J.C. Moore Online
Current events from a science perspective.

Posts Tagged ‘Environment’

OK SB 1440, Blowing Away Wind Development in Eastern Oklahoma

Sat ,12/04/2014

Wind is in good supply in Oklahoma, leading to a “wind boom”  in Western Oklahoma. Congressman Frank Lucas supports what he calls the  “all of the above” policy on energy sources, and recognizes and supports the importance

of wind energy development in the third Congressional District, which covers the northwestern two thirds of Oklahoma.  The wind industry has taken off in Oklahoma because the state has enacted policies, such as a five-year property tax exemption and a production tax credit, that are more conducive and supportive of the wind industry than neighboring states. Until now.

Though there is plenty of wind in Eastern Oklahoma, the political climate is not good for wind development there. Senate Bill 1440, by Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman , passed last week by a vote of 32-8 and is headed to the House for consideration. The bill puts a three-year moratorium on development of wind energy East of Interstate 35, which essentially prohibits any further wind development in the eastern half of the state for three years. The rationale was that the issue “needed more study”.  But, for three years?

It should take about 30 minutes to discover the advantages of developing wind energy in Oklahoma. Oklahoma has spent more than a decade developing wind energy and there are now 27 windfarms in Oklahoma. Mr. Bingham and his supporters should be well aware of them, or they could just study the report compiled by independent consulting firm Economic Impact Group. The report shows that wind industry construction and operating activities from 2003 to 2012 in Oklahoma have created:

  • More than $1 billion in Oklahoma production of goods and services
  • More than $340 million in labor income
  • More than 1,600 direct full-time jobs
  • More than 4,000 total jobs including manufacturing and support industries
  • More than $1.8 billion of economic activity during the first 20 year contracts
  • More than $43 billion in property taxes annually after the tax abatement.
  • More than $22 million annually to landowners and $15 million in wages to local workers

 

Other than ignoring the contribution of wind energy to economic development in Oklahoma, there are a number of other things wrong with SB 1440. It infringes on property rights as it tells landowners how they cannot use their  land, if they live on the wrong side of I-35. It is probably unconstitutional, as there is really no rationale for such an arbitrary division of who can and cannot develop wind energy. It singles out and treats wind energy differently from other energy industries. That was pointed out by Senate Floor Leader Mike Schulz, R-Altus, who voted against the bill, “We have been writing oil and gas legislation and regulations for over 100 years and continue to do so,” he said, “I don’t anticipate anything different in the wind industry.”

The United States has the goals of achieving energy independence, reducing carbon emissions,  and and cutting air pollution. However, a number of politicians have been working against those goals by trying to hinder the development of alternate energy sources. There is nothing that hinders investments more than uncertainties in the investment climate. At one time, Tulsa was the home of DMI industries, a wind turbine tower manufacturer employing 167 people. The plant was closed in 2012 because of changes in the subsidy program that created uncertainty in the funding for the business. Even if SB1440 doesn’t pass, it will have a chilling effect on investments, as even the possibility of a ban creates uncertainties that discourage investors. SB1440 was designed to slow the development of wind energy in Oklahoma. Mr. Bingham and his supporters are clearly not acting in Oklahoma’s best interest.

(c) 2014 J.C. Moore

 

 

 

 

The Climate Change Denial Machine: The Psychology of Denial

Mon ,03/03/2014

 “The scientific evidence is clear: global climate change caused by human activities is occurring now, and it is a growing threat to society.” – AAAS

Similar statements have been adopted by every major scientific organization in the world, nearly 200 organizations. Yet, there are those who deny there is a scientific consensus as well as the evidence upon which it is based. They object to being labelled as “deniers”  so writers often use ”dissenters”, “contrarians”, or “Skeptics”, with the capital “S” denoting their skepticism is based more on financial consideration or ideology than reason. The scientists who investigate human behavior use the term “denial”, as it is correct.

Denial: In psychology, denial is an aberrant behavior  exhibited by individuals choosing to deny reality as a way to avoid dealing with an uncomfortable truth. It is also a sociological concept, as author Michael Specter defined group denialism, “when an entire segment of society, often struggling with the trauma of change, turns away from reality in favor of a more comfortable lie.” Smokers, when confronted with the reality that their habit could shorten their lives, often denied the evidence – and the Tobacco companies were only too happy to provide the comfortable lies.  They funded scientific study after scientific study that found no link between smoking and lung disease and made commercials with doctors, or actors playing doctors, assuring people that smoking was safe. The tactics worked, as people still smoke today, harming themselves and everyone who inhales their secondhand smoke.

In tobacco’s denialism, money and misinformation were distributed through an organization of Conservative think tanks and front groups. Those who wish to deny climate change use many of the same organizations and tactics, with improvements. They are better funded,  support a far greater number of  Skeptics and politicians, and  use the Internet to widely disseminate their propaganda. Sociologists Riley Dunlap and Aaron McCright have investigated the denial system and named it the Climate Change Denial Machine . Its main components were examined and explained in their article in the Oxford Handbook of Climate Change and Society . Their diagram of the machine showing how all the components interact is below.

