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Washington Post Op-Ed by Mike Mann: Get the anti-science bent out of politics

Prominent climate scientist Michael Mann, who has endured a seemingly endless political attack on his work, has penned an excellent op-ed in today’s Washington Post, calling on fellow scientists to recognize and resist the efforts of anti-science politicians to distort their work.

Mann notes the danger of a GOP take-over of key climate change committees in Congress, pointing out the war on science and reason promised by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) if he takes over chairmanship of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and similar views expressed by Rep. James Sensenbrenner if he takes the helm of the committee on climate change and energy security. The denier duo plan to re-hash the wasteful investigation into the non-scandalous dead end known as Climategate, if propelled to leadership positions.

Mann writes:

“We have lived through the pseudo-science that questioned the link between smoking cigarettes and lung cancer, and the false claims questioning the science of acid rain and the hole in the ozone layer. The same dynamics and many of the same players are still hard at work, questioning the reality of climate change.”

“Even without my work, or that of the entire sub-field of studying past climates, scientists are in broad agreement on the reality of these changes and their near-certain link to human activity.”

“the attacks against the science must stop. They are not good-faith questioning of scientific research. They are anti-science. How can I assure young researchers in climate science that if they make a breakthrough in our understanding about how human activity is altering our climate that they, too, will not be dragged through a show trial at a congressional hearing?”


Maldives President Nasheed Installs Solar on Official Residence, Knocks Ignorance of Climate Deniers

Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed, who once famously held a cabinet meeting underwater to draw attention to climate change, is installing a solar photovoltaic (PV) system on his official residence this week.

Donated by Sungevity, an Oakland, California based solar company, the Maldives’ PV system is grid-connected and will generate about 15,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) per annum, providing half of the residence’s power needs, according to Sungevity founder Danny Kennedy, whose company donated and designed the installation for the Maldives’ presidential palace. South Korean company LG donated the PV modules, while the three inverters were provided by Germany manufacturer Kaco, and the mounting hardware by Ironridge

Sungevity estimates the system will save the Maldives $300,000 over its 25-year expected lifespan.  The system will go online tomorrow.

Kennedy’s company has made a similar bid to put solar on the U.S. White House for free, and started the Globama petition that garnered over 50,000 signatures.  The petition and offer were hand-delivered to President Obama last month by founder Bill McKibben, who traveled to Washington with a group of students from Maine’s Unity College in an attempt to return one of former President Jimmy Carter’s solar panels to the White House roof.  They were rebuked at that time, although yesterday the White House did finally announce plans to put solar back on the roof at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in the near future.   

Maldives President Nasheed says his country could not afford to delay another minute, with climate disruptions already impacting the tiny island nation 200 miles south southwest of the Southern tip of India.  Its highest point is only 2.4 meters above sea-level, leaving residents at extreme risk from rising sea levels caused by global climate change.

Cuccinelli Revives Witch Hunt Against Michael Mann and Climate Science

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has revived his witch hunt against prominent climate scientist Michael Mann, recycling pieces of his earlier botched subpoena into a new Civil Investigative Demand aimed at Mann and the University of Virginia. Cuccinelli’s previous witch hunt was blocked by Albemarle County Circuit Court Judge Paul Peatross, who ruled that Cuccinelli lacked “an objective basis” for his subpoena, which The Washington Post editors noted “put a damper on a pernicious fishing expedition.”

But Cuccinelli has re-strung the same stale Climategate bait on his fishing pole, “extending his assault on academic freedom” as expected. Oh, and he’s going to appeal Judge Peatross’s ruling, in a remarkable display of hubris that is sure to embarrass Virginia yet again.

In his latest political attack on climate science, Cuccinelli demands seven years’ worth of Dr. Mann’s emails, documents and just about every other shred of paper and bytes related to one state grant Mann received during his tenure at UVA. Cuccinelli wants to see every email Mann exchanged with a list of 39 other scientists, as well as Mann’s communications with his secretaries and research associates, related to the state grant. Cuccinelli only stripped his inappropriate request for documents related to federal grants after Judge Peatross smacked down that trolling effort, although he vows to appeal to re-open that garbage can.

