Wednesday, May 11, 2016

AGU Responds On ExxonMobil Partnership

The American Geophysical Union has been engaged in a debate over whether the union should be associated with ExxonMobil, considering that companies activities to undermine climate science (with a great deal of success, I might add). After debating the issue, the AGU board of directors voted to continue its partnership. My response was to resign from the union. The AGU president has responded to my resignation. Her response, and my reply are shown below.




Sent: Wednesday, May 11, 2016 9:48 PM
Subject: RE: ExxonMobil

Dr. Keating,
I am very disappointed to lose you as a member, but I do respect your decision. Your years of support and engagement with AGU have been very important and meaningful, and I do not take this loss lightly. I will most certainly share your comments and resignation with the rest of the AGU leadership.

This has been a difficult conversation for us to have – particularly knowing how much it would impact our members on both sides of the issue. For several weeks, we have been receiving thoughtful feedback from members like you expressing a variety of views on the subject, ranging from calls to see AGU expel ExxonMobil from our community to calls for us to increase our engagement with them in an effort to influence their corporate policies. Despite that difficulty, we felt that the issues raised presented an opportunity – and an obligation – to directly engage ExxonMobil and the energy industry more broadly, and to bring into that conversation the representatives of governmental, environmental, economic and related scientific sectors. Societal challenges concerning energy use, population growth, climate change and more require that people and organizations with diverse viewpoints and expertise work together. As an evidence-based organization with roots in both the climate and energy communities, AGU is uniquely situated to create an environment for that kind of dialogue. Facilitating that dialogue is something we feel will be incredibly beneficial to our community, our environment and our society world-wide.

While I understand your discomfort with our decision, I sincerely encourage you to consider being a part of the development of a strategy for our engagement with ExxonMobil and the larger energy industry. Our goal is to drive a more transparent and meaningful dialogue about the roles the science and business communities should play in addressing issues where science does – and needs to – inform society, and we hope that you will be a part of that dialogue. We are asking members to share their thoughts on how to best approach engagement with ExxonMobil in the future, and the views of those who are not completely comfortable with the decision are an equally important part of that planning.

I am copying our member services team on this message so that they can process the cancelation of your membership. You should be receiving a confirmation notice from them shortly. Please know that, should you change your mind in the future, we would be more than happy to reinstate your membership.
Again, I thank you for your service. If you have any other questions, please do not hesitate to let me know.
Sincerely,
Margaret



Thank you for your response but I have to say I was even more disappointed when I read it. Your line of logic is familiar and I recognized it immediately. This is the same rationale used by organizations who refused to disassociate from South Africa during the apartheid era. The analogy is a good one. ExxonMobil has demonstrated it is a criminal organization, willing to subvert science in order to protect its profits, has knowingly engaged in activities that have resulted in a lower standard of living for millions, destruction of the climate and environment, and the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people annually. And yet, you think you will change the company by continuing to engage them.

They are laughing at you all the way to the bank and will be glad to hold up the fact that the AGU is still in partnership with them.

Thank you for canceling my membership. There is nothing further you will be able to do for me for as long as you chose to associate with criminal organizations.

Christopher Keating

Saturday, May 7, 2016

More on the Climate Change Consensus

One of the greatest deceptions promulgated by anti-science deniers is that there is a great deal of debate in the scientific community concerning the reality of AGW. This, of course, is a blatant lie (sorry anti-science crowd, it really is). Numerous studies have shown that not only are 97% of all climate scientists convinced of the reality, but over 99% of all published climate scientists are convinced. Now, there is an interesting update about this as reported in Dan's Wild Wild Science Journal - The Consensus on the Consensus Is Itself Overwhelming. There are some very significant points he brings up.

It has been reported by several studies that there is a consensus of 97% of published climate scientists that AGW is real. Now, this 97% figure is supported by yet another study. Consensus on consensus: a synthesis of consensus estimates on human-caused global warming, published in Environmental Research Letters, studied the peer-reviewed published literature and found the percentage of the authors accepting AGW is consistent with the 97% figure. 

In the peer-reviewed paper Climate Scientists Virtually Unanimous: Anthropogenic Global Warming Is True, published in the Bulletin of Science, Technology and Society, the authors state that a review of published, peer-reviewed papers from 2013 and 2014 found only 4 authors out of 69,406 rejected AGW. This means in excess of 99.99% of all published climate scientists accept AGW. They go on to state there is no convincing evidence against AGW in the peer-reviewed literature.

As Dan says, the people who claim there is no AGW are in the scientific minority and are unable to produce any scientific evidence to show why they are right and the entire scientific community is wrong.  

Yes, there really is a consensus.
 



Friday, April 29, 2016

CO2 Milestones

I remember the Heartland Institutes mindless hatchet man Russell Cook commenting on the atmospheric CO2 levels when it first went over 400 ppm. He commented how it was just barely over 400 ppm and was only for a few days. This, he claimed, was no need to be concerned.

As in everything else Russell Cook says, it was all a bunch of crap.