 Oxford-figure-reprinted-revised

 

Corporations and Foundations: The climate denial machine is funded by wealthy corporations and foundations. It is difficult to track the funding as it is channeled through 501C(3)  tax exempt organizations, which makes it difficult to trace the donors or the money. The front groups add another layer of anonymity for the donors and help distribute the money in what they claim to be charity and education expenses, justifying the corporation’s tax-exempt status.

The citizens watchdog group Opensecrets.org reported that during the last six years, fossil fuel companies spent an average of $152 million per year on lobbying alone. The corporations see the money as an investment, as last year the US subsidized the fossil fuel industry by $13.6 billion, about six times as much as subsidies to develop sustainable energy sources. Their lobbying efforts result in laws favorable to the industry and help them avoid taxes and regulation, essentially transferring  health and environmental costs  of pollution to the public. Since the lobbying money is funneled through tax-exempt organizations, taxpayers are helping fund the climate denial machine, a machine which is undermining our scientific and democratic institutions.

Motivated reasoning . Those who support the climate denial machine often justify it by  ”motivated reasoning”. A  study of climate change deniers found they tend to hold general beliefs in free-market ideology and conspiracy theories. University of Western Australia psychologist Stephan Lewandowsky  and two collaborators  investigated the dynamics of science doubters. They surveyed visitors to  climate change blogs  and asked them about free-market ideology, their views on climate science,  and their belief in conspiracy theories. The study,  published in Psychological Science, found :

 1. The more people believed in free-market ideology, the less they believed in climate science.

2.The more they accepted science in general, the more they accepted the conclusions of climate science.

3. And the more likely they were to be conspiracy theorists, the less likely they were to believe in climate science.

These results fit in with a longer literature on what has come to be known as motivated reasoning. Other things being equal, people tend to believe what they want to believe, and to disbelieve new information that might challenge them.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       The study upset those denying climate science and they rejected the study,  claiming it was  just a part of the  global warming conspiracy .

Think Tanks: The Conservative think tanks are misnamed as they present climate change denial as a conservative cause, but there is nothing conservative about advocating for policies which result in changing the climate of the Earth. Think tanks are the brains of the climate denial machine, as they plan the strategy and generate the misinformation and comfortable lies that are passed on to the public. They also coordinate the production of misinformation by fake scientists, such as Lord Monckton, and, even worse, produce misleading statements by science Skeptics, such as John Christy, Roy Spencer, Judith Curry, and a few dozen others who regularly attend the NIPCC (Not the IPCC) meetings sponsored by fossil fuel corporations.  

The Sounding Board is in made up of politicians, media sources, and blog sites. Politicians, particularly those who claim to be conservatives, spread misinformation that ranges from “climate science is a hoax” to “scientists have not proved their case enough for us to take action”. The science Skeptics are invited to Congressional hearings where they cast doubt on the testimony of climate scientists and provide cover for the politicians. Politicians often speak at public gatherings and are quoted in newspapers, giving them many opportunities to spread propaganda.

Science Skeptics often present their ideas in interviews and op-ed articles in newspapers to bypass the peer review required by science journals. The media sources are complicit in this, claiming they are presenting both sides of the issue. This makes the Skeptic’s arguments, supported by little research, appear equal in weight to the arguments of climate scientist, supported by thousands of peer-reviewed research papers. A count of research papers from  1991 to 2012 found that 13,926 papers supported the consensus opinion, while only 24 rejected it.

Blog sites are one of the main ways that misinformation is spread to the public. Free from editors or peer review, the skeptics can, and do, distort information to suit themselves. Many of the science Skeptics have web sites which, along with sites like Wattsupwiththat and ClimateAudit, dispute the findings of peer-reviewed research. The misinformation they create is then picked up by other websites and Internet trolls who spread it across the Internet.

Astroturf organizations are fake grassroots organizations designed to make it appear that a cause has much more widespread support than it actually does. An example is an ad in support of clean coal that showed a large group with a banner reading “We Support Clean Coal”. The hoax was exposed when someone noticed that that the same photo was available on the Internet and that the clean coal banner had been Photoshopped in. The Internet can be used to create Astroturf organizations such as occurred on an Internet site protesting genetically modified food. A large number of bloggers in support GMO foods descended on the site to dispute the message and to shut down the discussions. The bloggers were exposed as trolls when their IP addresses were found to be registered to Monsanto – which sells genetically modified seeds, and ironically, also holds the patent for Astroturf.

Paid trolls are often called “sock puppets” as their message is controlled by those who create them.  Paid trolls are often given a target site, a set of talking points, and a program which allows them to set up a number of fake identities for additional sock puppets, to make it appear that many support their arguments . Sometimes a troll will create a sock puppet with weak, easily refuted arguments, to make the troll’s arguments seem stronger. Sock puppets do not follow the rules of debate and are often uncivil, using personal attacks in an attempt to shut down reasonable discussion. Research shows that sock puppets, and even unpaid trolls, often enjoy what they do because of negative personality characteristics.

Trolls: personality study correlated the activities enjoyed by Internet users with personality traits. The study  explored whether Internet trolls’ behavior fell into the Dark Tetrad: Machiavellianism (willingness to manipulate and deceive others), narcissism (egotism and self-obsession), psychopathy (the lack of remorse and empathy), and sadism (pleasure in the suffering of others). The chart below shows the results.

sadism

It shows that the Dark Tetrad traits were positively correlated with self-reported enjoyment of trolling. Of the traits, the researchers  found sadism stands out among trolls.  The internet has given sadistic trolls, those who think that hurting people is exciting, a broader and more anonymous outlet to express their behavior. We have certainly all run across these trolls on climate change articles.

