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:

George Will's Big Climate Change Adventure

This week Andrew Revkin of the New York Times lumped Al Gore in with George Will in an article on the dangers of climate change hyperbole.

Fair enough, if it were true.

Instead his article seems yet another example of how those trying to educate the public about global warming are held to a different standard in the media than so called “skeptics” – who often regurgitate long-discredited myths about climate science with apparent impunity.

Mr. Will’s article is an excellent case in point, containing a smorgasbord of the usual climate falsehoods that seem to crop up in the mainstream media like mushrooms. George Monbiot slams the claims in Will’s piece, pointing out the myths about global cooling, sea ice and global temperatures are not only at odds with the latest science, they are so ludicrous they almost deserve a laugh track.

Yet Mr. Will, like many so called “skeptics”, does not typically have to defend his claims. His job as a columnist is to be “provocative”. The individual errors can be discredited but like mushrooms, they can crop up again in the media for years to come.

Gore on the other hand, has devoted his life of late to raising awareness of climate change and arguably knows his material as well as many researchers. He also knows that his famous powerpoint presentation is constantly examined under a microscope for potential inaccuracies by the climate denial industry.

How these two reacted to the latest criticism is also telling. Gore pulled the slide in question linking extreme weather events to climate change and instead substituted data from the insurance industry - which seems utterly convinced of the link between climate change and expensive weather disasters.

George Will was not so responsive. According to the prestigious journal Nature, the Washington Post “repeatedly swatted away calls to issue a correction” on the many errors in Mr. Will’s piece.

Must be nice to never have to say you’re sorry.

DSCOVR Finally to Fly?

Desmog Blog readers know how much cyber-ink we have spilled trying to save the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR). Our work may finally be over.

The Omnibus Appropriations Bill 1105, just passed yesterday by the US Congress contains the following fateful statement on page 141:

“The bill provides $9,000,000 for NASA to refurbish and ensure flight and operational readiness of DSCOVR earth science instruments.”


Details remain sketchy but it seems that the loony idea to strip the spacecraft of all Earth observing instruments has gone by the wayside.

More importantly, the passage of this bill means that DSCOVR may finally be on its way into space where it will return vital data about our warming world.

To recap, this fully completed $100 million climate observing spacecraft has so far sat in a box in Maryland for the last eight years. Dr Robert Park summed up the feeling of many in the scientific community when he described DSCOVR as “the most important thing we could be doing in space right now”.

Why? DSCOVR would gaze back towards Earth from the unique vantage of one million miles towards the sun – an entirely new way of doing space-based research. 

While much remarkable science continues to be done from low Earth orbit, it is like trying to map an elephant using a microscope. Being so close to our planet means most satellites only see the Earth in thin strips, and vital numbers relating to climate change still do not add up.

After spending billions of dollars, researchers remain unable to close Earth’s outgoing radiation budget closer than 6 watts per square meter – that “noise” in the data is almost six times larger than the effect of climate change we are trying to see.

DSCOVR would instead see Earth from almost 1,000 times farther away with a continuous view of the entire sunlit side of our planet. This would provide DSCOVR much more accurate data on our planet’s changing albedo - a vital measurement to resolve the energy budget of our planet. DSCOVR would also better calibrate billions of dollars of space hardware now in low Earth orbit.

More importantly, DSCOVR would for the first time allow us to directly measure global warming - something that is routinely questioned by so-called “skeptics”. One would think resovling such weighty issues would be a scientific priority but this mission has been mired in politics from day one.

"Clean Energy Dialogue" or Carbon Capture Shellgame?

Obama-mania hit Canada’s capital hard this week but there was much more at play than photo ops during the President’s five-hour visit.

Harper and Obama announced a “clean energy dialogue” focusing on “carbon capture and storage” technology (CCS) – a stash-the-emissions pipe-dream that remains unproven on an commercial scale anywhere in the world.

In particular, the myth that CCS will somehow eliminate emissions from the Alberta tar sands is a dangerous delusion. Just three months ago, a secret government memo came to light showing that significant carbon capture at the tar sands is virtually impossible

“Only a small percentage of emitted CO2 is ‘capturable’ since most emissions aren’t pure enough,” federal experts concluded. “Only limited near-term opportunities exist in the oilsands and they largely relate to upgrader facilities.”

That of course has not stopped the Harper government and the oil lobby from trotting out this dubious technical fix as a rationale for the pell mell development of the dirtiest oil on Earth.

Former Astronaut in Bed with Big Oil?

Don’t be too surprised that former Apollo astronaut Harrison Schmitt publicly denounced the entire scientific community around climate science.

Schmitt provided Fox News another climate denier moment this week when he said, “I don’t think the human effect [of climate change] is significant compared to the natural effect.” Schmitt is also speaking at a climate denier conference next month sponsored by none other than the notorious Heartland Institute.

