Geez, this again? Seriously?
Two years ago, someone hacked into a University of East Anglia server and anonymously posted thousands of emails from climate scientists. Quickly dubbed "Climategate", global warming deniers jumped on this, trying to show that these scientists were engaging in fraudulent activities. However, it was clear to anyone familiar with how research is done that this was complete and utter bilge; the scientists were not trying to hide anything, were not trying to trick anyone, and were not trying to falsely exaggerate the dangers of climate change.
I wrote about this when it happened and then again quickly thereafter, showing this was just noise. Accusations of fraud were leveled at climate scientist Michael Mann, but time and again he was exonerated: like this time, and then this time, and then this time, and of course this time, and then my favorite, this time.
Climategate was widely denounced as a manufactured controversy, except, of course, by denialists. Because they denied it. That’s axiomatic.
However, like a bacterium festering away someplace dank and fetid, Climategate is poised to infect reality once again: The Guardian is reporting that a second cache of stolen emails has been released anonymously, and once again the cries of conspiracy are being heard. However, it looks like these emails aren’t really new, and were simply from the original stolen batch, but were held back until today. Mind you, the emails from the first Climategate were released right before a big climate conference, in an obvious attempt to derail it in the media. This new batch was released days before a similar conference, in what appears to be a similar propaganda move.
[UPDATE: Congressman Ed Markey (D-MA) has called on the US intelligence community to investigate who stole these emails. I think this is the right move. We still don’t know who did this two years ago, and I’d be fascinated to see who was behind it. H/T Michael Mann on Twitter.]
Geez, I hate to keep hitting this theme, but y’know what? It’s important.
Using a fleet of Earth-observing satellites, the European Space Agency is reporting that the ice in the Arctic circle is already retreating considerably, and will once again be below average in extent this summer. This has been going on for a few years now, which isn’t terribly surprising considering that global warming is real and that we keep seeing recent years tied or exceeding records as hottest years on record.
Here’s the map they made showing sea ice extent from June 1 to August 24, 2011:
Yikes. Back in 2007, the Northwest Passage became entirely navigable by sea (without using an icebreaker ship) for the first time in recorded history. It had already been thinning for years, but an icebreaker ship was still needed to get through all of it — that’s changed now.
Moreover, it’s not just that the extent — that is, the amount of area covered by the ice — has dropped, it’s also that it’s thinning, dropping in volume. The ice volume has decreased by unprecedented amounts as well recently.
What does this mean for the current Arctic summer?
"The minimum ice extent is still three to four weeks away, and a lot depends on the weather conditions over the Arctic during those weeks," says Leif Toudal Pedersen, a senior scientist at the Danish Meteorological Institute. "Whether we reach an absolute minimum or not, this year again confirms that we are in a new regime with substantially less summer ice than before. The last five summers are the five minimum ice extent summers on record."
Just to be clear: it’s OK to question the science of global warming. It’s OK to question any scientific findings, as long as that questioning is done with good intentions and in good faith (so to speak). While poking around the web I found denier sites trying to confuse the issue of sea ice extent — for example, some talking about the navigability of the Northwest Passage as far back as 2000, but not mentioning you needed an icebreaker to do it.
As usual, the evidence here is pretty clear: temperatures are increasing, sea ice is going away, glaciers are retreating, ocean levels are rising, and all the while we’re dumping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere while the spin doctors whirl away.
It’s maddening. But it will continue, as surely as the Earth itself turns.
Every month or so I do a skeptical segment with astronomer Seth Shostak called "Brains on Vacation" for the SETI radio show/podcast "Big Picture Science" (what used to be called "Are We Alone?"). This month’s episode, Plotting Along, is about conspiracy theories and is now online. You can listen to it there, or download the file directly.
This time, I talked about the climate change denier Joe Bastardi’s bizarre take on global warming that recently aired on Fox News — you can read all about what he said on sites like Scientific American and Media Matters. Basically, Bastardi denies humans have anything to do with climate change, and has a history of saying things that, um, turn out not to be entirely accurate when it comes to basic science.
In this case, Bastardi tried to invoke the First Law of Thermodynamics to show humans don’t cause global warming, a truly weird thing to do since the First Law actually supports the idea that pumping CO2 into the air makes it heat up. Without carbon dioxide, the energy from the Sun would hit the Earth, with some being absorbed and some radiating away. Energy is neither created nor destroyed, just balanced. However, carbon dioxide traps some of that heat, warming us up*. It’s not that new energy is being created someplace, it’s just that more of the Sun’s heat stays trapped here on Earth instead of being radiated away. That energy cannot just go away or be destroyed, so we warm up.