Trolling works: Popular Science shut down its comment section because of trolls,  citing a research report which showed that even a fractious minority wields enough power to skew a reader’s perception of a story. The results of the study by Dominique Brossard and coauthor Dietram A. Scheufele was summarized by the authors in a New York Times article:

Uncivil comments not only polarized readers, but they often changed a participant’s interpretation of the news story itself.  Those exposed to rude comments, however, ended up with a much more polarized understanding of the risks connected with a technology.  Simply including an ad hominem attack in a reader comment was enough to make study participants think the downside of the reported technology was greater than they’d previously thought.

George Monbiot who covers environmental issues at the Guardian, wrote in Reclaim the Cyber-Commons, of the need to restore civility to internet discussions of climate change. In it he said:

“… two patterns jump out at me. The first is that discussions of issues in which there’s little money at stake tend to be a lot more civilised than debates about issues where companies stand to lose or gain billions: such as climate change, public health and corporate tax avoidance. These are often characterised by amazing levels of abuse and disruption.

The second pattern is the strong association between this tactic and a certain set of views: pro-corporate, anti-tax, anti-regulation. Both traditional conservatives and traditional progressives tend be more willing to discuss an issue than these right-wing libertarians, many of whom seek instead to shut down debate.”

His comments explain a lot about the motivation behind sock puppets and ideological trolls.

 In Summary: A study by McKee and Diethelm titled,  Denialism: what is it and how should scientists respond?,  describe the five tactics used by deniers as a means to identify them.  Their five tactics of denial were summarized very nicely on Rachel’s Blog  which,  with a  few changes, are:

1. Identifying conspiracies. In climate science denial, people have argued that scientists are doctoring the temperature records to make it look like warming is happening when it is not. This idea must be incredibly hard to justify to oneself as it is ridiculous to think that thousands of scientists from lots of different countries could be in on some conspiracy theory which will not benefit them in any way and which all of us want to be wrong.

2. Using fake experts. This technique was employed by the tobacco industry which had a strategy of employing scientists whose views were at odds with the consensus in the field. The same tactic can be seen in climate change. From the McKee article: “In 1998, the American Petroleum Institute developed a Global Climate Science Communications Plan, involving the recruitment of ‘scientists who share the industry’s views of climate science [who can] help convince journalists, politicians and the public that the risk of global warming is too uncertain to justify controls on greenhouse gases’.”

3. Highlighting outliers. This happens in climate change when contrarians make a big deal out of research that claims figures for climate sensitivity lying outside the IPCC range. They are highlighting a few research papers that are outliers while ignoring the majority of evidence.

4. Placing impossible expectations on research. The repeated phrase that the “models failed to predict the pause” fits with this. No-one can predict the future exactly. Scientists do not work with ouija boards.  Climate models – just like all models of physical systems – contain uncertainty and it is unreasonable to expect them not to. But although the model projections do a remarkably accurate job of making future projections of climate, contrarians still place unreasonable expectations on what they can do.

5. Using misrepresentation and logical fallacies.  Logical fallacies include the use of red herrings, deliberate attempts to change the argument, and straw men, where the opposing argument is misrepresented to make it easier to refute. Other fallacies used by denialists are false analogy and the excluded middle fallacy (either climate change causes a wide range of severe weather events or causes none at all, so doubt about an association with one event, such as a hurricane, is regarded as sufficient to reject an association with any weather event).

To respond these tactics, the authors suggest it is important to recognize denialism when confronted with it. The normal civil response to an opposing argument is to engage it, in the expectations that the truth will emerge through a process of debate. However, this requires that both parties have a willingness to  follows certain rules such as looking at the evidence as a whole, rejecting deliberate distortions, and acceptance principles of logic. They say, a ” meaningful discourse is impossible when one party rejects the rules. Yet it would be wrong to prevent the denialists having a voice. Instead, it is necessary to shift the debate from the subject under consideration, to instead exposing to public scrutiny the tactics denirs employ and identifying them publicly for what they are.”

Dealing with Trolls: Exposure would probably work with sock puppets, as those controlling them do not wish to be exposed. Those who troll for the fun of upsetting people would likely enjoy the diversion off topic, deny being a troll, and heap abuse on anyone who even suggested their motives were not pure. A good strategy is to just ignore trolls. If one wants to confront the lies and distortions, it is more effective to write a separate article refuting their premises.  Running up a large number of  comments on a troll’s article is simply “feeding the troll”, giving them more opportunities to respond and enriching paid trolls. Clicking on trolls’ links only runs up the hit count of denier sites, making them appear more important than they are and possibly adding to their advertising value.

In most  cases, ensuring civility is up to the blog moderators. Blog sites can discourage trolling with good policies and strong moderation. Those who attack others or claim obvious lies as fact should not get posted.  Repeat offenders should be banned or blacklisted. The trolls may claim violations of freedom of speech or censorship. If they do, invite them to resubmit their posts with valid references, in a civil manner, and without  personal attacks.  They will likely disappear. Don’t we wish?

