Friday, October 14, 2016

Arctic Sea Ice Extent Continues to Decrease

September 2016 saw a tie for the second lowest Arctic sea ice extent ever recorded. The minimum extent, occurring on September 10th this year, was 4.14 million square kilometers. NSIDC said this was tied for second lowest extent with the 2007 minimum of 4.154 million square kilometers, which occurred on September 18, 2007. That doesn't look like a tie to me, but the people at NSIDC are the experts and the ones who get to decide - so a tie it is.

The fact that the extent was so low is important, but we are more concerned with a trend than a single datum point. And, the trend is not good.

Source: NSIDC
NSIDC reports the September minimum extent is declining at a rate of 87,200 square kilometers per year (13.3% per decade). If this rate continues, we will see an ice free Arctic on a regular basis starting some time in the mid-2060s (4.14 million square kilometers divided by 87,200 square kilometers per year = 47.5 years).  Of course, as we can see by the graph above, the actual extent varies considerably from year-to-year. Therefore, we can expect to see an isolated case of an ice-free Arctic before that time.

But, we still haven't examined the most important aspect of the sea ice. The fact is, the Arctic sea ice extent has a downward trend for every month of the year. Over time, the sea ice extent is getting smaller every year for every month of the year. Most disturbingly, this is even true for March, when the maximum ice extent normally occurs:

Source: NSIDC

This year's maximum was the lowest every recorded at 14.52 million square kilometers on March 24, 2016. The average extent for March was the second lowest average, after only March 2015. The maximum extent is declining at a rate of 42,100 square kilometers per year (2.7 percent per decade). At that rate, we will see an Arctic Ocean that never freezes over within 350 years. Hopefully, we'll take actions before then and prevent that from happening. But, the very fact that we need to discuss it at all is disturbing. 

One of the things that is lost in the discussion is the fact that the planet's axial tilt is not changing with global warming. We are still tilted at 23.5 degrees relative to the ecliptic plane. This means the poles each have one sunrise and one sunset per year, spending six months in darkness during their respective winters. The orbital mechanics causing winter have not changed. So, how is it the sea ice maximum extent is decreasing? We still have the same amount of darkness as before, that hasn't changed. So, why is the ice extent decreasing?

Of course, the anti-science people make various claims. One person, in a comment on this website, recently said the ice extent isn't decreasing at all. This person stated the minimum occurred in 2012 and has been increasing ever since. In response to that, I encourage everyone to take a look at the two graphs above. Not only do both show a clear downward trend, but they show this trend has continued in recent years when you leave out the anomalous year of 2012. Selecting one year and using that as the only datum point is the absolute extreme case of cherry-picking.

Other claims are that it isn't global warming that is responsible for this decrease,but natural weather variations, most commonly the Arctic Oscillation (AO). This shows just how little science the anti-science people understand. Here is a plot of the AO over time:

Source: NOAA
When the AO is in a positive phase, winds circulate around the Arctic and trap cold air masses in the north. When it is in a negative phase, the winds weaken and the cold air mass can move southward and be replaced by warm air moving in. The claim is the AO has been mostly negative and this is what is causing the warming in the Arctic. But, as you can see, the AO switches back and forth with a great deal of variability. So, how is it that this accounts for the loss of sea ice?

The fact is, sea ice extent is decreasing on a regular trendline. This cannot bode well for the climate, the environment and for us.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

More Legal Problems for the Fossil Fuel Industry

A lawsuit has been filed against ExxonMobil in federal court in Massachusetts. The lawsuit deals with a facility owned by ExxonMobil that is vulnerable to raising sea levels and which Exxon failed to properly account for when building the facility. This is significant. In other legal proceedings, Exxon has used the defense that it knew about climate change and has never denied it. Now, it is in the situation where it failed to address the dangers from climate change, the same climate change it claims it always knew about and never denied, and this inaction has put coastal areas at risk. By the way, this inaction also put the assets of shareholders at risk. The SEC might be interested in that.

So, tell us Exxon. Which is it? It didn't know about climate change and that's why it didn't take proper actions to safeguard its facilities? Or, it knew all along and didn't care.

Oh, by the way, there are lots more facilities that are at risk and many more companies that could be held liable. It's getting interesting. Wouldn't it be poetic justice if Exxon and other fossil fuel companies end up having to spend billions of dollars fixing facilities because they refused to address climate change?

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Clean Power Plan Appears in Court

Arguments challenging the EPA's Clean Power Plan (CPP) will be heard in the US Court of Appeals in Washington, DC this week. Here is a nice article summarizing the legal aspects of the challenge brought by a coalition of fossil fuel companies and their supporters. After looking at the challenge, there are some real questions in my mind. Let me summarize:

  • The challengers cannot question whether the Clean Air Act covers climate-changing air pollutants. That has already been decided by the US Supreme Court.
  • The challengers cannot question whether the Clean Air Act authorizes the EPA to limit carbon dioxide pollution from power plants. That has already been decided by the US Supreme Court.
  • The challengers cannot question the science of climate change—whether power plants’ massive carbon pollution endangers our health and well-being.That has already been decided by the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court refused to review it.
So, they can't challenge the science, they can't challenge the damage and they can't challenge the authority of the EPA to enact such a plan. Just what are they hoping to achieve?

It turns out their challenge is to the way the EPA is implementing the plan. In other words, since they can't do anything about the science, the need and the authority, they will claim everything needs to be done in a different manner and, therefore, the EPA shouldn't be allowed to proceed.

But, wait a minute! Most states are already implementing the CPP and are on track to meet the plan's goals! And, market forces are dictating the move away from coal and towards cleaner energy, including wind and solar. So, why are the challengers pursuing this case?

