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The Earth Hasn't Warmed in the Last "X" Years Myth

Wed ,30/01/2013

The title has an “X”, as the number of years varies from 10 to 16 depending on who said it and when. I first heard this myth from George Will when he was attacking John McCain’s stand on global warming during the 2008 presidential campaign. Mr. Will claimed that the Earth’s temperature had not gone up in the last 10 years. When I contacted him for an explanation, he said that it was because 1998 was hotter than any year after that. Strangely, Mr. Will referred to the data from the World Meteorological Organization rather than that from NASA. Mr. Will has no use for the UN, but his statement could only be true if he used the UN data which showed that 2005 was slightly cooler than 1998. NASA’s data shows that 2005 was slightly warmer than 1998, and also that 2007 and 2010 were warmer yet. It’s a little hard to explain how the Earth reached those higher temperatures without  going up, but logic and truth are mostly irrelevant to those who say this.

As the years have gone by, “X” has been increased accordingly and the erroneous statement has been repeated on Skeptic’s blogs, newspaper articles, letters to the editor, op-ed pieces, sites like Yahoo!Answers, and by politicians such as Sen. Inhofe. The number “X” is now up to 16 and when I put “no global warming in past 16 years” in Google’s search engine, I got 114 million hits. It’s a great propaganda piece as it is simple, easily understood, and reduces people’s worry about climate change. Unfortunately, it is very comforting, and very, very wrong. The propaganda has been funded, circulated, and promoted by those who do not want us to address global warming as they have an economic interest in the issue.

So what is the truth of the matter? There are number of natural and man-made factors that affect the temperature of the Earth. The main factors are the amount of solar radiation we receive, volcanic activity, greenhouse gases, and ocean circulations such as El Niño and La Niña. Man’s main contribution falls in the area of greenhouse gases. We are now emitting 30 billion tons of carbon dioxide each year, and the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide has gone up about 40% in the last century. That increase and the ensuing feedback loops are the main factors that can be attributed to man. Though there are other contributions, most of the CO2 increase has come from burning fossil fuels.

Probably the best way to see man’s influence on the Earth’s temperature is to subtract out the factors that can be attributed to natural sources and to see what is left. That was done very nicely by climate scientist John Cook in a video which he produced and posted on YouTube. It’s only 2 minutes long, but it shows how the Earth’s temperature has responded to the increasing burden of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

 

 

If the video doesn’t load, you may access it at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=W705cOtOHJ4

Charlie Brown and the Climate Skeptics

Mon ,19/11/2012

 

 An article has recently been circulating around the Skeptics’ websites called  “ Four recent scientific blows to the global warming theory”. They are hardly blows and they certainly cannot be called scientific, as they contradict scientific research. They do make you wonder where Skeptics get their misinformation. Lucy spilled the beans on that in one of the Peanut’s cartoons.

 Lucy: Charlie Brown, do you want to hear some little known facts of science?

 Charlie Brown, looking puzzled: Wait a minute, if they are so little known, how do you  know them?     

  Lucy: Because I’m the one who made them up.

Being a good scientist, Charlie Brown has a healthy skepticism toward Skeptics. And, no matter who made them up, he has found a little skepticism of the Skeptics is a good idea.

The Article starts: “The science behind the anthropogenic global warming theory appears to be falling apart with each new scientific study.”  “In fact, since the Climategate scandal broke, where top climate scientists were caught manipulating data to fit the theory, polls have shown the number of global warming believers has plummeted to new lows.”

Charlie Brown:  It’s strange that there are no references to those “new scientific studies”. Op ed pieces by skeptics, maybe, but no recent scientific studies or polls say that . Also, isn’t it time to give up on Climategate? Nine independent investigations into Climategate have found no scientific misconduct?

Article: It goes on, “Czech President Vaclav Klaus, an economist who lived through the rise and fall of communism, recently said that the climate change movement is a threat to democracy.” “I consider (the global warming doctrine) a new dangerous attempt to control and mastermind my life and our lives, in the name of controlling the climate or temperature.” And environmentalists “ don’t care about resources or poverty or pollution. They hate us, the humans. They consider us dangerous and sinful creatures who must be controlled by them.”

Charlie Brown: Wow! Dangerous and sinful? Few Skeptic’s articles are complete without quoting an obscure figure with bizarre views. Environmentalists do not want to control the climate or temperature; they would just like to keep it at a level comfortable for human civilization. And, aren’t they also “humans”?

