Category: Environment

Michael Mann Cleared Again

By The Intersection | August 24, 2011 1:17 pm

Michael MannBy Jon Winsor

Yet another organization, this time the National Science Foundation, has cleared climate scientist Michael Mann of wrongdoing (here is a pdf of the report closeout memorandum).

Finding no research misconduct or other matter raised by the various regulations and laws discussed above, this case is closed.

The NSF also studied the university emails related to “climategate” and found “nothing contained in them evidenced research misconduct within the definition in the NSF Research Misconduct Regulation.”

Penn State’s earlier investigation concluded (pdf available here):

“An Investigatory Committee of faculty members with impeccable credentials” has unanimously “determined that Dr. Michael E. Mann did not engage in, nor did he participate in, directly or indirectly, any actions that seriously deviated from accepted practices within the academic community for proposing, conducting, or reporting research, or other scholarly activities.”

His work “clearly places Dr. Mann among the most respected scientists in his field…. Dr. Mann’s work, from the beginning of his career, has been recognized as outstanding.“

Hmmm. The conspiracy spreads. Now, it’s not only Mann and his university who are in cahoots, but also the National Science Foundation?

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, Politics and Science

Liberals Mislead On GOP Cuts To USGS In Wake Of Earthquake, Still Reason For Concern

By The Intersection | August 24, 2011 11:07 am

This is a guest post by Jamie L. Vernon, Ph.D., a research scientist, policy analyst and science communications strategist, who encourages the scientific community to get engaged in the policy-making process

My tweet deck nearly exploded yesterday during and following the earthquake. The tweets were so fast and furious that I couldn’t read my main feed. In between the humorous tweets, there were serious moments of reflection. Some folks were reporting news, others were requesting information, but the tweets that caught my attention had policy implications. One tweet in particular was posted by Michael Linden.

I retweeted it.

According to the mission on their website, “the USGS serves the Nation by providing reliable scientific information to describe and understand the Earth; minimize loss of life and property from natural disasters; manage water, biological, energy, and mineral resources; and enhance and protect our quality of life.”

In this context, cutting their budget seems, at minimum, misguided. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, Politics

Huntsman's Campaign Calls Out Perry on Science Denial

By The Intersection | August 18, 2011 10:05 pm


By Jon Winsor

For the past few days, the Perry campaign has been laying down some serious anti-science markers. Between saying “a substantial number of [climate] scientists… have manipulated data” (an accusation they couldn’t come close to substantiating) and saying, “In Texas, we teach both creationism and evolution,” Perry has been going all out for the anti-science primary vote.

A lone, unambiguous, pro-science voice in the Republican field, Jon Huntsman tweeted today:

To be clear. I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy.

You’re not crazy, former governor Huntsman, you’re just working in a field where rational activity has had, shall we say, a strange definition in recent years.

Earlier in the week, Huntsman’s strategist John Weaver reacted to both Perry and Romney’s recent statements:

“We’re not going to win a national election if we become the anti-science party,” John Weaver, Huntsman’s chief strategist, said in an interview Wednesday. “The American people are looking for someone who lives in reality and is a truth teller because that’s the only way that the significant problems this country faces can be solved. It appears that the only science that Mitt Romney believes in is the science of polling, and that science clearly was not a mandatory course for Governor Perry.”

Weaver was also John McCain’s chief strategist in 2000 and 2008. In June, Weaver told Esquire magazine “There’s a simple reason our party is nowhere near being a national governing party… No one wants to be around a bunch of cranks.” Like with Weaver’s previous campaigns, this one seems to involve a large dose of straight talk.

Romney Plays to His Denialist Base: “I Don’t Think Carbon Is a Pollutant”

By The Intersection | July 21, 2011 10:39 pm

by Jon Winsor

Last month we praised Mitt Romney for taking a brave stand, if not a full-throated one, supporting the overwhelming weight of climate science. He was immediately pounced on by the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Rick Santorum–while standing alone from the other GOP presidential contenders in talking seriously what scientists have said in unambigiously large numbers.

Meanwhile, the unapologetic Tea Party candidate Michele Bachmann has taken the lead in Iowa by 13 points. To be fair, Romney has decided not to compete in Iowa. But Bachmann has made a name for herself by proposing things like abolishing the EPA, and no doubt Romney has taken notice.