(c) 2014  J.C. Moore

 

Settled Science: Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Krauthammer

Mon ,24/02/2014

What do George Will, Cal Thomas, and Charles Krauthammer have in common? They all claim to be conservative, but it is not clear what they wish to conserve. It is certainly not the environment or people’s health. They are all against environmental regulations, scientific evidence that contradicts their ideology, and the Affordable Care Act. They do seem to have a keen interest in conserving money for corporations. Mr. Krauthammer’s recent article , The Myth of ”Settled Science”,  certainly illustrates that point . Though he claims he is not a denier, he follows the recent denier’s tactics of casting doubt on the conclusions of science that could lead to actions which might cost fossil fuel companies and insurance companies money.

 

Mr. Krauthammer tries to make his points by assigning beliefs to scientists that they do not hold. Scientists will not agree, as Mr. Krauthammer claims, that all the issues pertaining to a scientific theory are settled, nor that their predictions 50 years into the future are absolutely correct. Predicting the future is difficult, but does he expect Ouija boards and crystal balls to be a better source of predictions than the scientific models based upon an understanding of the factors and variables that affect climate? Scientific hypotheses are accepted at the 95% confidence level, data is reported with an estimate of its precision, and scientific theories are modified when new evidence emerges. Who then, is claiming science is settled? Scientists do consider empirical evidence that is reproducible and supported by many independent investigations as facts that are settled enough to take action. He criticizes Pres. Obama for saying that “climate change is a fact”, but it is, in fact, a fact supported by empirical evidence from many independent investigations and one requiring action.  The theory of gravity, for instance, is not and may never be settled, however, the effect of gravity is considered to be a fact by engineers who design airplanes, buildings, and bridges. If we had waited for the theories of science to be completely “settled” before we acted, then all of our advances in science, technology, engineering, and medicine would never have been possible.

 

Mr. Krauthammer offers as evidence that science is “not settled” a list of things that are all questionable. He says that hurricane Sandy was not a hurricane, though those who live along the East Coast of the United   States would probably disagree. He offers up the opinion of a physicist who has not worked in climate science in 40 years. He claims that models are wrong because John Christy, who is miffed that empirical evidence disproved his models, says so. He says that that there has been no global warming in 15 years, but he ignores that while the warming of the atmosphere has slowed, the oceans have been warming faster. He claims that there is no link between climate change and severe weather events when scientists, and even insurance company Munich Re’s data , show that climate change has increased the  probability of severe weather and the associated costs. He is probably unaware of Dr. Jennifer Francis’s research, which shows the disappearance of the Arctic ice has slowed the jetstream, increasing the probability of severe weather in the Northern Hemisphere. He claims that scientists are whores and those who believe them are sinners, a rather harsh claim from someone who receives money to write op-ed articles full of misinformation but favorable to corporations and insurance companies. He even claims that it is not a settled fact that mammograms are useful for reducing breast cancer. Say what?

 

You might wonder about that last one, but it illustrates Mr. Krauthammer thinking. He points to a 25 year long study in Canada which found that mammograms did not reduce deaths from breast cancer. You would think that since Mr. Krauthammer has a degree in medicine, that he would have noticed right away the problems with the study. The technology for detecting breast cancer by mammograms has improved remarkably over the time of the study making older data questionable. Also, both the experimental group and the control group included women who already had lumps in their breast, while mammograms are most useful for detecting cancer before lumps appear. And, measuring death rates is not an appropriate way to evaluate how effective mammograms are for early detection and treatment of cancer – which may be life-saving.

 

Mr. Krauthammer has a degree in medicine and took an oath that he would do no harm, but the way he presented this may harm many women if it keeps them from having a mammogram. He wished to use this as an example of science not being settled, but it is an even better example of him using one study to cast doubt on a larger body of research that shows that regular mammograms save lives. So why did he bring this up? The Affordable Care Act requires that insurance cover mammograms and Mr. Krauthammer objects to them being, as he said, “ free, even yet”. There are about 48 million mammograms performed each year in the United States, so the cost to the insurance companies amounts to about $10 billion. Could it be that insurance companies are pushing this study as a way of reducing their costs in providing mammograms and Mr. Krauthammer is helping them? For “free, even yet”?

 

So what is it that Mr. Krauthammer and his fellow conservatives wish to conserve? They apparently wish to conserve the status quo for the benefit of those who make money from it, but they are not very interested in conserving the environment or people’s lives. Demanding absolute truth before acting is just a stalling tactic promoted by those who do not wish to be regulated or who are profiting from the status quo.  There is clear and convincing evidence that the climate is changing in response to man’s activities, and that is clearly the consensus opinion among scientists. Every major scientific organization in the world has adopted a statement agreeing with the consensus opinion and saying that immediate action is needed to mitigate the effects of climate change.

 

Even though Mr. Krauthammer is delivering a denier’s message, he says that “ the term ‘denier’ — an echo of Holocaust denial, contemptibly suggesting the malevolent rejection of an established historical truth.” Apparently, rejection of historical evidence is malevolent but rejecting scientific evidence is not. Finally, I wish to point out that Mr. Krauthammer has a degree in psychiatric medicine and should be formally addressed as Dr. Krauthammer. However, Dr. Jekyll had a another manifestation, Mr. Hyde, and it is apparently Mr. Krauthammer who wrote this article demeaning women’s health issues and climate science.