I think the article shows what their motive is with this statement:
Indeed, the challengers’ constitutional argument wouldn’t stop at the Clean Power Plan. It would effectively block any federal safeguards against power plant air pollution, including those aimed at curbing acid rain, toxic emissions, or interstate air smog violations.
That is the real objective - to get all regulation of power plant emissions stricken down. It turns out the stakes are much higher than previously thought.

Ask yourself honestly, even if you are opposed to the CPP, do you want the power companies to be able to emit pollutants without any regulation?

Monday, September 19, 2016

New Book: Purple Legion

My second novel has been accepted for a publishing campaign on KindleScout. After 30 days, they will look at the book and the number of times it was nominated for publication to decide if they will accept it for publication.

Roger Tucci is dying from HPV caused throat cancer and turns to his friend, Patricia Kennealy to manage his business interests once he becomes unable to do so. What she didn't know was how much of mess it would be and that he would be leaving her to figure it all out on her own. Unfortunately, it threatens to take everything she and her family owns.

Purple Legion is not a book for everyone.There is no explicit sex, but it is discussed throughout the book and you know it's going on. It was a lot of fun writing this book and I'm pretty pleased with the way it turned out and my beta readers have made very nice comments about it. If you would like to see the first 5000 words and nominate it for publication, visit the campaign page:

Purple Legion

Thanks for those of you who take the time.

Oh, by the way, if it gets published, everyone who nominated it will get a free copy from Kindle.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Fighting The Denier Lobby With Humor

Climate scientist Michael E. Mann wrote a truly outstanding book on the climate wars, The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines. It not only explains the science, but it gives a detailed insider look of the continuous battle with the denier lobby. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in learning more about the topic.

Now, Mann has teamed up with Pulitzer Prize–winning political cartoonist Tom Toles to produce another book, The Madhouse Effect. Together, they confront the denier lobby not only with science and facts, but also with humor. I have not had an opportunity to read the book yet, but am looking forward to it.

Meanwhile, feel free to let me know what you think of it, if you get a chance to read it.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Guest Submission: The Global Warming Alarm is Meant to Control and Not Save Humanity

The following was submitted as a guest posting. My rebuttal and comments follow at the end.
The Global Warming Alarm is Meant to Control and Not Save Humanity

Global warming and climate change are the biggest threats facing human society, so say some scientists. But are human activities solely responsible for this problem?

There’s no denying that we have witnessed unusual global climate in the last few years, like the weird San Diego weather in 2015, or 2016 being the hottest year till date. But can we attribute this unusual occurrence only to man-induced industrial activities like burning fossil fuels or vehicular emissions? I bet not.

The answer, in all likelihood, will be no. Scientists, however, have thrusted that fear upon us and have made us think twice before we even rev our scooters. I have been closely reading and staying abreast of climate-related events and news and couldn’t help but notice the exaggerated claims that point heavily towards man-made CO2 emissions.

There are enough research papers on global warming and climate change that justify those who believe it to be a serious threat. Hence, before arriving at a conclusion, I did some thorough research, certainly not limited to mindless comments about global warming being a hoax.

Here’s what I found

Climate scientists from the UK have released a set of “actual data” before it was doctored to support their false claims about global warming. The charts show that the temperatures are actually falling, and the global climate is getting cooler, heading towards a mini ice age.

Supposedly, even NASA has been reporting false climate records for years now as per data computational expert Dr. Friedrich Karl Ewert. Veteran Journalist Gunter Ederer reported Ewert’s findings which shows that the last 100 years’ climate data (especially post the WWII) have been altered to show non existent rise in temperatures.

News pieces on ‘soaring temperatures’ and ‘hottest recorded weather in many years’ highlight that scientists blame it all on industrial productions. However, this is probably not justified. Industrial activities have followed a rising trend over the last 150 years and over this period, the average global temperature has fluctuated multiple times as listed below.

1881: 13.8 Degree Celsius
1895: 12.9 Degree Celsius
1905: 14.3 Degree Celsius  
1920: 12.9 Degree Celsius
1930: 13.9 Degree Celsius
1975: 13.0 Degree Celsius
2000: 14.0 Degree celsius
2010: 13.2 Degree Celsius

These numbers are as per the records released by Ewert. Nasa has now reported the 2016 average temperature as 14.8 Degree Celsius, which is debatable. But looking at the above changes, we can expect the number to fall somewhere close to 13.5 Degree Celsius in the next 10 years.

The fluctuating numbers got me wondering about the melting snow caps and the “classic” polar bear clinging on to the last remaining ice berg images used as a sign of threat. There is an explanation to this as well. The Arctic region is the first area prone to be affected by the warmer waters brought in by the Atlantic current’s cyclical shifts. It’s a common phenomenon that slowly melts down the ice for years before forming it back. The images uploaded by the Daily Mail show this variation and an increase in the Arctic ice caps after 2012.  

Controlling People’s Minds

The global warming scare has now turned into a $1.5 Trillion dollar industry which the UN Programs and Governments would be minting through fundings. Millions of tax dollars are flowing into the banks of the UN clean energy programs. They justify nuclear power to be the largest clean energy source that could replace the threat caused by fossil fuel emissions. But what they ignore is the immediate threat of a nuclear accident similar to the Fukushima radiation that could cause irreparable damage to the environment.

The Climate Change industry has grown at a rate of 17% - 24% between 2005 and 2008, and 15% in 2011 alone, as reported by the Climate Change business journal. They use climate threat as a justification for the high priced renewable sector, green buildings and hybrid vehicles.

The robust increase of this industry also accounts for the $1.9 billion dollar climate change consultancy market, with $890 million earned solely in the US.

Climate change deniers do care about the environment

As a citizen of my country, I too am concerned about the environment, and the pollution caused by everyday human activities, but do not believe that it is the sole cause of climate change. There is a difference between caring for the environment and scaring people into believing in climate threats. True environmentalists do not play with people’s fears.