In a recent town hall meeting in Derry, New Hampshire, Romney took his own swipe at the EPA:

The key statement: “I don’t think carbon is a pollutant in the sense of harming our bodies.” Read More

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Stephen Colbert Makes A Fracking Mistake

By The Intersection | July 13, 2011 1:30 pm

This is a guest post by Jamie L. Vernon, Ph.D., a research scientist and policy wonk, who encourages the scientific community to get engaged in the policy-making process

People wonder why the public is skeptical of climate change.  I would argue that it is partly the fault of those on the left who for better or worse get the science wrong when arguing their case.  When people go out on a limb to claim that extreme weather is occurring due to climate change without any scientific support, they clearly open themselves up to criticism when cold weather events like “snowmageddon” hit us.  Similarly, when the impact of oil spills is exaggerated or endangered species protections are misused, there is a natural backlash, especially when the science says something different.  There are metaphors and allegories that relate; chicken little, the boy who cried wolf, Harold Camping, etc.

Indeed, there are cases where the science justifies the outcry.  And in those cases, if activists want to win support for their causes, they should ensure they are using accurate arguments.  Stay true to the facts. And, if they make a scientific claim, show the evidence that supports that claim.  When I say evidence, I mean real, tried and true, peer-reviewed scientific evidence, not a story about your cousin who claimed his toilet water caught fire because it was contaminated with methane gas.  There could be other explanations for that.

A hotly contested issue that is popping up in all sorts of places is whether fracking, a process of extracting natural gas, is too risky an operation for Americans to welcome into “their backyards.”   Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, Fracking

Environmentalists Caused Recent Global Warming Trends And Need To Do It Again

By The Intersection | July 8, 2011 5:40 pm

This is a guest post by Jamie L. Vernon, Ph.D., a research scientist and policy wonk, who encourages the scientific community to get engaged in the policy-making process

While many of us were howling about global warming over the last decade, Earth’s surface temperature actually failed to significantly increase.  Yes, I said it. Global surface temperature showed little warming between 1998 and 2008. But, don’t go and broadcast the demise of the global warming movement quite yet.  The reasons for the cooling trend are not encouraging.  In fact, they are quite threatening.  And, if environmentalists have their way (and I think they should), global warming will reemerge and may do so at an alarming rate.

A team of researchers led by Harvard professor James Stock have determined that gases resulting from human activities in conjunction with natural variables can explain the “1999-2008 hiatus in warming.”  Using published statistical models, they were able to demonstrate that a rapid increase in coal consumption in Asia likely generates sufficient sulfur emissions to reduce global surface temperatures.  They write,

We find that this hiatus in warming coincides with a period of little increase in the sum of anthropogenic and natural forcings. Declining solar insolation as part of a normal eleven-year cycle, and a cyclical change from an El Nino to a La Nina dominate our measure of anthropogenic effects because rapid growth in short-lived sulfur emissions partially offsets rising greenhouse gas concentrations.

In other words, despite the influence of other natural variables, sulfur dioxide is the major driver of recent temperature fluctuations.  Sulfur dioxide is a natural by-product of burning coal.  Accumulation of sulfur dioxide aerosols in the atmosphere reflects the sun’s rays leading to a cooling effect on global surface temperatures.  Because emissions from human activities greatly exceed natural production, increased dependence upon coal-based energy production can lead to sulfur dioxide-driven cooling effects that counteract the warming caused by increasing carbon dioxide.

The authors cite China’s growing dependence on coal as an energy source to explain the increase in sulfur emissions.  From 2003 to 2007, Chinese coal consumption more than doubled.  Prior to that, it took 22 years for China to double its coal usage.  Whereas global coal consumption increased by 27% from 1980 to 2002, the recent Chinese growth rate which occurs over a 4 year period (5 times the previous rate) represents 77% of the 26% rise in global coal consumption.

So why not rely on sulfur dioxide as a geoengineering tactic for regulating global warming? Read More

New Science From the NCDC Makes It More Difficult To Communicate Climate Change

By The Intersection | June 27, 2011 1:00 pm

This is a guest post by Jamie L. Vernon, Ph.D., a research scientist and policy wonk, who encourages the scientific community to get engaged in the policy-making process

Many of us were shocked by the horrific tornado outbreaks that occurred this spring.  And, yes, parts of the country are currently experiencing record high temperatures this summer, like never-before-seen temperatures as high as 117 degrees Fahrenheit in Amarillo Childress, Texas.  If I was a scaremonger, I might use these events to argue the case for anthropogenic global warming.  However, the science doesn’t necessarily support this argument, so I do not participate in such behavior.  The science predicts that extreme weather events will be more likely and more often, but for now it is difficult to say whether we have reached the point at which those predictions are becoming reality.

To complicate things further, the science behind climate change occasionally presents information that, at first glance, appears to be contradictory to the concept of global warming.  Case in point, NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) recently released the “new temperature normals.”  These figures represent the average temperatures taken over the last 30 years.  Surely, you’ve seen your local weatherman mention the normal high and normal low for the day.  Usually this is accompanied by how the rainfall for the month compares to the average.  The new calculations have provided some misleading results, when looking at them from a global warming perspective.

