouble). They are one of the organizations involved in the intimidation campaign against climate researcher Michael Mann. Heartland was involved in the ClimateGate campaign where the computer servers at East Anglia were illegally hacked and selected emails were stolen. These emails were then cherry-picked to take quotes out of context in an effort to make it look as if the scientists were faking their research. The scientists were all cleared of any wrong-doing by several independent panels, but Heartland continues to cite the emails in a continuing effort to discredit the scientists. They have engaged in other campaigns to attack, intimidate and discredit climate scientists (when you can't refute the science, destroy the scientists). they host an annual conference of climate change contrarians. Heartland has also been involved with efforts to convince people there is no danger in second-hand smoke. In addition to their internal documents showing they receive funding from the fossil fuel industry, Exxon documents show they donated $676,500 to Heartland since 1998. See the above entry about Donors Trust, which has donated money to Heartland.
According to various data bases and their tax documents, some of their funding includes: American Petroleum Institute ($25,000, 2008), Chrysler Foundation ($105,000, 2004-06), Donors Capital Fund ($25.6 million, 2005-11), Donors Trust ($554,000, 2008-10), ExxonMobil ($531,500, 2001-06), General Motors Foundation ($165,000, 2004-10) and Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation ($25,000, 2011).
Source: Washington Post, The Heartland Institute, Forbes, The Guardian, Forbes again, Watching the Deniers, More Forbes , ExxonSecrets, Huffington Post, More Huffington Post, Union of Concerned Scientists

The American Petroleum Institute (API) - The API has long held the position that any effort to limit greenhouse gas emissions is a 'tax on our industry' and has fought behind the scenes to undermine any effort to enact legislation that might hurt the fossil fuel industry. Internal memos have shown that it funds and provides staffing for campaigns against legislation, then denies any involvement. API says that it does not consider climate change legislation to be an energy tax, but then runs numerous ads calling any such legislation an 'energy tax.' Along with other groups, API funded reports for Congress "whose entire purpose was to confuse people on the science of global warming." Among other contributors, AEI received more than $1.9 million from Exxon.
Source: DeSmogBlog, Newsweek

The American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research (AEI) - Among other things, it offered $10,000 cash plus travel expenses for any scientist that would write papers undermining climate change research. It has been reported that AEI received over $28 million from ExxonMobil over a 10 year period, although that funding level has dropped significantly in recent years. Besides Exxon, AEI has received $60,000 from the American Petroleum Institute $1.1 million from the three main Koch family foundations between 2001 and 2011. AEI denies it rejects climate change science, even though they have been active in the business. Among other things they have been involved with, they helped underwrite a $53,000 project for a denier's presentation to Congress claiming there was no warming over the last 1000 years. Therefore, it was claimed, there was no scientific consensus. According to various data bases and their tax documents, some of their funding includes: American Petroleum Institute ($145,000, 2008-11), Donors Capital Fund ($15.16 million, 2002 -11), Donors Trust ($187,000, 2002-11), ExxonMobil ($3.04 million, 2001-11), Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation ($350,000, 2004-11) and Charles Koch’s Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation ($750,000, 2005-07).

Source: Newsweek, Wikipedia, SourceWatch, The Guardian, Union of Concerned Scientists

Americans For Prosperity -According to various data bases and their tax documents, some of their funding includes: American Petroleum Institute ($124,000, 2008-11), Donors Capital Fund ($1.32million, 2005-11), Donors Trust ($6.33million, 2005-11), Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, $67,500, 2009), David H. Koch Charitable Foundation ($1 million, 2008) and Charles Koch’s Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation ($4.69 million, 2005-10).