 

Note added on 02/28/2014:  Forecast the Facts has fact checked  and cited the evidence that the claims about climate science in Mr. Krauthammer’s article are false.

https://s3.amazonaws.com/s3.forecastthefacts.org/images/Debunking_Krauthammer.pdf

(c) 2014 J.C. Moore

Poll: Help Pick the 2012 Hall of Fame/Shame Awards

Tue ,13/08/2013

Earthrise

Thanks  to those of you who entered your nominations. The four top nominees for each award have been selected from those nominated by readers. Please help select the winner by voting  for the nominee who you think has most affected the environment for good or ill.  If you wish, please post a reason for your vote and a suggestion for other suitable gifts for your favorite candidate. Some great gifts have already been proposed. The author will buy the gifts from his copious blogging earnings, so please don’t worry about the expense.

Click here to vote, or put your choice as a comment. 

Hall of Shame Nominees:

Ø     Japanese Prime Minister Noda,  for dumping the “Zero Nuke” policy. http://ex-skf.blogspot.com/2012/09/new-e…
Prize: A partly filled out employment application for work at TEPCO’s Fukushima No. 1 where there is a labor shortage. http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2013/06…

Ø     The Professional ENGO, Green Washer/Opportunists, that use climate change as an agenda tool for political gain. Particularly those on this list which still invest in fossil fuels. Climate change is having dramatic effects on the oceans and fish, as well as all the lands of the Earth.  Prize: Suggestions?

Ø     Dr. James Wanliss (Cornwall Alliance)  ”for equating people who consider the Earth more important than SUVs with those who consider the Earth to be more important than God or our fellow human beings”. The Cornwall Alliance, who published Dr. Wanliss’ book , claims that stewardship is a Green Dragon trying to corrupt the true meaning of religion.  Prize: An opportunity to clean up the mess they helped make of the Earth, as described in this article.

Ø  Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund, both who fund climate denial activities while allowing donors to remain anonymous and hide their vested interests. According to Robert Brulle on PBS Frontline in2012, “by 2009, about one-quarter of the funding of the climate countermovement [of climate change denial] is from the Donors Trust [and] Donors Capital Fund.”    Prize: An IRS investigation of their of their tax-exempt status.

Hall of Fame Nominees:

Ø     Dr. Jennifer Francis, for , for her ground-breaking work tying the loss of Arctic sea ice to a slowing jet stream, deep Rossby Waves, and the resulting (rapid) rise in stalled weather patterns. Article  here.  Paper here: Evidence linking Arctic amplification to extreme weather in mid-latitudes Award: (Suggestion?)

Ø     President Barack Obama , for his efforts to protect the environment through executive action, such as  mileage standards and addressing air pollution through EPA action.  Award: A little cooperation from Congress, so please write your Representatives.

Ø     Neven, an amateur scientist, for his Arctic Sea Ice blog . It is a highly-accessible blog  focused like a laser on a major planetary system in rapid collapse - bringing it to the attention of an increasing number of people and the media. The  Comments section  includes amazing computer animations of Arctic satellite imagery and scores of insights from a good number of researchers. Award: A massive number of visitors to his blog.

Ø     Arnie Gundersen,  for having the courage to broadcast information being censored by main stream media about environmental problems caused by Fukushima nuclear reactors.   http://fairewinds.org/category/media/fai…    Award: A picture of Japanese girls with a signed note thanking him for standing up for them. http://fairewinds.org/media/fairewinds-v… 

Nominations were taken from three sites, and the poll set up at the site below. Please vote for your choice for each award. The poll will close on September 15, 2013.

 

(c)2013  J.C. Moore

.

Nominate Your Picks for the 2012 Environmental Hall of Fame/Shame Awards

Sun ,16/12/2012

Earthrise over the Moon from Apollo 11.

It is important that we keep in mind those who are heroes and villains  in our efforts to protect the environment. Each year, this site takes a poll to find those most deserving of recognition in the Environmental Hall of Fame and the Environmental Hall of Shame. Nominations are now open for those  awards to those who have most affected the environment by words or action. With the ongoing  debate about  global warming and environmental regulations,  nominees should be easy to find.  Please send  at least one nomination  for  each category by e-mail through the “Contact” link or put it in the comment section . If you would, please include a short reason that your nominee should be chosen and suggest a suitable gift if they win.

Nominations will be taken until June 31st, 2013. The nominees will then be  listed  and this site will conduct a poll to determine the winner in each category.   You may suggest a suitable prize for your nominee. Please be imaginative, as particularly thoughtful or humorous  nominations will  be recognized and published on this site

The 2011 Environmental Hall of Fame Winners  was James Hansen for  playing a pivotal role in delaying a decision on the XL pipeline  whose construction  would greatly accelerate global warming. The 2011 Hall of Shame award went to Halliburton (Cheney),  for the Halliburton clause in the Clean Water Act. This clause provided a loophole that allows the composition of fracking chemicals to remain secret, thanks to Cheney. Past years winners and their gifts were:

Hall of Fame    - Gift    

2011        James Hansen – A massive presence at the 2012 Citizen’s Climate Lobby 

2010        RealClimate.org  - A recommendation from this site. ( Priceless)

2009       Benno Hansen,  ThinkAboutIt Blogger - A Subscription to Science News.

Hall of Shame    

2011        Halliburton (Cheney) -  A big glass of water from a well next to a hydrofracking operation.

2010        Koch Brothers - A petition to the Wizard of Oz for  the grant of a social conscience.

2009       SpaceGuy,  Newsvine Blogger - The movie Wall-E,  representing his view of the future of Earth.

 

(C) 2012  J.C. Moore

 

Gaming the Peer Review System, Part III: A Hostile Takeover

Mon ,26/03/2012

A group of Skeptics once managed to take over an editorship at a peer-reviewed journal  and publish articles hostile to mainstream climate science. With the help of politicians and large funding sources, the hostilities have continued to this day.