Although we must shift to greener alternatives to contribute to the betterment of our environment, it should not be done at the cost of making people believe a lie. I will keep reading up on the true causes of climatic variations and whether they are really contributing in nearing doomsday.

Author Bio:
Ethan Miller is a private ESL teacher who also works as an online tutor. Apart from his passion for teaching, he loves to write and holds a degree in creative writing. When he is not teaching or writing his book, Miller loves to blog and is a huge fan of educational technology. You can follow Miller on Facebook and Twitter and check out his blog.


Mr. Miller’s comments are welcome here, but there are many factual problems that are typical among claims made the by the anti-science community. In emails, Mr. Miller stated he believes in global warming, but his views were “thrashed and vividly abused” at a discussion forum. As a result, he researched what the deniers where saying to him and his research led him to the viewpoint expressed above. 

Let’s start at the beginning. In his first line, Mr. Miller states climate change is the most important issue facing humanity “so say some scientists.” No. This is incorrect. Essentially, every single climate scientist agrees that AGW is real and over 92% of all scientists across the board agree with the statement. What this means is anyone who denies the reality of global warming is immediately claiming to be smarter than all of the climate scientists in the world combined. Finding a few online denier sites that provide false arguments and deceitful claims does not trump years of graduate school and professional experience doing research. 

Mr. Miller then “bets not” that human activity is responsible for all of the climate changes we are witnessing. Don’t bet a lot, Mr. Miller. You’d lose. The reality is solar activity is declining. Deniers like to say the climate changes on its own and then leave it to the audience to assume that means the climate is warming on its own. Why can’t the climate be cooling on its own? The reality is solar activity is declining and the climate, if left to itself, would be cooling right now. That means we are not only responsible for the warming above the baseline, we are also responsible for the warming between the cooler temperature that would prevail naturally and the baseline. So, yes, we are responsible. 

Mr. Miller continues with the statement, “Scientists, however, have thrusted that fear upon us…” and states they have made “exaggerated claims” about carbon emissions. I would first note that these are unsupported statements. What does he mean by “thrusted that fear”? What scientists do is research and discovery for the purpose of increasing our understanding. We are not in the business of ‘thrusting fear’ on people, only increased understanding. If the work of scientists causes people to be fearful, it is most likely because people are acting in an irresponsible manner. Medical researchers were not attempting to scare people about the dangers of smoking, they were only trying to make them aware. It was the understanding of the dangers of their harmful habits that made them fearful. Likewise, informing the public about the dangers of climate change and global warming is not an attempt to scare them, it is an effort to make the public understand the science. If you are now scared because of our bad habits, then do something about it. Don’t blame the scientists for informing you we are driving on a dangerous road. It is not knowledge that makes the road dangerous. The road would still be dangerous without any understanding.

Mr. Miller continues by stating, “There are enough research papers on global warming and climate change that justify those who believe it to be a serious threat.” Click on his link and look closely. You should immediately see the serious, fatal flaw in his statement. These are not “research papers.” They are “essays.” A research paper is something that is written after applying the scientific method to scientifically valid data. This paper is then submitted to a refereed journal for review by fellow scientists for accuracy and validity. Only then is it published. Something posted in a blog (including this one) does not meet that standard and is not a research paper. You can say anything you want in an essay and you are not required to produce any supporting science or data. Just opinion. In the above reference to the 99% of climate scientists, the researchers found only one paper out of 24,000 did not support AGW. Stating “there are enough research papers” to justify climate change deniers is not factually correct. There are no research papers to support their claims. 

Wow! This response is getting pretty long and we haven’t even gotten through the first page of Mr. Miller’s submission. This, unfortunately, is pretty typical of anti-science claims. There’s a whole lot of falsehoods and not a lot of truth. Take Mr. Miller’s next comment as a perfect example:

“Climate scientists from the UK have released a set of “actual data” before it was doctored to support their false claims about global warming.” 

Yikes! I could spend an entire day discussing just how false and misleading this one sentence is. Let’s just summarize it by saying it is a prime example of not knowing how scientific instruments work. There is raw data and adjusted data. The reason it is adjusted is because the data is provided with no reference or calibration. Two instruments sitting side-by-side should produce the same result. If they don’t, the data is adjusted in a calibration process. There is nothing nefarious about this. In fact, just the opposite. It is the calibration process that makes the data valid. You cannot use raw data for any scientific work because it means nothing until it is calibrated. I don’t want to get into all of the details here because this posting is already getting too long, but you can read a detailed explanation (from real climate scientists, not bloggers) in this article here. There are many, many more credible explanations of the process. This is just one of them.

This last explanation should cover all of Mr. Miller’s claims involving the temperature record. There is only a problem if you use the raw data. Using the calibrated data, we get this for the world temperature from 1880 to 2014. (Source: NOAA):

Really. Does anyone have any questions after that? By the way, 2015 would top out as the hottest year and 2016 is on track to beat even that one.

Continuing, Mr. Miller states the ice fluctuates through natural cycles and the Arctic sea ice has recovered after the disastrously low minimum of 2012. First, you have to define ‘recover.’ If he means the extent became larger, then that is a correct statement. If he means it returned to a healthy state and stayed there, then the statement is totally false. Here are the facts: the ice extent for 2016 has already become the second lowest extent on record, surpassed only by that 2012 record. Here is the trendline (Source: National Snow and Ice Data Center) for the September sea ice extent (the 2016 number is not yet included but may have bottomed out at 4.137 million square kilometers).

Clearly, the Arctic sea ice is not recovering to a healthy state and any claim to the contrary is simply not true.