American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) - ALEC is an extremist organization that, among other things, promotes climate change denial and is funded by the oil and gas industry. It is extremely weird - and dangerous. Read the first-hand account from Chris Taylor, a state representative from Wisconsin. ALEC denies that global warming is causing glaciers to retreat or sea level to rise. Not only does ALEC deny the threat of climate change, they even argue that “substantial global warming is likely to be of benefit to the United States”.
Source: The Progressive, Climate Progress

Richard Lindzen - He always claimed to not take any funding from the fossil fuel industry, but finally admitted to taking over $10,000 per year from the fossil fuel industry plus consulting fees and travel expenses. He receives $2,500 per day in consulting fees. He was a court expert witness for the Western Fuels Association.
Source: DeSmogBlog, SourceWatch, Weather Underground

Patrick Michaels - Michaels served as an expert court witness on behalf of the Western Fuels Association. This, and other actions, led the Minnesota Star to write about him in an editorial stating he was a fossil-fuel industry funded scientist. He won a court case against them, but then he admitted in 1995 that he had received over $165,000 from the fossil fuel industry. He now refuses to reveal any of his source of funds. ABC reported he had received $100,000 from the Intermountain Rural Electric Association. He also acknowledged on CNN that 40 percent of his funding comes from the oil industry. He was a witness in a lawsuit but withdrew when it became apparent he would have to reveal his funding sources. He was paid by the coal industry to write the World Climate Report, in which he regularly attempted to discredit climate science.
Source: ThinkProgress, Wikipedia, Mother Jones, DeSmogBlog, Newsweek, Huffington Post

The Cato Institute: A long-time climate denial organization, Patrick Michaels (see above) heads their Center for the Study of Science. He admitted that he receives 40% of his funding from the fossil fuel industry. The Cato Institute received $110,000 from ExxonMobil between 2001and 2006, $95,000 from General Motors from 2003 to 2009, and $2.79 million from the three main Koch family funds from 2001 to 2010.

According to various data bases and their tax documents, some of their funding includes: Donors Capital Fund ($1.08 million, 2002-11), DonorsTrust ($348,670, 2002-11), ExxonMobil ($110,000, 2001-06), Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation ($18,400, 2006-08), David H. Koch Charitable Foundation ($500,000, 2001) and Charles Koch’s Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation ($2.27 million, 2001-10).

Source: Huffington Post, Union of Concerned Scientists

Competitive Enterprise Institute - According to various data bases and their tax documents, some of their funding includes: American Petroleum Institute ($25,000, 2009), Donors Capital Fund ($607,280, 2007-11), Donors Trust ($581,000, 2002-11), ExxonMobil ($1.69 million, 2001-05), General Motors Foundation ($245,000, 2003-08), Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation ($24,100, 2009) and Charles Koch’s Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation ($222,620, 2002-11).
Source:  Union of Concerned Scientists

James Inhofe - The senior senator from Oklahoma, Senator Inhofe is a die-hard critic of climate change science. He has called global warming the 'greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people." At the same time, the senator is one of the largest receivers of fossil fuel industry campaign funds. Over his career, he has received over $3,250,000 from the energy sector, including $1,600,000 from the oil and gas industry. That total included over $95,000 from the Koch Brothers. He famously used outdated data, even though it had been proven false, to make the claim that there was no scientific evidence of global warming.
Source: OpenSecrets, The Guardian, Newsweek

Nongovernmental Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) - The NIPCC is a project funded by the Heartland Institute with the objective of presenting alternative science. The NIPCC differs from the UN's IPCC in several important ways, including (thanks to Skeptical Science):
  • Its purpose is not to give clarity on climate science, as the IPCC does, but to critique the IPCC, according to the Heartland leaked documents
  • The scientists working for the NIPCC get paid; the IPCC scientists don’t
  • The NIPCC report only critiques papers published by deniers, whereas the IPCC critiques all papers, including those published by deniers. 
The Heartland Institute pays its scientists to disregard most climate science research and focus exclusively on the few "skeptic" studies which support their very narrow focus on poking holes in the IPCC report. One document in the Heartland leaks outlined the list of deniers being paid for their work on the NIPCC, including Craig Idso and Fred Singer.
Source: Greenpeace, Skeptical Science

