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Posts Tagged ‘carbon emissions’

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

Legislating Away Climate Change

Mon ,17/03/2014

 

 “Any time a law discourages science, you can be sure  there is a special interest behind it.”

 The 113th United States Congress has been busy making sure that money is not spent on climate research and that the research is not used to make rational decisions. Here is a sampling of some of the recent bills.

 Flood Insurance Rates: The House passed the Homeowners Flood Insurance Affordability Act (HR 3370) sponsored by Michael Grimm (R-NY) which would bar FEMA from increasing flood insurance premiums to reflect updated flood risk in certain areas or reducing subsidies for property that was insured.

You might wonder why Congress would wish to bar FEMA from doing its job. This is similar to a North Carolina law (HB 819) which imposed a four-year moratorium on any sea-level forecast 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. Research on rising sea levels would predict that more of the North Carolina coastal region would be in a 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.

Regulating Greenhouse Gas Emissions: The House passed the Electricity Security and Affordability Act (HR 3826), sponsored by Ed Whitfield (R-KY), which restricts the ability of the EPA to issue a rule under the clean air act to restrict greenhouse gas emissions from new fossil fuel fired power plants.

Fossil fuel companies now get a competitive edge on sustainable energy sources, as they do not have to pay for the true cost of 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. This law makes sure that the competitive edge for fossil fuels remains intact.

Social Cost of Carbon Emissions: This amendment to HR 2641, sponsored by David McKinley (R-WV), would bar regulatory agencies from using the social cost of carbon emissions as a factor when conducting environmental reviews of proposed construction projects. West Virginia produces a large amount of coal.

This law is designed to head off  a new report on the social cost of carbon from being used in rulemaking. A special panel of scientists has just issued  a 1,146-page draft report that details  the social costs of carbon. The report describes how climate change is already disrupting the health, homes and other facets of daily American life. It warns that those disruptions will increase in the future and the social costs will grow unless we reduce our carbon emissions.

Defunding climate research: The Weather Forecasting Improvement Act (HR 2413), sponsored by Jim Bridenstine (R-OK), is designed to shift much of the funding of climate change research to weather radar research.  Mr. Bridenstine apparently does not know or care that this would defund much of the climate and weather research  vital to our national interest. The reason for this bill is clear, what you don’t know can’t be used as a basis for regulation of CO2 emissions.

Many more laws like these are coming down the pipeline. Any time a law discourages the use of scientific research, you can be sure there is a special interest group behind it.

(c) 2014  J.C.Moore

The Beauty and Power of Wind Energy

Wed ,12/02/2014

Before fossil fuels, wind was man’s major source of power for sailing ships, grinding grain, and pumping water.  The beauty of ships and windmills were an endless source of inspiration for painters and photographers. Windmills were once the source of power for providing water in rural America, such as the one in the picture with the giant wind turbines towering over it. Though some criticize the wind turbines for being unsightly, they have a majestic beauty of their own. Their real beauty is in their utility as,  windmill4once built, there are no fuel costs or emissions. Much of the criticism of wind power has come from the fossil fuel industry, as it is hard to compete against a technology with no fuel costs and few  regulatory problems.

Fossil fuels now have a near monopoly on providing energy, and consumers would benefit from more competition in that market. Fossil fuels have served us well and we will certainly need them far into the future – even to develop sustainable energy sources.  But there is a trap if we wait too long, as the rising  price of traditional fuels will also increase the cost of  building the renewable sources,  possibly leading to an energy shortage before renewable sources can make up the difference.

Cost: As the cost of building new coal fired plants has increased prohibitively, a number of US power companies have taken advantage of wind energy to  increase the supply to their customers and lower their costs.  Recently, AEP/PSO  in Oklahoma was able to meet the demand caused by the heat wave in 2012 by bringing 200 megawatts (MW) of wind energy online. It recently planned to purchase 200 MW more, but took advantage of an opportunity to contract for an additional 600 MW of wind energy from facilities being developed in northwestern Oklahoma. AEP/PSO said the cost was now less than building new coal fired plants, and that the purchase will save an estimated $53 million in the first year and even more thereafter. The declining cost of wind energy is making it competitive to natural gas as well. Wind contracts in Texas, about one quarter of all US installations, are now regularly below $30/MWh. Even with a tax incentive, this still puts wind well below $50/MWh, while the comparable cost for a new gas plant is above $60 /MWh. New design and siting where there are good wind conditions allows Texas wind farms to get capacity factors around 50%. Nearly half of that occurs during peak load, defying characterizations of wind as essentially an off-peak power source.

Capacity: One criticism of wind energy is that it will not be able to supply enough power to replace the fossil fuel sources.  WindWind currently supplies about 3% of the worlds electricity and is growing 25% each year, meaning that it will double about every three years.The graph on the right shows the worldwide growth of wind power. Last year, wind farms in the U.S. generated 60,000 megawatts of energy, enough to power 15 million homes, and provided 81,000 jobs nationwide. Another criticism, based on a misunderstanding, is that there is not enough available space. Each windmill requires about about 14 acres of air space to insure they do not interfere with each other but they  require much less land space,  about 0.3 acres per turbine. Landowners can use the area below the windmills for farming or livestock, and they are compensated by a 5% royalty, about $3000 to $5000, as  each turbine generates about $80,000 in electricity.

Startup costs: To compare the costs of building new plants, the levelized costs of primary energy sources have been estimated for different regions  of the country. CostLevelized costs include all the costs of building a new plant and running it for a 30-year cost recovery period, regardless of the expected lifetime of the plant. Wind turbines may have a much longer recovery period, as some windmills in Holland have been operating for two centuries, though some of the gears are made of wood.  Though the table show some types of gas fired plants to be less costly that wind energy, the levelized costs do not include external costs, i.e.,  the costs indirectly borne by society. 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 the  costs of letting fossil fuel release  their waste products into the environment, then sustainable energy sources have a big cost advantage.