Skeptics: Science values its skeptics as they make science strong and they sometimes make valuable contributions by opening new fields for investigation. True skeptics follow the methodologies and the ethics of science, which requires they subject their work to review by their peers and divulge conflicts of interest. There are some skeptics, particularly in the areas of climate science, who violate the ethical principles of science for money and power. To separate those from true skeptics, they will be designated here as “Skeptics”. They are usually just ignored by scientists, but there are problems when a Skeptic becomes a journal editor. 

Journal editors are almost completely responsible for seeing that articles are properly reviewed and scientifically sound before they are published. Some journals, such as  Energy and Environment, cater to Skeptics such as Sallie Baliunas, Patrick Michaels, Ross McKitrick, Stephen McIntyre, Roger Pielke Jr., Willie Soon, and Steve McIntyre; who publish articles there that would not be accepted by legitimate journals. The editor, Sonja Boehmer-Christiansen, once said “the journal I edit has tried to keep this debate [climate scepticism] alive”.  Articles published in Energy and Environment are not taken seriously, but Skeptics hostile to climate science once managed a takeover of a reputable journal. An analysis by John Mashey showed the Skeptics managed to publish fourteen articles in Climate Research before they were caught gaming the peer review system.

Takeover: The takeover began in 1997, when Chris de Freitas became an editor at the reputable journal, Climate Research. There were 10 editors for the Journal and each worked independently, so it was possible for one editor to shepherd papers through the peer review process and see that they were published. The first paper  from a Skeptic, edited by de Freitas was by Patrick Michaels. The paper seemed to agree with the scientific findings of the IPCC reports, but it cast doubt at the end by concluding “this finding, instead adds further support to the emerging hypothesis that the Earth’s climate is not necessarily changing in a deleterious fashion”. Over the next six years, Chris de Freitas edited and published a series of fourteen papers by Skeptics who were interested in developing Dr. Michael’s “emerging hypothesis”. The articles caused so many complaints from scientists that some of the other editors questioned Dr. de Freitas about the quality of the papers he edited. He replied that they were on a “witch hunt”.

Restoring Order: The hostile takeover was uncovered after the fallout over a paper written by Sally Baliunas and Willie Soon. The paper reviewed the literature on the climate science of the last 1000 years, and concluded that the global warming in the 20th century was not unusual and that natural forces, rather than man’s activities were the cause. An important piece of their evidence was the Medieval Warm Period, which they claimed was warmer worldwide than the latter 20th century. But there was obviously 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. Proxy records from multiple sources show that the Medieval Warm Period amounted to only a small hump in the Earth’s temperature record. Shortly after its publication, the American Geophysical Union (AGU) issued a press release from thirteen of the scientists whose work was used in Baliunas and Soon’s paper, saying Soon and Baliunas seriously misinterpreted their research. The thirteen scientists then coauthored a paper explaining exactly why the Baliunas and Soon paper was in error.

 All this caused quite a furor at Climate Research. Five members the editorial board eventually resigned in protest and the newly hired chief editor, Hans von Storch stated the paper had serious errors and should never have been published. Tom Wigley, who often reviewed papers for Climate Research, wrote, “I have had papers that I refereed (and soundly rejected), under De Freitas’s editorship, appear later in the journal—without me seeing any response from the authors.” All this was followed by an unusual public statement from the publisher, acknowledging flaws in the journal’s editorial process. Under pressure, Chris de Freitas resigned shortly thereafter, and papers from the Skeptics stopped appearing in Climate Research.

Extended Hostilities: That should have ended the matter, except that some politicians found the conclusions of Baliunas and Soon’s paper to be advantageous to the fossil fuel industry to whom they owed allegiance. Political pressure was put on regulatory agencies to accept the results of the paper, in spite of its obvious flaws and distortions. The EPA was unwilling to include the paper in its assessment of climate science, so Sen. James Inhofe (R – OK) scheduled a meeting of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee to examine the paper.

At the EPW hearing, Michael Mann represented the scientific viewpoint, presenting evidence from multiple sources showing that the Medieval Warm period was not uniformly worldwide and resulted only in a small hump in the Earth’s temperature record. Dr. Soon stood behind his work and, in response to a direct question about his funding sources, 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. Documents received later 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, conducted two 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. It doesn’t get much more hostile than that. 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 based on a paper that would not have passed freshman English.

 (c) 2012 J.C. Moore

What Happens When the Earth Is Full?

Mon ,05/03/2012

 

The photo at the right, shot from Apollo 11 as the Earth rose over the moon, reminds us of how beautiful the Earth is.  It also reminds us, that though the Earth seems large to us, our space is limited and our resources are finite. What will happen when the Earth is full?
 
