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James Taylor: EDF’s Top 10 Global Warming Lies – Or Not

Sun ,06/12/2015


James Taylor has published an opinion piece in Forbes about the Top 10 Global Warming Lies put forward by “climate edfalarmists”. 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. Alsonote 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.

Current Sea Ice









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?

Permission Courtesy of Munich Re.

Permission Courtesy of Munich Re.

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

Antarctic ice mass from GRACE satellite data.

Antarctic ice mass from GRACE satellite data.

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?Temp paths





(c) 2015   –  J.C. Moore

Newsflash: The Earth’s Temperature Is Still Going up

Wed ,04/11/2015

Conservative politicians and columnists like to say,”The Earth’s temperature hasn’t gone up since 1998″. That is certainly wrong, and creates doubts about them actually being “conservative”. Just a few weeks ago my Congressman said in a letter, “The Earth’s temperature hasn’t gone up since 1997”, stretching it a bit. That’s his excuse for not supporting action on climate change.

That untruth about the Earth’s temperature was popularized by George Will when he used it to attack John McCain during the 10warmest2008 election. George Will was apparently upset that a conservative Republican was recommending action on global warming. When I contacted George Will for an explanation, he said that 1998 was the warmest year on record and no year since had been hotter. Actually 2005 was, destroying his argument. There have been several warmers years since – as shown in the graph at the right. And so far, 2015 is setting a new record.

Not willing to give up on a good excuse, the politicians and pundits now claim the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has confirmed their deception. That’s not right, either. The IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report  stated that the global surface temperature “has shown a much smaller increasing linear trend over the past 15 years [1998-2012] than over the past 30 to 60 years.” The apparent slowdown was termed a “hiatus” and cheered by the Skeptics, although a “smaller increasing linear trend” is not a hiatus. And it turned out that the “smaller increasing linear trend” was caused by a change in the way the Earth’s temperature was measured, not by an actual decrease in the rate of warming.

Dr. Tom Karl, director of the National Centers for Environmental Information,  is the lead author of the  study published in the journal Science. He explained the discrepancy came from a change in how ocean temperatures were measured. “Global ocean temperatures are estimated both by thousands of commercial ships, which record the temperature of the water entering their engines and by thousands of buoys. The buoys tend to get cooler temperature readings than the ships, likely because ships’ engines warm the water. Meanwhile, in recent years, buoys have become increasingly common.”  The result, Karl says, is that the oceans did not appear to be warming as much because more buoys are now being used instead of ships. So Karl’s team adjusted the buoy data to make them line up with the ship data. The corrected data,  shows that since 1998, the rate of warming is about the same as it has been since 1950: about two-tenths of a degree Fahrenheit per decade.

That should settle the matter but some politicians just are not willing to accept science  and, interestingly enough, one of them is the chair of the Congressional Science Committee.  Congressman Lamar Smith (R-TX), chair of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, has spent much of the last few years pressuring the National Science Foundation to ensure that it only funds science he thinks is worthwhile and “in the national interest.” He certainly didn’t think that Dr. Karl’s research,  showing the Earth’s temperature was still going up an alarming rate, was in the national interest. So, he sent a request that Dr. Karl and NOAA provide his office with “[a]ll data related to this study and the updated global datasets” along with the details of the analysis and “all documents and communications” related to part of that analysis.

The request was meant to be burdensome, but apparently Congressman Smith does not understand how science publications work. NOAA responded to Rep. Smith’s request by pointing him to the relevant data and methods, all of which had already been publicly available. Undeterred, Representative Smith asked for even more data, explanations, and communications. NOAA did not respond to that request or the following subpoena, citing a “confidentiality interest”.   Committee Member Bernice Johnson (D – TX), intervened  with a letter sent to Rep. Smith revealing and criticizing his actions. In it, she noted that Rep. Smith was looking into a scientific study and not a Federal policy decision. “As such,” she wrote, “this is not an area of delegated legislative authority by Congress  (unless you are proposing that Congress should somehow legislatively overrule peer-reviewed scientific findings).” Of course that is what Rep. Smith would like to do, but he will likely have to content himself with just harassing Dr. Karl and NOAA.