S. Fred Singer - A long time climate change denier, Singer has been very active as a lobbyist for the oil and gas industry. He makes frequent appearances before government panels at the state and federal level with testimony contrary to the prevailing science. Singer is famous for claiming global warming was not real, then, when he was caught in the lie, changed his claim to saying that climate science community was a cabal that was silencing any scientist that disagreed with the 'alarmist' reports.  Singer receives $5000 per month plus expenses from the Heartland Institute.
Source: Newsweek, The Heartland Institute

Craig Idso -Idso heads the denial organization known as the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change. He is also associated with the Heartland Institute, which pays him $11,600 per month.
Source: The Heartland Institute, More Heartland Institute

The Heritage Foundation - Heritage has received $535,000 from ExxonMobil (2001-11), $100,000 from General Motors (2003-07), and $3.69 million from Charles Koch's Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation (2001-10). They have also received funds from Donors Capital Fund ($41,000, 2002-10) and Donors Trust ($307,765, 2002-11).

Source: Huffington Post, Union of Concerned Scientists

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Tom Donelson and Denier Lies

Tom Donelson is a climate change denier. He is also a real estate agent in Iowa (according to his link) and apparently thinks he knows more about climate change than all of the climate scientists in the world combined. I have been exchanging some comments with him lately and they are so lame that it is unbelievable that anyone would believe them. You can read all of them here. Unfortunately, there are those that do. But, in his comments were some very subtle lies. I bring this up, not because I want to discredit Mr. Donelson (he has no credibility to begin with), but to illustrate how deniers lie to people.

Here is one such exchange. Read it closely to see if you can find the lie:

Tom Donelson · Top Commenter · Realtors at Iowa Realty
You can't even make the statement that this is the hottest century over the past two thousands years stick and there are 700 researchers who agree with me. So the real denier is you, have fun selling your book. I will look forward to see it under fiction

Name one that isn't associated with the Heartland Institute.

Tom Donelson · Top Commenter · Realtors at Iowa Realty
Christopher Keating Here is one lists of references to chew on. Of course every scientists who disagree with you is on the take. .

Tom Donelson · Top Commenter · Realtors at Iowa Realty
Bottom line, I have more than enough references to show I am right that there has been climate change over the pasts 2000 years, past 10,000 years and yes even the last 800,000 years. Since you can't even get the history of climate change right, the readers of this blog should not take you that seriously. And I am the snake oil salesman?

Tom Donelson · Top Commenter · Realtors at Iowa Realty

Give up? That is how good they are. It is hard to see and I confess I missed it at first.

In his first comment above, Mr. Donelson states, "there are 700 researchers who agree with me." Then, he gives a link to the CO2 Science website, one of the worst denier organizations out there. If you go to the link Donelson provides you find a page entitled, "List of Scientists Whose Work We Cite".

I think we can all agree that citing someone's published work is not the same as saying they 'agree' with you. For instance, I could write a paper talking about how bad the Nazis were for Germany and cite Mein Kampf somewhere in the paper. That does not mean Hitler agrees with me.

The fact that Hitler is dead is relevant. I looked up a bunch of these scientists and found that many of them have been dead for quite some time. In fact, it appears some of them died before CO2 Science was ever around. It would be virtually impossible for these individuals to agree with them.

CO2 Science does not make the claim that these scientist agree with them, they just say they cite their work. The claim of agreement is purely on Mr. Donelson. However, I bet if I contacted these individuals (at least the ones that are still alive) and told them that a denier is telling people they agree with him on his views on climate change that they would be pretty surprised.

Look at the last comment where he says, "I have more than enough references to show I am right that there has been climate change over the pasts (sic) 2000 years, past 10,000 years and yes even the last 800,000 years." This is the second lie Mr. Donelson says here.

The claim was never that there has been no naturally occurring climate change. Mr. Donelson changed the claim in mid-argument. The original claim by Donelson was "when for the past ten of thousands of years we have seen far more extreme temperature ensueing?" I responded that temperatures today are the hottest in the last 10,000 years. He then stated, "You can't even make the statement that this is the hottest century over the past two thousands years stick."