 The human population just reached the milestone of 7 billion people. Our population has been growing at the rate of about 2% each year which means that the population will double about every 35 to 40 years. If we do not reduce our birthrate or experienced some great catastrophe, the population will reach 14 billion by 2050 and 28 billion by 2090. It is rather hard to imagine what the Earth would be like with that many people and is almost assured that that will not happen. Estimates are that the number of people who can live comfortably on the Earth is around 9 billion. That estimate may be off a few billion if you include advances in food production and measures to reduce our rate of pollution. However, it should be clear that at some point the human population will grow larger than the Earth’s ability to support it. The graph in the article Limits to Growth and Beyond, Part 1, shows that may happen within the next generation. What will happen then?
 
That has never happened before to the human population, but there are examples in nature where population is limited to a small area, such as bacteria in petri dish. When the nutrients are gone, so are the bacteria. There are a few examples of mammalian populations where the species is confined to a small area and the natural predators are eliminated, such as a Moose population established on Isle Royale in Michigan, where there were no wolves.  The moose population grew rapidly until almost all the vegetation on the island was depleted and then the moose population declined dramatically due to starvation and disease. One of the best examples is this case study of the deer population on the Kaibab Peninsula in northern Arizona.

In 1907 the deer population was unusually low with only 4,000 head. The carrying capacity was 30,000 at this time, so a massive campaign was waged against the natural enemies of the deer. Between the years of 1907 and 1923, the natural predators of deer (mountain lions, wolves and coyotes) were eliminated by hunters in order to increase the deer population. As the following graph shows rather dramatically, the deer population increased rapidly to 100,000 by 1924, but then died off rapidly to a mere 10,000 by 1939. Because of severe overgrazing by excessive populations of deer, the carrying capacity of this region was reduced to approximately 10,000 in 1939, and the deer population was reduced accordingly.

 

Deer Population on the Kaibab Plateau

The graph at the right shows what happened to the deer population during this period. When the carrying capacity of the environment is exceeded, natural populations do not reach an equilibrium point and stay there.The result is a massive die off, and the population is decreased below their original carrying capacity. The Earth has a carrying capacity for man, and though we are not exactly sure when we will reach it, it will undoubtedly be within this century. What will happen then?

(c) 2012 J.C. Moore

The 2011 Environmental Hall of Fame/Shame Winners

Thu ,01/03/2012
This year the contest was carried out on three websites and the votes were combined to determine those who have most affected the environment through word or deed.

The 2011 Environmental Hall of Fame Winners:

The winner is James Hansen, with 51% of the votes. His efforts opposing the XL pipeline played a pivotal role in delaying a decision and hopefully preventing the construction of the pipeline . Award: A massive presence at the 2012 Citizen’s Climate Lobby International Conference, July 22 – 24, in Washington D.C. . Make your travel plans now.

Runner-up was the EPA  (31%)  for standing firm in its efforts to protect the environment in spite of the political pressure it has received. Award: A duplicate of Captain America’s Shield. Though Captain America’s Shield was fictional, the EPA’s need for a shield is not. Please write your representatives about the need to protect the EPA from political attacks.

The Tulsa World (14%) was 3rd for showing great courage in defending  climate science and refuting Sen. Jim Inhofe’s claim of ”victory in his efforts to debunk man-made global warming as a hoax.” Their editorial stated:” While there are scientists and politicians on both sides of the issue, those who see climate change as a genuine threat are mostly scientists and most of those who deny it are politicians.” Award: I’m renewing my subscription and I hope that if you live in the Tulsa area you will also.

Joe Romm (3%), Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress, where he writes and maintains Climate Progress , an outstanding source of accurate climate science information. Award: Apparently, not many who took the poll read Joe Romm’s columns. As an award we should correct that, so please click the link above and read some of his well-written articles.

The 2011 Hall of Shame Selections:

First place goes to Halliburton (Cheney), with 57% of the votes - for the Halliburton clause in the Clean Water Act. This clause provided a loophole that allows the composition of fracking chemicals to remain secret, thanks to Cheney. Apparently, voters were dismayed that Congress could be manipulated to provide an exception to the law for a special interest at the expense of protecting the public. Prize: A big glass of water from a well next to a hydrofracking operation.

Runner up was Congressman Joe Barton of Texas,( 17%) for his apology to BP about how they were treated after the Gulf Oil spill and for trying to ban energy-efficient light bulbs because they contain mercury, even though he had fought efforts to stop mercury pollution by industries. Prize: A copy of his failing grades on the League of Conservation Voters Scorecard and, hopefully, a decline in the number of votes he receives in the next Congressional election.

There was a tie for 3rd and 4th place between Dr. Jane Lubchenco,(13%) for using bad data to set fishing catch limits and for not adequately policing BPs drilling plans or their cleanup operations in the Gulf. Prize: A corexit oil shake. If you live on or near the gulf, please shake up a sample of the gulf water and mail it to her. It won’t hurt if she gets several. 

                                                                                    and

Forbes Magazine (James Taylor)(13%) 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. I will see that they get a copy of the book and I hope you will write Forbes (readers@forbes.com) about the ban and express your opinion of the article.

It is important that we keep in mind those who are heroes and villains to the environment. I wish to thank those who provided the nominations, the prize suggestions, the insightful and often humorous comments, and the votes to determine the winners. As this year goes by, please take note of those you wish to nominate for the 2012 awards.