(C) 2015 J.C. Moore


PowerPoint Presentation: The Citizens’ Climate Lobby

Wed ,28/10/2015


This is a presentation given at Ecofest 2015 by Darrel Hart, Mark Shobe, and J.C. Moore. It is designed to promote the Citizens’ Climate Lobby carbon fee and ccl1dividend proposal as it is the best way to build the political will to address climate change. Part 1. of the presentation was  on the Science of Climate Change and explained the urgent need to address climate change. Part 2. was on a bipartisan way to address climate change as described in the presentation below:

Part 2. : Citizens’ Climate Lobby

Please click on the link above. You will need a PowerPoint program to view the slides – or you may  download a free viewer here. The slides will display as set in your viewer.

Thermodynamics Says There Is No “Hiatus “in Global Warming

Tue ,14/07/2015

During the 2008 Presidential Election,  John McCain proposed a pragmatic national energy policy based upon good stewardship, good science, and reasonableness. George Will attacked his proposal, claiming that “global temperatures have not risen in a decade”. He claimed the hottest year on record was 1998 and no year since has been hotter. His argument was simple, easily understood, and very wrong. While 1998 was an unusually hot year, NASA’s data shows that 2005 was warmer.

  • George Will’s claim resonated with those who wish to deny that the Earth is warming, so they extended the statement to “the Earth hasn’t warmed in 12 years”, 15 years, and finally 17 years – so far. Apparently truthfulness is not a criteria, as 2005, 2010, 2014, were warmer than 1998. Now they claim the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has confirmed their deception. That’s not right, either.
  • The IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report  concluded that the global surface temperature “has shown a much smaller increasing linear trend over the past 15 years [1998-2012] than over the past 30 to 60 years.” The apparent slowdown was termed a “hiatus” and cheered by the Skeptics, although a “smaller increasing linear trend” is not a hiatus. The apparent slowdown intrigued the climate scientists, who immediately set about trying to discover where the energy went.
  • Scientist knew the energy had to go somewhere  because of the First Law of Thermodynamics, which says that energy is conserved. The amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was  still rising and, because of the greenhouse effect, the Earth was still absorbing more energy that it emitted. According to the conservation of energy, that extra energy has to go somewhere in the environment, and whether it warms the air, the land,  the oceans, melts ice, or evaporates water – the Earth was storing the energy somewhere. Claiming that “global warming has paused”, is badly misleading as the amount of energy in the Earth’s systems was still increasing. To claim a pause is to claim that the Law of Conservation of Energy is invalid. And, that is an extraordinary claim, requiring extraordinary proof. No Skeptic was up to that task.
  • What followed was a flurry of research by climate scientists,  trying to figure out where the energy had gone. It turned out that it really hadn’t gone  anywhere, because the missing heat has been there all along. It was an artifact from how the ocean temperatures were measured.
  • According to a recent NBC news report,”Global warming has not stopped or even slowed in the past 18 years, according to a new federal study that rebuts doubters who’ve claimed that that heating trends have paused. Scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration readjusted thousands of weather data points to account for different measuring techniques through the decades.”
  • Tom Karl, director of the National Centers for Environmental Information,  is the lead author of the  study published in the journal Science. He explained the discrepancy came from a change in how ocean temperatures were measured. “Global ocean temperatures are estimated both by thousands of commercial ships, which record the temperature of the water entering their engines and by thousands of buoys. The buoys tend to get cooler temperature readings than the ships, likely because ships’ engines warm the water. Meanwhile, in recent years, buoys have become increasingly common.”  The result, Karl says, is that the oceans did not appearing to be warming as much because more buoys are now being used instead of ships. So Karl’s team adjusted the buoy data to make them line up with the ship data. The corrected data,  in the graph below, shows that since 1998, the rate of warming is about the same as it has been since 1950: about two-tenths of a degree Fahrenheit per decade.