Mr. Miller then uses a single, unsupported reference to claim there is a ‘climate change industry’ worth approximately $1.5 trillion per year. As I said, these numbers are not supported and the term ‘climate change industry’ is very vague and includes things such as environmental engineering. By this definition, putting insulation in your attic to reduce your air conditioning bill qualifies as ‘climate change industry’ and you are, somehow, contributing to some international conspiracy. He also, inexplicably, assigns this industry to the UN, the favorite bogeyman of the anti-science crowd. But, if we are going to discuss money, let’s discuss the estimated costs of climate change – approximately 400,000 deaths and $1.2 trillion dollars per year. That study is a few years old. I would expect both numbers to be significantly higher by now.

Mr. Miller concludes by claiming climate change deniers care about the environment. This is like saying a smoker cares about his health. Sorry, no can do. Either you care about the environment and work towards protecting it, or you don’t. You cannot go around rejecting the science, obstructing all efforts to address the problem while spreading the lies, and then claim you care about the environment. No matter how much they object, it is easy to see deniers don’t care about the environment because their words and actions show otherwise.

One last comment, Mr. Miller referred to “mindless comments about global warming being a hoax.” I love this statement. Claims about global warming being a hoax are the ultimate tin-hat moment and shows how utterly incapable deniers are of being able to produce any science to support their claims. Anyone taking even a few minutes would quickly come to the conclusion there is no reality to it.  First, consider how many people would have to be involved in this hoax. The number of ‘climate scientist’ is hard to pin down because that covers such a broad range of specialties. For instance, I am a physicist who does research in climate change. Does that make me a climate scientist? If so, no register anywhere in the world would reflect that. In fact, climate is a mostly geophysical process so a great number of climate scientists are geophysicists. Obviously, biology is also a major feature, so many climate scientists are biologists. You can see how this trend would continue with all sorts of disciplines. How do you go about counting them? We can make some rough estimates based on the number of papers being published. In the above reference to the 99% consensus, the researchers found nearly 70,000 authors published climate research papers over a two-year period. Using those figures, it would be easy to estimate the number of climate scientists is into the hundreds of thousands. Add in support staff, students, interns, etc. and you are talking about over a million people worldwide. Now, imagine that each and every one of these million-plus people are complicit with this hoax and all of them are keeping it secret. And, remember we are talking worldwide, including some countries that don’t like us and have no motive to cooperate with us. Truly, you have the greatest conspiracy in the entire history of mankind. And, the amazing thing is that there isn’t even a single shred of supporting evidence.

Here’s the fundamental truth about the greatest hoax in human history – it isn’t happening. What you have are people who can’t accept reality and make up for that deficiency by cooking up impossible scenarios. Oh, and don’t bother with any evidence. Who needs evidence? Well, scientists do, for starters.

In conclusion (thankfully), Mr. Miller’s submission is full of inaccuracies and false statements. But, that is what the anti-science lobby produces.


Tuesday, September 13, 2016

xkcd: Earth Temperature Timeline

The amusing thing is some people will look at this chart as proof that manmade global warming doesn't exist. They'll point at it and say, "See! The climate has always changed!"

Chart is courtesy of xkcd. The original source for this chart can be found here.

Monday, September 12, 2016

2016 Arctic Sea Ice Extent Already Second Lowest Ever

It's official - according to data posted by the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), with as much as two more weeks of melt season remaining, the 2016 Arctic sea ice extent is already the second lowest extent ever recorded, dropping below the 2007 minimum extent. The amount of sea ice on September 9 was 4.137 million square kilometers. The previous second-lowest extent occurred on September 18, 2007 and was 4.154 million square kilometers. The good news is this year's minimum extent will not approach the all-time minimum of 3.387 million square kilometers set on September 17, 2012.

Source: NSIDC

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Arctic Sea Ice 2016

We have about three weeks left to the Arctic sea ice melt season. Time to take a look at how it's going. Of course, this is the 21st century, so the immediate answer is it's not good. In fact, the current sea ice extent is already less than the minimum extent for every year before 2007. This figure, from the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), shows the 2016 sea ice extent (the unfinished line in red) and every year from 1979 to 2006.

Source: NSIDC

In fact, the 2016 extent is already one of the lowest ever. Here is the 2016 extent compare to the years since 2006. Again, 2016 is the unfinished line in red. And, with about three weeks to go, 2016 is already the seventh lowest extent ever recorded.

Source: NSIDC

Like I said, the 21st century has not been good to Arctic sea ice. The big question at this point is, how low will it go?

Take a look at this plot of sea ice extent from the Polar Portal:

Source: Polar Portal

The darker the shading, the less ice is present. This figures shows the extent is not only very low, but large areas have little ice cover. Compare this extent to this figure of the extent from the Climate Change Institute:

Source: Climate Reanalyzer
The less colored in the ice, the lower the density. Plus, the blue line indicates the normal extent for this date. We can see the extent is drastically lower than normal and what little ice is there is very thin. This agrees with the Polar Portal image above which used different satellite data.

The reason the low extent is important to this conversation is that the open water absorbs sunlight and heats up. Normally, the water would be covered with ice, which reflects sunlight, and would stay cool. Here is one more plot showing the sea surface temperature anomaly for the Arctic region, also from the Climate Reanalyzer at the Climate Change Institute.

Source: Climate Reanalyzer

The redder the water is, the bigger the temperature anomaly. We can clearly see the exposed portions of the Arctic Ocean are very much warmer than normal. This does not bode well for sea ice.

Currently (August 27, 2016), the sea ice extent is 4.913 million square kilometers. Taking all of this data into account, I estimate the sea ice extent will decrease to between 4.2 and 4.3 million square kilometers, making it the second or third lowest extent ever recovered. Worse still, it is very close to being on track for the long-term trend of decreasing Arctic sea ice.

