Friday, July 31, 2015

Guest Submission: Duluth News Tribune and Larry Hendrickson

Guest submission for Dialogues on Global Warming,
RE: If it sounds too incredible to be true, it invariably is;

My experience with writing letters that affirm man's role in climate change to local newspapers has taught me a few basic things about deniers and the news outlets which regularly publish inaccuracies and downright lies told by those whose goal is to defend mega coal and oil companies, as well as the business world in general. One of those is the axiomatic principle that when deniers circulate ideas that sound too bizarre or factually dubious, what they are circulating is virtually always untrue.

I admittedly don't have the educational background or mathematical knowledge to follow some of the more technical, or mathematical computations used to substantiate the rate of global warming, but I do have enough of a science background to appreciate the basic concepts which are currently at work in the changing climate of our world, i.e. that when CO2, (or other greenhouse gasses), in the atmosphere block ever increasing quantities of heat energy from escaping, our finite biosphere reacts in the way so clearly evidenced by those who have spent decades studying global warming. And when more heat energy is introduced into our delicately balanced ecosphere, that ultimately creates more energy to drive more instability in the world's weather systems.

Recently a particular commenter in the Duluth News Tribune, (Larry Hendrickson), has included some “doozies,” in his letters concerning supposed predictions made by prominent advocates of global warming, and which include some downright distortions and lies concerning a televised program aired by ABC in 2009, titled Earth 2100, and which featured some worst cases scenarios portraying the possible effects of global warming (between) years 2015 and 2100. I first became aware of this particular commenter's propensity for using misleading facts and quotes, after one of his opinion letters about Al Gore included the charge that Gore had literally claimed that in 2011, continuing water level declines in the Great Lakes would make it possible that, “ by 2014 we might be able to walk from Muskegon Michigan to Milwaukee without getting our feet wet.” Accordingly, when this rather imaginative and fantastic prediction attributed to Gore did not come to pass, the same commenter took the liberty to say that Mother Nature made a fool out of Gore. In fact after doing some Google searches I found one conservative website after another jumping on the global warming denial bandwagon by publishing this supposed quote of Gore's—but of course I noticed during the process that many of the Google websites that came up in my search, contained the word (missing) with a line drawn through it, whenever this exact quote supposedly from Gore, was referenced. After going to the links included on many of these websites, I also noticed that some of these sites had the story removed, and that almost none of them placed quotation marks around this certifiably insane prediction attributed to Gore. Apparently these omissions could mean either that Gore never said these words, or that what he said was later discovered to have been taken out of context. Nonetheless, dozens and dozens of websites joined in the feeding frenzy concerning this highly unlikely statement by Gore, like a team of piranhas going after a cow's carcass in the Amazon.

Mr. Hendrickson's latest attempt to enlighten us about the supposedly foolish opinions of AGW affirmers, was his reference to the documentary titled Earth 2100, which as I already mentioned, was said to have predicted for a certainty that by a specific calendar date in 2015, New York would be “completely underwater.” Once again the preposterous nature of this claim did not seem typical of the customary caution and reserve shown by scientists in any field of research about making “predictions.” And, again my research proved that no scientist and nobody who worked on this ABC documentary had said anything of the kind. I learned this after accessing all nine parts of the hour and half video on YouTube. What I found was typical of the way deniers take a shred of truth and use it to completely misrepresent the reality of what is really said by scientists, as well as by those who created the video. Here is a link to that video on YouTube:

First of all, although opening scenes in the video portrayed ominous ocean waters closing in on New York, the title of the film, Earth 2100, indicates that the film was not exclusively about any earlier date like 2015, and in fact, explored ecological disasters that might be possible during the entire 21st century. And indeed, after watching the complete video, this fact was completely verified.

The Earth 2100 video which included a hypothetical woman named Lucy, followed her experiences with climate change (between) 2015 and 2100—not, (just during 2015)! In the course of Lucy’s life (which was presented in a graphic cartoon like animation) she did experience a devastating storm surge that flooded much of Miami in 2016, but the actual hypothetical portrayal of New York suffering submersion due to drastically rising ocean levels, was set in the year 2075—60 years later than environmental AGW critics hoping to feast on the film's inaccuracies, had claimed! The only mention of the specific year 2015 being the date of this hypothetical disaster was made by certain amateurs who had taken part in an audience interactive segment, in which they submitted their own fictional predictions of what life would be like (between) 2015 and 2100—again an 85 year period spanning the rest of the 21st century—not just 2015! Yet the mrc News Busters website, as well as other conservative news outlets that took part in the journalistic feeding frenzy, mentioned only one viewer who took part in the interactive audience segment of the broadcast, and who was described as “one expert”—claiming that New York could be completely flooded by 2015, and another “unidentified person” predicting that “flames cover hundreds of miles.” The same reference to this “one expert” was repeated by many internet websites which tried to discredit the reality of man made global warming by creating the impression that “experts” predicted that New York would be completely flooded by 2015---And, here it is appropriate to mention that portions of the New York subway system, and the Holland Tunnel, actually were flooded by the dangerous storm surge created by hurricane Sandy in 2012, and that thousands of square miles of burning forests in our western areas are devastating the environment there. The mrc site also quite casually mentioned that “ABC provides no graphics or identification for any of the individuals/activists featured.” In other words participants in the interactive audience portion of are not even proven to be people who really know anything at all about climate change!

What I learned is that conservative websites totally distorted the claims made in ABC's video—even though the video's narrator mentioned many times during the presentation, that Earth 2100 only suggests things that (might happen) between 2015 and 2100 (if) we fail to take adequate measures to address the threat of global warming—not things that (will happen)! The video's narrator also made several statements affirming that what was depicted was a worse case scenario and may never actually happen as portrayed.

