Mitchell Anderson

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Mitchell Anderson is a Vancouver based researcher and writer.

He worked for eight years as a staff scientist at Sierra Legal Defence Fund and has written extensively on environmental and social policy issues for a variety of national and international publications.

His blog is found at:

Bobbing in the Big Apple?

We have heard a lot about Tuvalu disappearing under the waves. But Manhattan?

A new study published today shows that shifting ocean currents due to human-induced climate change will raise sea levels in New York by an additional 36 centimeters by the end of the century. 

That’s on top of the 15 cm due to thermal expansion of the oceans in our warming world.

Then there’s the impacts of melting ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland, which scientists last week stated could double the IPCC predictions of only two years ago – to about a meter.

Let’s not forget another study published in February showing that the northern hemisphere will be preferentially impacted by melting in Antarctica – adding another 30% of sea level rise in places like New York.

Doing the latest math, that could total more than 180 centimeters (close to six feet) of sea level rise in the Big Apple by the end of the century. This sea level thing is starting to add up.

Guess what? Many parts of Lower Manhattan are only 150 centimeters above sea level. Some of the most expensive real estate in the world could be under water in only 90 years. That ironically includes the Marriott Marquis Hotel where the notorious Heartland Institute held their climate deniers gathering last week.

Paris Hilton and the End of the World

Britney Spears is a great artist. Paris Hilton is very talented.

It seems the yawning gulf between perception and reality has never been greater.

Truer still for how the public perceives climate science. A new poll shows that 41% of Americans now believe concerns around global warming are exaggerated -the highest level of skepticism in over a decade. 

This is a shocking figure given the latest scientific findings being reveled, even as we speak, at a gathering of 2,500 of the world’s leading researchers on climate change.

This chasm of opinion between the scientific community and the public shows how criminally irresponsible many in the mainstream media have been about portraying climate science, and how effective the misinformation campaign by the fossil fuel lobby has been in deceiving the average American.

Does public opinion even matter? In a voting (and shopping) society like ours, it is about the hottest commodity going. Right or wrong, any politician goes against it at their peril.

Perhaps Mark Twain said it best: “Its name is public opinion. It is held in reverence. It settles everything. Some think it is the voice of God.”

More Blather From the National Post

The National Post is on a roll. After three stunningly stupid articles on climate change by Lorne Gunter and Peter Foster, they have published a fourth.

This latest dispatch by Foster “reporting” from the climate deniers gathering in New York further undermines the Post as a legitimate media outlet. So one-sided and erroneous is their editorial position on climate science that it is best described as journalistic malpractice.

While the Post felt it important to send Foster to cover the Heartland denier’s conference, they of course neglected to send any reporters to cover the UN climate conference last year in Poland, or the current gathering of 2,000 leading climate scientists in Denmark.

I suppose it is simpler to avoid mixing ideology with any actual information.

Speaking of which, there is plenty of newsworthy material being revealed at the real climate conference in Copenhagen – all of it very topical (and terrifying).

The projected rise in sea level by 2100 has doubled since the latest IPCC assessment only two years ago to one meter “or more”. That would put at risk more than 600 million people currently living in low lying areas around the globe.

“The seas are undergoing much greater changes than those described in the IPCC report…Two or three years ago, those making this type of statement were seen as extremists,” said Eric Rignot of the University of California.

Truth or Consequences

As the masquerade ball of phony scientists talks to itself (and of course the assembled media) in New York this week, a very different conference is happening on the other side of the Atlantic.

Two thousand of the world’s leading climate researchers are gathering at the International Scientific Congress on Climate Change in Copenhagen to discuss the latest findings about our warming world. Early dispatches are not encouraging regarding how much time we have to get serious about this crisis.

“The sea-level rise may well exceed one metre (3.28 feet) by 2100 if we continue on our path of increasing emissions,” said Stefan Rahmstorf, professor at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. “Even for a low emission scenario, the best estimate is about one metre.” (Hear that Bjorn Lomborg?)