The Skeptics, of course, were not happy that the missing heat had been discovered and their ” hiatus” was exposed as a myth. So, they have now gone back to their familiar theme, that “scientists adjust the data to get what they want.” Saying that is certainly easier than disproving The First Law of Thermodynamics.

(C) 2015 – J.C. Moore

Bits and Pieces: Two Misguided Attacks on Wind Turbines and Electric Cars

Sun ,25/05/2014

There were two op-ed pieces in the May 25, 2014 Tulsa World which were misguided attacks on renewable energy and electric cars.

The first was titled “The Killing Fields”, with the subheading “Perverse federal energy incentive is a threat to birds, bats.” The article was written by Dr. George Fenwick who is the president of the American Bird Conservancy. The article was illustrated by an Associated Press photo which shows cattle standing in front of a windfarm in a drought prone area of Texas. It well illustrated flaws in Dr. Fenwick’s reasoning, he is more concerned about the wind turbines than about a much greater threat to bird populations.

While Dr. Fenwick had some good points in the article about the value of birds and our need to conserve them, the sensationalized article missed the greatest threat to birds. He complained about the federal production tax credit which encourages the development of wind energy, about allowing exception to the Endangered Species Act, and about siting of wind farms in sensitive areas. Wind developers are already avoiding sensitive areas and they have changed the design of wind turbines so they would be less of a threat to birds. He should have been more concerned about the bigger threats to bird populations, which are severe weather and the destruction of habitat, both made worse by global warming. Delaying the construction of wind turbines will certainly lead to more carbon emissions, making global warming more of a problem

Research shows that wind turbines are not among the top 10 human causes of bird mortality – and windfarms are likely saving HPIM2053amany more birds than they are killing. A comprehensive study of bird mortality in Canada found most human-related bird deaths (about 99%) are caused by feral and domestic cats, collisions with buildings and vehicles, and electricity transmission and distribution lines.  A related peer reviewed Canadian study of bird mortality found that less than 0.2% of the population of any bird species is currently affected by mortality or displacement by wind turbine development. They concluded that even though the number of windmills are projected to grow ten times over the next two decades, “population level impacts on bird populations are unlikely, provided that highly sensitive or rare habitats, as well as concentration areas for species at risk, are avoided.”

The fifth IPCC report says that the most important thing we can do to mitigate global warming is to switch to renewable energy as quickly as possible. If Dr. Fenwick’s sensationalized articles about “The Killing Fields” keeps us from developing renewable energy as quickly as possible, then he is working against the birds, and his own, best interest.

The second article, “Driving greener cars won’t save the Earth” by Megan McArdle essentially says efforts are futile to reduce our carbon emissions. She belittles her friend for buying an electric car and goes on that Americans are likely to do nothing significant to reduce our carbon emissions. She well documents all the ways that we waste energy and claims we are unlikely to change. She also points out that getting other countries, particularly China, to to reduce their carbon emissions is also futile. She concluded that if we want to get serious about reducing our carbon emissions then we need to find cheap renewable resources to replace our energy needs, to find a way to take greenhouse gases out of the air, or to keep the planet from warming because of those gasses that we have already put their .

Her last two suggestions show she does not have a good grasp of the scientific issues, but she is certainly right that we need cheap renewable resources. We have already found those in wind and solar, but they are not yet cheaper than fossil fuels because fossil fuels do not pay their external costs. The external costs for fossil fuels do not include health and environmental damage from particulates, nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides, chromium, mercury, arsenic, and carbon emissions. An EU funded research study, Externalities of Energys ,  found that including externalities would increase the cost of producing electricity from fossil fuels by a factor of 30% for natural gas to about 90% for coal –  if costs to the environment and to human health were included. If we include those  costs, then sustainable energy sources have a big cost advantage. If we wish to be serious, then we need to remove subsidies to fossil fuels, require fossil fuels to pay their external costs, and to  subsidize renewable energy sources at the same level for several decades.