So the rule of thumb I employ when deciding which letters by deniers are obvious fabrications is simply to ask how credible it would be for well educated scientists or informed political activists like Al Gore, to actually say, or predict, the incredibly unfeasible things which are falsely ascribed to them. Invariably such supposed statements are jumped on by deniers as an opportunity to sow doubt about climate change—and my lies and misinformation antennae are now quickly activated whenever I read similarly incredible claims. But the most troubling aspect of these attempts to deny a real problem, is how easily an outlet like the Tribune, (otherwise quite competent and professional) is persuaded to publish such incredible claims from deniers, yet consistently makes me jump through hoops in order to verify the things said in my own letters. Why is it that the press currently seems to not even bat an eye over the proposition that an intelligent person like Al Gore supposedly thought we would be able to walk across lake Michigan by 2014 without even getting our feet wet, yet when someone like me points out facts that are verifiable like those in Earth 2100 are—just by watching the video—invariably we must run a gauntlet of questions and are told to provide numerous links that affirm the things we have found to be true? And even after that process, the actual words a letter writer uses are frequently altered according to established editing protocols? 

If I didn't know better I might think that the press is more interested in publishing sensationalistic news articles, then it is in publishing the truth—but thankfully I now do know better---and my suspicions have been repeatedly proven to be correct!

Peter W. Johnson

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

A Too Early Forecast on Arctic Sea Ice

The Arctic sea ice extent for 2015 has now dropped below the minimum extent of 1980 and continues to drop. Take a look at this plot from the National Snow and Ice Data Center:
Source: NSIDC

With about eight weeks remaining, this year's extent is going badly. Take a look at these graphics from the Danish website, Polar Portal:

Source: Polar Portal

This shows the surface temperature of the ice. The dark line represents the extent of the ice. As you can see, the ice everywhere is above freezing. This is normal (it is summer up there, too), but indicates the ice is melting from above. It is melting from below from warm ocean water at the same time. The combination gives you this:

Source: Polar Portal
This shows both the extent of the ice and the percentage of ice coverage in a given area. The darker the shading, the more open water there is and less ice. Compare this to last year at this same time:

Source: Polar Portal
There's a big difference. This year is quite a bit worse than last year. But, there is more than just extent. After all, 20% coverage is the same as 100% when you talk about extent. What about ice thickness?

Source: Polar Portal
The more purple the color, the thinner the ice. As you can see, there are vast areas on the verge of completely breaking apart.

And ice volume:

Source: Polar Portal

This graph shows the total volume of ice. 2015 is tracking to be the second-lowest volume ever recorded.

This is how these two values looked at the same time last year:

Source: Polar Portal
Based on this data, I believe we will see one of the worst sea ice minimum extents ever measured. There are still almost two months to go before we see the minimum, but this year's extent is already less than the minimum extent of 35 years ago and declining rapidly. I expect to see the extent fall somewhere around the 2007 or 2011 minimum, which would make this year in the range of being the second-worst extent ever measured. That would be consistent with the trend line:

Source: NSIDC

Future postings on this subject will follow as we approach the minimum in late-September.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Climate Change Will Be A Problem For Republicans in 2016

I am not aware of any Republican running for president who is an advocate of acting on climate change. Admittedly, I make a great effort to ignore politics and I won't take a serious look at the candidates until October of next year, just before I make my decision on how to vote. Between now and then it's just a bunch of posturing. And, since I am a die-hard independent, I don't get to vote in the primaries.

But, I follow climate change very closely and I have seen the comments made by those who have declared they're running. This posting on ClimateProgress ranks the candidates from being the least to most extreme on climate change denial. The one they ranked the least extreme is former New York governor George Pataki who was on a commission which found climate change to be an urgent threat, but has not stated what his personal views on the subject are. Of note is John Kasich of Ohio and Chris Christie of New Jersey. They both have stated they 'believe' in manmade climate change, but then vetoed or canceled every initiative that came their way. Speaks one way, acts another. That isn't good for someone running for office. Ted Cruz is the candidate they rank as the most extreme, quoting him as calling climate change the "pseudoscientific theory."

In comparison, Hillary Clinton has announced her renewable energy policy. Clinton stated,  “It’s hard to believe there are people running for president who still refuse to accept the settled science of climate change, who would rather remind us they’re not scientists than listen to those who are.” Her competition on the Democratic side have taken even stronger stands on the subject.

What this means is there is a very clear divide between the two parties - those who support climate science and those who are opposed to it. Will the voters even care enough to make a difference in the election? I believe things are not going well for the Republicans in this regard. The weather extremes we have been witnessing in recent years continue to get worse with a number of disasters striking us here in the U.S. It is no longer a case of saying, 'Gee, those poor people in Africa. I'm really sorry for what is happening, but what can I do?" Now, it's becoming "My family and my friends are being hurt by this stuff. We have to do something!"

Once people think climate change is affecting them, they will be more inclined to factor it into their decision-making process. The two main parties have made it clear which side of the issue they sit on. I do not believe there is any chance the number of people who reject climate change will increase between now and election day. But, I do believe there is a significant chance the number of people who accept the science will increase. There are many reasons to believe that, but one thing in particular stands out - El Nino.

The El Nino we are currently in is growing fast. In just three months, it went from being weak (.5 Oceanic Nino Index (ONI)) to moderate (.7 ONI) and is now at .9. The computer models are pretty much in agreement it will continue to get stronger into the fall, peaking out in the October-November-December period. The official forecast is a 90% chance it will continue through the Northern Hemisphere winter and an 80% chance it will continue through early spring. Take a look here:

Source: National Weather Service

What we are looking at is a record of the sea surface temperature across the equatorial Pacific from South America on the right to Indonesia on the left. Time goes from top to bottom. If you scan the graph from top to bottom you can see how the sea surface temperature along the equatorial Pacific has changed with time, Aug 2014 - Jul 2015 in this particular case. Hot colors (yellow, orange and red) represent elevated temperatures compared to the long-term average. Shades of blue represent cooler temperatures. It is very easy to see how the temperature anomalies along the equatorial Pacific have greatly increased over the last year and this increase appears to be continuing. I would not be surprised to see the ONI increase to somewhere around 1.5 before it begins to fade. That would make this a very strong El Nino event. In comparison, the extreme event of 1997-1998 reached a high of 2.3 ONI.

What does this have to do with the presidential election? El Nino events bring chaotic weather. Strong El Ninos bring lots of chaotic weather. And, people don't like chaotic weather. As the news stories build up with more and more people realizing something isn't right, candidates telling them there isn't any problem and it's all a hoax will begin receiving a less favorable reception. Campaign managers will tell you, a small shift in public opinion can make all the difference.

Maybe I'm too close to the issue. It is entirely possible the typical American will not care about this issue, one way or the other. But, if they do, I believe the news about climate change over the next 15 months before election day will not go in favor of the Republican candidate. So, all of you die-hard Republicans out there, I suggest you get used to the idea of President Clinton the Second. After all, you are the ones who will be responsible for putting her in the White House.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Russell Cook: Climate Science Harasser

Harassment of climate scientists has become the norm in recent years. Climate scientist Michael Mann has received numerous threats, including death threats. But, he isn’t the only one. Essentially, any climate scientist who steps up and speaks on the issue to the public is facing attacks and harassment.

This appears to be a mostly American strategy. Scientists in other countries report little of the harassment American scientists experience. A major tactic of the denier lobby industry is to harass and attack climate scientists and anyone that even appears to be supporting valid climate science and that lobby is headquartered in the U.S.

Why would climate change deniers be interested in this tactic? Simple. By chasing climate scientists out of the public forum, the deniers have it to themselves. This makes them free to tell the public their lies, deceits, falsehoods, and false arguments without having to worry about someone calling them out. This activity is routine, organized, and well funded. A leaked memo from the American Institute of Petroleum revealed detailed plans to "recruit, train, and pay willing scientists to sow doubt about climate change among the media and the public."

While at nowhere near the level of the university researchers, I personally have received quite a bit of harassment and threats. People have sent me emails and comments that can only be described as vile. I have been called many things and have been threatened with several lawsuits. Unfortunately for them, I don’t intimidate very easily. I come from a different kind of background than most scientists and the prospect of a fight doesn’t scare me.

Thus, enter Russell Cook, who I fondly refer to as the Heartland Institute’s henchman. Cook has appeared in my comments many times making many bizarre, even incomprehensible claims, but always with the apparent intention of harassment in an attempt to silence or undermine me. If I comment on submissions from known fossil fuel lobbyists, such as Tom Harris, it takes only a short while before Cook shows up to attack me. Note, he doesn’t defend the denier, he attacks me. That is his modus operandi.

Who is this guy, Russell Cook? Like I said, he is affiliated with the Heartland Institute and his webpage with that anti-science organization lists him as an “unpaid contributing editor” and is responsible for investigating Ross Gelbspan. Notice, there is no mention of being paid on a free-lance basis. So, it would be entirely possible for Cook to be paid by Heartland without ever showing up on their books. That is how these things work. Continue reading and you will below how Heartland is actually paying him, despite their claims.

Why does Heartland feel it is necessary to have someone with the job of investigating a particular journalist and blogger? Take a look at who Ross Gelbspan is. He has written two popular books on climate change, TheHeat is On and Boiling Point. And, he’s no light weight. He won the Pulitzer Prize while working at the Boston Globe.

But, he retired several years ago. So, why are the antiscience people so interested in him? Well, for one thing he continues his work with regular contributions to – one of the websites most hated by the denier world.

Now, it makes sense. And, I have to admit I’m very flattered. The denier lobbyists think I’m so dangerous they have sent the same man to harass me that they sent to harass Ross Gelbspan. They may not see it this way, but I consider that to be a high compliment!

Speaking of, this is one of the quotes they had from Cook:

My conclusion can be readily summarized: the accusation [“that those who express skepticism about the theory of man-made global warming are being paid by the fossil fuel industry to lie about the issue”] appears to be a false claim, a myth generated by a small group of enviro-activists with significant direction from ex-Boston Globe reporter Ross Gelbspan.”

Note to Cook: ExxonMobil has admitted providing funds to denier groups for years. So much for credibility.

Recently, Cook has appeared on my blog with some ad hominem attacks. I initially intended to simply ignore them as the ramblings of someone who has left reality, but instead decided they need to be turned into a posting. These comments quickly degenerated in diatribes. I have provided the two most egregious examples below for your perusal so you may see I am not misquoting him or taking him out of context. The crux is, they graphically demonstrate his harassment technique while, at the same time, demonstrating he has a total lack of credibility.

Having said that, let’s wade into this mess and take a look at some of the things he said.


You openly say the "evidence is massive, conclusive and irrefutable", yet when I challenged you last year via the three different analogies of presenting evidence at a courtroom evidentiary hearing, or to prove a pure hearsay sighting of a rare bird, or to satisfy the demands of a Washington Post-style legendary news editor, you struck out rather than hit what should have been home runs.

Cook last year challenged me to a debate. Sounds good and I’m willing to do that. Except, the terms of his debate were that we both put up $10,000 and the money would go to a charity of our choice. Nice. His fossil fuel buddies pay his $10,000 and I have to take $10,000 out of my savings. I would have to be an idiot to accept that and he would have to be an idiot to think I would. But, that wasn’t the goal. The goal was to make it look as if I was afraid to meet him in public debate. Not only am I not afraid of debating the issues in public, but have sent challenges, including one to his Heartlandcomrade John Coleman. By the way, they acknowledged receiving my challenge, but never responded.

The other challenge Cook made was for me to produce evidence deniers are funded by the fossil fuel industry and have instructions to undermine climate science. Unfortunately for Mr. Cook, this was pretty easy and I did a large posting on the subject. My evidence consisted, among other things, of documents filed with the SEC and the IRS, court documents, and internal memos. Cook says this is all invalid because I don’t have secret recordings and canceled checks. Well, Mr. Cook, you don’t get to decide what constitutes evidence and proof. Of course, he doesn’t have to worry about that. All he has to do is keep repeating the same lie and there will be people who believe him.

Included in those original challenges was a veiled threat of a lawsuit. Mr. Cook insists it wasn’t a threat, but when I showed the comments to two lawyers, they both agreed it was a case of making a threat without actually making a threat. The purpose, they told me, was to make it clear to me the threat was on the table without saying anything I could exploit against him. When I stated the first thing I would do if sued would be to subpoena Heartland’s financials, he stopped making the threat. Surprise.