On March 8 and 9, there was a dubious event - the hourly measurements exceeded 410 ppm on the Keeling Curve. This, as far as my research has shown, is the highest daily levels ever recorded. But, it doesn't stop there. The daily, weekly and monthly averages are consistently setting new records. I postulated that the last year we would ever see a CO2 level below 400 ppm would be in 2016. The Scripps Institute, which conducts the measurements made on Mauna Loa, stated they believed 2015 was the last year. It now looks as though they were correct.

The monthly average is currently about 407 ppm, with the yearly peak still to come in May. The fall drop is in the range of of 6 or 7 ppm, which means we will not drop below 400 ppm ever again in our lifetimes. The real goal should be, at this time, of stopping us from exceeding 450 ppm. 400 ppm is long gone and we need to stop focusing on it.

You can read the comments from the Scripp's Institute here. They are pretty bleak.

Where's Russell Cook now? Like I said, everything he says, and by extension, the Heartland Institute, is crap. Unfortunately, that is poor solace for a world destined to live with the damage done.


Arctic Sea Ice Doing Poorly

It is still early in the melt season, but the trend line established this year for the Arctic sea ice extent is for at least a near-record low extent this year. This spring saw the lowest sea ice maximum ever recorded. Additionally, throughout the winter ice growth season the extent was consistently a record low for the season and stayed near the 2-sigma line.

NSIDC gets its ice data from the DMSP series satellites. Most recently, this was the F17 satellite in that series. Unfortunately, there has been a sensor malfunction on the satellite and the data is not reliable. As a result, NSIDC has stopped publishing daily updates on the sea ice extent. The good news is that NSIDC is not the only source of sea ice data. The European Union has the EUMETSAT program and the Polar Portal, maintained by Danish Arctic research institutes, publishes daily updates on the ice conditions. Here is their most recent plot and you can see the extent is dramatically low.
Source: Polar Portal


Not only is the extent the lowest ever recorded for this time of year, it is also well below the two-sigma shaded region. The fact that it is well below the 2012 extent is getting attention as well. That was the record-low year shown in red. Now, some researchers are saying this year might break that record.

What is really getting their attention is how this year is record or near-record low for ice volume. The previous low was 2012.

Source: Polar Portal

Notice the maximum volume occurs later than the maximum extent. This is because the ice cap is still getting thicker towards the middle due to very cold temperatures way up north, while is starting to melt at the edges. As you can see from the graph, this year's volume is challenging the record. Combine that with record extent and the situation is favorable for a break-up of the ice cap.

I think it is too early to be able to make accurate forecasts about the ice extent. I would prefer to wait until at least late-June. But, at this point I would estimate the ice extent will be lower than last year's second-lowest extent but not as low as the record of 2012. Right now, my estimated forecast is around a minimum of about 4 million square kilometers.

And, that would not be good.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Is Sarah Palin Really That Stupid?

I keep wondering if Sarah Palin is a mindless dimwit, or is it an act? Then she says something and I no longer wonder - it isn't an act. Take for example her recent comment that Bill Nye is "no more of a scientist than I am." Really? Bill Nye has a mechanical engineering degree from Cornell University. One of his professors was Carl Sagan. So, I have a word of advice for Mrs. Palin - Yes, Bill Nye is much more of a scientist than you could ever hope to be.

However, I agree with her when she states he was an actor on a TV show for children and compares herself to him. She has the mentality of a child, so I guess the comparison has a basis.

AGU Refuses To Diassociate From Exxon

Much to my disappointment, the American Geophysical Union, the main professional union for geophysics, has decided to continue its association with ExxonMobil. This debate over accepting funds from ExxonMobil was precipitated by a letter to the AGU from the Union of Concerned Scientists petitioning AGU to severe ties with the company due to Exxon's efforts to mislead the public on climate change and interfere with efforts to address the problem. Comments were solicited from union members and these comments were considered in the debate. Hopefully, my comment was included in that list. The union president, Margaret Leinen, states in her letter below that over 400 pages of documents were considered. And yet, the board voted to continue as is. 

I was able to find agreement wit Dr. Leinen on one thing. She said the union was likely to lose members, no matter which way the board voted. Well, they have. I sent an email to her stating that you can tell a lot about someone by the company they keep. I feel the vote to continue accepting funds from a fossil fuel company falls in this category. Likewise, a lot could be said about the company I keep, so I will no longer be keeping company with the AGU and have resigned after nearly 30 years of membership.


AGU logo

Dear AGU Member,

As you know from my previous messages, the question of AGU's relationship with ExxonMobil (and our relationship with the larger oil and gas industry) has been a topic of great discussion for the last few months. When the most recent request to end ExxonMobil sponsorship and address questions about how our community should respond to the urgency of climate change was received in February, in the form of a letter signed by more than 170 AGU members and others in the climate science community, we treated it with the utmost concern and respect. The Board spent several hours over the course of our two-day meeting last week discussing the diversity of opinions amongst the membership of AGU, as well as the pros/cons of the various choices we might make, giving each equal importance and weight.