Source: NSIDC

At the current rate, we will see ice free Septembers some time in the 2060s. However, an anomalous year could produce an ice-free Arctic well before that time frame.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Well-Written Article on Following the Science

I have nothing to add to this article except to say that, in the early-1980s, I too did not think man-made climate change was real. As in the case of this meteorologist, the science changed my mind.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Guest Submission: More on Tom Harris' Deceitful Practices

To: Chuck Frederick at the Duluth News Tribune,

In today’s 7-6-16 Tribune, you published an opinion letter from Tom Harris which is either identical or very similar to one of his that I remember seeing in the Tribune or the Telegram. The letter below is a copy of a letter I wrote that was not intended for publication in the Tribune, and which was sent to you, Shelley Nelson, and Citizen’s Representatives, Mike Lundstrom and Terese Tomanek. In it I mention Harris’s emphasis on the superiority of Adaptive measures instead of mitigation efforts used to minimize the effects of global warming, and I explain that Climate Scientists do not dispute the value of adaptive measures. However, I also point out that these scientists think adaptation and mitigation efforts are BOTH needed to successfully combat global warming.

About his 7-6-16 letter in today’s Tribune, let me add that once again Harris employed some deceptive tactics which advocate his preference primarily for the use of adaptive measures—a view that most fossil fuel producing companies would undoubtedly be inclined to parrot. But, for example, Harris’s claim that that, “The real issue is if relevant scientists agree our greenhouse gas emissions will cause dangerous climate change.” And that, “Only if it is dangerous should this be a public policy concern. And no one knows the answer to that question because such a poll has never been conducted,” is an exercise in flawed reasoning on so many levels. One being that today’s scientists absolutely DO KNOW that man’s contributions to global warming definitely WILL affect our future environment in many extremely harmful ways.  And for Harris to dispute the clear proof of this fact, with the idea that it has not yet been the subject of a publicly conducted poll, is one of the most creative bits of erroneous reasoning I have ever heard—and of the type that Harris is a master of.

By Harris’s logic we might as well doubt the fact that jumping off the top floor of the Empire State building, will result in a severe case of death, simply because no poll has ever been conducted in which respondents confirm this fact? Or, we might as well doubt that full scale nuclear war will be catastrophic to the planet just because no one has taken a poll devoted to assessing that proposition? And anyway, those polls that might be done without proper controls, are a poor way to affirm the beliefs of a clear majority including only those who respond. 

Where climate science is concerned, we have literally mountains of evidence confirming the extreme probability (of harmful future effects on the environment) due to global warming, which has been gathered with proper scientific diligence. So, just like the guy on the top of the Empire State building, we know that taking a terminal leap, will bring great harm to us, just as the fact that if both adaptive and mitigating measures are not employed,  our inactions result in great harm to us, and to our planet.  The notion that Climate Scientists (even just the “relevant” ones) do not recognize the value of adaptive measures is just not true—in fact a great deal of research and thought has been put into both of those options and climate scientists truly recognize the value of both:

Rather than writing longer, please take the time to re-read this letter below which I wrote about Harris before:


To Chuck Fredericks, Shelley Nelson, and both new Citizen's Representatives for the Duluth News Tribune, Mike Lundstrom and Terese Tomanek,

Prominent global warming denier Tom Harris executed a slick maneuver in the Jan. 31st Tribune when claiming that climate adaptation to avoid global warming would be much cheaper than climate mitigation, (taking steps to prevent the accumulation of greenhouse gases) like reducing Co2 emissions, and investing in solar and wind energy, to prevent run away global warming.

However, his claim that adaptation, including measures like, building seawalls, relocating buildings, finding ways to store and obtain sufficient water for crops, supporting sustainable forestry, instituting the practice of recycling, and using low energy appliances and devices to serve as deterrents to global warming—etc., are less expensive, or get more bang for the buck, is not true.

Some estimates comparing the advantages between using mitigation and adaptation have produced figures that at first seem to support Harris's claims. However, these estimate compared the cost of taking measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions vs the cost of making adaptations, but did not offset these amounts with the economic benefits of mitigation, vs. the economic benefits of taking adaptive measures. When the economic rewards of mitigation are examined this way they far exceed any economic saving from using adaptation i.e. things like losses of property and lives, droughts that destroy crop production, or flooding and storms that do horrific damage etc., are all the result of global warming, and as Co2 levels are decreased, the costs associated with these disasters will also decrease.

In actuality the IPCC believes that both mitigation and adaptation are both valuable strategies. However, if global warming is not gradually reduced by mitigation, the amounts of Co2, will continue unchecked in the latter part of the century and soar out of control, (regardless of adaptation policies)—so no attempts at adaptation can solve the global warming issue unless mitigation is also used as a primary strategy.

It is true that the problems created by global warming will fall mostly on the poor, and that wealthier countries will need to give them financial aid to adapt. In fact, after the meetings of COP16 Cancun, donor countries offered to provide undeveloped countries $100,000,000,000 by 2020, to help them adapt through the Green Climate Fund. Pledges have not materialized as they should, but at least much of the world now recognizes the need for adaptive strategies—especially if unencumbered by political conflicts.

I should point out one logical mistake in Mr. Harris's letter though—Harris points out that the anticipated effects of climate change, may or may not happen, while failing to mention that, adaptation measures also, may or may not work—especially if extreme climate change happen sooner than expected. Without mitigation, efforts to diminish global warming's impact by way of adaptation, will essentially and eventually, be neutralized. In essence though, you can't have one without the other, since, even if initially successful outcomes are achieved through the use of adaptation, if greenhouse gasses continue to increase without mitigation, they will eventually usher in catastrophic climate change anyway!

Although Harris claims not to be a shill of big oil, he has spoken at several meetings of big conservative think tanks and conservative organizations, (like the Heartland Institute), which he is very complicit in and supportive of, when helping to distribute the distorted messages they deliver. He has also had a position as an Earth Science teacher, and taught a course entitled, “Climate change: An Earth Sciences perspective,” and was found by climate scientists to have included 140 factual errors in his teachings.