What follows next is a whole series of personal attacks.

What this has to do with the subject matter is never revealed. What is of particular interest is how Cook accuses me ‘name calling’ when I say Tom Harris is a paid shill for the fossil fuel industry. See my posting here on that topic. So, why did Cook engage in this attack? You’ll have to ask him.


You don't read my blog. I read yours. I read your heroes' books, articles, I watch interviews of them and their own video presentations. But you just shot yourself in the foot with a cannon again - you don't read opposition material because it undermines all that you BELIEVE.

Again, what does this have to do with the subject matter? But, it has a lot to do with Russell Cook. How in the world does Mr. Cook know what I do and don’t read? No, I don’t read his blog. I tried once but it has no value, even in the realm of denialism. However, I read denial blogs, statements, articles, etc. on a nearly daily basis. I need to stay informed on what the deniers are lying about. It is a occupational hazard. Sorry, Mr. Cook, but you are the one who shot yourself in the foot. You have demonstrated your lack of credibility in a big way.


You only believe I'm employed by Heartland to knowingly spread lies, you believe criticism against your dear leaders is collapsing, and you believe in the 'tobacco industry parallel' talking point, but you literally cannot prove a word of it. Hurl all the accusations you like, and torture yourself to sleep with nightmares of apocalyptic climate mayhem, but ask yourself why it is that you are compelled to pursue this on BELIEFS which are enslaved to erasing criticism, rather than facing it head-on.

You say you read my blog, but then you say I cannot “prove a word of it.” You may have pointed your eyes at my blog, but you certainly did not read it. My guess is that you can’t understand the science. And, how could you possibly know how I sleep? This is a great example of how you do business - you merely assume what you want without any supporting evidence, or even a chance of supporting evidence. I can assure you, I have never lost any sleep over you or your cohorts and I cannot remember the last time I had a nightmare. I simply don’t have them. I guess that’s the product of a clear conscience. So, how do you sleep at night?


You view me and other critics with unrestrained hatred which tears you apart. I view you as potentially one of the strongest skeptics there could ever be, once you have actually objectively viewed both sides of the issue. You've already indicated you don't read material you oppose. I've probably already read more of your own side's political material than you have, and maybe even more of the scientific material than you have, that's why I am as confident as I am, and that's why I have confidence in a positive outcome for you.

Once again, Cook demonstrates his lack of credibility. How could he know any of these things about me and what does any of this have to do with the subject? This is nothing more than a continuation of the diatribe from a desperate man. I certainly feel no “unrestrained hatred” and I am not being torn apart. Of course, you know there is no way you can know that, so you say it for the sake of your fans. (The alternative is you're a sick person who needs to seek counseling. Your choice.) Again, if you really have read my blog, you know I continuously refer to the antiscience statements of deniers. How could I do that if I wasn’t reading them? One more giant hole in your logic you don’t seem to be able to see and another example of your thought processes. And, I am almost certain you do not read more of the scientific material than I do. I am also highly skeptical you understand any that you do read. It is not possible to understand the science and still be a denier. Of course, you are financially vested in being a denier and a harasser, so you will never be able to understand the science.

Let’s move on to Mr. Cook’s second diatribe.


Live in whatever alternate reality, 911Truther/ChemTrail-style conspiracy-driven world you wish, there is no way on Earth you can prove I didn't first arrive here at your blog purely on my own volition, nor can you prove I've questioned the veracity of yours and others regurgitations of the 'industry-corrupted skeptic climate scientists' accusation for the last 7+ years under the direction/payment of ANYBODY.

Well, most of this is nothing more than personal attacks and is irrelevant to the issues. But, let’s take a look at one of these comments. He states he doesn’t work under the direction/payment of anybody. Then, explain this from DeSmogBlog:

After January 2013, with his “savings drawn down to a critical level,” the Heartland Institute offered Cook a “$12,000 strings-free grant to enable [him] to continue devoting time to [the] subject.

So, he really is receiving payment from someone to continue his attacks and that someone just happens to be one of the worst of the denier institutes.  Once again, Mr. Cook has demonstrated a total lack of credibility.

So, there you have it, a climate change denier harasser exposed. Below are the two comments to which I have been referring.

Puh-lease. You openly say the "evidence is massive, conclusive and irrefutable", yet when I challenged you last year via the three different analogies of presenting evidence at a courtroom evidentiary hearing, or to prove a pure hearsay sighting of a rare bird, or to satisfy the demands of a Washington Post-style legendary news editor, you struck out rather than hit what should have been home runs. You response here is as bad as Dan Rather sidestepping his 'George W Bush National Guard fabricated documents' disaster by saying there is evidence out there somewhere proving his accusation. Skeptic climate scientists didn't manufacture evidence out of thin air at the behest of industry people, they were pointing out doubt in the global warming issue that was pre-existing to begin with and industry people found that out AFTERWARD. Your beloved Ross Gelbspan felt compelled to take words out of context from industry annual reports in order to twist that into an 'industry sought out scientists' line. I have those report copies and you do not, and Gelbspan has never shown his copies for a very good reason. If you would read my blog, you'd know all about that particular wipeout.
You don't read my blog. I read yours. I read your heroes' books, articles, I watch interviews of them and their own video presentations. But you just shot yourself in the foot with a cannon again - you don't read opposition material because it undermines all that you BELIEVE. As I've said now at ClimteCrocks, DesmogUK and elsewhere, look in the mirror and repeat as often as it takes until you get it: "It doesn't matter what I believe, it only matters what I can prove!"
You only believe I'm employed by Heartland to knowingly spread lies, you believe criticism against your dear leaders is collapsing, and you believe in the 'tobacco industry parallel' talking point, but you literally cannot prove a word of it. Hurl all the accusations you like, and torture yourself to sleep with nightmares of apocalyptic climate mayhem, but ask yourself why it is that you are compelled to pursue this on BELIEFS which are enslaved to erasing criticism, rather than facing it head-on.
This is your wake up call. Read my blog, read skeptic climate science assessment, watch skeptic presentations, do some critical thinking, and you can look forward to the uplifting prospect of being freed from your own unsupportable ideology. As I said at the end of one of my Breitbart pieces ( ) several years back, quoting a famous US movie line, "Man looks in the abyss, there's nothing staring back at him. At that moment, man finds his character. And that is what keeps him out of the abyss."
You view me and other critics with unrestrained hatred which tears you apart. I view you as potentially one of the strongest skeptics there could ever be, once you have actually objectively viewed both sides of the issue. You've already indicated you don't read material you oppose. I've probably already read more of your own side's political material than you have, and maybe even more of the scientific material than you have, that's why I am as confident as I am, and that's why I have confidence in a positive outcome for you.
Live in whatever alternate reality, 911Truther/ChemTrail-style conspiracy-driven world you wish, there is no way on Earth you can prove I didn't first arrive here at your blog purely on my own volition, nor can you prove I've questioned the veracity of yours and others regurgitations of the 'industry-corrupted skeptic climate scientists' accusation for the last 7+ years under the direction/payment of ANYBODY. Stop and think about your line of reasoning for a moment: one of the interesting things about the accusation against skeptic climate scientists is how it never showed up until they criticized your dear enviro-activist leaders - but none of your dear leaders in the mainstream media ever fact-checked the core of the accusation, where it originally came from, or who was promulgating it.
I did, and you continue to sidestep every challenge I put to you to back up the core assertion of the accusation.
Meanwhile, what's up with the "the sold[sic] job of attacking one particular blogger" line? What blogger? Show us all exactly where it says that. Surely you don't actually believe the "Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist" Ross Gelbspan is a mere blogger, do you?? Really???