In my nearly 5 year tenure on the AGU Board, I can say that this was one of the most important and nuanced discussions* the Board has ever had. We knew that our decision would have implications for our members, our programs and our relationships with the many sectors and industries that comprise AGU's broad membership. We knew that it could even result in the loss of members, as some individuals on both sides of the issue vowed to resign if our decision did not support their view. Given the importance of this decision, we proceeded carefully by reviewing more than 400 pages of background material** including a detailed report provided by the letter writers, every comment documented at our Council meeting and every communication sent to me by an individual member. We then conferred in a manner that allowed the range of opinions on the subject to be expressed and considered.

As with our members, board members presented various viewpoints and we thoroughly considered all of them. We had detailed discussions about whether ExxonMobil's current actions are inconsistent with our organizational support policy in two areas: 1) promoting science misinformation and funding groups that are currently promoting misinformation about science, and 2) the potential impact of publicity about investigations into the company on AGU's reputation. We concluded that it is not possible for us to determine unequivocally whether ExxonMobil is participating in misinformation about science currently, either directly or indirectly, and that AGU's acceptance of sponsorship of the 2015 Student Breakfast does not constitute a threat to AGU's reputation. We also discussed a multitude of options for moving forward, ranging from severing all ties with ExxonMobil, to maintaining our engagement with ExxonMobil but no longer accepting their sponsorship, to maintaining the relationship and sponsorship agreement, as well as developing new ways to strengthen our engagement and influence with the energy industry – and everything in-between.

In all of those discussions, we were careful to listen to each other closely and respectfully, even when we didn't agree on a particular point. We did not take up our final votes until the Board affirmed that all viewpoints were heard and understood and that they were ready to make decisions.

In the end, by a majority vote, the board passed a motion that approved "continuing our current engagement between ExxonMobil and AGU including acceptance of funding from ExxonMobil." (In 2015 that support consisted of a $35,000 sponsorship of the Student Breakfast at the Fall Meeting; based on current information, if we are offered support for 2016, we can accept it).

We were unanimous in our view that this issue has presented an opportunity and an obligation for us to exercise our convening role by bringing together those with diverse views across the science community to engage more directly with the private sector, and with ExxonMobil in particular. AGU is committed to creating an environment for dialogue about the roles of the science and business communities in all the sectors where science plays an essential role, and to exploring broadly and deeply the issues of energy, environment and climate change with the energy industry, our members and other stakeholders.

As always, I encourage you to share your thoughts and input on these decisions with us. You can do so by leaving a comment on this post, or by sending an email to president@agu.org. In particular, I ask that you share your ideas about how we can more productively engage with the energy industry moving forward. We are already working on plans for an event/events to bring together the many views on these issues in a civil dialogue, but that cannot be the end of our engagement. Our intent is to develop a longer-term effort that draws on our ability as a scientific community to engage with the private sector to grapple with the challenging issues faced by society – including not just climate and energy issues but also scientific integrity. 

In closing, I want you all to know that, whether you agree with the Board's decisions or not, I personally thank you for your commitment to your science and your commitment to AGU. Even though it has been difficult at times, seeing you speak out, passionately and thoughtfully, about an issue like this has made me incredibly proud of our community and honored to serve as your president. Please don't limit that passion and action to just this one issue. AGU is your organization, and when you engage with it like you have these last few months, you make it a better place for science.

Because we know that you may have questions regarding the Board's decision and the path we have chosen for moving forward, we have scheduled two times next week for interested AGU members to call in and share their thoughts with Executive Director/CEO Christine McEntee, President-elect Eric Davidson and me. The first call will be held on 20 April at 10 A.M. ET; the second will be held on 22 April at 3 P.M. ET. Space will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. To participate in one of these calls, please email your R.S.V.P. to feedback@agu.org.

A copy of this statement is also posted on AGU's leadership blog, From the Prow, where you can also see my previous posts on this topic: Exxon, AGU, and Corporate Support; and UPDATE: Exxon, AGU, and Corporate Support.
 
Sincerely,
 
Margaret Leinen

*Prior to any discussion on these issues, all Board members were asked to declare any potential conflicts of interest. Three individuals declared potential conflicts of interest – though it was noted that nearly every university represented in the room receives some degree of funding from ExxonMobil. One Board member volunteered to recuse himself from voting on the issue and that offer was accepted.

**Prior to the meeting, Board members reviewed a nearly-400-page packet of background materials that included copies of all correspondence AGU has received on the subject: the letters sent to us (and our responses); the more than 150 emails we received; the numerous tweets and blog comments that have come in over the last few months; a detailed report on ExxonMobil activities presented by the originators of the letter (in addition to the letter itself and other supporting materials); published news reports and peer-reviewed articles on ExxonMobil's activities; statements about climate change from ExxonMobil's website, a transcript from one of its shareholder meetings, and a letter that ExxonMobil sent to us; a report published by the Union of Concerned Scientists; and a report on the feedback provided by the Council during their meeting in March.
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Monday, April 11, 2016

What Just Happened to the Arctic Sea Ice?

The extent of the Arctic sea ice has skyrocketed in the last few days. Take a look at these plots from the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC).