James Taylor has published an opinion piece in Forbes about the Top 10 Global Warming Lies put forward by “climate alarmists”. The climate alarmists are the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) as they recently sent out a mailer, “10 Global Warming Effects That May Shock You,”. The EDF’s positions sound very much like the things you read in reputable news sources and peer-reviewed science articles, so it is hard to see them as lies. According to a search of Google Scholar, James M. Taylor has not published any research in peer-reviewed journals, but he has published numerous articles with the Heartland Institute. As one Forbes reader commented, “If you take the time to check Taylor’s linked references, you’ll find they are to his own articles, debunked papers, or to papers that don’t even support his conclusion or statement. It’s all smoke and mirrors!”
Smoke certainly. James Taylor once wrote articles for the Heartland Institute claiming that smoking and secondhand smoke were harmless. He has now turned his talents to writing articles that deny the effects of global warming. His work earned Forbes third place in the 2011 Environmental Hall of Shame contest. The award went to: ”Forbes Magazine (James Taylor) for a ridiculously misleading article, New NASA data Blow Gaping Hole In Global Warming Alarmism, that described climate scientists as “alarmist” 15 times. Award: A copy of the book Ethics And Journalism and a complete ban on ever using the words ‘alarmist’ again.”
Apparently neither he nor the Forbes’ editors paid much attention to the book on ethics, or the ban on using the word “alarmist” . This article uses the word “alarmist” more times than you would care to count. Forbes does now require that Mr. Taylor put a disclaimer on his articles saying that they are his own opinion. James Taylor is a lawyer and his client is the Heartland Institute and the fossil fuel companies they represent. His job is not to enlighten you, but to cause doubt about whether his client is guilty. Scientists publish their work in peer-reviewed journals along with the data that backs up their conclusions. If Mr. Taylor thinks they make mistakes, it is up to him to provide evidence that refutes their work. However, he does not do that as he has little evidence. Links in his article take you to other articles he has written which sometimes have a few references to blog sites or occasionally an article in a magazine which has not been peer-reviewed for its accuracy. As one Forbes reader commented, “This paid propaganda brought to you by the donors to the Heartburn Institute. Enjoy it with a pack of cigarettes.”
To avoid confusion, I have listed what Mr. Taylor calls EDF’s Alarmist Assertions. This is followed by Mr. Taylor’s attempt to discount the EDF’s assertion, which is labeled Mr. Taylor’s Rebuttal . This is then followed by – Or Not which compares Mr. Taylor’s rebuttals to reliable sources and peer-reviewed literature. It may take two packs for you to get through all this – or, you may just jump to the topics that interest you.
Alarmist Assertion #1 “Bats Drop from the Sky – In 2014, a scorching summer heat wave caused more than 100,000 bats to literally drop dead and fall from the sky in Queensland, Australia.”
Mr. Taylor’s Rebuttal: Objective science proves extreme weather events such as hurricanes, tornadoes, heat waves, and droughts have become less frequent and less severe as a result of the Earth’s recent modest warming. … Global warming alarmists’ preferred electricity source – wind power – kills nearly 1 million bats every year (to say nothing of the more than 500,000 birds killed every year) in the United States alone.
– Or Not: Bat experts have noted that bats are very sensitive to high temperatures and Australia had its hottest summer on record in 2014. Research published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society shows that global warming was responsible for making 14 natural disasters more extreme, including the Australian heat wave. His claim that that wind turbines kills more than 1 million bats every year is irrelevant and not supported by reliable research. His reference leads to a previous article he has written which referenced a self-published magazine article whose author came up with that number by using estimates from unpublished sources. Try following his references and see where they lead.
Alarmist Assertion #2 “Lyme Disease Spreads” – Warmer temperatures are contributing to the range expansion and severity of tick-borne Lyme disease.”
Mr. Taylor’s Rebuttal: Lyme Disease is much more common in northern, cooler regions of the United States than in southern, warmer regions…. Any attempts to claim global warming will cause a few more Lyme Disease deaths must be weighed against the 36,000 Americans who are killed by the flu each year. The U.S. National Institutes of Health have documented how influenza is aided and abetted by cold climate.
– Or Not: This Scientific American article describes how the vectors for Lyme disease are growing in the northern regions of North America and declining in the South – more evidence for climate change. The flu comment is just a red herring as flu is a communicable illness spread from person-to-person when cold weather brings more people in contact.
Alarmist Assertion #3 “National Security Threatened – The impacts of climate change are expected to act as a ‘threat multiplier’ in many of the world’s most unstable regions, exacerbating droughts and other natural disasters as well as leading to food, water and other resource shortages that may spur mass migrations.”
Mr. Taylor’s Rebuttal: The alarmists’ asserted national security threat depends on assertions that (1) global warming is causing a reduction in food and water supplies and (2) migrations of people to places with more food and water will increase risks of military conflict.
– Or Not: The Department of Defense’s Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap explains how our military leaders plan to address the reality of global warming. CIA Director John Brennan offered a candid assessment of the security issues:
Last year was the warmest on record, and this year is on track to be even warmer. Extreme weather, along with public policies affecting food and water supplies, can worsen or create humanitarian crises. Of the most immediate concern, sharply reduced crop yields in multiple places simultaneously could trigger a shock in food prices with devastating effect, especially in already fragile regions such as Africa, the Middle East and South Asia.
A recent New York Times article explains that the drought caused by global warming was a major factor in triggering the Syrian civil war.
Alarmist Assertion #4 “Sea Levels Rising – Warmer temperatures are causing glaciers and polar ice sheets to melt, increasing the amount of water in the world’s seas and oceans.”
Mr. Taylor’s Rebuttal: The pace of sea level rise remained relatively constant throughout the 20th century, even as global temperatures gradually rose. Also, the alarmist assertion that polar ice sheets are melting is simply false. Although alarmists frequently point to a modest recent shrinkage in the Arctic ice sheet, that decline has been completely offset by ice sheet expansion in the Antarctic. Cumulatively, polar ice sheets have not declined at all since NASA satellite instruments began precisely measuring them 35 years ago.
– Or Not: Studies have confirmed that more than 90% of the world’s glaciers are retreating and that Glacier National Park may become ice free in this century. Also, note that Mr. Taylor does not claim that the sea levels have not risen, but that it is the pace of the sea level rise has remained constant,( i.e, the sea levels are most surely rising). The only reasonable explanations for this sea level rise are that the oceans are getting warmer and expanding – and that glaciers are melting and adding more water to the oceans.
Both the Antarctic and the Arctic are losing substantial amounts of ice. (See #10 for an explanation about the Antarctic ice. ) As shown in the satellite pictures below, the Arctic ice extent has declined about 35% in the last 30 years. You might wonder why Mr. Taylor would distort data which can be so easily checked . Apparently Forbes editors do not check such things.
Alarmist Assertion #5 “Allergies Worsen – Allergy sufferers beware: Climate change could cause pollen counts to double in the next 30 years. The warming temperatures cause advancing weed growth, a bane for allergy sufferers.”
Mr. Taylor’s Rebuttal: Pollen is a product and mechanism of plant reproduction and growth. Indeed, NASA satellite instruments have documented a spectacular greening of the Earth, with foliage gains most prevalent in previously arid, semi-desert regions.
– Or Not: Pollen producing weeds such as ragweed are experiencing longer growing seasons and extending their ranges further northward. This is further evidence of climate change. Keep your antihistamines handy.
Alarmist Assertion #6 “Beetles Destroy Iconic Western Forests – Climate change has sent tree-killing beetles called mountain pine beetles into overdrive. Under normal conditions those beetles reproduce just once annually, but the warming climate has allowed them to churn out an extra generation of new bugs each year.”
Mr. Taylor’s Rebuttal: Alarmists claim warmer winters are causing an increase in pine beetle populations. This assertion is thoroughly debunked by objective, real-world data.
– Or Not: The extra generation of bark beetles each season has caused an exponential increase in their population causing a plague of bark beetles that in the last quarter-century has killed more than 30 billion pine and spruce trees from Alaska to New Mexico. Perhaps Mr. Taylor can explain why the plague of beetles started about the time winter temperatures began increasing in their range.