Wisconsin GOP Senate Candidate Ron Johnson Says Climate Change Unproven

Another day, another GOP candidate in denial about the scientific facts of climate change. This election season in the U.S. has been overrun with GOP and Tea Party-backed candidates who deny the existence of global warming, and therefore willingly ignore and denigrate science as a whole.

The latest example is Wisconsin GOP candidate for U.S. Senate, Ron Johnson, who calls climate change “unproven.”

“The science of global warming is unproven,” he said. “It just is,” Johnson told The Associated Press on Thursday.

“I’m not even sure if, if it were a fact, whether we could do anything about it anyway,” Johnson said.

This isn’t a major change of heart for Johnson, who called global warming “lunacy” earlier this summer.  He has labeled any and all who subscribe to the overwhelming scientific consensus that climate change is real and driven by human activity “crazy.” He has described legislative efforts to address global warming pollution as “a fool’s errand.”

Here’s a video of Johnson saying all that, plus this: “It’s far more likely that it’s just sunspot activity or something just in the geologic eons of time where we have changes in the climate.”  Note also his response at the end to the question about what he thinks CO2 does, “I think it’s sucked down by trees and helps trees grow.”

Climate Cover-Up Called "Superb" Book By Former TIME Editor

Charles Alexander, the former editor of TIME Magazine, has praised the book Climate Cover-Up by DeSmog co-founder Jim Hoggan and contributor Richard Littlemore as a “superb” resource documenting the political attacks on climate science.

Writing in the current issue of Conservation Magazine, Alexander highlights Climate Cover-Up as one of three books written this year “documenting the paid political attack on climatology, which is nothing less than a paid political attack on science itself.”  The other titles Alexander recommends include Eric Pooley’s The Climate War and Naomi Oreskes’ Merchants of Doubt, both excellent and complimentary resources for anyone wishing to learn more about the ongoing attack on climate science and scientists.

Here is Alexander’s full review of Climate Cover-Up:

Climate Cover-Up: The Crusade to Deny Global Warming (Greystone Books) was written by James Hoggan, owner of a successful Vancouver, B.C., public-relations firm, and his colleague Richard Littlemore. They are not radical environmentalists. They are businesspeople appalled at what other businesspeople have done to discredit global warming and help give the practice of public relations a bad name. With insider knowledge of PR tactics, the authors explain how deniers, funded directly or indirectly by industry, use their powers of persuasion in advertising and in factoids and viewpoints planted in the media. Hoggan and Littlemore reach a stark conclusion: “Reputable newspapers and magazines are today acting in a confused and confusing manner because a great number of people have worked very hard and spent a great deal of money in an effort to establish and spread that confusion … We have lost two decades – two critical decades – during which we could have taken action on climate change but didn’t.”

The Huffington Post featured Alexander’s review of the three books today on its website, generating an all-too-common flame war in the comments section, with climate deniers offering up plenty of misinformation and talking past everyone else, including Alexander, who tries in vain to steer them towards credible sources on the realities of climate change.  Some things never change, unfortunately.

U.S. EPA Coal Ash Hearings Intensify, Tennessee Hearing Added Following Controversy

Reversing its embarrassing oversight, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has added one final public hearing on coal ash regulatory proposals, to be held fittingly in Tennessee, the state that suffered the worst coal ash disaster in U.S. history in December 2008.

An EPA spokesperson confirmed that the final public hearing will take place the week of October 25th in Knoxville, Tennessee, although the exact date and location have yet to be announced.

So far, the public hearings on proposed coal ash regulations have been well-attended. ENS reported that the Dallas hearing last Wednesday was “packed” with “hundreds of residents from four states… urging the agency to adopt the stronger of two plans to regulate the waste from coal-fired power plants.”

But the intensity of the hearings picked up significantly today in Charlotte, NC, where the comments kicked off with a standing-room-only crowd ready for a marathon 13-plus hour hearing that could possibly stretch until midnight as hundreds of concerned residents, and a handful of coal industry lobbyists, voice their opinions.