Criticisms: The  intermittency of the wind is a problem, as is the lack of a way to store the energy. Putting wind electricity into the power grid solves some of the problem, as conventional sources can take up the slack. Each unit of wind energy put on the grid saves about three times as much in fuel energy, as conventional plants are only about 30% efficient. Better storage technology is under development , but conventional sources will be needed  as backup in the mean time.

Wind turbines are also criticized, somewhat unfairly, for their noise and for bird deaths. The noise underneath a well maintained turbine is not much louder than from the wind turning it. The turbines are responsible for bird deaths, but they are not among the top ten human causes of bird mortality. A peer reviewed Canadian study of bird mortality finds that less than 0.2% of the population of any bird species is currently affected by mortality or displacement by wind turbine development. The study 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.”

Subsidies: While once the problem was getting electricity to rural America, the problem now is getting wind electricity from rural areas to population centers. It will require a large investment in research and infrastructure to develop wind energy. As Washington struggles to balance the U.S. budget, possible cuts in subsidies has created an uncertainty hindering investments in wind energy. While it is the national interest to subsidize the development of sustainable energy resources, a much larger share of tax breaks go to well established and profitable fossil fuel companies. The United States’ yearly subsidies to the fossil fuel industries amounts to about $13.6 billion, while all renewable energy subsidies together amount to about one sixth as much.

Our energy needs will best be served by a mixture of traditional and alternate energy sources, and we should not let unfair criticisms or politics keep us from developing the alternate sources.

(c) 2014  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.

A Politically Viable Alternative to Cap and Trade

Thu ,15/08/2013

Global warming could be addressed by a carbon tax if the tax revenue was divided and each taxpayer given an equal share as a dividend.

Dr. Theda Skocpol , a Harvard University scholar and a former president of the American Political Science Association, recently addressed an audience at Tulsa University about the futility of pursuing a cap and trade policy to reduce carbon emissions. Cap and trade was once considered to be the free market solution to pollution as it was used successfully by Presidents Reagan and George H. W. Bush to reduce the sulfur emissions causing acid rain. To address carbon emissions by cap and trade legislation seemed to have the support of both businesses and politicians when it came up in Congress in 2008. However, it failed by a wide margin, even though Democrats controlled both houses of Congress. Dr. Skocpol was commissioned to study why. She quickly decided the question was not why the legislation failed, but why anyone thought it could pass. “Anybody who thought any issue having to do with environmental regulation or global warming was not a partisan issue … wasn’t looking at the data,” she said.

 Research: Dr. Skocpol’s research was aimed at understanding why the legislation failed. The League of Conservation Voter’s scores on environmental issues showed that about 55 % of the Congressional Democrats and 30% of the Republicans had pro-environmental scores in 1970. However, those began diverging in the middle 1990’s and by 2008 the scores averaged about 85 % for the Democrats and about 20% the Republicans. Clearly Congress had become more polarized on the issue, with many Republicans changing their position and Democrats, particularly those from fossil fuel producing states, having little incentive to support regulating carbon emissions.

The reasons had to do with popular attitudes about the cost and the actual threat posed by climate change. Addressing climate change would raise energy prices in the near future, while the benefits would mostly be to future generations. A survey examining tolerance for costs found those in the lower income brackets would be willing to pay up to 20% more for electricity while those in the top brackets would be willing to pay 10% more. Beginning about 2005, there was a stepped up media campaign to spread  misinformation about the cost to taxpayers and doubt about the scientific evidence for climate change. One false claim was that cap and trade would cost each U.S. household $3,100 a year. However, John Reilly, the MIT economist who authored the study, said that talking point was a serious distortion of his work. The EPA estimated more realistically that it would cost on average about $140 per household annually.

The opponents of regulating carbon emissions followed the successful path used by the tobacco industry. Rather than trying to address the evidence compiled in thousands of scientific research papers, the fossil fuel companies use their vast resources to spread doubt about the conclusions of the research and the effect it would have on the Earth’s ecosystems, climate, and weather. They used the same network of foundations, Libertarian think tanks, front groups, and hired grassroot organizations used by the tobacco industry to spread doubt. And, it worked. Many people were unwilling to support environmental regulations that might raise energy prices, particularly if there might be doubt about the scientific evidence. When it came right down to it, the public did not understand cap and trade well, and distrusted a system created by big business and politicians.

Dr. Skocpol’s graph below shows how the change in voter attitudes correlated with the propaganda campaign to spread doubt.

skop

Clearly, the opinion of  voters , particularly Republican voters , had changed. Dr. Skocpol commented that data shows the question really was “not why cap and trade didn’t pass, but why anyone thought it would”, given the polarization that existed in Congress and in the population. It was her opinion that any attempts to revive a cap and trade agreement would be futile. Dr. Skocpol pointed out that her assessment comes not from a climate-change denier, but from someone who believes irreparable damage might already have been done to the atmosphere. But as a political scientist, she said the data is quite clear: “Congress has no  interest in or incentive to act. ” What then can be done?

The Energy Dividend: Certainly the problem needs to be addressed, and it was her opinion that progress could only be made if everyone was given a stake in the solution. Her proposal was that it could be addressed by a carbon tax if the tax revenue was divided and each taxpayer given an equal share as a dividend. The dividend would be $800 per year if the carbon tax was the same as Australia’s, $23 per ton of CO2 emitted. Alaska has used a similar system successfully by taxing oil produced on public land and dividing some of the revenue equally among all Alaskan citizens. Over the past 31 years, each man, woman, and child in Alaska has received on average $1100 per year from that tax revenue.