Article: Blow 1., finally. “A biologist who claimed that polar bears were drowning because of melting ice has been suspended and is being investigated for scientific misconduct following his “veracity” in emotionalizing a debunked topic.  Get ready for Polarbeargate. “

Charlie Brown:  Polarbeargate? The Polar bear has become a symbol of all we may lose by failing to address our carbon emissions problem adequately. Skeptics can’t disprove the theory so they  to attack the symbol.  The scientist’s account of the polar bears drowning was a credible account of what he observed. The extent of the Arctic sea ice has declined about 30% since 1980. Polar bears now have to swim many miles to reach the sea ice to hunt. Those who don’t want to swim that far rummage around in the garbage dumps, leading Skeptics to believe that the bears are now more numerous.

 Dr. Monnett, a biologist studying Polar bear populations, counted four bears who had drowned trying to swim to the receding sea ice to hunt. Though that happened five years ago, the Interior Department was just recently put under pressure to investigate the matter by  Sen. James Inhofe who was unhappy that the bears were put on the threatened species list.   That was done, not because of Dr. Monnett’s work, but because the bear’s habitat is declining. As their habitat disappears, so will the Polar bear. There just aren’t enough garbage dumps to feed them all.

Article: Blow 2. “Today, new NASA data blows a gaping hole in global warming alarmism: NASA satellite data from the years 2000 through 2011 show the Earth’s atmosphere is allowing far more heat to be released into space than alarmist computer models have predicted, reports a new study in the peer-reviewed science journal Remote Sensing.”(sic?)

Charlie Brown: This is about an article by Roy Spencer, “On the Misdiagnosis Of Surface Temperature Feedbacks From Variations In Earth’s Radiant Energy Balance“, which claimed that climate scientists have the role of clouds wrong . It did not have enough scientific evidence to blow a hole in anything, but the article had a remarkable ability to “ shapeshift” as it sped around. It went from a paper published in a little-known journal where was not likely to be reviewed by climate scientists, to Roger Pielke’s website, where it was given a Skeptic’s A-OK. Then it went to the Heartland Institute, where senior fellow James Taylor fixed it up a little, classified it as a news article, renamed it “New NASA data Blow Gaping Hole In Global Warming Alarmism” and sent it on to Forbes. Apparently Forbes did not realize that describing scientists as “alarmist” 15 times was suspicious, perhaps because James Taylor is also on staff at Forbes as, get this, a “contributor on energy and environment issues”. From there it went on to Yahoo! News, most other major media sources, and dozens of Skeptics blog sites.

It was amazing that it became so distorted and widely circulated just three days after publication, before legitimate climate scientists had a chance to respond. When they did, they had some rather unkind things to say about the research. Trenberth and Fasullo soon summed it up: ”The model has no realistic ocean, no El Niño, and no hydrological cycle, and it was tuned to give the result it gave.The bottom line is that this paper has NO scientific merit” Later, A.E. Dessler analyzed Spencer’s paper in detail and published a rebuttal destroying Spencer’s arguments. The editor of Remote Sensing was so ashamed of the bad publicity that he resigned, saying” the paper should never have been published”.

Article: Blow 3. “The CERN physicists conducted a cosmic ray climate experiment that is said to directly contradict the climate change debate in the political arena.  Apparently, so much so that the scientists have been gagged from discussing their findings reportedly proving that cosmic (space-based) energy has a far greater effect on the climate than previously believed.”

Charlie Brown: Who said that? A book by perennial Skeptic Nigel Calder and Henrik Svensmark, The Chilling Stars,  claimed  the number of cosmic rays from the stars that strike the Earth is increasing. And, lead to more clouds since cosmic rays produce charged particles in the atmosphere that seed clouds. It’s an interesting theory, but the  data does not show that cosmic rays are actually increasing cloud cover. Also, there are plenty of particulates in the air to seed clouds and any effect from cosmic rays would be small in comparison.  ( See Blow 4., below.)

 The CERN scientists were not “gagged”, but they were asked not to report the results to the media before the formal paper was published. Perhaps they wish to avoid the type of outrageous publicity experienced by Spencer’s article.  Climate scientists are interested in the role that charged particles play so the scientists At CERN agreed to investigate the effect of cosmic rays on nitrate and sulfate aerosols.  After the experiment, the CERN cloud chamber was found to contain contaminates, so the experiment could not have proved or disproved anything. Except perhaps, considering Spencer’s paper, that climate Skeptics really don’t know clouds at all.