This falls into a long list of defeatist articles, such as that by Robert Bryce, which says that we are not going to be able to do anything about global warming, so why try. Yes, driving greener cars alone won’t save the Earth, but conserving energy, developing renewable energy sources, changing the energy sources we subsidize, and having fossil fuels pay their external costs, will certainly help more than writing articles discouraging us from trying.

  (c) 2014  J.C. Moore

Evidence Linking Global Warming and Extreme Weather

Thu ,08/05/2014

 “All weather events are affected by climate change because the environment in which they occur is warmer and moister than it used to be….  ”  – Trenberth


Kevin Trenberth, senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, explains that asking for proof that global warming causes severe weather, is asking the wrong question. “All weather events are affected by climate change because the environment in which they occur is warmer and moister than it used to be. The main way climate change is perceived is through changes in extremes because those are outside the bounds of previous weather. The average anthropogenic climate change effect is not negligible, but nor is it large, although a small shift in the mean can lead to very large percentage changes in extremes. Anthropogenic global warming inherently has decadal time scales and can be readily masked by natural variability on short time scales.”

Scientists  have been very cautious about linking severe weather events to global warming, but the link is getting stronger each year. The Earth has warmed an average of 0.82 over the last century, which doesn’t sound like much, but it means that some places have warmed much more than in the past. Since the amount of moisture the air can hold depends on the temperature, the air can now hold about 6% more moisture. Before 2010, scientists would cautiously point out that higher temperatures lead to the likelihood of drought, and that more energy and moisture in the atmosphere was a recipe for severe weather. But how is it possible to establish that weather events were becoming more extreme?

There are many reports like the interim report by the Climate Council in Australia which found that, in the period between 1971 and 2008,  heatwaves in Australia were becoming more frequent, increasing in intensity and are lasting longer. The report said climate change was  having a key influence on a trend that has seen the number of hot days in Australia double and the duration and frequency of heatwaves increase. Reports like that were not good enough for the skeptics. By 2011 a good case was established that global warming was causing heat waves and droughts in the U.S., but the case was not strong enough to overcome the Skeptics objection, even when in 2012, a definite probability link  was established for  extreme temperatures and droughts. 

To understand whether a weather event is extreme, it must be compared to the norm. This can most easily be done for temperatures, as we have over a century of temperature records from almost all parts of the world.

Example of a Normal Distribution

Example of a Normal Distribution – Click to Enlarge

There is enough temperature data that normal distributions can be graphed, which allows us to quantify  the probability of a temperature event. In the example at the right, the maximum in the curve is the mean of the data. The probability of the occurrence of an event can be measured by the number of standard deviations, sigma(σ), a particular value is from the mean. The values within 2σ of the mean, blue, are considered to be in a mostly normal range. Those from 2 to 3σ, yellow, are considered to be exceptional events, and those beyond 3σ, red, are considered to be extreme. Those yearly events that fall in the yellow range are considered to be 100 year events while those that fall in the red are 1000 year event.

As an example, the normal distribution graph to the right is for the temperatures in Moscow since 1950.  The maximum in the curve is the average temperature, which is set to zero, and the temperature for other other year is described as a temperature anomaly, i.e., how far it is above or below the average value.Moscowjulytempanomaly2010 The curve approximates a normal distribution so the standard deviation of the temperature anomalies can be used to decide whether an event is extreme. The temperatures for 1972  and 2001 fall in the hundred year event range, while  that for 2010 would only be likely to occur only once in every hundred thousand years, unlikely, but still possible.