So, in summary, I said this is the hottest it has been for 10,000 years and he changed it to climate variability over the last 800,000 years. False argument. He did not respond to my claim, instead he substituted another to make it appear that I was wrong. The irony is that if Mr. Donelson had stuck to the facts he would have shown my statement, as I stated it, was wrong. It was actually warmer than today during the middle-Halocene period that occurred between 7500 and 5000 years ago.Here is a very good statement of the facts, from the National Climatic Data Center. So, if he hadn't turned it into a lie, he would have scored some points.

However, present day temperatures are clearly warmer than during the Medieval Warm Period, making today's temperature record the hottest for the last 2000 years, at least. The IPCC report states,

The uncertainty associated with present palaeoclimate estimates of NH mean temperatures is significant, especially for the period prior to 1600 when data are scarce (Mann et al., 1999; Briffa and Osborn, 2002; Cook et al., 2004a). However, Figure 6.10 shows that the warmest period prior to the 20th century very likely occurred between 950 and 1100, but temperatures were probably between 0.1°C and 0.2°C below the 1961 to 1990 mean and significantly below the level shown by instrumental data after 1980.

So, the Medieval Warm Period is not as warm as the period of 1961-1990, and significantly cooler than the temperatures recorded after 1980. But, the bigger issue is, so what? Discussions about naturally occurring climate change in the past have no bearing on the climatic issues of today. This quote from Richard Alley says it very well:

"Whether temperatures have been warmer or colder in the past is largely irrelevant to the impacts of the ongoing warming. If you don’t care about humans and the other species here, global warming may not be all that important; nature has caused warmer and colder times in the past, and life survived. But, those warmer and colder times did not come when there were almost seven billion people living as we do. The best science says that if our warming becomes large, its influences on us will be primarily negative, and the temperature of the Holocene or the Cretaceous has no bearing on that. Furthermore, the existence of warmer and colder times in the past does not remove our fingerprints from the current warming, any more than the existence of natural fires would remove an arsonist’s fingerprints from a can of flammable liquid. If anything, nature has been pushing to cool the climate over the last few decades, but warming has occurred."
So, Mr. Donelson inserted another implied lie into the argument, namely that we don't need to worry about today's warming because natural climate change occurred in the past, therefore this warming is just another natural cycle. What if I said it this way:

Pneumonia kills people
Gunshot wounds kill people
Pneumonia is a naturally occurring disease
Therefore, gunshot wounds are a naturally occurring disease

It's pretty obvious when you put it that way.  But, Mr. Donelson, and other climate change deniers, want you to believe that naturally occurring climate cycles in the past mean we have done nothing to the environment of today. Clearly, a false argument and, since they know it is a false argument (they have been told enough times), that makes it a lie when they continue to say it.

And, that is how the deniers operate.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Sure sounds like a threat to me

I have become a point of interest for Russell Cook of the Heartland Institute. If you are not familiar with this gem of a human being, don't be disappointed. His job description with the Institute includes the statement (from his webpage) "He specializes in research of the origins of accusations leveled at skeptics and the associations of people surrounding it, most notably anti-skeptic book author Ross Gelbspan."

I find it interesting that he "specializes" in this area of work. From my perspective, this makes Cook the Gestapo of the Heartland Institute with the job of hunting down dissenting opinions and persecuting those responsible. Again, that is just from my perspective.

Now, he has apparently set his sights on me. That, in itself, is pretty amazing. Let's be honest about my blog, this is not one of the top climate change blogs out there. Truth be told, it is probably not even in the top few hundred blogs. So, why does Mr. Cook find it necessary to come after me?

