Sunday, January 24, 2016

Guest Post: News Media Bias Against Science

There are still a number of news media outlets that chose to support climate change denialism. This is done in a number of ways. Some simply don't allow any credible science to appear in their pages, while others suppress science and promote the pseudo-science (see Fox News). Others, such as in the example below, print the scientific viewpoint but do so in a manner to indicate it is faulty. The below guest post consists of exchanges of letters between a reader and the opinion page editors of the Duluth News Tribune and the Superior Telegram. Both of these newspapers have previously supported the anti-science positions of climate change deniers.


(Note: Chuck Frederick and Shelley Nelson are, respectively, the opinion page editors of the Duluth News Tribune, and the Superior Telegram)

Good Morning Chuck and Shelley,

Today's Tribune (January 7, 2016) ran a puzzling local view article written by a well educated person having a PhD in aquatic ecology, and was also reviewed by another well educated person with a degree in climatology, who is an assistant professor at Large Lakes Observatory, in Duluth.

What was puzzling about this guest post column offered by Duluthian David Gerhart, is that it lists a number of very solid and valid scientific reasons why the concentration of Earth's CO2 levels is much greater now than it was 800,000 years ago, and also that today's rise in global mean temperatures is not due to the orbit, or the intensity of our sun--actually the sun is delivering less energy to the Earth than is has previously, and would actually decrease the Earths temperature if it were truly driving global warming. The article also makes readers aware of the fact that the Earth goes through normal glacial cycles that scientist have known about for many, many years and are now trying to prudently warns us about the fact that Arctic areas are continually loosing ice mass and that this will directly affect future sea levels---so why is all this very valid and very well known scientific evidence, presented directly beneath a cartoon showing an ad for a Godzilla movie, and another movie depicting a giant glacier, with the caption, "Run for your lives! It'll melt in 1000 years?"

Why are you depicting actual science in such a way, as to imply that those who are warning others about man-made global warming, are nothing more than hysterical alarmists worried about something which might happen 1000 years in the future? In truth, most scientists project only a 3 to 6 foot sea level rise by the end of the century, which in itself will pose a problem to many large populated communities occupying coastal areas that are already established near sea level. And, no climatologist, or scientist in any related field, has ever encouraged us to panic about what might happen a full millennium in the future!

When the Arctic ice cap and the Greenland ice cap melt, they not only release more water into our oceans, but the loss of snow and ice in those regions will prevent large amounts of sunlight from being reflected back into space---also increasing temperatures averages. Then there is the fact that since the actual Arctic land surface contains vast amounts of accumulated methane gas, which may be released into the atmosphere relatively quickly and, if so, suddenly increase the rate of global warming. That's because methane is one of the most potent green house gasses in regards to heat trapping properties!

Why then do you present actual facts provided by qualified experts, and then simultaneously run a cartoon implying that all this climate stuff---(my words)---is nothing but hysteria? If this is what journalist call balance, it's only because most of you are sadly misinformed or uninformed about the real problems posed by climate change and the fact that we must begin taking aggressive actions NOW to reduce emissions world-wide. Unfortunately, when the news industry knowingly or unknowingly distorts or prevents real knowledge from being available to the public that only reinforces the environment of political paralysis created by legislators who are in the pockets of large oil and large coal. So preventing real information from reaching voters is tragically closing the limited window of time which we will need to make big changes---if our future Earth is to be a comfortable and safe place for our progeny to live! You may not realize it, but the FALSE BALANCE, you feel you must provide, is not only contributing to the problem, but also preventing the necessary political will required for us to successfully deal with the real problems created by AGW and its attendant effects on our climate.

Peter W. Johnson

(from Chuck Frederick, Duluth News Tribune opinion page editor).

We provide space on our Opinion pages for all viewpoints. It's not so much a desire for balance as for allowing the expression of a diversity of views, reflecting the entirety of our community. I know there are those who feel anything critical of or even in question of global warming should be suppressed, rejected --- and not published. I know you won't agree with me, but I don't feel we're at that point yet in this debate. I think the need for conversation remains relevant.



The articles you and other Newspapers usually run provided by deniers of global warming, usually contain grossly inaccurate information or misinformation which comes from faulty scientific analysis or deliberate use of cherry picking or other ways to distort information. But no matter how technicality sophisticated some of it may sound, the issues they raise have virtually all been examined and eliminated by truly educated and by truly informed scientists. The distorted claims and inaccurate data provided by the deniers you publish are like similar distortions made by "experts" employed by tobacco companies who swore in front of congressional committees that tobacco smoke posed no risks at all for causing cancer---along with numerous other false bits of information. Just like those lies, the falsehoods being currently circulated by AGW deniers will eventually be exposed and rejected politically, but in this case we have a very limited period of time in which to enact effective measures to lower CO2 emissions. That's why it is so unfortunate that most members of the press do not grasp the true importance of real scientific evidence and usually do not even believe writers like me.