Dan Satterfield is a Certified Broadcast Meteorologist, which means he has a background in atmospheric physics.  This makes him a rare breed among meteorologists, a real scientist.  Dan writes on his blog at the AGU Blogosphere, that the country is definitely getting hotter, but the way we present the data may mislead some people.  According to Dan, calculations from the NCDC show that the new normal temperatures in the northern areas of North America have increased.  These increases are most pronounced during the winter and nights.  This trend has been predicted and was expected by scientists based on the phenomenon of global warming.

One result that was expected by the scientists but will most likely be confusing to the public is that “normal” summer temperatures in parts of Oklahoma and Texas have actually dropped slightly.  The reason?  Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, Global Warming

Santorum on Limbaugh: Climate Change Is a "Scheme" for "More Government"

By The Intersection | June 9, 2011 9:57 pm

by Jon Winsor

No surprise, but Rick Santorum appeared on Rush Limbaugh today and made an effort to scoop up Mitt’s lost support:

The argument is a familiar kind, which I’ll have more to say about in the coming days:

“To me this is an opportunity for the left to create — it’s really a beautifully concocted scheme because they know that the earth is gonna cool and warm. It’s been on a warming trend so they said, ‘Oh, let’s take advantage of that and say that we need the government to come in and regulate your life some more because it’s getting warmer.'”

“It’s just an excuse for more government control of your life…”


Chris Christie Defers to the Experts on Climate Change

By The Intersection | May 27, 2011 12:03 pm

This is a guest post by Jamie L. Vernon, Ph.D., an HIV research scientist and aspiring policy wonk, who recently moved to D.C. to get a taste of the action

Just a few months ago, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie proclaimed his doubt that climate change is occurring due to human activities.  At a town hall meeting held in Tom’s River, NJ, Christie made these comments:

“Mankind, is it responsible for global warming? Well I’ll tell you something. I have seen evidence on both sides of it. I’m skeptical — I’m skeptical. And you know, I think at the at the end of this, I think we’re going to need more science to prove something one way or the other.”

Yesterday, he announced that he has changed his position. I’m not sure what science has been done in the last 6 months to convince Governor Christie to make this change.  As far as I know, the science today is exactly the same as the science then.  Regardless, Christie recently met with two expert scientists, Ken Miller, a geologist with long experience documenting sea level changes, and atmospheric science Anthony Broccoli, both from Rutgers University.  I guess all politics (and now science) is local.  After holding these meetings, the Governor has apparently seen the light and has decided to defer to the experts on this controversial issue.

Here is a clip from the press conference at the NJ State House in which he explains  how he came to appreciate the role humans play in climate change:

Christie has been touted time and again for his leadership on conservative issues. So, the news of his conversion will surely send shock waves through the Republican Party, many of whom have been carrying the climate skeptics’ flag for some time now.

Is this a sign that the Republican Party may soon be “coming to Jesus” on the climate issue?  Read More

Ancient Echoes from the Mediterranean Resonate with Modern Climate Fight

By The Intersection | May 9, 2011 12:21 pm

This is a guest post by Jamie L. Vernon, Ph.D., an HIV research scientist and aspiring policy wonk, who recently moved to D.C. to get a taste of the action

Well, today Chris is somewhere in the Mediterranean Sea. For those who aren’t aware, he is on the Center for Inquiry Travel Club Cruise with the likes of Joyce Salisbury, Lawrence Krauss and Phil Plait.  I can only imagine the discussions they are having as they travel across seas that were once the battlegrounds for control of ideas and thought in the world. Most often those conflicts occurred between religious and scientific views, which in many cases is not very different from what is occurring today.

The cruise will be visiting ports of call in Italy and the Greek Islands, places where no man or woman can visit without reflecting on the scientific history that began there.

Will Phil Plait take a late night stroll on the upper deck to catch a glimpse of our galaxy as it passes overhead? If so, will he think about the fact that our galaxy, the study of which has forced massive changes in religious thought, ultimately bears its name because of the story of a jealous Greek goddess?

Hera, the wife of Zeus, is said to have spilled the milk from her breast when she forced Herecles, the child born of one of Zeus’ adulterous escapades, to stop suckling. The spilled milk appeared in the sky and became known as the Milky Way.

Will Lawrence Krauss catch a glimpse of a star from his balcony and remember that if not for Copernicus’ observation that the universe does not revolve around the Earth but rather the Earth revolves around the Sun, if not for this observation, the Scientific Revolution may never have occurred?

Will Chris Mooney pace along the main deck and ponder the challenges Galileo faced after he developed the scientific methods to prove Copernicus’ theory of heliocentrism? Read More


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