Friday, July 24, 2015

Deniers and the Scientific Method

When I made my Global Warming Skeptic Challenge I had the requirement any 'proof' had to be done via the scientific method. I stated the reason for this was to prevent 'Because God said so' arguments (I still received those kinds of arguments but was free to refuse them). Most of the submissions I accepted did not follow the scientific method, but if they were anywhere near the realm of a logical universe I went ahead and accepted them (and some were pushing the limits).

Several people tried to claim global warming isn't real because it violates the scientific method. Their logic was the scientific method requires 100% accuracy. One test failure means the theory is invalid. Therefore, if you can find even one test failure of a global warming theory, the whole thing is invalid. Very bad logic and I showed how the submissions were invalid. Take a look here and here.

Let's refresh our memory of what the scientific method is. There are many ways to say it, but they all state basically the same thing: 1) Observe something; 2) Form a best guess hypothesis to explain the observation; 3) Test the hypothesis; 4) Observe the results; and 5) Repeat as long as necessary until it always passes the test.

It is very simple, but wildly misinterpreted and misused.

A common failure of understanding was stated above, i.e., one test failure completely invalidates the theory. This is not only false, it's total nonsense and even a moments thought will tell you that. If we threw out everything after one failure, nothing would ever be accomplished. A test failure simply means more work needs to be done. It is entirely possible the hypothesis being tested is completely wrong, but it is also entirely possible there is merely one small omission or error that can be easily corrected. Claiming otherwise is a false argument.

Another failure of understanding is the oft-quoted statement 'you cannot prove a negative,' sometimes even quoted as 'you cannot prove or disprove' anything via the scientific method. Both statements are not only false, but very false. The fact is, every experiment proves, or disproves, something. Every valid experiment is designed to do just that. It's called the null hypothesis and is the thing the experiment has to disprove or reject. I usually give the following example: Suppose I tell you the door is locked, but when you try it, you find it is unlocked. You just proved a negative. A little thought will give you any number of similar examples.

Another of my favorites goes to the test. Any scientific test must have what is known as an option to fail. Many people interpret this to mean the theory has an option to fail and this invalidates the scientific validity. No. The option to fail only applies to the test. Suppose I give you a multiple choice question: How much is 2 + 2? You look and see all of the answers are '4'. There is no way you can get it wrong. There is no option to fail. This test says nothing about your understanding of the question. It is the option to fail that makes the test valid. It is never taking that option that makes the theory valid.

And, there is one more failure of understanding that prevents people from accepting science - we may learn new science that invalidates what we think we understand today. This is one of the most common quotes I hear from people who reject the science of manmade global warming. The most common form of this false argument concerns the Newsweek article of the 1970s.

This is one of the worst of the false arguments. Here is an article on this subject that explains it very well. The author, Ethan Siegel, gives a very nice description of science and the process of scientific discovery. Part of this, as he explains, is that we occasionally find something that uproots what we previously thought to be accurate. But, that is only part of the story. We cannot simply throw away everything we previously understood. As Siegel explains, there are three requirements for a revolutionary scientific advancement:

1.) It has to reproduce all the successes of the previously existing theory.
2.) It has to explain the new results that contradicted the old theory.
3.) It needs to make new, testable predictions that have not been tested before, and that can either be confirmed and validated or refuted.
That first part is really important to our discussion here. Is it possible we will learn something new about climate change that we don't know about today? Absolutely. But, and this is the important part, any new understanding has to be able to explain everything we understand today. In other words, all of the science we know today will have to become part of the new understanding. When Einstein developed his theory of relativity, Newtonian mechanics were not discarded. It is part of relativity and, if you do relativity correctly, you get Newtonian mechanics at low velocities (less than about 90% the speed of light), which is why our world is dominated by Newtonian mechanics.

As a result, any advances in science will increase our understanding of climate change, but never invalidate it. This is true because any advancement must be able to explain all we observe today as part of the advancement. It is building process, not a tearing-down one.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Tom Harris - Paid Shill

[UPDATE: A commenter (Hey?) provided a link to an article at the website Scholars and Rogues (see comments below) that is so good I am posting it here:
Tom Harris – hypocritical peddler of deceitful climate change editorials (corrected)]

Tom Harris, the fossil fuel industry shill, has objected to me calling him a shill. Per his comment on my posting concerning the campaign against wind power:

TomHarrisICSC Christopher Keating
Only an idiot or someone being dishonest would say that calling someone a paid shill is not name calling. BTW, I have no employers. You just made that up too.