The Skeptics would still not be convinced, claiming that the link to global warming climate change causes severe weather was not proven, but proof is not necessary when probabilities for a large number of events are involved. For instance, you have only a 50% chance of calling a coin toss correctly, but you can likely guess the number of heads on 1000 flips with less than 1% error. Small differences in probabilities lead to big outcomes. The rules of blackjack give the house a 50.5% to 49.5% advantage, and though some players may win thousands on a lucky streak, considering all the bets placed, the house will make millions from that small difference in probability. And, probabilities are useful for predictions. A 0.270 hitter may get the game winning hit at his next bat while a 0.300 pinch hitter may strike out, but with the game on the line, the coach will likely pinch hit. If trying to predict the future, it is better to go with the probabilities. Though  it is not possible to prove that any one weather event is caused by global warming , scientists have observed a change in probabilities of severe weather events over long periods of time. With the thousands of weather events that occur on the Earth each year,  a small change in probability can cause an definite change in the number of severe weather events.  


An even more convincing argument can be made that global warming causes severe temperatures if the normal distribution is examined as a function of time. Research by James Hansen has established the link by showing that the normal distribution has changed since 1951. The curves show that beginning in about 1970, the mean begins to move to the right and the the curves flatten, showing that the probability of extreme temperatures increase greatly from 1950 to 2011.  His work shows that the probability of extreme temperatures is 10 times as great as for the 198o to 2010 years.

It should also be noted that the left side of the graph flattens, but that the probability of extremely cold temperatures is not zero. There is still a significant likelihood of cold temperatures -and a cold winter now and then does not disprove global warming.

The Skeptics are still claiming that is not proof enough, and that the data says nothing about droughts and wildfires.  There are still some Skeptics who argue that this does not mean  heat waves necessarily related to droughts or that the droughts are causing the increase in wildfires we have experienced, but their arguments seem to be improbable. It should be clear by now that no amount of evidence will convince Skeptics who wish to ignore probabilities.

(C) 2014  J.C. Moore



Global Warming and Pine Beetle Damage

Tue ,24/12/2013

Click to enlarge images.

On an environmental science field trip to the Cibola National Forest east of Albuquerque, the students noticed a large number of dead pine trees. The picture shows one that had been cut down, with the wood looking as if it had been shot full of holes with buckshot. The park ranger explained that the trees had been killed by the pine bark beetles which, because of climate change, have been extending their range to higher elevations in the park. The tree’s natural defense against the beetles is a secretion of pitch which forms a gooey protective barrier against beetles. The pine beetles do the most damage to mature trees that grow slower and produce less pitch, particularly when stressed by warmer temperatures and drought.

The quarter inch long beetles bore into the bark on mature trees and and create galleries in which they mate and lay eggs. The grubs feed in the inner bark and cambium layer, enlarging their tunnels as they grow. The “S” shaped tunnels can eventually girdle and kill the tree.  Mature larvae move to the outer bark and create a cell in which they pupate. When the new adults hatch, they chew through the bark, leaving small, clearly visible exit holes.  Most of the pine beetle damage is to the outer layer so the trees can still be used for lumber if harvested soon after the tree dies. Wood from beetle-affected trees retains its commercial value for 8 to 12 years after death, but the value drops rapidly during the first several months, as rapidly escaping moisture causes the wood to crack. The beetles also often introduce a blue stain fungus that can be lethal to the tree. Blue staining of the wood from the fungus is considered a defect, leading to a lower market price.

Normally, mountain pine beetles spend a winter as larvae in trees before emerging as adults the following summer. cycleIn the last two decades at the Colorado University Mountain Research Station, mean annual temperatures were 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than they were in the previous two decades. They found “The number of spring days above freezing temperatures increased by 15.1 in the last two decades, and the number of days that were warm enough for the beetles to grow increased by 44 percent since 1970.” This allows the beetles to produce an extra generation during most summers, leading to a rapid increase in the beetle population. The current bark beetle epidemic is the largest in history.