One would think that even as you allow such misinformation and distortions of facts to be printed that at least you would not place the knowledge of valid and qualified scientists directly beneath cartoons portraying the information they provide as nothing but hysteria offered by supposedly "mistaken" PhDs who have spent decades studying this problem. Outside of the few scientists employed by CO2 producing companies who deliberately distort the message of real scientists and studies done by supposed experts who have no real qualifications to know what they are talking about, or by those whose work has been solidly rejected by their peers, there is virtually no evidence at all confirming the falsehoods they circulate. This is really not a case of one opinion verses another---it's a matter of purposefully false information being distributed by special interest groups who know they will benefit financially from distorting the massive evidence about the real effects of man-made CO2. Eventually you and other news outlets will realize that. But the frustrating thing about all this is that because of the false balance, (or diversity of views) you think you must provide, that realization may come to you only after it is entirely too late to do anything about it.

Peter W. Johnson

Saturday, January 23, 2016

2015: Hottest Year Ever Recorded - So Far

Analyses by NOAA and NASA showed 2015 to be the hottest year ever recorded. This should come as no surprise to anyone seeing as how ten of the twelve months set records as the hottest ever recorded, including a string of eight in a row. This included a record-shattering December, which was not only the hottest December ever recorded but was 1.11°C (2.00°F) higher than the monthly average. The margin of increase in the record was the largest ever, breaking the previous all-time record set only two months earlier in October 2015 by 0.12°C (0.21°F). This is the first time in the NOAA record that a monthly temperature departure from average exceeded 1°C and the second widest margin by which an all-time monthly global temperature record has been broken. (February 1998 broke the previous record of March 1990 by 0.13°C / 0.23°F.)

You would think this would be enough to cause deniers to shut-up for a while. Unfortunately, that isn't the case. In fact, they are now claiming 2015 wasn't hot at all. And, then they wonder why people look on them with disdain. It's hard to have any respect for someone who promotes such nonsense.

What they are really concerned about is that the heat will continue. In this we can finally agree, but for different reasons. I'm concerned because it will not be good for the planet. They're concerned because they're afraid people will finally see them for the liars and deceivers they are.

For the last 12 months, the tally is:

December 2015 was the hottest December ever recorded;

November 2015 was the hottest November ever recorded;

October 2015 was the hottest October ever recorded;

September 2015 was the hottest September ever recorded

August 2015 was the hottest August ever recorded;

July 2015 was the hottest July (and hottest any month) ever recorded;

June 2015 was the hottest June ever recorded;

May 2015 was the hottest May ever recorded;

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

March 2015 was the hottest March ever recorded;

February 2015 was the hottest February ever recorded;

January 2015 was the second hottest January ever recorded.

Adding up the score for the last 12 months gives us: one 3rd hottest month, one 2nd hottest month, and ten hottest months ever.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Ocean Heat Contet Increase Is Accelerating

One of the most common omissions deniers make is to ignore the oceans. Approximately 93% of all heat goes into the oceans. So, when we discuss 'global' warming, in it imperative we make sure to include the ocean. They are, after all, part of the globe.

Now, it looks like it is even more important that we realized. A new paper by Gleckler, et al. recently published in Nature Climate Change reported the results of a study of new data on the deep ocean and found warming is penetrating even into the very deep ocean - below 2300 feet. In fact, they found that 35% of the ocean's heat uptake is going into the deep water. 

That alone is bad because it means another region of the planet is being changed and the results of the change are not likely to be in our favor. But, it gets worse because they found that half of the ocean warming has occurred since 1997. In other words, the amount of heat being stored in the ocean is very large and is increasing at a faster pace than before. Take a look at this figure from their paper.

Source: Gleckler,et al.   
Ocean heat uptake (percentage of total 1865–2015 change) for the CMIP5 MMM layers.

We are currently witnessing what heat stored in the oceans can do to us. The El Nino event we are experiencing - a record large one - is fueled by heat stored in the ocean. As this heat in the oceans increases, it is reasonable to expect that the dangers from severe El Ninos and other events will also increase.

Something to look forward to.

Friday, January 15, 2016

U.S. Warming?

One of the most common false arguments made by deniers is a statement to the effect, "It was coldest in Umptysquatch, US State, this season than I can ever remember. This proves global warming isn't real." Fill in the town and state of your choice.