The First Law is safe. Phew!
Not content with just physics, Bastardi then moved on to chemistry: this time, Le Chatelier’s Principle. Read More
I received a few emails, tweets, and comments on the blog yesterday asking about an Op/Ed article in Forbes magazine that claims that new NASA data will "blow [a] gaping hole in global warming alarmism".
Except, as it turns out, not so much. The article is just so much hot air (see what I did there?) and climate scientists say the paper on which it’s based is fundamentally flawed and flat-out wrong.
It’s clear after reading just a few words that this article is hugely biased. The use of the word "alarmist" and its variants appeared no fewer than 14 times, 16 if you include the picture caption and the headline. The word "alarmist" is pretty clearly slanted against the overwhelming consensus among climate scientists that the Earth is warming up, and that humans are the reason*.
Still, what is the article actually saying?
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. The study indicates far less future global warming will occur than United Nations computer models have predicted, and supports prior studies indicating increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide trap far less heat than alarmists have claimed.
That seems pretty clear: if true, it means we may not be heating up as much as scientists predict.
Of course, there’s that pesky "if true" caveat. The Forbes article is based on a paper published in the journal Remote Sensing (PDF). The first author of this work is Roy Spencer — one of the extremely few climate scientists who denies human-caused climate change, so more on him in a moment — and his work has been shown to be thoroughly wrong by mainstream climate scientists.
Stephanie Pappas at LiveScience contacted several climate scientists about Spencer’s paper, and their conclusions were quite harsh. They say Spencer’s model is "unrealistic", "flawed", and "incorrect". As ThinkProgress points out, a geochemist has shown that Spencer’s models are irretrievably flawed, "don’t make any physical sense", and that Spencer has a track record in using such flawed analysis to draw any conclusion he wants.
Today, House Republicans made it clear just how antiscience they are (as if we didn’t know already): they voted down a simple amendment declaring the reality of climate change. Not that it was human-caused, or dangerous, just that it existed. Which it does.
The amendment was presented by Henry Waxman (D-CA) to the Energy and Commerce Committee. All the Democrats voted for it, all the Republicans voted against it. So there you go. As Waxman said,
This finding is so obviously correct that there should be no need to offer the amendment.
Yet, it was voted down. The Republicans also rejected a second amendment declaring that climate change is in large part due to human actions. Since that one philosophically at least depended on the Waxman amendment, it’s no surprise it was voted down as well.
Y’know, whenever I use the term denier (as in "global warming denier") I get lots of comments accusing me of using a loaded word. But it’s not: it’s precise, and given what we’re seeing in Congress, it’s the exact word to use.
And this all comes on the heels of a rousing video of Congressman Ed Markey (D-MA) that sums up this whole thing extremely well. It came out last week, and it’s fantastic:
Representative Markey gave this short speech at a meeting of the Energy and Power subcommittee (part of the Energy and Commerce committee) on March 10. Here’s the transcript in all its awesomeness:
It looks like Apollo 17 Moonwalker and climate change denier Harrison Schmitt will not be stepping in to run New Mexico’s Department of Energy, Minerals, and Natural Resources. How about that?
As I wrote a few days ago, Schmitt was appointed to be the head of that department. Given that he is a well-known denier of climate change, Schmitt was an, um, interesting choice by the NM Governor. Things really hit the fan a few days ago when it became clear that in a report about the climate written by Schmitt, he used obviously wrong (at best, cherry-picked) data to say that the arctic sea ice extent in 2009 was back to where it was in 1989. In reality, arctic sea ice extent has dropped since then, and the volume of ice has dropped dramatically.
As Chris Mooney reports at The Intersection, it’s hard to believe the blogs had much to do with Schmitt’s name being withdrawn, but it’s curious. The Washington Post reports that Schmitt refused to sign a waiver dealing with a background check by a private investigator. I must admit I’m scratching my head over that one; Schmitt was a NASA astronaut and for a term was a U.S. Senator for New Mexico, so getting hung up on red tape for a background check is weird. I don’t like to speculate on such little info, but I am not convinced we’re getting all scoop here.
Either way, this particular climate change denier won’t be running the NM department responsible for energy, so in my book that’s a good thing. However, the governor of New Mexico, Susana Martinez, already has a history of being a climate change denier herself (a quick search reveals loads of info, like, say, this), so I expect whoever she appoints won’t have progressive ideas about it. We’ll just have to see what the next move is.