 Article: Blow 4. “A recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science found evidence that coal burning plants may actually be cooling the planet. The findings have been accepted to the point of suggesting using sulfur to combat global warming; ‘Sulfur’s ability to cool things down has led some to suggest using it in a geo-engineering feat to cool the planet.’  If anything, this study proves that the science behind the anthropogenic global warming theory is unproven.”

Charlie Brown:  The particulates from power plants cause cooling, as well as cancer and lung diseases. Particles soon settle out of the airwhile the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere keeps building up, warming the Earth much more than the cooling by the particles. We are now emitting 135 times as much CO2 as all the world’s volcanoes, but only about 7 times the particulates. The effect of particulates from volcanoes on the Earth’s temperature is well understood, so it is hard to see how this shows the “theory is unproven”.

The article concludes by noting that “the stakes are incredibly high” and then wanders off into some conspiracy theory. However, the stakes are high, and if we are not more skeptical of  the  Skeptics’ “little-known facts of science”, we are likely to find out just how high they are. Wouldn’t it be nice if the Earth stayed about the same for children in the future?

(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

Bits and Pieces 6: Global Warming and Extreme Weather

Thu ,21/07/2011

Senator Jim Inhofe is wirting a book that he claims will disprove global warming. It will be interesting to see what research he cites and what might comprise such a proof. Last winter, after a blizzard, Sen. Jim Inhofe built an igloo for his grandchildren and claimed  that the record snowfall disproved global warming.  It will take more proof than that. Oklahoma is now experiencing a record drought and heat wave. Recently, Bruce Plante, a Tulsa World political cartoonist,  drew a cartoon of a hot, perspiring person asking at the library if Jim inhofe’s  book, disproving global warming, was out yet.  Dean Jones, a supporter of Inhofe, sent a letter to the Tulsa World entitled “Global Cooling” (TW, 7/20/2011), which takes issue with the cartoon and “global warming advocates”.  However, there are no advocates for global warming – but there are those who advocate  that we listen to climate scientists who say that global warming is causing the weather events that occur to be more extreme.(1)  Have you noticed any extreme weather lately?

 There is little evidence for Mr. Jones’ claim of “global cooling”.  NASA’s records of the Earth’s mean temperature show a clear  trend upward with the whole Earth now being about 1.2°F warmer than a century ago. (2) A warmer Earth means water evaporates faster and that the air can hold more moisture.  Areas that are normally dry, dry out faster. And, when conditions are right for precipitation, the combination of more energy and moisture in the air increases the chance of severe storms and flooding.

 If you don’t believe that the weather has become more extreme, just watch your insurance bill.  Insurance giants  Swiss Re and Munich Re, who insure other insurance companies, have assessed the risks and found that global warming has increased the risk of insurance losses.  If your insurance rates go up – blame those who have prevented effective action to mitigate global warming.

(1) http://jcmooreonline.com/2011/03/22/the-case-of-global-warming-and-extreme-weather/

(2) See the graph at http://jcmooreonline.com/2010/12/13/science-climate-change-and-the-greenhouse-effect/

(c) 2011  J.C. Moore

The EPA vs. Oklahoma Power Companies

Sat ,21/05/2011

The EPA has been charged with reducing the pollutants released into the environment, but they are meeting opposition from power companies, politicians, and people who want cheap energy, though other people’s health and the environment may suffer the consequences . The EPA is accepting comments on the issue through May 23, 2011.  (1)

The Environmental Protection Agency is seeking a 95 percent reduction in emissions at three of Oklahoma’s coal-fired power plants owned by OG&E and AEP. (2) This has brought howls from the utility companies and from Oklahoma’s politicians. Utility companies claim that installing scrubbers or converting to natural gas will cost them billions of dollars and drive the rates for electricity up by 10 to 12%. The utility companies have defined the costs for the plant conversions or upgrades in the worst possible terms, without considering the long-term savings of conversion to natural gas or the impact on people’s health.

EPA.  Stopping the EPA has been put forth as a Conservative and a Republican cause, but it really is neither. President Richard Nixon created the EPA to protect the environment as the United States developed industrially. The Clean Air Act was passed not only to reduce smog in our cities, but to ensure that the air was kept pure and clean in our national parks and wilderness areas. Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA has the right to limit sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides, organic compounds, and particulates to ensure the quality of the air in our region. Limiting regional haze would have the added benefit of improving the health of people, wildlife, and plants in the region. Sulfur and nitrogen oxides are known to damage plants and those, along with small particulates, cause respiratory problems in people. Also, the particulates emitted contain mercury, arsenic, lead, cadmium, chromium, dioxins, and radioactive isotopes, which are all health hazards.