That is almost double what the IPCC estimated only two years ago.

“This means that if the emissions of greenhouse gases is not reduced quickly and substantially even the best-case scenario will hit low-lying coastal areas housing one-tenth of humans on the planet hard,” the organizers warned in a statement.

The vast increase in potential sea level rise is partly due to ballooning emissions and partly due to improved understanding of the emerging science – even in the last two years.

National Post Disgraces Itself Again (Again)

Lorne Gunter of the National Post disgraced himself yet again this weekend with another outrageously inaccurate column about something he apparently knows nothing about: climate science.

Gunter held forward William Happer as his climate skeptic champion to put those dullards at the IPCC to shame. He crows that Happer “is hardly a climate change ‘denier’ ”, and is instead “one of the world’s leading experts on the interactions of visible and infrared radiation with gases.”

A quick internet search reveals that Happer is not climate researcher at all. His recent publications relate to MRI imaging in the lungs of rats.

Perhaps more revealing is that Happer is also the Chairman of the George C. Marshall Institute – a right wing thing tank that has received $715,000 from Exxon Mobil since 1998. The usual list of Exxon-funded hacks have also been involved with this “Institute”, including Sallie Baliunas, Willie Soon, and Patrick J. Michaels.

National Post Disgraces Itself Again

Poland is a long way from New York, and the distance illustrates the vast gulf between truth and rhetoric in how many in the mainstream media continue to cover climate science.

Last year, not a single English language Canadian news reporter was sent to cover the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Poznan in Poland (except Richard Littlemore of DeSmog Blog).

Yet even as they teeter of the edge of bankruptcy, the National Post felt it important to have a reporter covering the climate denier’s conference held this week at the swank Marriott Marquis in New York and sponsored by the notoriously unethical Heartland Institute.

The UN Conference featured actual scientists and had the potential to generate real news on how the world might come to grips with climate change.

The Heartland Conference is instead a retread of last year’s denialpoloza, featuring the same washed up hacks on the oil industry payroll.

Wanted: Coal Industry Spin Doctor - Ethics Not Required

Looking for lucrative gig as a coal monger? The dirtiest industry in the world may have a job for you.

At top public relations firm working on behalf of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE) is looking for a “Vice President, Paid and Digital Media” to increase the public’s “appreciation for the use of coal”.

And do they have money to burn… Big Coal is blowing more than $20 million for a massive on-line propaganda effort to spread their message  that coal is “clean”. More than $3 million is dedicated to “digital media programs” and another $17 million is being shoveled towards “media placement” in mainstream outlets.

That is just a small part of the media onslaught pushing the notion that its possible to apply an unproven and expensive technological band-aid to an industry that is pushing the world towards dangerous atmospheric tipping points.

This latest PR blitz is on top of the $45 million that Big Coal spent last year, including a whopping $10.5 million just to lobby Congress

It is not often that public gets to gaze this far into the maw of the mighty media machine of the coal lobby. Our good friends at Think Progress broke the story when a senior staff member at Center for American Progress was bizarrely approached by head hunting firm for the position, and was sent this confidential job description. It’s not confidential anymore…

Big Coal is looking for someone who will:

Work with ACCCE’s senior staff to prepare recommended strategies and tactical plans for engagement in shaping public attitudes and in support of public policy advocacy goals.

They will judge their success on the “Effective expansion of the America’s Power campaign in digital media formats (including, but not limited to, on-line/display, social media, and other digital formats).

Lorne Gunter could help save CanWest Global

Wonder why Canwest Global stock is trading at about 35 cents?

Have a look at the rant today from Lorne Gunter - former editor of the now defunct Alberta Report. It seems the market for erroneous and irresponsible tripe is not as large as the editors of the National Post might think.