The bark beetles are a factor in wildfires as the large number of dead trees provide fuel for the fires. The needles stay on the trees for 2 or 3 years, contributing to canopy fires.  After the needles fall, the bare trees  contribute less to fires, but then they allow more sunlight through which melts the snow cover earlier and encourages the growth of underbrush, providing more fuel for wildfires. Compared with decades past, the traditional fire season now lasts two months longer in the West. The loss of trees also leads to earlier melting of snow which causes earlier runoff, contributes to heavier spring floods, and makes less water available later for streams and irrigation.

Because of global warming, the bark beetles have extended their range northward and to higher elevations, and their population is growing.  Andrew Nikiforuk, a Canadian journalist, has chronicled the 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. Though there are other factors, such as how the forests are managed, climate change is by far the greatest factor. Trees stressed by heat and drought can’t mount a strong defense against the beetles, whose numbers grow exponentially when they produce more than one generation per season. In one area in Canada, the bark beetle hatch produced a cloud of the insects large enough to show up on radar.

And it is not just in the West. The southern pine beetle is now spreading through New Jersey’s famous Pinelands. According to the article, “The tiny insect, firmly entrenched, has already killed tens of thousands of acres of pines, and it is marching northward. Scientists say it is a striking example of the way seemingly small climatic changes are disturbing the balance of nature. They see these changes as a warning of the costly impact that is likely to come with continued high emissions of greenhouse gases.”  Though New Jersey has warmed by about 2.3 degrees Fahrenheit over the past century, it is the winter low temperatures that are most important. Nights must get to about 8 degrees below zero to kill the beetles. The New Jersey climatologist’s office calculates that such bitter nights used to happen several times per decade in the state. The last night that cold in the Pinelands was in 1996, and the beetle outbreak was first noticed five years later.

Though global warming usually focuses on high temperatures, the graph shows that there is also an increase in the average nighttime temperatures. Record highsThe coldest nighttime temperatures are the main determinant in the geographic range of bacteria, fungi, insects, and invasive species. Those who do not wish to address the problem of global warming often ignore those small things, one of which is the bark beetle. Besides the economic loss of billions of trees, there is an aesthetic loss in the beauty of the forests. The tree loss contributes to wildfires, problems with water management, and loss of food and habitat for many species that live in the pine forests. Those who claim it will cost too much to reduce our carbon emissions, do not consider the cost of not addressing the issue. The pine bark beetle is an example of but one of the many costly things that should be included in their balance sheets.

(c) 2013 J.C. Moore

Media Bias: Why the Public Is Confused about Climate Change

Mon ,16/12/2013

The Tulsa World article ,”Global warming poll finds broad divide more political than scientific,” attempted to explain why the public and politicians are confused, not only about the issue, but about what scientists think.  Polls of climate scientists find a strong consensus on the issue , with  97 percent of scientists actively engaged in climate research agreeing that man’s activities are the main cause of global warming. Fearing a loss of profit if CO2 is regulated, there has been a well-funded effort to spread doubt about the scientific consensus. And some media sources are willing accomplices.

 The media has helped spread the doubt by treating the issue as a legitimate controversy, when there is very little controversy among scientists. At one time the Tulsa world was courageous enough to point out in an editorial that it was scientists who say that global warming is real and politicians who say that it is a hoax. However, the Tulsa world has changed ownership and the new managing editor has adopted a bias which he calls “reflecting Oklahoma values. “ The Tulsa World often publishes comments from readers in its editorial page, and though there were a number comments reflecting the scientists’ viewpoint, the editors added to the confusion by publishing only two comments from one side, and none representing scientists.

One comment tried to explain away the strong consensus among scientists by claiming that scientists find what they do because of money the research generates. However, climate and weather research is vital to our national interest and would be funded no matter what the scientists found. Climate scientists usually work at universities and government laboratories, where salaries range from $50,000 to $120,000. Research grants are awarded on a competitive basis, and most of the money from the grants goes for research expenses and little to the scientists. Their published results are held to a high peer review standard to ensure that the methodology is sound and the conclusions are consistent with the evidence. The amount of money they get is certainly not worth taking a chance on ruining their reputation and career.