Poll: Help Pick the 2011 Hall of Fame/Shame Awards

Tue ,07/02/2012
 

Thank you for your nominations for the awards. The four top nominees for each award have been selected from those nominated by readers. Please help select the winner by voting  for the nominee who you think has most affected the environment through word or deed. If you wish, please post a reason for your vote and a suggestion for other suitable gifts for your favorite candidate. Some great gifts have already been proposed. The author will buy the gifts from his copious blogging earnings, so please don’t worry about the expense.   Click here for poll.

Hall of Shame Nominees:

Ø     Dr. Jane Lubchenco, Head of NOAA – For using bad data to set fishing catch limits and for not adequately policing BP’s drilling plans or their cleanup operations in the Gulf. Prize: A corexit oil shake.

Ø     Halliburton (Cheney), for the Halliburton clause in the Clean Water Act. It is a loophole in the Clean Water Act that allows the fracking chemicals to remain secret, thanks to Cheney. Prize: A big glass of water from a well next to a hydrofracking operation.

Ø     Congressman Joe Barton of Texas, for his apology to BP about how they were treated after the Gulf Oil spill and for trying to ban energy-efficient light bulbs because they contain mercury, even though he had fought efforts to reduce industrial mercury pollution. Prize: A copy of his failing grades on the League of Conservation Voters Scorecard .

Ø     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. At was classified as news, though it was clearly an opinion article. Award: A copy of the book Ethics And Journalism and a complete ban on ever using the words ‘alarmist’ again.

Hall of Fame Nominees:

Ø     James Hansen, whose efforts opposing the XL played a pivotal role in delaying a decision and hopefully preventing the construction of the pipeline (see, for example, here, here, here, and here). Award: A massive presence at the 2012 Citizen’s Climate Lobby International Conference, July 22 – 24, in Washington D.C.

Ø     The Tulsa World, for showing great courage in defending  climate science and refuting Sen. Jim Inhofe’s claim of ”victory in his efforts to debunk man-made global warming as a hoax.” Their editorial board’s statement is classic:” While there are scientists and politicians on both sides of the issue, those who see climate change as a genuine threat are mostly scientists and most of those who deny it are politicians.” Award: (Suggestion?)

Ø     The EPA, for standing firm in its efforts to protect the environment in spite of the political pressure it has received. Award: A duplicate of Captain America’s Shield.

Ø     Joe Romm, Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress, where he writes and maintains Climate Progress , an outstanding source of accurate climate science information. Award: (Suggestion?)

Nominations were taken from three sites, and the poll was set up below.

Click here for poll.

The poll will close on February 28th.

Gaming the Peer Review System : Part 1. Biased Editors

Sun ,22/01/2012

If I have seen further it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants. … Sir Isaac Newton

 Peer review:  Every scientist’s work depends upon the evidence and reasoning of all the scientists who preceeded him. To ensure that previous work is reliable, scientific journals have established a peer review process to ensure that published papers are free of errors in reasoning and methodology. Normally,when a paper is submitted for publication, the editor of the journal removes the name of the author and sends the manuscript to a number of experts in the area for review. The editor keeps the names of the reviewers confidential. In case an error is found or corrections suggested, the reviews are returned to the author with suggestions for improvement. When the reviewer’s concerns are addressed to the editor’s satisfaction, the article is published. It is a good system for ensuring the quality of research publications, but in a few cases ways have been found to game the system.           

Biased Editors: The editors of journals published by major science organizations are chosen for their expertise in the area and for their fairness. However, any organization may publish a journal and claim their articles are peer-reviewed.  For example, a recent op Ed article in the Tulsa World claimed “Climate predictions must be science-backed“. That’s certainly true, but the author claimed his opinion was backed by a “a peer-reviewed article based on NOAA  data which proves that CO2 may not be the cause of global warming.”  However, no peer reviewed article reaching that conclusion could be found. When I contacted the author for his source, he referred me to an article by Ferenc Miskolczi published in Energy and Environment. Though Miskolczi’s article is based on NOAA’s data, it finds that adding CO2 to the atmosphere does not change its spectroscopic properties – a conclusion violating the laws of physics. Miskolczi’s article was criticized by van Dorland and Forster, who wrote: “Miskolczi (2010) theorizes that atmospheric CO2 increases cannot be a cause of global warming. We show his theory to be incorrect both in its application of radiation theory and from direct atmospheric observations.” How did such a paper get published?

The editor of a journal is almost completely responsible for seeing that articles are properly reviewed and for deciding if they should be published. Sourcewatch says that Energy and Environment is a peer-reviewed social science journal published by Multi-Science and the editor is Sonja Boehmer-Christiansen, who is described as a reader in geography. Many climate change skeptics such as Sallie Baliunas, Patrick Michaels, Ross McKitrick, Stephen McIntyre, Roger Pielke Jr., Willie Soon, and  Steve McIntyre publish articles there that would not be accepted in major journals. Sourcewatch says the editor admits in an article published online that “the journal I edit has tried to keep this debate [climate scepticism] alive”. She also states “I’m following my political agenda — a bit, anyway … But isn’t that the right of the editor?”

Not really, if you want to claim to be a peer reviewed science journal.