Let me just say that Heartland Institute is well known for receiving and distributing huge donation from the fossil fuel industry, as well as for being deeply involved in discrediting esteemed climate scientists, and is also known to have received over $67,000,000 from Exxon Mobil and other conservative donors. I don't know if Harris has been legally proven to have received large amounts of money in exchange for dissing climate scientists, but I think it’s safe to say that his associations with conservative groups like these are enough to cast serious doubts on the purity of his intentions.
At the end of his letter to the tribune, Harris displays false virtue by noting the fact that poor people are suffering disproportionately from global warming? Why does Harris object to people who work for green industries, who are simply earning honest money while helping create and develop clean alternatives—because by financially profiting they may be part of a greedy corporation? —What kind of company has been truly antagonistic to the idea of bringing relief to the suffering masses? —certainly those which are already known for being big parts of this problem already—big oil, and big coal!
What a lame excuse Harris uses, when employing the old, turn the tables on your opponent’s tactic, or, when trying to project his own culpability onto greedy Capitalists—Companies like Exxon Mobil make billions in profits—sometimes in just one economic quarter! They and others like them, are seeking to keep green companies at bay, while using incredibly large sums of money to spread lies and misinformation about man-made global warming! Even if Harris were not benefiting financially, in this case we are perfectly justified to criticize the messenger!

As the valley girls used to say—GAG ME WITH A SPOON!!

In the words of economist Paul Krugman;

"So is the climate threat solved? Well, it should be. The science is solid; the technology is there; the economics look far more favorable than anyone expected. All that stands in the way of saving the planet is a combination of ignorance, prejudice and vested interests. What could go wrong?"


Peter W. Johnson
Superior, WI.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Tom Harris Lied About Ontario Jobs

Tom Harris, the paid shill of the fossil fuel industry, wrote a letter to the editor of the Des Moines Register, Coal plays essential role in U.S. economy on August 12, 2016. In this letter, Harris stated,
My home province of Ontario, Canada, was once an industrial powerhouse and home to thousands of well-paid manufacturing jobs. But we lost at least 300,000 manufacturing jobs in the last 15 years when companies either went bankrupt or left Ontario.

This happened largely because our electricity prices have increased 318 percent since 2002, giving us one of the highest rates in North America. The single most important cause for this staggering rise is, in the name of “stopping climate change,” we shut down all of our inexpensive coal plants, which, in 2002, provided about 25 percent of our electricity.

Really? How about an alternative explanation?
There are about 300,000 fewer people working today in Ontario’s manufacturing sector than 10 years ago. This has been devastating for the people and communities affected. What is behind the decline? And is there anything governments can do to reverse it?

Ontario’s problem is not unique. Manufacturing jobs have been disappearing in just about every developed economy for the past two decades. The rise of automation in manufacturing plants means that factories today have more robots and fewer workers. In the case of products that still require a lot of workers, jobs have been transferred out of wealthy countries to countries with much lower labour costs.

This development, supported by lower tariff barriers and transportation costs, has contributed to the rise of the Global Value Chain, which can be understood as a more refined, global division of labour based on competitive advantage (see chart below). It means Ontario cannot compete on wages with low-cost jurisdictions in Asia or Latin America – nor do we want to.

The rapid rise of the Canadian dollar compared to the American dollar over the past decade has caused a significant decline in manufacturing exports and thus employment in Ontario. Our most important customers are in the United States. As the Loonie rose higher, so did the cost of our goods. According to the Bank of Canada, the appreciation of the Canadian dollar explains “most of [the] deterioration in competitiveness” of Canadian firms. Many manufacturing firms have shut their doors and even more individuals lost their jobs as a result.

Canadian firms have not invested enough in productivity. When it comes to job training, ICT, research and development, and machinery and equipment, Canadian manufacturers have fallen way behind. That means our firms are about half as productive as our American competitors. The so-called ‘productivity gap’, the difference between output per worker, has widened between Ontario and its North American peers over the past several years.
Amazingly enough, there is not one mention about closing coal-fired power plants or increasing electricity costs in this assessment. A comparison of electricity costs in major North American cities, published by Hydro Quebec, shows Ontario has electricity costs very much in line with the most of Canada and significantly lower than the listed northern cities in the U.S. So, no, the cost of electricity in Ontario is not out of line with other manufacturing centers.

Addressing climate change did not cost Ontario 300,000 jobs. Tom Harris lied.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

More Coal Contamination In North Carolina

Duke Energy has been accused of contaminating ground water with the ash waste from it's coal-burning power plants. If true, it would be yet another example of how the only way coal is affordable is if it passes the costs on to others.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

More Debate on Exxon Fraud

I read the following opinion piece in Physics Today. This is a topic we have discussed several times here, so I thought it would be appropriate to share. The original piece can be found here.

Curbing fraud or restraining speech?

Reporters and commentators engage the impassioned legal struggle over Exxon and climate.
05 July 2016

Climatologists at the blog RealClimate long ago indicted the journalistic failure of “false balance”—the presenting of unscientific climate scoffing as credible. They quipped, by way of analogy, that’s it’s false to try to balance NASA’s views with those of the Flat Earth Society. But what about when climate-wars contentiousness shifts to a legal battlefield, as in the widening fight over ExxonMobil’s climate-related statements, policies, and actions?

A Mother Jones article opens by summarizing the shifted fight: “Does Exxon Mobil have a constitutional right to sow doubt about climate science? That’s the subject of a high-stakes legal battle playing out between dozens of state attorneys general, members of Congress, corporate executives, and activists.”

In a 25 June press release, the Democratic Party outlines platform planks. One blurb speaks of “calling on the Department of Justice to investigate alleged corporate fraud on the part of fossil fuel companies who have reportedly misled shareholders and the public on the scientific reality of climate change.” In other words, the Democrats have formalized what InsideClimate News headlined last October: “Hillary Clinton joins call for Justice Dept. to investigate Exxon.”