The second comment claimed that the Earth’s systems are just too complicated to understand, and therefore climate scientist can’t know what they are talking about. That is the old Skeptic’s argument that if you don’t understand everything, then you understand nothing. In spite of the complexity, scientists have been able to identify the main factors that affect our climate. Greenhouse gas theory was developed in the 19th century, and after examining the natural and human caused factors that affect our climate, climate scientists have concluded that the main factor in global warming is man’s release of CO2.

The human body is also very complex, but medical scientists have identified a major risk factor to health be smoking. Yet, for many decades, tobacco companies were able to deny the scientific evidence that showed the link between smoking and coronary disease. Climate scientists have identified the major risk factor in climate change to be man’s emission of CO2 and warn of the danger to the environment that sustains us. However, like smokers who ignore their doctors, many people are unwilling to listen to the scientists’ warning. Would the Tulsa World, and other media sources, now be willing to treat the dangers of smoking as a legitimate controversy?

(c) 2013  J.C. Moore


Global Warming: The North Carolina Solution

Wed ,21/08/2013

Comedians and late-night talkshow hosts have had a lot of fun with North Carolina’s solution to the rising sea levels caused by global warming. The legislature passed a law to deal with it.

HB 819 : North Carolina lawmakers recently passed HB 819, which included a four-year moratorium on the state Coastal Resources Commission authorizing sea-level forecasts to be used as the basis for regulations while the issue is studied. “North   Carolina should not ignore science when making public policy decisions,” Governor Bev Perdue said. And then she ignored science by refusing to veto HB 819, allowing it to come become law. Any time a law forbids scientific research, you can be sure there is a special interest group behind it.

Special interests: A group called NC-20 claims that floodplains should be determined by historic trends which suggest the seas will only rise 8 inches this century, rather than the scientific data which projects three times that . Republican Rep. Pat McElraft explained,“What we have done is ask them to use a blend of models, to use historical data, to use some real science that we can all trust when we start making laws here in North Carolina”. McElraft, who is a former real estate agent, denied that campaign contributions ever influence her. However, the largest industry contributors to McElraft’s campaigns have been the North Carolina Association of Realtors, followed by the North Carolina Home Builders’ Association. And you can be sure that when politicians say “real science”, it is usually to get around acting on what is actually, real science.

Real Science: Scientists have found that the sea levels have been rising in response to thermal expansion of the ocean and the melting of glaciers. The graph below shows that sea levels have been rising about 3.2 mm per year, which is about 14 inches per century:

Sea Rise


The graph above represents the average rise in sea level over the Earth. However, global warming does not cause the sea levels to rise everywhere at a uniform rate and they are rising much more quickly along the Atlantic Coast of the United States. The U.S. Geological Survey recently released a study that shows the East Coast from Cape Hatteras to Boston has already seen a sea level rise three to four times higher than most of the world in the past 20 years, and will likely continue to do so. The North Carolina Coastal Resources Commission’s 13-member panel of scientists conducted a nine-month study and warned in 2010 that sea levels in North Carolina could rise by more than 3 feet by 2100 and threaten more than 2,000 square miles of coastal land.

Enter HB 819: There is some very expensive real estate on the Barrier Islands and along the coast of North Carolina that is only a few feet above sea level. Sea level rise threatens the value of that property and makes it more vulnerable to storm surges from hurricanes. Real estate developers might be prohibited from building –  or rebuilding homes damaged by hurricane Sandy and Irene – if low-lying areas were to be designated as a floodplain by the North Carolina Coastal Resources Commission. As an insurance adjuster in North Carolina explained it, “ NC has dumped the coastal flooded homes on the National Flood Insurance Program for years. They build the homes in a predicted floodplain. Lo, and behold the homes on the coast are flooded. The Feds then have to pick up the tab for NC building homes in known floodplains. They are even today rebuilding homes where they were flooded previously in the exact same spot – in an ocean floodplain.”

