A couple weeks back, I found myself enmeshed briefly in a local debate here in Calgary regarding the validity of the argument that a continent-wide spell of frigid weather raised a serious challenge to the scientific foundations of anthropogenic climate change. In the depths of the cold snap, a rookie city councillor, Sean Chu, tweeted:
As we were engaged in our local rhetorical joust, climate change deniers continent-wide were re-enacting the same little drama on stages big and small, eventually inspiring one of those killer rapid-fire round-ups of TV news talking-head idiocy on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. “Apparently decades of peer reviewed study can be, like a ficus plant, destroyed in one cold weekend,” Stewart concluded.
In itself, any given one of these minor foofaraws (or are they argle-bargles?) is barely worth wasting the pixels contained in this sentence. But as a whole — as a tenaciously consistent, recurring pattern of discourse — they actually illustrate a singular challenge to concerted and sustained climate change action. So if you’ll stick with me, let’s unpack the mess a bit and take a look.
A group of top-tier climate scientists who were victimized in the email theft known as Climategate has written to the Heartland Institute, sympathizing that the Institute is reading its own confidential documents in the public press, but chiding the “think tank” for how irresponsibly it dealt with the stolen emails.
As scientists who have had their emails stolen, posted online and grossly misrepresented, we can appreciate the difficulties the Heartland Institute is currently experiencing following the online posting of the organization’s internal documents earlier this week. However, we are greatly disappointed by their content, which indicates the organization is continuing its campaign to discredit mainstream climate science and to undermine the teaching of well-established climate science in the classroom.
The signatories were Michael Mann, Kevin Trenberth, Ray Bradley, Jonathan Overpeck, Ben Santer, Gavin Schmidt and David Karoly, a relative who's who of climate science excellence.
They point out that when the Climategate emails were stolen, Heartland took bits and pieces out of context (and, we would add, advocated for punitive action against the scientists on the basis of these manipulations). At no time did the institute suggest that the hackers who breached the East Anglia University security system to steal the emails had been in the wrong to do so.
In the case at hand, (and as Heartland explains in its own press release) an anonymous “Heartland Insider” asked the Institute to mail the entire briefing package for its January board meeting - and Heartland complied. Having received that package, the DeSmogBlog checked the content against research we had in hand to confirm its authenticity. Then we published it - in its entirety, so there could be no doubt about the context - on our website on Valentines's Day.
I’ve been meaning to thrown in my congratulations to Gavin Schmidt of NASA and RealClimate.org, who is the first recipient of the American Geophysical Union’s new $ 25,000 annual prize for the year’s top climate science communicator.
Yes, you read that right, $ 25,000! (Full disclosure: I am on the board of directors of the American Geophysical Union, but I did not select Schmidt for the prize or have fore-knowledge of his selection; nor was I involved in the creation of the prize, which is funded by Nature’s Own.)
Schmidt is a very worthy choice—RealClimate.org has revolutionized climate science communication online since its inception in the mid-2000s. And Schmidt has built from that platform to become a major commentator, and a lucid one at that, on outlets like CNN.
But at least as newsy as Schmidt’s choice is the creation of this prize in the first place.
What a difference a year can make. While the consensus on the Hill may not have grown stronger in the interim—I’m looking at you, HouseRepublicans—the American public seems to be increasingly wising up to the idea that global warming is, in fact, a real threat and not some nefarious liberal plot to deprive it of its God-given right to pollute.
That is the principal finding of a new survey, entitled “Global Warming’s Six Americas,” that was released this past week by the Center for American Progress. The survey, which the authors describe as an “audience segmentation analysis,” splits the American public into six distinct groups based on their level of engagement with global warming: alarmed, concerned, cautious, disengaged, doubtful, and dismissive.
The authors polled 2,129 American adults in the fall of 2008 on a variety of issues related to global warming, including risk perceptions, policy preferences, and values.
Nova’s final pseudo-scientific arguments is greenhouse signature.
The greenhouse signature argument boils down to the following:
Because weather balloons haven’t yet been able to locate the “hot spot” – a patch of air above the tropics that should show signs of greenhouse gas-induced warming (hence, the greenhouse “signature”) – there must be something else causing the warming. This was somehow also proof that the models had it all wrong – since they had predicted that, in the tropics, the warming of the troposphere should have been larger than that of the surface.
As skeptics love to point out, the planet has not appreciably warmed over the last decade even though carbon dioxide levels have greatly increased. While it’s true that surface temperatures have remained essentially flat over the last 10 years, taking such a myopic view of the temperature record obscures the much more meaningful long-term trends.
There is a warm air of celebration in the DenierSphere because the statistical mavens at Climate Audit and WattsUpWithThat have discovered an error in the October global temperatures as reported by NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS).
Lou Dobbs interviewed Gavin Schmidt, Michael Mann and Alan Robock tonight about global warming and states that the debate is over on his program. Dobbs wants to focus not on whether there's a problem and what is responsible, but rather on finding solutions.
Democracy is utterly dependent upon an electorate that is accurately informed. In promoting climate change denial (and often denying their responsibility for doing so) industry has done more than endanger the environment. It has undermined democracy.
There is a vast difference between putting forth a point of view, honestly held, and intentionally sowing the seeds of confusion. Free speech does not include the right to deceive. Deception is not a point of view. And the right to disagree does not include a right to intentionally subvert the public awareness.