Regional problem. The emissions from Oklahoma plants do not remain in Oklahoma, and some of the haze in Oklahoma likely comes from surrounding states, particularly Texas, which has a large number of unregulated power plants. Emissions from a source may remain in the air for many weeks and travel for hundreds of miles. Although each state in the region might wish to address its own air pollution problems, it is a regional problem and must be addressed as such. Some of the states in the region are regulatory averse, and may lack the political will to act in the matter. For instance, a fly ash disposal plant at Bokoshe Oklahoma was allowed to operate for seven years while it violated Oklahoma statutes and apparently caused health problems and possibly deaths among Bokoshe residents.

Cost. The main objection to limiting emissions at the power plants is the cost. However, the power plants have operated for years without paying the true cost of energy production, which should include the cost of limiting their air pollution. It also appears that the companies have overstated the costs by as much as two or three times over the EPA estimates.  AEP reported $1.2 billion in profit last year and OG&E $292 million, so they can apparently afford to address the problem without passing all the costs to  customers.

Timetable. Three years would be a reasonable time for the power plants to come into compliance. It has been known for several decades that the emissions are damaging to the environment and health, yet the companies did not act. Also, the EPA had previously informed the companies that they were out of compliance, yet they have failed to come up with a satisfactory plan. They should have made a move toward compliance long ago, and further stalling should not be allowed.

Alternate plan. The alternate plan of converting the power plants to natural gas is certainly an acceptable plan. Methane produces about 2 1/2 times as much energy per unit of carbon dioxide as coal. And, switching to methane would also alleviate the problem of properly disposing of fly ash, bottom ash, and scrubber sludge. Those, and carbon emissions will necessarily be regulated in the future. Addressing the haze, the solid and liquid waste, and the carbon emissions piecemeal will certainly be less effective and more costly in the long run. If the companies should choose to convert the plants to methane, the added benefits would justify an increase in the timetable of up to five years.

(1) Comments may be submitted to r6air_okhaze@epa.gov or at http://act.credoaction.com/campaign/oklahoma_coal_pollution/?r=7901&id=21282-3213732-Kunk_Zx

(2) http://jcmooreonline.com/2011/03/17/the-problem-with-coal-and-politicians/

(c) 2011 J.C. Moore

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The Problem with Coal and Politicians

Thu ,17/03/2011

The EPA has been charged with reducing the pollutants released into the environment, but they are meeting opposition from power companies, politicians, and people who want cheap energy, though other people  and the environment may suffer the consequences.

The Environmental Protection Agency is seeking a 95 percent reduction in emissions at three of Oklahoma’s coal-fired power plants. This has brought howls from the utility companies and from Oklahoma’s politicians. Utility companies claim that installing scrubbers or converting to natural gas will cost them billions of dollars and drive the rates for electricity up by 10 to 12%. The utility companies have defined the costs for the plant conversions or upgrades in the worst possible terms, without considering the long-term savings.  Conversion to natural gas would eliminate the problem of  coal combustion products such as acidic gases, mercury vapor, fly ash, and bottom ash. Although coal is cheaper than other fuels, it delivers less energy per unit of CO2 produced. Coal  produces 314 kJ/mole while natural gas produces 890 kJ/mole, almost 3 times that of coal. Considering Oklahoma’s abundant supplies of natural gas, it would make sense for Oklahoma to begin switching power plants to natural gas.

The power companies and the politicians have tried to define the problem as the cost of the  “elimination of haze”, as if there were no other environmental damage done by burning coal. That is because the elimination of haze under the Clean Air Act is all the EPA is presently empowered to do. Coal is 65 to 95 % carbon. What about the rest? Coal contains small amounts of mercury, chromium, lead, cadmium, arsenic, sulfur, particulates, and radioactive isotopes. Man burns 6 billion tons of coal each year, releasing millions of tons of pollutants into the air and leaving several hundred million tons behind in the coal ash. Some pollutants eventually find their way into the water, the food chain, and into us. Oklahoma has adopted limits on fish consumption because of high levels of mercury. For comparison, mercury is 100 times as toxic as cyanide, arsenic is 20 times as toxic, and chromium(VI) is 4 times as toxic. These three are also are carcinogenic and accumulate in tissue. Even exposure below the allowed levels increases the chance of cancer over time. The small town of Bokoshe, Oklahoma is located near an unregulated fly ash disposal site. The incidence of cancer among the residents of the town is extraordinarily high, though the power company claims there is no link between that and their fly ash.