Now, you may ask, just how is it that I feel he is targeting me? He has engaged in a series of comments on my  blog, all of which I have published verbatim without any kind of editing on my part. You can read all of his comments and my responses here. These comments appear to be motivated by a posting I made pointing out how the people in control of the NIPCC reports are all tools of the fossil fuel industry, a claim he finds objectionable. I will make a more detailed posting about this claim, but I want to devote this posting to Mr. Cook and his actions, which he supposedly committed as part of his job at the Heartland Institute.

Mr Cook began by demanding I produce clandestine information to support my claim ("(full context document scans, undercover video/audio transcripts, leaked emails, money-transfer receipts, etc.)") I referred to some documents that are available as an example that the documentation is there for anyone to see. He scoffed at this and responded, "If you had to answer a court subpoena as a defense witness supporting people accused of committing libel/slander against skeptic climate scientists, is that material from ExxonSecrets all you'd have to bring with you?"

Whoa! Wait a minute! Suddenly, we are talking lawsuits, subpoenas and libel/slander. Why? What was the purpose here? None of those topics were in anyway included in my postings or previous comments. I do not for an instant, believe they came out of thin air. It is only reasonable to believe there was a motive behind those comments.

Did he directly threaten me with such a lawsuit? No, he didn't. Was this an attempt to intimidate me? It most certainly was. There can be one, and only one, reason why Mr. Cook would make a comment like that, to make sure I understood that such a lawsuit was a possibility. The only possible motivation I can see is he wanted to make sure I understood the Heartland Institute is upset with my comments and if I continue, they will do something about it.

When I asked him if he was threatening me with a lawsuit, he responded,

I respectfully suggest you show your verbatim blog post and our comments to the most disinterested person you can find and ask him or her - without any leading pointers on your part - whether my first bit about the wisdom of you supporting your accusation with proof is threatening or intimidation, and whether my prior comment is any indication at all of a pending lawsuit against you. If they say "No" and then look at you sorta funny, that might be an indication that you might want to more carefully re-read my comments.

I have read Mr. Cook's comments very carefully and there is still no alternative explanation I can come up with. What is very telling is his comment "without any leading pointers on your part".  To remove anything I might say about it is just plain silly, since the comments were directed at me and for my consumption. Let me give you  an example, suppose someone says Person A is pointing a gun at Person B, and leaves out any context. What is your conclusion? You can't really reach one because you don't know what the story. Is Person A robbing Person B? Is Person A a police officer arresting Person B? Is Person A unlawfully in the Person B's house in the middle of the night? Is Person B unlawfully in Person A's house in the middle of the night? Are they playing laser tag or paintball? All very different and you cannot reach a logical conclusion without the context of the situation.

That, of course, is exactly what Mr. Cook wants. And, the deniers are extremely skilled at this. Many of their claims consists of taking selected quotes out of context and putting them into a new context to make them seem like something else. Now, if you are suspicious that I have done this to Mr. Cook, you may read all of his comments verbatim. Again, they can be found here.

One last point, Mr. Cook devoted over 1500 words (1566, according to Microsoft Word) to my blog, once again, a minor blog. You would think he would have bigger fish to fry. Or, maybe its because he thinks a small fry like me can be intimidated. If so, he greatly missed the mark. I was a career analyst in Navy Intelligence, involved with fighting some of the nastiest people on the face of the planet. I have dealt with very nasty people in my private life and do not get intimidated very easily.

As for a slander/libel lawsuit, the burden of proof is on them and the truth is a positive and absolute defense. If anyone would like to sue me for slander/libel because I said certain people receive funding from the fossil fuel industry, the first thing I will do is to subpoena the financial records of everyone involved. And, we know for a fact that the Heartland Institute does not want anyone to see their internal documents. Just look at their reaction when internal documents were leaked.

Again, this blog is not about debunking deniers or exposing all of their dirty laundry. If it comes up in course of my discussions, no problem. They are putting themselves in the public eye and are fair game. But, that isn't my purpose here.

But, I want to make it clear that any effort on the part of Cook and the Heartland Institute to intimidate me failed. Unfortunately, as much as I want to devote myself to important things, I will need to address Cook and his comments in future posts.