The energy dividend produced by a tax on carbon should also help the economy. In 2008, George W. Bush gave each taxpayer a one-time $300 (or greater) tax rebate to stimulate the economy. A several hundred dollar energy dividend each year would give each citizen a stake in reducing carbon emissions and make up for any increase in energy prices. The tax on carbon would also level the playing field for other energy sources, making investments in renewable energy more desirable.

Note added on 06/21/2014:  Henry Jacoby, an economist at MIT’s business school, says there’s really just one thing you need to do to solve the climate change problem: Tax carbon emissions. “If you let the economists write the legislation,” Jacoby says, “it could be quite simple.” He says he could fit the whole bill on one page. Click here for his article.

(c) 2013 J.C. Moore

 

 

Is Global Warming a Religion?

Mon ,22/07/2013

No, but environmental concerns and stewardship is becoming a part of most religions. Because of their concern for their fellow man and a commitment to the stewardship of God’s creations, many churches and religions have adopted policy positions on climate change , some specifically mentioning the threat of greenhouse gases. For example, the Presbyterian church had the foresight to adopt a policy in 1989, which it reaffirmed in 2008, stating its “serious concern that the global atmospheric warming trend (the greenhouse effect) represents one of the most serious global environmental challenges to the health, security, and stability of human life and natural ecosystems.” Recently, the General Synod of the United Church of Christ (UNCC) adopted a strong resolution on climate change that calls upon church members to “make shareholder engagement on climate change an immediate, top priority for the next five years”, to “demand action from legislators and advocate for the creation and enforcement of carbon-reducing laws.” , to “make lifestyle changes to reduce the use of fossil fuels in our lives, our homes, our businesses and our churches”, and to “to reduce the use of fossil fuels, our carbon footprint, and our complicity with the fossil fuel industry.”

Apparently, Dr. Stephen Carter is unhappy with the United Church of Christ’s resolution and severely criticized the church in an op ed article , Do unto Exxon as you would do unto yourself .  He is a Professor of Law at Yale, where he has taught courses on law and religion, the ethics of war, contracts, evidence, and professional responsibility. Dr. Carter argues the matter as if he had taken on Exxon Mobil as a client. Apparently, Dr. Carter wants us to treat Exxon Mobil as our brother. Though he claims that he is “no climate-change skeptic”, his article would certainly win the praise of the network of Libertarian think tanks, fossil fuel funded foundations, front groups, and authors who have become part of the climate change denial machine . Perhaps the greatest evidence of this is that his arguments do not include things that he should know.

He has singled out the UNCC without mentioning that most major churches and religions have similar statements. He should probably know about that as the extensive list mentioned in the first paragraph was compiled by Yale University, where he teaches. Mr. Carter implies the UNCC is hypocritical for urging its members to take action against climate change while they are still using fossil fuels, criticizing “the suburban family that crowds into the SUV to attend Sunday services.”  He finds it” perplexing that a church should take the view that it’s perfectly fine to demand regulation that might hurt working-class coal-mining families in West Virginia, but wrong to inconvenience its own members even slightly.” His is one of those all or nothing arguments, implying that if the church is committed to reducing the use of fossil fuels, it must give them up completely. He knows full well that being a “resolution”, it states a desire to improve future actions, and that, at present, few other energy alternatives are available. He seems to be unaware of the low pay, terrible conditions, and hazards that coal miners face, and that they might gladly change jobs if an alternative were available. Perhaps he, or the church, should take that up as a cause.

Dr. Carter’s main argument seems to be based upon the law of supply and demand. He expresses his “perplexity and sorrow” that the document “seems to place the blame for our heavy use of fossil fuels on the companies that produce them – not the consumers who demand them”. He thinks “the trouble is that the resolution – like the general idea of divesting fossil fuel investments – seems to confuse supply and demand.” Dr. Carter’s argument breaks down because the laws of supply and demand do not apply very well to fossil fuel companies. They have used their vast profits and political power to limit and inhibit technologies that might compete with them. They have helped create propaganda and policies that discourage the use of wind and solar energy, alternative fuels, and electric vehicles. Perhaps a coal miner would rather work in one of those emerging technologies, if given the opportunity. We subsidize fossil fuel companies by several billion dollars each year, though they are well-established and highly profitable companies, yet they oppose subsidies to growing companies that might compete with them. Let’s level the playing field and see what choices consumers will then make.

Surely Dr. Carter is aware that fossil fuel companies gain a competitive advantage as consumers do not have to pay the “true cost” of fossil fuel use, which should  include environmental and health costs. Nicholas Stern, one of the world’s top economists, estimates the cost and risks of climate change is equivalent to losing at least 5% of global Gross Domestic Product (GDP) each year, and could rise to 20% of GDP or more in the future – and impose the additional risk of an environmental catastrophe. Taking 5% of the US GDP for 2010 would give an environmental cost of $727 billion. As to health costs, the American Lung Association estimates the cost of exposure to particulates alone are as much as $281 billion annually. Those two add up to about $1.08 trillion for the US alone, and will surely grow unless we reduce our fossil fuel use.
One would also have to wonder about  Dr. Carter’s motives when he refers to the United Church of Christ as part of the “religious left”. One of the favorite tactics of fossil fuel companies is to label their critics as being leftists or liberals. The fossil fuel companies encourage the Cornwall Alliance, a religious organization based upon the doctrine of Dominionism, to try to stem the growing movements of conservation and environmental stewardship. The Cornwall alliance claims that stewardship is a Green Dragon trying to take over our churches and corrupt the true meaning of religion. Their videos feature a number of ministers who preach against mainstream stewardship.  It seems wrong to use the power and respect that people have for ministers and Scripture to criticize Christians who believe in good stewardship. The Cornwall Alliance will not reveal its funding sources, but its mission is certainly in harmony with that of the fossil fuel companies.