The sulfur and nitrogen oxides released by coal combustion harm plants and produce acid rain. A recent article headlined “Pecan growers say coal-fired plant killing trees” described the plight of orchards downwind from a power plant with inadequate pollution controls. One farmer said his pecan crop dropped over the years from 200,000 to 8,000 pounds. The combustion of coal  also releases 30 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the air each year. Because  CO2 in 3water is an acidic, the oceans have become over 20% more acidic in the last century. That has led to the destruction of coral reefs and endangered crustaceans and the phytoplankton that convert CO2 to oxygen. Without phytoplankton, life in the oceans would be impossible. The concentration of CO2 in the air has increased 38% as well.  As a potent greenhouse gas, it is causing the Earth to warm, glaciers and polar ice to melt, and the climate to change in ways we will not always like. The Supreme Court, in Massachusetts v. EPA, ordered the EPA to make a determination as to whether carbon dioxide is a pollutant. The EPA has found, based on the best scientific evidence, that CO2 is an endangerment to public health and has moved forward to regulate it.

Oklahoma’s politicians, such as Sen. Jim Inhofe and  Congressman Dan Boren, are working on a solution- for the power companies benefit. They want to strip the  EPA of  its power to regulate pollution.  They also claim it is a states rights issue, and that the EPA has no business regulating Oklahoma industries. However, the pollution generated by Oklahoma’s power plants does not stay within its borders, nor is all the pollution in Oklahoma from Oklahoma sources. Much of it blows up from Texas, the state with the highest number of power plants out of compliance. Acidic gases released by coal combustion, and even mercury vapor, can travel for thousands of miles before being brought to Earth by precipitation, and much of the CO2 will stay in the air for centuries. Regulation of carbon emissions needs to be done on a national and even international level. It is a bad idea to focus on short term economic costs while ignoring the environmental costs, such as polluting the Earth and letting rural Oklahoma become a dumping ground for the power companies’ waste.

(C) 2011 J.C. Moore

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Is the Media Biased about Climate Change?

Wed ,15/12/2010

Certainly,  many people are confused or misinformed about climate change. There are many conflicting reports in the media – and few topics have engendered as many claims and counterclaims of media bias .  The issue of Climate Change and the Media was the subject of a 2006 Senate hearing of the  Committee on Environment & Public Works. It is a good place to start to examine the matter.

Media Bias generally refers to accusations of either censorship or propagandism on the part of particular news sources, where such content is framed in the light of a preconceived agenda. Relevant categories of bias include favoring a station’s corporate economic interests, having a political slant, or sensationalism that tends to distort news to make it a better commercial “product.”

The Hearing: The hearing was chaired by Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK). In his opening statement, he accused the media of over-hyped reporting, of subverting its role as an objective source of information on climate change into the role of an advocate, and of hyping scientifically unfounded climate alarmism. Apparently no testimony was needed.

It was an interesting cast of characters who testified before the committee, two climate skeptics, a climatologist, a science historian, and an oil company lobbyist.Their testimony and the author’s short comment on each follow below:

Dr. R. M. Carter is a marine biologist and well known author from Australia. Dr. Carter testified that his research showed that throughout history, the rise in global temperatures had proceeded rising carbon dioxide concentration. His claimed that some natural cause must be causing the Earth’s temperature to rise, which released the carbon dioxide.

Comment: After the hearing, he was challenged by climatologists to produce any research showing the natural variablilty he claimed, but none has yet been produced. He also should have been aware that the recent CO2 increase has come from the billions of tons of fossils fuel burned each year by man. It is interesting that Senator Inhofe was concerned about media bias in Australia.

Dr. Daniel Schrag is a climatologist from the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Harvard. He testified that there is no serious debate about whether the Earth will warm as carbon dioxide levels increase over this century – as it will. The burning of coal, oil and gas, and deforestation are playing a significant role in increasing CO2 levels. The current level, in excess of 380 parts per million (ppm), is higher than it has been for at least the last 650,000 years, and perhaps for tens of millions of years. We know from Lonnie Thompson’s work on tropical glaciers that this warming is not part of any natural cycle.

