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:


1/31/2016

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?"




Sincerely, 

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.

http://www.wbtv.com/story/32600752/nc-toxicologist-water-near-dukes-dumps-not-safe-to-drink

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.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

There Was No 'Pause' in Global Warming

Remember how Christopher Monckton, the Great Lord Denier of anti-science, claimed there was no warming for (insert period of time of your choice)? Read about his claims here, here, and here.

Take a look at the plot of temperature anomalies and tell me there was no warming:

Source: NOAA

Case closed.

Monday, June 20, 2016

ICSC and Peabody Coal

The news is leaking out about how Peabody Coal listed climate change denier organizations among its creditors. Now, the trail is getting tantalizingly close to one of the worst denier organizations - the so-called International Climate Science Coalition (ICSC), a group that has nothing to do with climate science. Among the denier organizations listed in the bankruptcy documents is the anti-science group inappropriately called the Friends of Science Society, a self-admitted fossil-fuel front group.

What does this have to do with ICSC? Well, the two anti-science groups have a long history together and are currently the subject of an inquiry, along with the Heartland Institute, by the Canadian Competition Bureau for propagating false and misleading representations related to several billboards, website representations and a poster made available as a free download on a website. The money trail is getting suspiciously close.

ICSC, if you're not familiar with them, is another fossil fuel front group. It's executive director, Tom Harris, is a paid-shill for the fossil fuel industry with long ties to Heartland, fossil fuels, and tobacco industries. You can read my postings concerning his resume and his actions here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. Wow! He's been a busy fellow.

We'll have to keep an eye on him. By the way, I'm wondering if his consulting firm, Complector Communications Inc., will show up in those bankruptcy documents.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Peabody Coal Funded Climate Change Deniers

Anyone following the current events associated with the science of climate change should be aware of how the fossil fuel industry funds the anti-science climate change deniers. There is hard evidence of this in government filed documents, court documents, and insider statements. Now we can add the bankruptcy documents Peabody Coal filed with the court to that list. You can read an in-depth article about the list here.

When I reviewed the list I wasn't surprised to see some familiar names, people I've debated the issues with over the years. One I find very notable is Richard Lindzen. This is important because he spent years telling everyone he didn't receive any funds from the fossil fuel industry for his research. What he failed to say is that he was receiving massive amounts of funds for 'consulting' services. It is well-known, by his own admission, he was receiving money from ExxonMobil the whole time. Now, we find he was also receiving money from Peabody Coal. No wonder he left Harvard.

Another favorite is Roy Spencer, the former scientists who has been caught so often falsifying his data and writing false papers that he can no longer get published in any journal. The last time he did the editorial staff resigned in protest. He has sacrificed every bit of credibility he ever had, but he is still collecting money from Peabody Coal.

The Idso family also showed up. Yet another group of former scientists who thought easy money was preferable to hard work.

Willie Soon, the infamous engineer with the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics who claims in public to be a climate scientist and was caught hiding his fossil fuel payoffs.

Oh, and CFACT, those guys who produced the anti-science film 'Climate Hustle'? They're on the list.

Speaking of disgusting groups (and we were), how about ALEC? In case you don't know this organization, the American Legislative Exchange Council arranges for law makers to meet with donors. In these meetings the donors will arrange for the law makers to submit bills favorable to the donors industry in exchange for financial support. This way, the name of the donors and their industry are not associated with the bill. ALEC does not deny this and this activity is not illegal (remember who rights the laws). To no surprise, we see ALEC received funds from Peabody Coal.

And, it is to no surprise to see the anti-science political party is well represented on the list. No fewer than eight separate Republican organizations received funds from Peabody. Two Democrat organizations are listed.

It is interesting to see the documentation of how this corrupt corporation was able to spread it's influence far beyond the purview of mining coal.

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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