Deutsche Bank Debunks Skeptics, Focuses Investment on Global Warming Solutions

Deutsche Bank’s Climate Change Advisors released an excellent report this week drawing the “clear conclusion” that “the primary claims of the skeptics do not undermine the assertion that human-made climate change is already happening and is a serious long term threat.” 

The report, “Climate Change: Addressing the Major Skeptic Arguments,” deftly refutes each of the major conspiracy howlers often made by climate skeptics and deniers – that global warming is a hoax, that the globe has been cooling since 1998, that higher temperatures caused by CO2 emissions will be good for people and agriculture, and of course the Climategate nonsense alleging climate scientists are part of a grand conspiracy.

The claims of conspiracy are not borne out by the facts,” the report states.

The bank’s Climate Change Advisors, working with the Columbia University Climate Center at the Earth Institute, easily debunked each of the denier myths, and noted that extensive scientific studies have confirmed the world is facing a long-term climate threat.

“Furthermore, due to the persistence of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and the lag in response of the climate system, there is a very high probability that we are already heading towards a future where warming will persist for thousands of years. Failing to insure against that high probability does not seem a gamble worth taking,” the report states.

Nature Editorial Slams GOP For Anti-Science Tendencies

There is no getting around the fact that the U.S. Republican Party simply hates science.  It didn’t used to be that way.  But it is now, and the timing of a recent uptick in this phenomenon couldn’t be worse.  

The anti-science strain pervading the right wing in the United States is the last thing the country needs in a time of economic challenge.”

That is the subtitle of an excellent editorial today in the journal Nature, “Science Scorned,” which discusses how dangerous this trend is, pointing out that:

There is a growing anti-science streak on the American right that could have tangible societal and political impacts on many fronts — including regulation of environmental and other issues and stem-cell research.”

Nowhere is the right wing’s anti-science stance more starkly apparent than on the issue of climate change, as Nature notes:

Denialism over global warming has become a scientific cause célèbre within the movement. [Rush] Limbaugh, for instance, who has told his listeners that “science has become a home for displaced socialists and communists”, has called climate-change science “the biggest scam in the history of the world”.

Nature is a highly respected journal, and it is encouraging to see the editors take a strong stand against the GOP’s betrayal of science and reason. Science should never be confused with politics, but the recent antics of the Republican Party leave no alternative but to acknowledge that the Right’s attack on science must be addressed directly by the scientific community. 

Koch Industries Donates $1 Million To Prop 23 Effort To Kill California Climate Law

David and Charles Koch, the billionaire brothers bankrolling the front groups behind the Tea Party and climate denial movement, have added another ‘cause’ to their philanthropic endeavors, donating $1 million to the Proposition 23 fight to kill California’s landmark 2006 climate change legislation.

Koch subsidiary Flint Hills Resources LP handled the laundry duties on this one, but the directive surely came from the heads of the Kochtopus empire - billionaires David and Charles Koch.

The Kochs have found themselves under an uncomfortable spotlight lately after a thorough investigation by The New Yorker revealed the brothers’ extensive funding of a network of groups that catapulted the ‘grassroots’ Tea Party into play, as well as their financial backing of a sprawling network of climate denier groups that makes even ExxonMobil blush.

The Los Angeles Times blog ‘Greenspace’ first reported Flint Hills Resources donation towards the Proposition 23 bill last night, noting that the effort was launched by two other oil industry players, Texas-based refinery companies Valero Energy and Tesoro Corp.

EPA Ignores Tennessee and Alabama Coal Ash Victims, Nearest Hearing Is 260 Miles From TVA Disaster Site

September is back to school month, but the next big test for the White House and EPA has already begun. How the Obama administration handles the proposed regulation of coal ash - the toxic waste left over from coal-burning power plants loaded with mercury, lead, and arsenic - will serve as a key indicator of the administration’s sincerity in responding to one of the worst energy and environmental crises threatening the health and water supplies of millions of Americans.

Two key states, Tennessee and Alabama, have been shut out of the discussion on how best to regulate coal ash, thanks to EPA’s bewildering decision not to hold public hearings in either state. Residents of Tennessee might have a few things to say about the impacts of coal ash, since the state suffered the worst coal ash disaster in U.S. history less than two years ago.