Comment: His testimony represents the accepted scientific viewpoint on global warming. Skeptics would claim there is still a serious debate, that the science is not settled, and that man is not the cause of global warming. His testimony contradicted that of Dr. Carter on natural causes and he backed it with a reference to the research.

Dr. David Deming is a geophysicist from Oklahoma University. He reported that his research on oil well borehole temperatures showed a warming of about one degree Celsius in North America over the last 100 to 150 years. He also claimed that the Earth’s temperature has not gone up in the last 10 years and that the Earth was entering a cooling period.

Comment: The one degree temperature rise he reports is consistent with NASA’s data but NASA’s data also shows that 1998 and 2005 have been record highs and that the trend is clearly upward. Dr. Deming is a controversial figure and he has been removed from most of his teaching duties at OU because of his unorthodox views.

Dr. Naomi Oreskes is a Professor of History and Science Studies at the University of California. She testified that in1983, the National Academy formed the Nierenberg committee to examine the scientific evidence of global warming. The committee accepted the scientific conclusions, but declined to view global warming as a problem, predicting that any adverse effects would be adequately remedied by technological innovation driven by market forces. This prediction has not come true as technological innovation has not saved the homes of the citizens of Shishmaref, Alaska, nor stopped the acidification of the world’s oceans, nor prevented the melting of polar ice.

Comment: The testimony was an accurate account of the history and points out some of the effects of global warming on the oceans and the lives of native Alaskans. The village of Shishmaref, inhabited for 400 years, is facing evacuation due to erosion from waves now allowed by the disappearance of year round sea ice, and the thawing of coastal permafrost. Skeptics would claim that there is no global warming so there was no need for markets to respond, that the melting ice is natural, and that the oceans are only more acidic by 0.1 pH unit. (Note: That means they are 20% more acidic.)

Dan Gainor is a Boone Pickens Free Market Fellow and Director of the Business & Media Institute (BMI). He testified that journalists claiming to provide the “truth” on climate change are criticizing America for its stance on the issue and on the Kyoto treaty, while ignoring the billions of dollars such an agreement would cost America. The media is obsessed with Al Gore’s film “An Inconvenient Truth.” Let’s recall the media’s irresponsible position, when roughly 30 years ago they reported a new ice age was coming and we would all freeze to death.

Comment: He claims journalists reporting the scientific view on global warming are unpatriotic and anti-business. Of course, BMI was formed to combat media bias against America’s free enterprise system and expose the anti-business agenda of environmental extremists. He is correct that some reporters sensationalized the “new ice age”, but after 30 years, he and others are still using the incident to discredit the press and science. His attack on Gore’s movie was unfounded. Interestingly, in 2007, Dr. Carter was the star witness for the plaintiff in Dimmock v Secretary of State for Education, who 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.

Was the hearing biased? It would seem balanced in that two of the four scientists who testified represented the scientific side and two were skeptics. However, it was actually heavily weighted toward the skeptic side. A CNN survey found that 97% of climatologists who are active in climate research say the Earth is warming and humans play a role, yet two of the four scientists who testified did not agree. Dr. Carter and Dr. Deming have research records in other fields that give them credibility as scientists, but they are also journeymen for climate skepticism who can be counted on to deny global warming. Dr. R.M. Carter claimed the warming was from natural causes though he has not published or produced any research to back his claim, though asked. Dr. David Deming claimed the Earth warmed until 1998 and then entered a cooling trend. NASA’s data shows that 2005 was the warmest year on record so that is clearly not right.

Dan Gainor’s testimony was not balanced by an opposing view and there was not really testimony from journalists. The witnesses might have included Eric Pooley, deputy editor of Bloomberg Businessweek. He thinks that the press misrepresented the economic debate over carbon cap and trade, failed to perform the basic service of making climate policy and its economic impact understandable to the reader, and allowed opponents of climate action to set the terms of the cost debate.

The purpose of the hearing was seemingly to discredit the journalists and the scientists who do not agree with Senator Inhofe’s views. In his opening statement, he named and criticized a number of journalists and news organization who had been critical of him or his views, but those accused were not there to defend their views. Senator Inhofe claimed the press was not accurately reporting the “hard science”, though his beliefs are inconsistent with the “hard science” produced by scientific research. His stance on global warming, which he has stated many times is “Global warming is a hoax”.