In an emailed “action alert” and on a web page, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) charges that Exxon is “lashing out” against those who would hold it accountable. The company must “stop blocking progress on global warming,” the UCS declares.

But on the right, the Daily Caller headline “Dem Party platform calls for prosecuting global warming skeptics” illustrates the defining of any investigation of alleged fraud as instead First Amendment–trashing intimidation—as strong-arming that’s actually designed to punish and deter climate scoffers’ speech. The article’s text highlights a Democratic platform “provision calling for the Department of Justice to investigate companies who disagree with Democrats on global warming science.” But in fact, say fraud-investigation supporters, any such investigation merely asks narrowly whether Exxon obtained but hid knowledge and, crucially, hid it in ways that constitute fraud under the law.

The Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) and many others are buying no such claim that restraining speech constitutes the curbing of fraud. “Abuse of power” exclaimed the headline on CEI’s recent full-page New York Times ad. It prominently displayed an image of the Statue of Liberty with its mouth gagged. Although “all Americans have the right to support causes they believe in,” the ad charged, a coalition of state attorneys general has “announced an investigation of more than 100 businesses, nonprofits, and private individuals who question their positions on climate change.” The ad declared that “regardless of one’s views on climate change, every American should reject the use of government power to harass or silence those who hold differing opinions” in what CEI classifies as “political debates,” not scientific ones.

Media Matters distills the counterargument seen on the left against such invoking of the First Amendment: the “attorneys general are seeking to determine whether Exxon and other companies knew the reality of climate change but publicly sowed doubt about climate science in order to protect their profits. Reports from InsideClimate News and the Los Angeles Times revealed that Exxon’s own scientists had confirmed by the early 1980s that fossil fuel pollution was causing climate change, yet Exxon funded organizations that helped manufacture doubt about the causes of climate change for decades afterward.”

InsideClimate News (ICN) calls itself a “Pulitzer Prize-winning, non-profit, non-partisan news organization dedicated to covering climate change, energy and the environment.” Its investigative series last year described, as ICN puts it, “how Exxon conducted cutting-edge climate research decades ago and then, without revealing all that it had learned, worked at the forefront of climate denial, manufacturing doubt about the scientific consensus that its own scientists had confirmed.” One of ICN’s articles carried the headline “Exxon sowed doubt about climate science for decades by stressing uncertainty: Collaborating with the Bush-Cheney White House, Exxon turned ordinary scientific uncertainties into weapons of mass confusion.”

The Los Angeles Times’s October 2015 exposé began:

Back in 1990, as the debate over climate change was heating up, a dissident shareholder petitioned the board of Exxon, one of the world’s largest oil companies, imploring it to develop a plan to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from its production plants and facilities.

The board’s response: Exxon had studied the science of global warming and concluded it was too murky to warrant action. The company’s “examination of the issue supports the conclusions that the facts today and the projection of future effects are very unclear.”

Yet in the far northern regions of Canada’s Arctic frontier, researchers and engineers at Exxon and Imperial Oil were quietly incorporating climate change projections into the company’s planning and closely studying how to adapt the company’s Arctic operations to a warming planet.

The fraud allegations echo past experience with Big Tobacco, a precedent emphasized by Harvard historian of science Naomi Oreskes and others. John Schwartz at the New York Times cites as “a turning point in the fight against tobacco” the “unearthing of industry documents that showed the industry had long been aware of the health risks of its products, and the enormous lengths to which the companies went to sow doubt about the science.”

Compare newspaper excerpts separated by two decades:
  • From the 2015 Los Angeles Times exposé: “The gulf between Exxon’s internal and external approach to climate change from the 1980s through the early 2000s was evident in a review of hundreds of internal documents, decades of peer-reviewed published material and dozens of interviews conducted by Columbia University’s Energy & Environmental Reporting Project and the Los Angeles Times.”
  • From the 1994 New York Times front-page article “Tobacco company was silent on hazards”: “Internal documents from a major tobacco company show that executives struggled with whether to disclose to the Surgeon General what they knew in 1963 about the hazards of cigarettes, at a time when the Surgeon General was preparing a report saying for the first time that cigarettes are a major health hazard. The executives of the company, the Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corporation, chose to remain silent, to keep their research results secret, to stop work on a safer cigarette and to pursue a legal and public relations strategy of admitting nothing.”
Still, on the right it’s regularly argued that Exxon has actually accepted climate science constructively. Schwartz at the Times recently quoted Exxon spokesman Alan T. Jeffers: “The great irony here is that we’ve acknowledged the risks of climate change for more than a decade, have supported a carbon tax as the better policy option and spent more than $7 billion on research and technologies to reduce emissions.” The Wall Street Journal reported online on 30 June that Exxon “is ramping up its lobbying of other energy companies to support a carbon tax,” making it “the first major American energy company to move closer to the positions of European energy firms ... which have publicly advocated for a price on carbon.”

In 2008, the Guardian reported that “a sizeable chunk of Exxon's investor base” was “uncomfortable” with the company’s “hardline attitude towards climate change and alternative energy.” A day later, the Christian Science Monitor pointed out an intriguing paragraph from Exxon’s annual Corporate Citizenship Report: “In 2008 we will discontinue contributions to several public policy research groups whose position on climate change could divert attention from the important discussion on how the world will secure the energy required for economic growth in an environmentally responsible manner.” The Monitor piece added that Exxon had also previously “backed away from such groups.” Though without documentation or a link, it even reported that “according to the Guardian, in 2006 the company stopped funding the Competitive Enterprise Institute.”