Some Christians believe that what is happening to the Earth is God’s Will and that we can do nothing about it. Others believe that if we begin to destroy the Earth, God will step in and save us. However, that type of rhetoric clashes with the idea of free will and personal responsibility. Certainly, the many churches that have acted out of a concern for their fellow man and a commitment to good stewardship should not be unfairly criticized.

(c) 2013 J.C. Moore

 

Should the U.S. Subsidize Fossil Fuel Companies?

Wed ,10/04/2013

The world needs a reliable supply of energy. To ensure that, many countries have granted subsidies and tax breaks to fossil fuel companies to help develop energy resources. However, with the concern over our carbon emissions and over the economic crises that many countries are facing, the wisdom of continuing those subsidies needs to be examined. The fossil fuel companies are now quite profitable. As the chart below shows, two of the five most profitable companies in the U.S. are oil companies with Exxon Mobil greatly exceeding the profitability of the other four.

 Exxon

 It is understandable that some countries may still need to subsidize fossil fuel companies, but fossil fuel companies receive about six times as much in subsidies as sustainable energy sources. The International Energy Agency reports that subsidies to oil companies in developing countries could reach as much as $630 billion in 2012, with those in developed countries adding about $58 billion.  Below is a breakdown of the subsidies in developed countries along with their commitment to Fast Start Financing, which supports immediate action by developing countries to strengthen their
resilience to climate change and mitigate their greenhouse gas emissions, including those from deforestation.

 Subsidies

 

The United States’ yearly subsidies to the fossil fuel industries amounts to about $13.6 billion. As Washington struggles to balance the U.S. budget, that is certainly one of the cuts that should be considered. The Institute for Policy Integrity lists the number of laws giving tax breaks to energy companies. It lists 38 for the fossil fuel industries, 25 for all the renewable energy sources together , and one break for nuclear power. While it is the national interest to subsidize the development of sustainable energy resources, a much larger share of tax breaks go to well established and profitable fossil fuel companies. But that’s not the whole story.

Some of the tax breaks and subsidies meant to promote the development of renewable energy sources end up with the fossil fuel companies. For example, the Georgia Pacific paper company, a subsidiary of Koch oil, mixes  a byproduct of paper production, called black liquor, with diesel to make a product they claim as a biofuel. This fuel cannot be used in transportation, and can only be burned as fuel in their plants. However, Koch has managed to qualify the black liquor mixture to take advantage of the biomass fuel assistance program and has received $5 billion in subsidies for the process. Though Koch is on the record as being against green energy, funds meant for green energy projects are subsidizing the fuel for Koch’s paper mills.  Congress tried to close this loophole, but the effort was ultimately defeated.

The fossil fuel companies have become so large and so adept at lobbying, that they often distort U.S. policies for their own benefit. For instance, Exxon pays a lower tax rate than the average American. Between 2008-2010, Exxon Mobil registered an average 17.6 percent federal effective corporate tax rate, while the average American paid a higher rate of 20.4 percent. In spite of that, the company complains about its high taxation and is currently running ads against the Obama administration’s efforts to cut $36 billion in tax loopholes and subsidies to help balance the budget. Large oil companies are now multinational companies which have little allegiance to the United States. According to a Mother Jones article, “Exxon has 20 wholly owned subsidiaries domiciled in the Bahamas, Bermuda and the Cayman Islands that (legally) shelter the cash flow from operations in the likes of Angola, Azerbaijan and Abu Dhabi. Of the $15 billion in income taxes it paid in 2009, Exxon paid none of it to the United States, and it has tens of billions in earnings permanently reinvested overseas.” We should ask why our government is providing subsidies and tax breaks to companies that have little legitimate need for them and apparently little allegiance to the United States.

(c) 2013 J.C. Moore

The Scientist's Consensus on Global Warming

Wed ,13/03/2013

Every major scientific society in the world has adopted a statement like that of the American Chemical Society which says,

Careful and comprehensive scientific assessments have clearly demonstrated that the Earth’s  climate system is changing rapidly in response to growing atmospheric burdens of greenhouse gases and absorbing  aerosol particles. There is very little room for doubt that observed climate trends are due to human activities. The threats are serious and action is urgently needed to mitigate the risks of climate change.”

This urgent message continues to be mainly ignored by the public and our politicians. This seems strange as scientist’s trustworthiness is  highly rated by the public, with 84% having a favorable view of scientists. A recent CNN  poll  found that 97% of scientists who are actively engaged in research in climate science agree that global warming is occurring and the primary cause is man’s activities. The strongest consensus comes from the scientists who publish articles on climate science.  A recent peer-reviewed article   in the proceedings of the National Academy of Science found that 97-98% of the scientists agree with the consensus opinion with the strongest agreement coming from those who publish the most in the climate science area. A number of surveys have been taken of different group of scientists with the results shown below:

 

729px-Climate_science_opinion2[1]

 

There is clearly a  consensus among scientists on global warming,  but the public’s opinion  continues to be divided about what scientists think. On the question of whether scientists agree that the earth is warming mostly because of human activity; 45% say scientists agree while 43% say they do not. That is because the 3% of the climate scientists who do not agree with the scientific consensus  receive an inordinately large amount of publicity.  Efforts to  discredit the climate scientist’s consensus usually involve quoting scientists who doubt the opinion of the 97%, then  claiming that destroys the whole consensus. However, those  scientists likely started out in the 3% who doubted the consensus to begin with.

Disagreements in science are usually settled by the evidence. To see what the consensus actually is, you just have to look at the peer-reviewed literature.  James Powell examined the scientific consensus in terms of the number of published articles either agreeing or disagreeing with the consensus. His search of peer-reviewed scientific articles published between January, 1991 and November, 2012 with the keywords “global warming” or “global climate change” produced 13,950 articles. He classified as “rejecting” articles that clearly and explicitly stated that the theory of global warming is false or that some other process better explains the observed warming. Only 24 articles,or 0.17%, rejected the consensus, as represented by the thin red line on the pie chart below.