Is the media biased? The “media” includes many sources, but overall the answer seems to be “Yes”. The media likes to sensationalize stories to attract attention and it often moves on without correcting the errors it commits. The story about the “Coming Ice Age” is an example . Few scientists believed that story at the time, but some editorial writers are still pointing to it as a failure of science. TV weather reporters often claim that a particular weather event is caused by global warming. That cannot be proven but it keeps the controversy stirred up and provides easy targets for skeptics. There is also a rush to be first with a story before the matter has been investigated as in the case of Climategate. After all the controversy, charges , and countercharges, the investigations cleared the scientists of scientific misconduct. But, once a story is “out there”, it can never be taken back.

The media also has a general bias toward the status quo. It’s easy, it involves little risk to the newspaper, and it is fine with those who have a financial or political interest in continuing the status quo. In 1997, the Wall street Journal, published an article titled “Science Has Spoken, Global Warming Is a Myth”. The article turned out to be a hoax , but it came right before the Senate was to consider the Kyoto Treaty and may have influenced the Senate to reject ratification, maintaining the status quo.

The press also presents stories as controversies to catch readers interest. They sometimes try to present both sides, even though there is little evidence to support one side. This is certainly true in the case of global warming where all the world’s major scientific organizations have endorsed statements that global warming is occurring, that it is caused mainly by mans’ activities, and it is causing undesirable changes in the environment. Sometimes the press doesn’t try to present both sides. Newspapers often report politician’s statements critical of climate science without balancing it with a scientist’s opinion. One example would be that many newspapers print Senator Inhofe’s famous statement “Global warming is a hoax.” but never point out that all four scientists at his hearing, even the skeptics, testified that the Earth was warming. Another point of view was expressed at the hearing by committee member Senator James Jeffords (I-VT) who said “ I can only say that I am sorry that I was not able to do more to change the minds of the few skeptics that remain in our nation. The climate is warming, it is due to human activity, and only a change in human behavior will ensure that my grandchildren will not suffer the consequences.”

Journalism Ethics: The solution to much of the bias would be for journalists and news media to follow the Ethical code of The Society of Professional Journalists, who believe that it is the ethical duty of the journalist to:

Seek the Truth and Report it: Journalists should be honest, fair and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting information.

Act Independently: Journalists should be free of obligation to any interest other than the public’s right to know.

Be Accountable: Journalists are accountable to their readers, listeners, viewers and each other.

It is a principle of professional ethics that anyone who practices the profession, whether a member of the professional organization or not, is bound by the code of ethics of the profession. In this case, the ethical code would apply to anyone who reports the news.

(c) 2010 J.C. Moore

Environmental Hall of Fame/Shame 2009 Awards

Mon ,08/03/2010

Your votes have been tabulated for the person who has most affected the environment through word or deed. The 2009 winner in the in the Environmental Hall of Fame category is Benno Hansen. He is  a ThinkAboutIt Blogger from Copenhagen who recently was a winner of the the European blogging competition for his articles on the environment.  He will receive the “Most Noble Prize in Environmental Science” and a years subscription to Science News.

The winner in the Environmental Hall of Shame category is SpaceGuy, a Newsvine Blogger. He has seeded the most articles about the stolen CRU e-mails and has been a strong critic of climate change research. He has designed a Moon colony and  says he  “Is totally dedicated to getting us off this planet”.  He will  receive the “Ignoble Prize in Environmental Science” and a copy of the movie Wall-E, which characterizes his view of the future of Earth.

The votes are tabulated below:

Votes for Hall of Fame

  • Al Gore (10)
  • Senator Barbara Boxer  (2)
  • Benno Hansen,  ThinkAboutIt Blogger ( 11)
  • Govenor Arnold Schwarzenegger (1)

Votes for Hall of Shame

  • George Will (2 )
  • Senator James Inhofe (7)
  • SpaceGuy, Newsvine Blogger  (14)
  • Arthur B. Robinson (0 )

Vote for the Environmental Hall of Fame/Shame

Wed ,20/01/2010

The Nominating Committee has reached its decisions. Please vote for the person you think has most affected the environment through word or deed. The2009 winner in the in the Environmental Hall of Fame category will receive the “Most Noble Prize in Environmental Science” and a suitable gift. The winner in the Environmental Hall of Shame category will receive the “Ignoble Prize in Environmental Science” and a also suitable gift.