Besides defense of Exxon, the struggle also involves elaborate attacks on investigation proponents’ motivations. The Wall Street Journal’s Kimberley Strassel proclaimed on 17 June that the “crusade” is neither about the law nor even about Exxon; it’s really “liberal prosecutors” seeking “to shut down a universe of their most-hated ideological opponents.” She asserted that the “real target is a broad array of conservative activist groups that are highly effective at mobilizing the grass-roots and countering liberal talking points—and that therefore must (as the left sees things) be muzzled.” She continued: “This is clear from the crazy list of organizations [that Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey] asked for information about in her subpoena. She demanded that Exxon turn over decades of correspondence with any of them.”

Strassel compared the campaign to other alleged attempts “to shut down conservatives,” listing “the IRS targeting, the Wisconsin John Doe probe, the campaign against ALEC, [and] the harassment of conservative donors.” Also in June, she published the book The Intimidation Game: How the Left Is Silencing Free Speech.

The conservative columnist, Fox News pundit, and veteran climate scoffer George Will, famed recently for renouncing the Republican Party because of its presidential candidate, has also attacked investigation proponents’ motivations. In an April Washington Post column headlined “Scientific silencers on the left are trying to shut down climate skepticism,” he listed what he sees as “core tenets of progressivism,” including these:
  • “Politics should be democratic but peripheral to governance, which is the responsibility of experts scientifically administering the regulatory state.”
  • “Enlightened progressives should enforce limits on speech (witness IRS suppression of conservative advocacy groups) in order to prevent thinking unhelpful to history’s progressive unfolding.”
Occasionally, fraud-investigation opponents even allude to the old Soviet Union’s Lysenkoism—the extreme, and destructive, politicization of science. On 29 June, the Wall Street Journal printed a letter calling the “Exxon probe ... a message to anyone daring to dispute the climate-change consensus.” The letter charged that government “has too much riding on climate change with all of its implications for tax revenue and administrative-state power to permit dissent, and climate-change scientists have too much riding on government research funding. As government inquisitors move to shut off climate-change debate and punish heretics, it seems that Lysenko’s ghost is now haunting the US.”

It’s no surprise that fraud-investigation proponents level motivation charges too—about financial ones. Recently 13 Republican members of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology wrote official letters that requested documents from state attorneys general investigating Exxon. Media Matters charges that the 13 “have received over $3.4 million from the fossil fuel industry, including over $126,000 from Exxon.” The Huffington Post reported that Charles and David Koch—the “Koch brothers”—“have spent over $88 million in *traceable* funding to groups attacking climate change science, policy and regulation,” with $21 million of that total going to groups that helped pay for that Competitive Enterprise Institute ad featuring a gagged Statue of Liberty.

Some in the media have now turned to lawyers, whatever is to be said about the mixing of the scientific and legal questions. At the Times, Schwartz recently quoted Robert C. Post, the dean of Yale Law School and a constitutional scholar, who “rejected the notion that Exxon Mobil is being gagged by the state efforts”:

“Debate is not being suppressed in any way by this,” he said, adding that citing First Amendment rights has become “a weapon in the arsenal of those who would seek to unravel the regulatory state.”

“They’re bringing it up because it sounds good.”

A week later, Post asserted in a Washington Post op-ed that the “point is a simple one. If large corporations were free to mislead deliberately the consuming public, we would live in a jungle rather than in an orderly and stable market.”

Three days after that, Hans A. von Spakovsky of the Heritage Foundation—a Republican lawyer with an MIT undergraduate degree—argued in a letter responding to Post that “human-induced global warming is unproven.” He sought to show that fraud-investigation supporters can adduce only weak evidence:

In the countersuit filed by the Competitive Enterprise Institute against the outrageous subpoena issued by the U.S. Virgin Islands attorney general for CEI’s climate-change research, the attorney general was forced to show his cards. In a brief filed in D.C. Superior Court, the only two supposedly fraudulent statements by ExxonMobil he could cite were:
  • “International  accords and underlying regional and national regulations for greenhouse gas reduction are evolving with uncertain timing and outcome, making it difficult to predict their business impact.”
  • “Current scientific understanding provides limited guidance on the likelihood, magnitude, and timeframe of physical risks such as sea level rise, extreme weather events, temperature extremes, and precipitation.”
These statements merely express uncertainty over climate change and climate policy. Anyone who believes these statements constitute fraud lacks common sense and an understanding of the applicable legal standards.

The “abuse” of the First Amendment here is by state attorneys general acting like a scientific Inquisition to silence what they believe is the wrong view in this vigorous, unsettled scientific debate.

With summer’s arrival, the struggle’s leading public forum appears to be the Wall Street Journal, where indirectly related opinion-page ads have been challenging the opinion editors’ climate statements. The 16 June WSJ editorial “The climate police blink” mocked fraud-investigation supporters who had just suffered apparent setbacks. US Virgin Islands Attorney General Claude Earl Walker responded with a letter that the WSJ headlined “Attorneys general are right to pursue Exxon Mobil: Exxon Mobil and the CEI are attempting to argue that the First Amendment protects them from producing the information that can shed light on whether they broke the law.” Another WSJ editorial argued that if Exxon had committed fraud, so had former vice president Al Gore, whose “unproven claims” concerning climate “arguably mislead investors about the value of clean-energy companies.”

That editorial ended by demonstrating that more contentiousness is surely coming from both sides: “We don’t think anyone should be prosecuted for engaging in political debate, but progressives have shown (see independent counsels) that they’ll cease their abuses only when the same methods are used against them.”

(Thumbnail credit: brownpau, CC BY 2.0)
Steven T. Corneliussen, a media analyst for the American Institute of Physics, monitors three national newspapers, the weeklies Nature and Science, and occasionally other publications. He has published op-eds in the Washington Post and other newspapers, has written for NASA's history program, and was a science writer at a particle-accelerator laboratory.