 

Powell-Science-Pie-Chart

 

 

Of the 24  articles  that rejected the consensus opinion, several  were published by gaming the peer review system. An analysis by John Mashey showed fourteen articles rejecting the consensus opinion were published in Climate Research while Chris de Freitas,  a biased climate change Skeptic, was the editor. Most of the articles claiming the Earth is not warming or that man does not have a major role have been found to have errors or have  been disproven by later research.

Note added on 06/11/2013: A recent paper in the Environmental Science Newsletter in May  found that 97% of the climate scientists support the consensus opinion.
Note added on 07/15/2015: James L. Powell, director of the National Physical Sciences Consortium, reviewed more than 24,000 peer-reviewed papers on global warming published in 2013 and 2014. Only five reject the reality of rising temperatures or the fact that human emissions are the cause, with four of those papers using arguments which had been debunked. Powell found the consensus is now “99.9% plus.”

(c) 2013 J.C. Moore

C-SPAN Video: Sen. Bernie Sanders Quotes This Website in Debate with Sen. Inhofe

Mon ,06/08/2012

Some time ago, the author posted a review of Sen. Inhofe’s book,” The Greatest Hoax” and the Tulsa World published a shorter version of the review. Recently, Sen. Bernie Sanders used quotes from the book review in a Senate debate with Sen. Inhofe. You may find a C-SPAN clip of Bernie Sanders comments below:

Recent research has linked the heat waves, droughts and wildfires we have been experiencing to climate change. It is imperative that Congress take action to mitigate the damage we are doing to the environment. Please contact your representatives about this issue.

(c) 2012 J.C. Moore

Book Review: The Greatest Hoax by Sen. James Inhofe

Tue ,20/03/2012
U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe’s long promised book, The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future is finally finished. It was published by WND Books, which has published other grand conspiracy books such as The Late Great USA: The Coming Merger with Mexico and Canada . The book will certainly be a hit with some lobbyists, politicians and corporate leaders. It may also be popular among scientists as it reveals some interesting things about Sen. Inhofe and gives scientists an opportunity to examine his ideas and arguments.

 Sen. Inhofe has served as the mayor of Tulsa and is the senior Senator from Oklahoma. He has been a strong advocate for many of his constituents and he has been a strong critic of the lack of openness of some congressional procedures. He was instrumental in getting federal Superfund money to clean up the Pitcher lead mines in northeastern Oklahoma. A large area of northeastern Oklahoma was affected and millions of dollars have been spent to try to mitigate the environmental damage. No one knew at the time that lead was toxic, and Pitcher is a perfect example of how what you don’t know can hurt you and be costly.

Sen. Inhofe has often stated “Global warming is a hoax” but proving that may be difficult. Every major scientific organizations in the world has adopted a statement similar to that of the American Chemical Society: ”Careful and comprehensive scientific assessments have clearly demonstrated that the Earth’s climate system is changing rapidly in response to growing atmospheric burdens of greenhouse gases and absorbing aerosol particles. There is very little room for doubt that observed climate trends are due to human activities. The threats are serious and action is urgently needed to mitigate the risks of climate change.” A 2010 Stanford University poll of 1,372 climate scientists found that 97–98% of the climate researchers most actively publishing in climate science agree that global warming is occurring and man activities are the main factor. The Greatest Hoax tries convincing us otherwise by quoting media sources, politicians, lobbyist, and the 2-3% of the scientists who claim to be skeptics, though some receive substantial rewards for being skeptical.  Legitimate science is based upon evidence and reason, but many of the ideas put forward in this book are not.

Politics:  Sen. Inhofe says: “I am not a scientist. I do understand politics. “He says he went into politics because a Tulsa city engineer would not approve his request to move a fire escape on his building. Mr. Inhofe told him that he was going to run for mayor and fire him when he won. And he did. It is possible that the engineer was following the building code adopted by the city’s elected officials, and that there may have been a good reason to leave the fire escape where it was, such as it being easily assessable in case of a fire. That incident, however, explains Senator Inhofe’s attitudes toward regulations, regulators, and scientists whose research show the need for regulations. It also explains the Senators approach to regulations. He sees them as an impediment to business but he does not see that most regulations are developed to protect the public. One of his favorite targets is the EPA, which was created by Pres. Nixon to protect the environment. Sen. Inhofe chose to work on the Senate’s Environmental and Public Works (EPW) committee so he could protect businesses from what he considers needless environmental regulations.

The Hoax: Sen. Inhofe was apparently convinced “global warming is a hoax” by one of the worse hoaxes in recent Congressional history. It started when Dr. Willie Soon managed to get a paper through the peer review process at Climate Reviews with the help of an editor sympathetic to his views. The paper reviewed the literature on climate science, and concluded that the global warming in the 20th century was not unusual and that natural forces, rather than man’s activities was the cause. An important piece of his evidence was the Medieval Warm Period, which he claimed was warmer than the latter 20th century. But there was something wrong with the paper. There were no accurate temperature records in Medieval Times, the Americas had not yet been discovered, and much of the Southern hemisphere was unknown. Dr. Soon’s paper contradicted the evidence from hundreds of other peer-reviewed papers. It caused quite a furor at Climate Reviews which ended with 3 members the editorial board resigning in protest and the newly hired chief editor stating the paper had serious errors and should never have been published. The EPA was unwilling to include the paper in its assessment of climate science, so Sen. Inhofe scheduled a meeting of the EPW committee to examine the paper.