It’s a sweet deal, the North Carolina developers and builders profit by building homes in the floodplain, and the federal government picks up the tab when the homes flood. Apparently the legislature is not going to let a little science interfere with that sweet deal.

Note added on 1/15/2015: A recent report in Yale e360 says that the storm destruction/rebuild process is continuing. Along the East after Hurricane Sandy and across the Gulf of Mexico coast in the wake of recent hurricanes, rebuilding has taken place on dozens of vulnerable barrier islands. “This recurring reconstruction places billions of dollars of property at risk  and often means the construction of hugely expensive flood protection and storm-control projects that can harm coastal ecosystems.” The real estate developers profit while the taxpayers are responsible for the risk. In a 2014 report, the National Research Council concluded that barrier islands, as “inherently mobile” and not safe for “human facilities with a fixed position.”

Update on 01/03/2016:  Now, two years after the North Carolina legislature ordered a moratorium on state rules or plans based on changes in sea level, the Coastal Resources Commission still has not started work on the new, official sea-level prediction due in 2016. See : http://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/state-politics/article10298660.html

(c) 2013 J.C. Moore



Global Warming: Misguided Comments about the Northwest Passage

Mon ,19/08/2013

There was recently an article about global warming  in the Tulsa World which took an interesting approach to the topic. It was an article from two Earth scientists which started , “As climate researchers from divergent political leanings we regularly hear misguided comments about global warming. To help move the dialogue forward we offer a brief response to the top 10. ”  They went on to agree that the Earth is warming, that carbon dioxide is the main cause, that we are causing undesirable changes in the environment, and that we should leave things as best we can for future generations.

Probably the most relevant quote in the article is, “As climate researchers from divergent political leanings we regularly hear misguided comments about global warming.” Many of those misguided quotes come from anti-science websites like those of Anthony Watts, Roy Spencer, or Steve McIntyre’s. They use a little information which may be true but they do not tell you the rest of the story which puts it into perspective.

For instance, many anti-science web sites make a lot of the fact that the Northwest Passage was navigated around 1936. Satellite pictures show that since 1979, the extent of the Arctic sea ice has declined by about 40%. The claim about the Northwest Passage being open in 1936 is an effort to discount that by trying to show that in 1936he Arctic Ocean was open water. That was certainly not true, as the few early passages made then were with the help of icebreakers. You can get a better idea of how the Arctic Ocean is changing by looking at the actual shipping records:

Commercial Shipping on the Northern Sea Route 5,Table 1

Year    Cargo,Thousands of Tons   Length of Season

1935                246                               93 days

1940                289                              93 days

1950                503                              122 days

1960                1013                            128 days

1970                2400                            140-150 days

1980                4951                            year round for western section

1987                6579                            year round for western section


Source: Derived from figures presented at the Conference of Nordic Navigation Institute, Tromsø, Norway, March, 1992.

The data certainly paints a different picture and it is interesting that none of the anti-science websites bothered to mention it.

You may have also heard one of the many versions of the story that, “the Earth hasn’t warmed in the last 15 years”. The anti-science sites got that from a BBC interview with Phil Jones, director of the British Climate Research Unit (CRU). The BBC interviewer asked Do you agree that from 1995 to the present there has been no statistically-significant global warming?” Dr. Jones repliedYes, but only just. I also calculated the trend for the period 1995 to 2009. This trend (0.12C per decade) is positive, but not significant at the 95% significance level.”  Dr. Jones went on to explain that the result was not “statistically significant” because of the short time period.

Dr. Jones is often quoted but somehow the “statistically significant part” is omitted. You can prove a lot of untrue things about the Earth’s temperature by using using carefully selected or short time periods. For instance, if I were to choose the 16 years from 1982 to 1998, I could show that global warming has gone up by a whopping 0.31°C per decade. That, of course, is not statistically significant either. It takes about 30 years to average out the effects of natural variations and, over the last 30 years, the Earth has warmed about 0.15°C per decade.