To which I responded:

My, my. Look who's resorting to name calling.

Shill, n. the confederate of a gambler, pitchman, auctioneer, etc. who pretends to buy, bet, or bid so as to lure onlookers into participating.

The fossil fuel industry pays you (directly or indirectly, it makes no difference and you know where the money is coming from) to make false statements promoting their business and undermining their competitors for the sake of fooling the public. That is being a shill. And, it also qualifies them as your employers.

Or, would you care to rehash your long, storied career working on the behalf of the fossil fuel and tobacco industries?

The thing that I wonder about is why you are so determined to deny this when the public record on it is so extensive.
Mr. Harris' response to this follows:

Are you a liar or just forgetful, Keating? I have told you several times in the past that I have never worked for the fossil fuel and tobacco industries. In fact, as I explained to you before, I was an anti-tobacco activist and was instrumental in getting smoking banned on long haul flights in Canada.

Mr. Harris says I'm either a liar or forgetful, thereby questioning my credibility. Let's look at the facts and you decide.

He denies this, but he has a long track record that is hard to hide. He was the Executive Director of the now defunct Natural Resources Stewardship Project (NRSP), which was controlled by energy business lobbyists. He was the Director of Operations for High Park Group (HPG), a registered lobbying firm for energy clients, and worked for APCO Worldwide which promoted fossil fuel interests. He is also affiliated with the Heartland Institute which is a leading climate change denier organization, promotes tobacco interests, and is funded by the fossil fuel industry to spread climate change denial misinformation. Possibly his worst reference is his association with the so-called ‘Friends of Science,' even though they are the furthest thing from being friends of science, or society for that matter. This group has been shown to receive its funding from the fossil fuel industry, something they went to great lengths to hide (why is that?).

Today, Mr. Harris describes himself as being the "executive director of the Ottawa-based International Climate Science Coalition" (quote taken from his postings). The International Climate Science Coalition (ICSC) was founded by the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition in 2007, which is a climate change denier organization and is cosponsor with the Heartland Institute's Seventh International Conference on Climate Change (ICCC7). In turn, ICSC created the Australian Climate Coalition, another organization devoted to denying climate change, and the Climate Science Coalition of America. Yes, the last one is also an organization devoted to denying climate change. 

As for the tobacco industry, it should be stated that Mr. Harris proclaims strongly he has never been involved with promoting the tobacco industry. Yet, he was with APCO Worldwide, which has a strong record fighting for tobacco. Mr. Harris says he had nothing to do with that. That is very misleading. Even if he wasn't directly involved, by working for APCO and promoting them in their efforts, he is promoting tobacco. And, if Mr. Harris found their involvement with tobacco so objectionable, why did he take the job?

But, there's more. After APCO, Mr. Harris became strongly involved with the Heartland Institute, which is a major promoter of the tobacco industry. Once again, by promoting Heartland, he is promoting the things they do. And, in both cases, he knew about their involvement with tobacco before he became associated with them. In that light, it is not possible to say Mr. Harris does not promote tobacco. His efforts are most certainly promoting that industry.

Now, as the "executive director" of ICSC, one of Mr. Harris' functions is to go every media outlet he can find and post editorials and letters either promoting the fossil fuel industry or undermining their competitors. A casual review of these letters finds them full of inaccuracies and falsehoods.

For instance, Mr. Harris states the “debate rages in the science community” about how much human activity affects climate change. This is an extremely misleading statement because he uses it to call into question the issue that the science is settled. Yes, the science is settled (much to his dismay). Manmade emissions are creating climate change. There is no debate in the climate science community on this issue. Is there work to do on the details? Of course. There is even debate on the particular details. This does not qualify as a ‘raging debate’ on whether manmade climate change is real or not. With the exception of a few fossil-fuel supported individuals, the climate science community is essentially in unanimous agreement. Which brings up the question – why is it so many of the people who insist manmade climate change isn’t real are also receiving funds from the fossil fuel industry?  

I saw one today where he stated 6.5% of all grain grown is diverted to produce biofuel for the purpose of fighting climate change. In fact, the major purpose for converting grain to biofuel is to reduce imports of oil by substituting ethanol for gasoline. So, why did Mr. Harris make such a misleading statement?

And, of course, it has already been discussed how he is engaged in a campaign against wind power. 

So, you decide. Am I a liar or forgetful when I state Mr. Harris is a paid shill for the fossil fuel industry? 

And, it is not name-calling, either.

SO2 Decrease Not Responsible for Global Warming

One of the submissions to the Global Warming Skeptic Challenge was the claim that the Clean Air Act reduced SO2 emissions, leading to global warming. SO2 in the atmosphere is known to reflect sunlight and large emissions of this gas during volcanic eruptions has led to cooling episodes. The submitter, Mr. Burl Henry, posited the Clean Air Act was responsible for removing so much SO2 from the atmosphere that the result was an absence of global cooling. Thus, it was the absence of SO2, not the presence of CO2, that was the cause of the observed global warming.

I showed how Mr. Henry's major error was he only considered U.S. and European emissions in his claim without including emissions from other countries. When those other countries were included, you get periods where SO2 levels go down and the temperature goes up. But, you also get periods where SO2 levels go down and temperature also goes down. Further, there are periods where SO2 levels go down and the temperature can go up or down. In other words, there is no correlation in the overall picture between SO2 emissions over the long term and the temperature record.

However, this person was not satisfied. He not only resubmitted his claim (still wrong), but has continuously appeared with comments to the effect he still thinks his claim is correct. I think the graph below should dispel any thought at all about the correctness of his claim:

Source: Open Mind
This graph shows atmospheric SO2 levels for the last 2000 years. We can see the level sky-rocketed beginning in the mid-1800s and today is three to four times the historical average. Despite efforts to reign in emissions, the atmospheric level continues to be higher than at any other time in the last 2000 years.