Last week, CanWest (owner of the National Post) had a cap-in-hand meeting with their creditors and managed to grovel out a two-week reprieve on ponying up $88 million of their mountain of debt. They are now looking for things to heave over the side to stay afloat.

Why not start with Mr. Gunter?

His latest tirade against the know-nothing scientific community is an excellent example of why the National Post has been bleeding red ink for years.

Ethical Limbo at the Washington Post

How low can they go? The ethical limbo dance at the Washington Post sank to impressive new depths this weekend with a column from the newspaper’s ombudsman Andrew Alexander.

He finally weighed in on the George Will debacle and took a decidedly tepid approach to this raging scandal - essentially recounting what had happened and promising no fundamental change.

The Post’s star columnist was caught in a series of egregious errors about his understanding of climate science (or lack thereof).

Specifically, Mr. Will led his readers to believe historical sea ice data indicated that climate change was all a big mistake – that ice coverage was about the same as 1979. In fact the researchers at that National Snow and Ice Data Center in Colorado said exactly the opposite: that vanishing arctic ice was strong evidence not just of global warming, but that we are edging into dangerous feedbacks involving melting permafrost.

Not only did George Will get it wrong once, he printed a second column reiterating his erroneous claims about the most important issue on Earth. Talk about chutzpah.

Alexander ’s explanation of this mess states Will’s piece was fact-checked by no less than four different individuals – none of whom ever contacted the research center that produced the data Will based his baseless claims on.

It wasn’t till nine days later that the center finally got an email from anyone at the Post – long after the proverbial horse had strolled out the barn and trotted down the road. In the meantime, researchers at the National Snow and Ice Data Center issued their own blunt clarification:

We do not know where George Will is getting his information, but our data shows that on February 15, 1979, global sea ice area was 16.79 million sq. km and on February 15, 2009, global sea ice area was 15.45 million sq. km. Therefore, global sea ice levels are 1.34 million sq. km less in February 2009 than in February 1979. This decrease in sea ice area is roughly equal to the area of Texas, California, and Oklahoma combined.”

More disturbing perhaps is how little the Post has apparently learned from their credibility meltdown. Take this bland response from Post editor Fred Hiatt:

It may well be that Will is drawing inferences from data that most scientists reject — so, you know, fine, I welcome anyone to make that point. But don’t make it by suggesting that George Will shouldn’t be allowed to make the contrary point. Debate him.”

Ombudsman Alexander chimed in a similar sentiment at the end of his piece: “the Post can present a mix of respected and informed viewpoints”.

What does that mean? That political pundits will continue to hold forth on scientific matters they know nothing about under the guise of “debate”?

To be clear, this is not just about one or two badly researched, or flat out wrong, articles. This is a fundamental issue of ethics and media that has been going on for decades.

George Will and Journalistic Malpractice

Caught in a series of factual errors, or what many are calling outright lies about climate science, Washington Post columnist George Will has upped the ante for himself and his employer with his latest column on global warming.

Rather than issue a retraction and simply move on, today he reiterated his baseless claims that sea ice coverage is similar to 1979. His source? An electronics gadget blog that has a very dubious record on climate science.

Actual researchers have pointed out exactly the opposite: that arctic ice is disappearing at a frightening rate. “The pace of change is starting to outstrip our ability to keep up with it,” said Mark Serreze, senior scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado - a co-author of a recent Arctic amplification study.

Describing the phenomenon as clear proof that global climate change in underway, the centre says on its website that “analysts at the Canadian Ice Service and the U.S. National Ice Center confirm that the Northwest passage is almost completely clear and that the region is more open than it has ever been since the advent of routine monitoring in 1972.”

“It’s not getting better; it’s continuing to show strong signs of warming and amplification,” added NASA ice scientist Jay Zwally. “There’s no reversal taking place.”

You get the idea.

Perhaps more interesting than refuting baseless claims that global warming all a big mistake, the reaction from George Will’s boss gets much more to the root of the problem.