Shortly before the meeting, the American Geophysical Union (AGU) issued a press release from 13 of the scientists whose work was used in Dr. Soon’s paper, saying the paper distorted their research. At the hearing, Michael Mann represented the scientific viewpoint, presenting evidence from multiple sources showing that the Medieval Warm period was not worldwide and resulted only in a small hump in the temperature record. Soon stood behind his work and testified that he had not received any funds that might have biased his objectivity. However, the paper lists the American Petroleum Institute as a major source of funding and documents received since from the Smithsonian Institution in response to FOIA requests, revealed that since 2001  Dr. Soon has received over $1 million in funding from oil and coal interests. Sen. Inhofe was upset by the turn of events and tried to get him fired – Michael Mann that is. At Sen. Inhofe’s insistence, the University of Pennsylvania, a Quaker University, has conducted 2 investigations into Dr. Mann’s research and found no misconduct. A 2010 Science article reviewed the investigations, declaring “Michael Mann is cleared, again. “ Dissatisfied with the ruling, Sen. Inhofe has tried to get the attorney general to charge Michael Mann with fraud. Sadly, for the first time in history, scientists are collecting a legal defense fund to defend scientists against political attacks. And even worse, the scientific opinion of the senior member of our Environmental and Public Works committee is apparently based on a paper that would not pass freshman English.

Endorsement: The Greatest Hoax was endorsed by Dr. R.M. Carter, a paleontologist from Australia, who was the star witness at Sen. Inhofe’s 2006 Senate hearing on Climate Change and the Media. No credible members of the media testified, and one might wonder why Sen. Inhofe would be interested in the media bias in Australia. Dr. Carter was likely there because he could be counted on to testify that historically the rise in global temperatures had always preceded rising carbon dioxide concentration; thus some natural cause must be releasing the carbon dioxide that is causing the temperature to rise. He was right about the role of carbon dioxide in increasing the Earth’s temperature, but he rather ignored the possibility that the CO2 concentration was rising because the burning of fossil fuels was releasing 30 billion tons of CO2 annually.

After the hearing, Dr. Carter was challenged by climatologists to produce research showing the natural variability he claimed, but the paper he belatedly produced was soon refuted when significant errors were found in his reasoning. Though two of the four scientists who testified at the hearing were skeptics, all four agreed that the Earth had warmed about 1°C in the last century. Sen. Inhofe’s own hearing had clearly refuted his claim: “Global warming is a hoax.” That was of little concern to Sen. Inhofe, as the main purpose of the hearing was to intimidate members of the press – as if that were needed.

Science: There is little science in the book, though much of the book is dedicated to discrediting science and scientists by quoting friends of his from the Heartland Institute, media personalities, and other politicians. He even sets up Al Gore as a strawman for scientists. In the book’s introduction, he displays a rather tasteless picture of Al Gore naked, and considerable space is devoted to vilifying him. That is a shame as Al Gore has served as a respected Senator, Vice President, and as a Presidential candidate came within a few hundred votes of being elected. Al Gore received a Nobel Peace Prize for his environmental work and his movie, An Inconvenient Truth, won an Oscar. The movie also had its day in court and won. Interestingly, the same Dr. Carter, who endorsed the book, was the star witness for the plaintiff in Dimmock v Secretary of State for Education, a suit which sought to prevent the educational use of An Inconvenient Truth in England. The court apparently did not agree with Dr. Carter and ruled that, though the film had some errors, it was substantially founded upon scientific research and fact and could be shown. Sen. Inhofe claims to be a free market capitalist, but he seems to take great umbrage that Al Gore has profited from his investments in green energy, apparently without realizing that most of those profits have been dedicated to promoting conservative causes, such as protecting the Earth.

Though he may be a skilled politician, in the partisan sense, Sen. Inhofe is correct when he says “I am not a scientist.” He does not understand how scientific knowledge from many fields fits together to form a consistent view of nature. For instance, the book tells that after a large snowfall in Washington D.C., his grandchildren built an igloo and put up a sign: “Al Gore’s New Home”. Sen. Inhofe used the picture to denounce global warming alarmism, though he should know that a single weather event proves nothing. And, if he were a scientist, he might understand how the warming oceans increase the probability of a record snowfall in Washington D.C. , making the igloo possible – and how carbon dioxide has made more probable the record heat waves in Texas and Oklahoma, making droughts and wildfires possible.

Sen. Inhofe shows he does not understand how science works when he brings up the “Coming Ice Age” story to discredit the scientific evidence.  The argument goes, “How can you trust science, when in the 1970s the scientists were predicting the coming of a new Ice Age, but now scientists claim that the Earth is warming?” In the 70’s, scientists found that increased industrialization was causing not only an increase in particulates, which would cause global cooling, but also an increase in CO2, which would increase global warming. There was no consensus among scientists about which effect would predominate.  A count of scientific papers in that decade showed that only 7 journal articles predicted that the global average temperature would continue to cool, while 44 papers indicated that the average temperature would rise. The research on global cooling was valuable as it showed a nuclear war was unwinnable as particulates from a nuclear exchange might create a nuclear winter, ending life on Earth as we know it.

Scientific controversies are usually settled by the evidence, but this one was settled by the intervention of man. Particulates are visible and have serious health consequences. By 1980, regulations were in place to limit particulate emissions and, as that happened, the temperature of the Earth began increasing again. The fossil fuel companies became alarmed, as it was becoming apparent that we should also limit carbon emissions to keep the Earth’s temperature at equilibrium, so they began a propaganda campaign to convince us that carbon dioxide was harmless. If you believe that, remember the lesson of Pitcher, Oklahoma. What you don’t know can hurt you and be very costly.

Cap and Trade: Sen. Inhofe claims that cap and trade is the “crown jewel” of a global conspiracy of scientists, Hollywood stars, and media personalities who want to take away your freedom and create a world government. However, cap and trade was devised by free-market conservatives for President Reagan, who used it successfully to stop the acid rain drifting into Canada from our Northeastern power plants. It was part the Clean Air Act signed into law by President Bush I and many prominent Republicans, including John McCain, have supported it. Cap and trade is considered to be the market solution to reducing carbon emissions. It is described by the EPA as “an environmental policy tool that delivers results with a mandatory cap on emissions while providing sources flexibility in how they comply. Successful cap and trade programs reward innovation, efficiency, and early action and provide strict environmental accountability without inhibiting economic growth.” Does that sound like it “Threatens Your Future” , as the subtitle of the book claims? And, it  cannot be making Al Gore rich – or be the cause of rising energy prices – as it has not yet been enacted for carbon emissions.