Most interestingly, take a look at the time period from around AD 1300 to about 1850. This is referred to as the Little Ice Age, often cited by deniers as some kind of evidence global warming isn't real. SO2 levels during this period were a fraction of emissions today. If global warming, as Mr. Henry claimed, was caused because we are removing the cooling effect of SO2 concentrations in the atmosphere, then it stands to reason we would be significantly cooler today than during the Little Ice Age. The cooling effects of SO2 in the atmosphere today would be so much greater that we would be significantly cooler. And, that means we would be cooler than a period so cold it is known as the Little Ice Age. According to his claim, we would be in the depths of a major ice age by now. So, why aren't we?

The answer to that question is that SO2 emissions do, in fact, cause cooling of the atmosphere by reflecting sunlight, but this effect is small in comparison to other factors, especially the effect of atmospheric CO2 concentrations. It is thought the sharp rise of atmospheric SO2 emissions is at least partly responsible for the drop in global temperatures experienced from the 1940s to the mid-1970s. But, we can see the level of SO2 concentration in the air has not dropped to anything resembling historic levels. Any change in the amount of atmospheric SO2 experienced due to the Clean Air Act is a very small percentage of the total concentration (less than 5% of the total, according to the graph above). And, SO2 concentration levels have been increasing since the year 2000 and we have had 14 of the 15 hottest years ever recorded during that time span. Assuming global warming is due to the removal of SO2 from the atmosphere, we have to ask how is it possible to set new global warming records every year, if the cooling effect of SO2 is increasing during that same time period?

Using the scientific method, we used the hypothesis (global warming is due to falling SO2 levels) to make a prediction (lower SO2 levels will lead to higher temperatures) and put it to the test and we can see the hypothesis failed the test (historically high SO2 levels correspond to historically high temperatures).

If Mr. Henry wants to say atmospheric SO2 levels result in a cooling effect, he is correct. If he wants to say the observed global warming is due to removing SO2 from the atmosphere, he is incorrect. We can see from the graph we have not really removed any significant amounts of SO2 from the atmosphere on a historical basis.

I know this will not satisfy Mr. Henry, but it at least give me a link I can point to every time he repeats his claim.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Exxon Knew About Climate Change in 1981

It has now been revealed Exxon Mobil knew about manmade climate change as early as 1981, but continued to fund denier institutes for decades after that to the tune of more than $30 million. This information was included in a large file of emails released by the Union of Concerned Scientists which they label as the Climate Deception Dossier.

This could be a devastating disclosure. A similar disclosure about the tobacco industry led to the Department of Justice filing a racketeering suit. Will we be seeing a racketeering lawsuit against the fossil fuel industry? We should. They have actively worked to deny the reality of climate change for the express purpose of preventing any actions to address the problem. Any such activities would certainly affect their profits. There has been considerable harm to millions (billions?) of people worldwide as a result.

Another thing I'm wondering about. Will this play out with as much attention as the doctored Climategate emails, which, even doctored, showed no misconduct but is still cited by deniers even today. Do you think any of those deniers will acknowledge these released (not stolen and altered) emails concerning activities by the fossil fuel industry?

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Peabody Energy's War On Science

After seeing wind power cost coal about $900 million last year, it isn't difficult to understand why coal is waging a war on science. Peabody Energy, which claims greenhouse gases are a "nonexistent harm", is a perfect example of this. As proof of their war on science, take a look at the 71-page document they submitted to the White House's Council on Environmental Quality. It contains 304 footnote citations. Of those, 41 come from editorials and 64 come from fossil-fuel funded institutes. That is more than 1/3rd of the total number of citations. Peer-reviewed scientific articles make up only 8% of the citations.

Along these lines, I have heard many deniers quote some of the Peabody claims, even stating they are 'skeptics,' not 'deniers.' Take a look here for a comparison of the two. I'll still be calling them 'deniers.'

Monday, July 20, 2015

Climate Change May Be A Factor in 2016 Election

Is it possible climate change will impact the 2016 presidential election? To answer that, take a look at the map of the drought in the Western U.S.

Source: U.S. Drought Monitor

We can see there are currently roughly nine states experiencing significant drought problems: Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona, Nevada, Idaho, Montana, Utah and New Mexico. These nine states possess 109 votes in the electoral college. Of those, Obama took 85 in 2012 and Romney won 24.
Source: Wikipedia

Obama won the election with 332 electoral votes to 206 for Romney. If the Republicans are to have any chance to win the election in 2016 they will need to hold the states that went their way in 2012 and take 64 away from the Democrats. That isn’t a huge task, but it is a large one.

But, I think the Republicans are handicapping their own effort with the climate change denialism. The western states in drought are suffering immensely from the drought. Someone on, or worried about, water rationing may not feel very receptive to a politician trying to sell the message that things are business as usual and it’s all just natural variability. If their stand on climate change persuades even a small percentage of the population in those states to vote Democrat, the Republicans will be faced with the prospect of the vote percentages being shifted against them. This would result in the states voting Democrat in 2012 being more firmly in that camp. Meanwhile, states that voted Republican in 2012 might be more difficult to hang on to.

Considering the Republicans will need to find 64 votes to take away from the Democrats, this would not work to their advantage. If the Republicans really want to win the White House (and, I’m assuming they really do), it will be important for them to stop denying climate change and start admitting there is a problem the world needs to deal with.

That, at least, would be a step in the right direction.

Why Coal Hates Wind Power

Fossil fuel industry shill Tom Harris has been on a campaign recently denouncing wind power. The reason is pretty obvious - wind power cuts into coal profits. But, I began to wonder just how much of a threat wind posed to coal and did some math.

Looking up wind power in the United States and Canada (Mr. Harris' home country), I determined the two countries generated about 185,000 gigawatt-hours from wind power in 2014. To generate that much electricity using coal would take about 23 million tons of coal. Coal varies in price depending on the quality and source, but $40 per ton is a good working price. At that price, 23 million tons of coal would cost about $900 million.

In 2014 alone, wind power took about $900 million dollars out of the pockets of the coal-barons and that amount is only going to increase.

Now, we can see why Tom Harris is engaged in this campaign.