If you wish, please post a reason for your vote and a suggestion for a suitable gift for your favorite candidate. The author will buy the gifts from his Newsvine earnings so please don’t worry about the expense. Your votes may be given at http://que2646.newsvine.com/_news/2010/01/20/3783801-live-poll-vote-for-candidates-for-the-environmental-hall-of-fameshame

Nominees for Hall of Shame

  • George Will
  • Senator James Inhofe
  • SpaceGuy, Newsvine Blogger
  • Arthur B. Robinson

Nominees for Hall of Fame

  • Al Gore
  • Senator Barbara Boxer
  • Benno Hansen,  ThinkAboutIt Blogger
  • Govenor Arnold Schwarzenegger

Top 10 Reasons Real Scientists Will Not Debate …….Dissident Scientists

Mon ,18/01/2010

It is fashionable of late for some columnist and bloggers to call real scientists “alarmists” and to challenge them to a debate. George Will did so in his column, ”Generating heat over global warming” where he blasts “Anonymous scientists’ unspecified claims about the column’s supposedly myriad inaccuracies”. I do know of two scientists who had sent him e-mails pointing out some of his myriad inaccuracies but he keeps saying them. Maybe a debate is needed.

Cal Thomas, in “John McCain has joined the global warming cult”, claims McCain – and most of the world’s scientists – have been brainwashed by the charismatic Al Gore. Al must be good at it as he also mesmerized the Noble Prize Committee. Cal then issued a challenge for Al Gore and his global warming alarmists to debate Cal’s group of dissident scientists.

But, who are those dissident scientists? Years ago, the Wall Street Journal proclaimed “Science has spoken, global warming is a myth”. Wondering who spoke for science, I tracked the authors to a “think tank” where their job was to manufacture “scientific doubt”. The group was a little short on scientific credentials but they probably didn’t have much time for research, anyway. Most of them spent their time moonlighting for energy companies. However, I was amazed to find that they had discovered a number of “little known facts of science” using Lucy’s method:

Lucy: Charlie Brown, do you want to hear some little known facts of science?

Charlie Brown, looking puzzled: Wait a minute, if they are so little known, how do you know them?

Lucy: Because I’m the one who made them up.

Now that we’ve laid the groundwork for the debate, here are the top 10 reasons it won’t happen. Admittedly, some of the fault lies with the real scientists.

10. Real scientist do not want their cult exposed. They have a secret ritual called “research” which they are trying to keep from dissident scientists and columnists.

9. Real scientists don’t like to be labeled as “alarmists”. They are certainly alarmed but they just don’t like the columnists’ tone. They should remember that Paul Revere was an “alarmist”.

8. Real scientists feel outnumbered. Supposedly, 31,000 outraged scientists signed a petition denouncing global warming. The data was collected by a power company lobbyist and was analyzed using Lucy’s method. Many of the ” scientists” were undergraduate students in Bachelor of Science (BS) programs. One may get a BS degree in fields such as journalism, sociology, education, philosophy …. Still, no real scientist wants to debate an outraged philosophy major.

7. Real scientists are miffed. They have to work for years to discover nature’s secrets while think tank scientists can discover “little known facts of science” in minutes by using Lucy’s method.

6. Real scientists are really miffed. Think tank scientists, with their moonlight pay, earn waaay more than real scientists.

5. Dissident scientists won’t share their microphone. A debate almost occurred at a public forum on climate change sponsored by Prosperous Americans for Prosperity for their favorite Congressional candidate. A number of dissident scientists attended but, when a real scientist was discovered there, the moderator took the microphone to the other side of the room and ignored the scientist standing on his chair and waving.

4. Dissident scientists are not punctual The real debate took place in the 1980’s but the dissident scientists are just now showing up.

3. Dissident scientists don’t want real scientists to criticize their ideas. When 60 climate skeptics sent a letter to the Prime Minister of Canada denouncing global warming alarmists, Canada’s top climatologist pointed out: “by and large the skeptics are not climatologists, they do not come to our meetings, and they do not submit their studies to be peer reviewed”.

2. Dissident scientists won’t follow the normal rules of logic. A Senate hearing by Senator Jim Inhofe, using testimony from dissident scientists, found that the media was biased in reporting climate change. Therefore, it was concluded, global warming was a hoax. Hmmm?

And, number 1. Dissident scientists really want to debate just Al Gore. Al has refused, as he doesn’t think it’s fair to have a battle of facts with a group of unarmed men.