Costs: Sen. Inhofe main objection to environmental regulations is their tremendous cost; but an accurate analysis of costs and benefits are not in the book. He just claims that it would cost each U.S. household $3,100 a year, a cost that has great sticker shock, but is totally inaccurate. Dr. John Reilly, the MIT economist whose work was used to arrive at that number, has publicly criticized a Republican lobbyist for distorting his work to arrive at that inflated value. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the cost of the cap-and-trade program by 2020 would average about $175 annually per household, and that associated savings would reduce the federal deficit by about $19 billion over the next decade. A recent report by the National Academy of Sciences details other high economic costs of inadequate environmental legislation, such as reduced streamflow, rainfall, and crop yields. Yet Congress has refused to act on the matter.

Also, Sen. Inhofe seems to have left some important items out of his balance sheet, such as the true cost of using fossil fuels. The true cost of a resource should include repairing damage caused by its use and disposing of the waste. We are in effect subsidizing the fossil fuel industry by allowing them to freely discharge their wastes into the environment. Some of the “true costs” of fossil fuel use, such as health and environmental costs can be estimated. Nicholas Stern, former chief economist of the World Bank and one of the world’s top economists, has used the results from formal economic models to examine the potential cost of failure to limit our carbon emissions. He estimates that the overall costs and risks of climate change will be equivalent to losing at least 5% of global Gross Domestic Product (GDP) each year, now and forever. If a wider range of risks and impacts is taken into account, the cost of mitigation and damages could rise to 20% of GDP or more in the future – and we would run the additional risk of an environmental catastrophe.

Taking 5% of the US GDP for 2010, would give an environmental cost of $727 billion. As to health costs, the American Lung Association estimates that the EPA’s proposed guidelines for particulates could prevent 38,000 heart attacks and premature deaths, 1.5 million cases of acute bronchitis and aggravated asthma, and 2.7 million days of missed work or school. They estimate the economic benefits of reduced exposure to particulates alone could reach as much as $281 billion annually. Those two add up to about $1.08 trillion. The calculations do not include all the environmental and health costs, but they do show about how much we are subsidizing the fossil fuel industries by ignoring the damage to people’s health and the environment.

Sen. Inhofe, in his Rachel Maddow interview, stated that the cost of cap and trade would be $30-$40 billion annually. That is about 1/30 of what the environmental and health costs might eventually be. Then, it is rather hard to put a value on those premature deaths or the added risk of environmental catastrophes. The number of billion-dollar weather disasters has increased fivefold over the last 30 years, and insurance giants such as Suisse Re now consider man-made global warming real, and a risk factor in setting insurance rates. Increased insurance rates will be an additional out of pocket cost, which could easily offset the $175 the CBO estimated that cap and trade would cost.

Scientists: To get around the strong consensus of scientists, the book claims there is a global conspiracy of liberal scientists bent on creating a world government, that climate science is a religion, that climate scientists are in it for the money, and that Climategate proves climate scientists are dishonest. None of those claims are supported by verifiable evidence. Most scientists are good citizens, conservative in their statements and actions. Most are religious, with stewardship and concern for their fellow man being part of their religion. The Presbyterian church, where Senator Inhofe claims membership, stated in 1989 and reaffirmed in 2008, its “serious concern that the global atmospheric warming trend (the greenhouse effect) represents one of the most serious global environmental challenges to the health, security, and stability of human life and natural ecosystems.”

 The book calls climate scientists “alarmists” in a derogatory sense, but many are becoming alarmed. Research shows that the Earth’s climate is changing because of our emissions of CO2, yet Congress has not acted to solve the problem. Scientists were criticized for considering the problem catastrophic, but they realize our carbon emissions will have an affect for 100 years or more into the future and inaction will threaten our food and water supply,increase the risk of severe weather events, and a possibly lead to an environmental catastrophe. Remember what happened at Pitcher, Oklahoma because lead mining was considered harmless.

Sen. Inhofe often calls those who disagree with him “liberals”, but the meaning of liberal and conservative seem to be flexible. During the American Revolution, it was the liberals who wanted to create a democracy and conservatives who thought that King George had a divine right to rule. Sen. Inhofe uses “liberals” to describe environmentalists and others who want to preserve the earth – and uses “conservatives” for those who want to conserve power and profits.

He describes Rachel Maddow as one of his favorite liberals, but that may change. In his book he said “Rachel’s segment was one of the last major efforts to go after me just days before I landed in Copenhagen and declared vindication.” However in his recent interview on Rachel’s show, she showed the clip. Nowhere in the clip does it mention Copenhagen or climate change. Rather than apologize, he said he couldn’t remember everything he said in the 350 pages of fine print in the book, raising questions about how much of the book he actually wrote. Apparently liberal can also mean “pesky”.

Big Oil: Sen. Inhofe tells some good stories of the old days in the Oklahoma oilfields, but back then Tulsa was the Oil Capital of the World and our domestic oil producers were a different breed from today’s multinational oil companies. They have little loyalty to the United States and little concern for our citizens or the environment. They have created some of the greatest man-made environmental disasters and resisted compensating their victims fairly. After the furor over the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, BP’s CEO commented “I want my life back”, but he could not give back the 11 lives lost because of his decisions. Although he promised to compensate Americans damaged by the oil spill, BP appointed a lawyer to disperse the funds, who made many of the victims “take it or leave it” offers. After the Exxon Valdez oil spill, Exxon Mobil went all the way to the Supreme Court to avoid paying the $5 billion in damages owed the native Alaskans. Koch oil was charged in Oklahoma of cheating Native Americans and the government out $5 billion in oil royalties. They settled the case out of court for a 10th of the $5 billion, with no admission of wrongdoing. Who says crime doesn’t pay?