More Record Temps in June

The NCDC released their Global Analysis for June this morning. The quick take is that June 2015 was the hottest June ever recorded. The worse news is that this broke the record set only last year - and it did so by .12 degrees C, a huge increase. This past June was .88 degrees C hotter than the 20th century average. It was the fourth highest departure from average ever recorded. The two highest departures occurred this year in February and March, both at .90 degrees C above the long-term average. January 2007 had the third highest departure at .89 degrees C.

Along with March and May, June is the third month to break it's monthly record this year. July 2014 through June 2015 was the hottest 12-month period ever recorded. The record it broke was set just last month. In fact, the 10 hottest 12-month periods have all occurred in the last ten months.

With all of that news, I don't think I need to go into more details. It was hot and getting hotter. Here's the tally to date:

June was the hottest June ever recorded;

May was the hottest May on record;

April was tied for the fourth hottest April on record;

March was the hottest March on record;

February was the second hottest February on record;

January was the second hottest January on record.

So far, 2015 has three hottest months, two second hottest months, and one fourth hottest month ever recorded.

For the last 12 months, the tally is:

June 2015 was the hottest June ever recorded;

May 2015 was the hottest May ever recorded;

April 2015 was tied for the fourth hottest April ever recorded;

March 2015 was the hottest March ever recorded;

February 2015 was the second hottest February ever recorded;

January 2015 was the second hottest January ever recorded;

December 2014 was the hottest December ever recorded;

November 2014 was the 7th hottest November ever recorded;

October 2014 was the hottest October ever recorded;

September 2014 was the hottest September ever recorded;

August 2014 was the hottest August ever recorded;

July 2014 was the fourth hottest July ever recorded;

So, let's see what the score is for the last 12 months: one 7th hottest month, two 4th hottest months, two 2nd hottest months and seven hottest months ever.

And, don't forget, the hottest 12-month period ever recorded.

Onwards and upwards.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

97% Figure Isn't Correct

As has been well reported, studies have found 97% of climate scientists, and 92% of all scientists in general, agree that manmade emissions are causing climate change. To the utter dismay of climate change deniers. It really irks them to think the people who know the most about climate science are telling them they're wrong. Well, it just got even worse for them. A new study which reviewed 24,000 scientific papers on climate change published between 2013 and 2014. The study, conducted by James L. Powell, director of the National Physical Sciences Consortium, identified 69,406 authors of those papers and found only four authors who rejected climate change.

That comes out to an incredible 99.994% of published authors agree manmade climate change is real!

At least, the deniers can claim .006% of the climate scientists are on their side and that is consistent with their oft-quoted Petition Project which has .3% of all scientists rejecting climate change.

If that is an example of how they view percentages I have to guess it would be fun to play poker with these guys.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Is It Feasible to Replace Coal With Solar?

With recent developments on the climate change-fighting front, I had to ask myself if it was feasible to replace all of the coal-fired power plants in the U.S. and replace them with solar cells. Could this be done and stay realistic? To answer that question I began to crunch some numbers.

According to the Energy Information Agency, coal was used to generate 1.58 million thousand megawatt hours of electricity in 2013. These plants had a combined total nominal capacity of about 340 gigawatts. The cost of solar cells is dropping rapidly and is approaching $1 per watt installed capacity. That means it would cost $340 billion to install enough solar cell arrays to replace all of the coal-fired power plants in the U.S. (approximately 1500 power plants). 

Yes, that is a doable number.

But, what about area? Surely, that many solar arrays would take up a lot of land. 
Using a figure of .556 m2 per 180 watts ofcapacity, we would need about 1 billion square meters of arrays. That is about 400 square miles. Including space between arrays and room to operate, let's say it roughly 1000 square miles. Using a standard measure of area, that is less than the area of Rhode Island (1200 square miles). To put it another way, it would be a square 32 miles on each side.

Again, this is certainly feasible - especially considering the total area of the coal fired power plants would be available for conversion. 

What about operating expenses?

The average cost to operate a coal-fire power plant is around $7 per megawatt hour = $11 billion per year (using the 1.58 million thousand megawatt hours figure quoted above). Total operating expenses for solar = $0.

Once again, solar compares very favorably.

What about public safety?

Coal is the number one source of mercury in the air and water; the number one source of arsenic in the air and water; the number one source of sulfur dioxide which causes acid rain; the number one manmade source of radioactive particles in the air (coal is usually radioactive); the number one manmade source  particulate matter in the air (leading to a whole host of health problems); and, oh yeah, the number one source of carbon dioxide emissions causing manmade global warming.

Solar? No emissions.

Solar certainly comes out a head on that one.

In summary, even using rough numbers, we find the cost of replacing coal-fire power plants with solar power is reasonable; the land requirements are minimal; the operating expenses are much lower for solar; and the health benefits from getting rid of coal-fired plants are enormous. In short, it is very feasible to replace all coal-fired power plants with solar cells in even the short-term.

So, why aren't we?

Thursday, July 2, 2015

More Legal News About Climate Change

The court case in the Netherlands resulting in a court order for the Dutch government to reduce greenhouse emissions is stirring things up in the legal world. Other countries may now be faced with similar lawsuits. This has led me to speculate on the feasibility of such a lawsuit here in the U.S. The linked article discusses this very question. Unfortunately, it doesn't sound promising. The EPA is authorized to regulate greenhouse gas emissions and this, ironically, works against lawsuits. The article states that in 2011,
the Supreme Court rejected an effort by California and five other states to seek a cap on emissions from the utilities sector. The states argued that greenhouse gases are a ‘public nuisance’; however, the court countered that the EPA’s authority to regulate emissions prevented federal judges from using the public-nuisance argument. Attempts by others to claim liability against polluters and seek damages under civil law have also been unsuccessful.
There is no Constitutional right to environmental protection and the courts are not likely to order the government to act. Michael Oppenheimer, who studies geosciences and international affairs at Princeton University in New Jersey said a court would be likely to do so only if there were a large gap between public safety and existing regulations.

What this means is, in order to be successful with a lawsuit, you would have to be able to demonstrate the danger to public safety far exceeds what government actions are addressing. As a scientist, I believe that would be an easy thing to do. But, science doesn't always win out in the court room.

The conclusion I reach from this is that we will have to wait before we see legal action on behalf of the public safety in the U.S.