The twelve men who walked on the Moon are heroes. I have no doubt in my mind about that: the risks they took to stand on the surface of another world were fiercesome, and no matter what their fortitude is not in doubt. I’ve met many of them at various meetings, and quite liked them.
And now I fear I must add Apollo 17’s Harrison Schmitt to the list. I hate to do this, since he is an advocate for space travel and was the only classically-trained scientist to walk on the Moon (he’s a geologist). However, he’s a climate change denialist. And while everyone is entitled to their opinions, facts are not negotiable. And this is now doubly important since Schmitt was recently appointed to run New Mexico’s Department of Energy, Minerals, and Natural Resources, where he will have to make decisions directly related to that state’s contribution to climate change.
Apparently, he’s been using blatantly wrong information to support his arguments. My Discover Magazine co-blogger Chris Mooney gives an overview of this on DeSmogBlog, but the real meat of Schmitt’s claims is pretty handily debunked by Scott Mandia and again by John Cook. There’s also a pretty brutal treatment of it by Richard Littlemore at DeSmogBlog as well.
In a nutshell, Schmitt has claimed that arctic sea ice is growing in extent, and in 2009 was back to levels seen in 1989. There are two problems with this claim. Read More
Ken Cuccinelli is the Attorney General of Virginia. He’s a Tea Party favorite, and has been waging a pogrom-like witch hunt against climate scientist Dr. Michael Mann for years. Cuccinelli is a climate change denier, and has been hounding Mann and his research, using his power of subpoena to hamstring Mann and the University of Virginia, where Mann did much of research (he’s now at Penn State University). Ironically, Cuccinelli has been spending quite a large passel of taxpayer money to try to prove that Mann’s research was fraudulent and therefore a waste of taxpayers’ money*.
Anyway, as much as I dislike what Cuccinelli is doing, I also dislike what two Virginia legislators are trying to do: remove the Attorney General’s ability to issue subpoenas to people, called civil investigative demands. If the AG suspects fraud, he can issue these CIDs to get documents needed to investigate the case.
If the senators get their way, Cuccinelli would no longer be able to harass Mann, but if I understand this correctly it would also remove his ability to pursue cases of actual fraud. Read More
The world is getting warmer. Whether the cause is human activity or natural variability, thermometer readings all around the world have risen steadily since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.
According to an ongoing temperature analysis conducted by scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), the average global temperature on Earth has increased by about 0.8°Celsius (1.4°Fahrenheit) since 1880. Two-thirds of the warming has occurred since 1975, at a rate of roughly 0.15-0.20°C per decade.
– Mike Carlowicz, on the NASA Earth Observatory site
The top map shows how much warmer the world was in the years 1970 – 1979 compared to the average temperature from 1951 – 1980. You can see that some parts of the Earth warmed and others cooled in the 1970s.
The bottom map is the same, but only from 2000 – 2009 compared to 1951 – 1980. Those cooler spots are hard to find now, aren’t they?
Take a look at the map on the bottom, and allow your gaze to settle on the United States east coast. Look closely at Washington, DC. If you try — squint if you have to — you can see Congress there, rearranging deck chairs.
Cripes. I turn my back for like a week, and all sorts of global warming denialist nonsense breaks out.
1) The interesting site lies.com has two excellent videos in what they call Profiles in Republican Courage: one is Bob Inglis (R-SC) giving a great speech about global warming and how his party is denying its existence, and another by Sherwood Boehlert (a former Congressman from New York) again chastising his party for their science denialism.
I’ll note Inglis lost the primary to Tea Party über-conservative Trey Gowdy, who doesn’t even think global warming is happening at all. Gowdy won the election and will be a Congressman. Just so’s you know.
2) At ClimateSight, a young blogger and aspiring climatologist named Kate has written an excellent summary of why ClimateGate is much ado about nothing. She apparently understands this a lot better than a lot of people in Congress. It’s a tour-de-force of how the denialists are twisting reality and making noise to suppress the truth. I’ll note I’ve been saying this since day one (and day two).
3) The good news? Climate scientists are fighting back.
4) The bad news? Representative Issa (R-CA) has promised to ignore industry malfeasance and instead use the new Republican majority subpoena power to investigate climate scientists. In other words, he’ll be aiming to keep the witch hunts around for a while. Chris Mooney at The Intersection has more on this potential abuse of Congressional power.
5) A report commissioned by my favorite guy in Congress right now, Joe Barton (R-TX) — the one who apologized to BP head Tony Hayward — and which is highly critical of climate science, turns out to have been largely plagiarized. Read More