Alarmist Assertion #7 “Canada: The New America – ‘Lusher’ vegetation growth typically associated with the United States is now becoming more common in Canada, scientists reported in a 2012 Nature Climate Change study.”
Mr. Taylor’s Rebuttal: Only global warming alarmists would claim that lusher vegetation and more abundant plant life is a bad thing.
– Or Not: Climate scientists point to this as further evidence that Canada’s climate is changing in response to global warming. It may be a bad thing for Canada, as much of the growth may be from invasive species.
Alarmist Assertion #8 “Economic Consequences – The costs associated with climate change rise along with the temperatures. Severe storms and floods combined with agricultural losses cause billions of dollars in damages, and money is needed to treat and control the spread of disease”
Mr. Taylor’s Rebuttal: Severe storms, floods and agricultural losses may cost a great deal of money, but such extreme weather events – and their resulting costs – are dramatically declining as the Earth modestly warms.
– Or Not: Mr. Taylor needs to check with the large secondary insurance company Munich Re, which has a department which studies insurance losses from natural catastrophes. Their graph below shows that while losses from geophysical natural catastrophes ( in red ) have remained relatively constant over the past 35 years – the climate related catastrophes have increased about 2 1/2 times. Coincidence?
Alarmist Assertion #9 “Infectious Diseases Thrive – The World Health Organization reports that outbreaks of new or resurgent diseases are on the rise and in more disparate countries than ever before, including tropical illnesses in once cold climates.”
Mr. Taylor’s Rebuttal: For example, DDT had all but eliminated malaria in the United States and on the global stage during the mid-20th century. However, environmental activists championed false environmental accusations against DDT and dramatically reduced use of the life-saving mosquito killer throughout much of the world.
– Or Not: The World Health Organization reports that, “though global warming may bring some localized benefits, such as fewer winter deaths in temperate climates and increased food production in certain areas, the overall health effects of a changing climate are likely to be overwhelmingly negative. ” Who should you believe, the World Health Organization or Mr. Taylor? He claims that the real problem is that we are not using DDT anymore, but he is apparently not aware that insects built up a tolerance to it. Since he was quite concerned in #1 about wind turbines killing bats and birds, should he not be concerned that DDT almost wiped out many species of birds, including Eagles in North America?
Alarmist Assertion #10 “Shrinking Glaciers – In 2013, an iceberg larger than the city of Chicago broke off the Pine Island Glacier, the most important glacier of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. And at Montana’s Glacier National Park glaciers have gone from 150 to just 35 over the past century.”
Mr. Taylor’s Rebuttal: Calling attention to anecdotal incidents of icebergs breaking off the Antarctic ice sheet, while deliberately ignoring the overall growth of the Antarctic ice sheet, is a misleading and favorite tactic of global warming alarmists.
– Or Not: There are two processes occurring in Antarctica. The warmer oceans around Antarctica are causing more snow to fall on the mountains in East Antarctica, so the glaciers there are growing. The warmer oceans are also eroding the ice sheets in West
Antarctica, causing ice loss and huge icebergs to break off. The GRACE satellite data at the right shows that overall the mass of ice in Antarctica is declining.The extent (or area) of the Antarctic ice is irrelevant as the area of thin ice sheets grow and shrink with the seasons and the weather.
If glaciers are not melting and the oceans are not warming, then Mr. Taylor needs to explain what is causing the sea levels to rise.
Paris: Mr. Taylor uses a word “alarmist” as a pejorative to discount what the scientists are saying, but it is one of the few things he has right. Climate scientists are very alarmed that the world is on a path to end civilization as we know it by 2100, and that he, Forbes, the Wall Street Journal, Investor Business Daily, and our Congress is in denial. Here is what will happen to the world if we do not listen to the scientists and take binding action at the Paris Climate Conference. The graph below charts three paths, no action on carbon emissions, current commitments in red, and the path we need to be on if the world as we know it is to survive. Which path would you choose?
(c) 2015 – J.C. Moore