This is a false argument for a number of reasons. First, we're talking about global warming, not U.S. warming. The continental U.S. covers about 2% of the planet's surface. Picking a specific town is, obviously, much less. Deniers are engaging in a massive cherry-picking exercise when they do this.

But, the data rarely backs them up. When we look at the actual measured data and compare it to people's claims, it is not unusual at all to find the reality is very different. Here is the data for the continental U.S. for 2015 released by NOAA:

Percent area of CONUS "very warm"
Percent area of CONUS "very cold"
For the purposes of this graphic, NOAA defines "very warm" as being in the top 10% of warm periods and "very cold" as being in the bottom 10%.

For the record, the average amount of CONUS that was 'very warm' was 33.3% per month. Fully one-third of CONUS was experiencing temperatures in the top 10% every month.The average for 'very cold' was 3.5%. This means the amount of CONUS experiencing 'very warm' conditions was nearly 10 times as much as the amount experiencing 'very cold.'

Some people will simply dismiss this as a consequence of the massive El Nino currently underway. This is a false argument for two reasons. First, where do they think the warmth being released by the oceans came from? El Ninos are not warming events, they are merely transferring heat trapped in the oceans into the atmosphere. But, that heat in the oceans had to come from somewhere. But, this argument also fails the data test. The current El Nino started in March. So, if we look at only the first three months we find the average for 'very warm' was 34% (less than for the entire year) and for 'very cold' it was over 11% (much greater than for the total year). If that argument contained any validity, we would see the percentages to be nearly equal.

So, the next time you hear someone claim global warming isn't real because they know someone who said they had the coldest season they can remember, you will know their claim is not valid.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Employment In Solar Larger Than Fossil Fuel Sectors

One of the false arguments and misinformation claims put out by the fossil fuel lobbyists is that addressing climate change will hurt the economy by eliminating jobs. This, of course, is shear nonsense. Anyone taking even a few seconds to think about this would realize that someone has to be working in the renewable energy sector. Therefore, as that sector grows, so do the number of jobs.

Now, there's a report that shows exactly that.

The Solar Foundation's National Solar Jobs Census 2015 shows the solar sector is adding jobs at 12 times the rate of the rest of the economy and has grown 123% over the last six years with an increase of over 20% in just one year. The census reports solar now employs 208,859 people in all 50 states. This is more than in either the oil or natural gas construction sectors and nearly three times as large as the entire coal industry workforce of 67,929. And, that growth is expected to continue with an anticipated increase of 14.7% over the next year.

Notably, these jobs by good wages and don't force you to risk your life by working in mines and carcinogenic waste dumps. Both things the coal industry is famous for doing to its employees.

Remember this the next time a denier tells you fixing the problem will cost people their jobs. Not only are the jobs safe, so are the lives and health of the workers. And, it addresses the climate change problem, too.

The Solar Foundation® (TSF) is an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit whose mission is to increase understanding of solar energy through strategic research and education that transform markets. It is not funded by the solar industry.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Another Indication Deniers Are Losing the PR Battle

The purpose of climate change denial lobbyists is to convince the public that lawmakers shouldn't take any action to address climate change. This is to protect the profits of certain groups, especially the fossil fuel industry which supplies most of the funding for these lobbyists. They have been very successful at this in the past, but there have been signs lately that indicate they are now losing the battle for the public's mind. Take a look at how irrelevant one of these lobbyists, Tom Harris, has become. Now, the lobbyists themselves have been gracious enough to show us they no longer matter.

The Climate Depot has long been one of the most notorious of these denier lobbyists. Marc Morano of that organization has a long track record of  making false statements and false arguments. He is also the communications director of the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT), yet another fossil fuel supported organization. He has even gone as far as providing the personal contact information for climate scientists and encouraging people to send them threatening and harassing communications. In the movie Merchants of Doubt he not only admits this but calls it one of his proudest accomplishments and laughs. Now this shining example of humanity has made his own film - Climate Hustle. The purpose of this film is to supposedly show how climate change is all a big hoax and nothing to worry about.

The plan was to premier their new film in Paris during the COP21 conference with the hope they would make a big splash. Oops! They succeeded in making some news, but not the way they were hoping. The premier was a massive dud and they couldn't fill the theater, even with free tickets.

So, what we have is the deniers are spending a huge amount of fossil fuel money on a project that even the deniers won't watch for free. Well, they are right about one thing. Fossil fuel money does create jobs. If nothing else, I'm sure the people who worked on this project appreciate the money they were paid.

But, you have to wonder how much longer this boondoggle will continue when no one is listening to them anymore.