Last year, the world’s 5 largest oil companies received $4 billion in tax break subsidies. Yet, they reported $171 billion in profits, while most US businesses and citizens struggled with financial losses, in part caused by the steep rise in fuel prices. Sen. Inhofe says his goal is “energy self-sufficiency” for the United States, yet last year the leading US export was fuels, so Big Oil companies are selling American oil abroad, creating a shortage in the United States that is driving up prices. Increasing their profits is their main goal, even though carbon emissions may cause a man-made environmental disaster much greater than oil spills. To defend their profits, these companies are now the major contributors to the science denial machine that Sen. Inhofe defends in his book.

Heartland Foundation: Sen. Inhofe was able to poke fun at himself when he said” Nature strikes back”, referring to a serious illness he contacted while swimming in a lake contaminated with toxic blue-green algae, whose growth was fueled by water pollution and the heat wave and Oklahoma. The illness caused him to miss the meeting of the Heartland Institute where he was to be a keynote speaker. His relation to the Heartland Institute is troubling. The Heartland Institute, once a major source of propaganda designed to prove there was no link between smoking, cancer, and lung disease, has now turned its considerable experience and resources into producing propaganda disputing the link between carbon emissions and global warming. Big Oil provides much of the funding for the Heartland Institute, and other similar “conservative” think tanks, who channel millions of dollars into the denial of science. The Heartland Institute is a gathering place for Big Oil’s lobbyists, loyal politicians, and paid skeptics. Many of those are the sources of information for Sen. Inhofe’s book. How accurate is that information likely to be?

Skeptics:  Science values its skeptics as they make science strong by pointing out areas that need more investigation, and they sometimes making valuable contributions to science. When Richard Muller questioned NASA’s temperature records, he evaluated all 6 billion pieces of weather station data, and came to the conclusion that the temperature record was accurate. When O’Donnell doubted Steig’s work showing Antarctica was warming, he re-analyzed the data and found that indeed Antarctica, the coldest place on Earth, was getting warmer.

Skeptics are expected to follow the methodologies and the ethics of science, to subject their work to review by their peers, and to divulge conflicts of interest. Many of those Sen. Inhofe praises as “climate skeptics” do not meet those criteria. They profit from being skeptical and, when research shows them wrong, they continue to repeat their skeptical arguments anyway. An example is Anthony Watts, who started the Surface Station Project to examine the data from weather stations, which he claimed had errors. The AGU took his skepticism seriously and did a thorough study on the weather stations, finding the data was reliable. They had offered Watts a chance to participate in the research, but he missed his chance to be a scientist when he refused. And though the question has been answered, Mr. Watts is still repeating the same criticisms – and collecting substantial donations to continue his Surface Station Project. There are many skeptics like Mr. Watts, who receives generous grants from think tanks, not for fundamental research, but to come up with ideas to cast doubt on the IPCC, climate research, and the work of legitimate scientists. Many of the paid skeptics appear in Sen. Inhofe’s book as his sources for information, quotes, and references.

Vindication: In this chapter of the book, Sen. Inhofe claims vindication, but it is hard to imagine sufficient vindication for displaying a picture of Al Gore naked. Sen. Inhofe does claim he is vindicated by the Climategate e-mails. Hackers broke into the computers of England’s Hadley Climatic Research Unit (CRU), and stole 10 years of e-mails exchanged between the scientists. Quotes from the stolen e-mails were taken out of context, distorted, and released to media sources with claims the CRU scientists engaged in illegal and unethical acts. As of today, eight independent formal investigations have been completed and none have found any scientific misconduct by the scientists involved. The incident was dubbed “Climategate” , but it was in no way like Watergate. In Wategate, the thieves were caught and punished and those who masterminded the plot were publicly disgraced. In Climategate, the thieves have been hailed by some skeptics as heroes – and the victims of the theft have been vilified.  It seems strange that Scotland Yard is searching for the hackers, while Sen. Inhofe is gleefully helping spread the misinformation. So, rather than being like Watergate, the e-mail scandal was actually more like Stargate, fictional fantasy. The accusations of wrongdoing by some of the skeptical scientists, made before the matter could be investigated, were particularly egregious as scientist’s ethical codes say that:” Public comments on scientific matters should be made with care and precision, without unsubstantiated, exaggerated, or premature statements.”

Winning: Sen. Inhofe claims he is winning, but he can’t be talking about the scientific debate. All the world’s major scientific organizations think he is losing, as do 97 – 98% of the climate scientists, and 83% of American voters.  A 2011 Stanford poll found that 83% of Americans say that global warming is happening with 88% of Democrats and 54% of Republicans saying it is the result of human action. Attacking scientists may prove to be contrary to the Republican party’s best interest. While polls find scientist’s trustworthiness is  highly rated , with 84% having a favorable view of scientists, Congress’ approval has now dropped to around 9%. This may be indicative of the public’s dissatisfaction with the partisanship and gridlock in Congress, occurring for reasons well on display in this book.

Although some members of Congress and some of the public may listen to Sen. Inhofe, nature doesn’t. No matter how much he claims “hoax”, research shows the climate is changing in response to man’s activities. The amount of CO2 in the atmosphere is increasing, the temperature of the Earth is rising, the oceans are becoming more acidic, glaciers and polar ice caps are melting, sea levels are rising, the probability of severe weather events is increasing, and weather-related natural disasters are becoming more frequent and more costly. It’s time we examine more closely who is actually winning by ignoring science.

(c) 2012 J.C. Moore