Desmog Blog readers will recall the hilariously unethical stunt pulled by the Heartland Institute last year when they produced a list of 500 scientists who apparently disputed climate change. The problem was that most of these individuals no idea that their reputations were being dragged through the mud by an astroturf group that has so far received almost $800,000 from Exxon.

Enter Harrison Schmitt. Most media coverage of this story has rather lazily reported Schmitt only as a former astronaut and one of the last people to walk on the moon. A lot has happened since 1972. It turns out that Schmitt was the Chairman and President of the Annapolis Center For Science-Based Public Policy between 1994 and 1998, and remains “Chairman Emeritus”.

This may be a lucrative gig given that the Annapolis Centre has received more than $860,000 in funding from ExxonMobil since 1998. But what does money have to do with anything?

Scientists Link Climate Change and Wildfires

The tragic and deadly Australian wildfires are due in part to climate change. That was the message delivered today by several prominent researchers as Australians reel from their worst natural disaster in more than a century.

Unprecedented heat, high winds and drought contributed to the deadly conditions that have so far claimed more than 160 lives.

“It’s very clear, both globally and in Australia, there has been a warming trend since about 1950,” said leading Australian climate scientist Kevin Hennessy.

“In a nutshell we can say the heatwaves and the fires we’ve seen in Victoria recently maybe partly due to climate change through the contribution of increased temperature.

“Going forward, we anticipate there will be continued increases in greenhouse gases and that locks in a certain amount of warming, and in the case of southern Australia further drying, and this will increase the fire weather risk.”

Gary Morgan, head of the government-backed Bushfire Cooperative Research Centre agrees. “Climate change, weather and drought are altering the nature, ferocity and duration of bushfires,” he said.

California Drownin'

The denial machine regularly recycles phony findings that climate change won’t be all that bad, or is all a big mistake. Meanwhile in the real world, the scientific implications of global warming just keep getting worse.

The latest is a paper published in the prestigious journal Science showing that melting ice caps in Antarctica will unevenly flood the planet – leading to much higher sea level rise in heavily populated areas of the northern hemisphere than previously believed.

According to these latest figures, Washington, New York and California could see the ocean rise by more than 21 feet - up to 25% higher than previously projected. Southern Florida could disappear entirely beneath the waves.sea level rise map

For years researchers assumed that the world’s oceans would behave like a bathtub in a warming world – any additional water from melting ice would spread evenly around the globe. Not true according to the researchers at Oregon State University, and the reasons illustrate the enormous forces being unleashed by our continued addiction to fossil fuels.

So colossal is the Antarctic ice mass that it exerts a powerful gravitational pull on surrounding waters, raising local sea levels. As this melting mass pours into the ocean, this effect will dissipate, redistributing waters elsewhere in the world.

When an ice sheet melts, sea level does not change uniformly,” says Jerry Mitrovica, a geophysicist at the University of Toronto. “You get this whopping amplification of sea-level rise in North America.”

Scientists had also not considered what would happen to the underlying landmass when the incredible weight of Antarctic ice is released in a warming world. Researchers now believe that the Antarctic bedrock that currently sits under the ice sheet will slowly rebound upwards, pushing huge amounts of water out into the ocean.

Lindzen's Thermostat Theory Swallowed by Giant Snake

A favorite theory of prominent “skeptic” Dr. Richard Lindzen just had a fatal encounter with a 60 million old snake.

Researchers from the University of Toronto discovered the bones of this massive bus-sized reptile in a coal mine in Columbia and published their findings in the prestigious journal Nature. How big was this monster? About 42 feet long, it weighed as much a small car. It would have had trouble slithering through a standard doorway. Its girth would come up to your belly button. 

The size of this massive snake also shows the tropics were much warmer than previously believed. Snake size depends on temperature - the hotter the bigger. For this beast that snacked on crocodiles to thrive, temperatures in the tropics must have averaged 30 to 34 degrees Celsius – three to four degrees hotter than the present. That throws cold water on the “thermostat” theory championed by Lindzen that in a warming world, the poles will warm much more than the equator, sparing the tropics from the worst of climate change.

Killing Nemo

Scientists this week published a paper showing that ocean acidification due to climate change is killing clown fish made famous by the Disney film “Finding Nemo”.

Larvae of this lovely tropical fish will be severely affected by rising ocean acidity from climate change. Clown fish use their nose to navigate to safe habitat and are becoming lost as oceans soak up more CO2 from burning fossil fuels.

“What our study is showing is that animal behavior is affected by the acidification of the oceans,” said lead researcher Dr Philip Munday of the of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies. “It’s opening our eyes to another issue of acidification that we need to be aware of.”

Australia Government Blames Deadly Heat Wave on Climate Change

The worst heat wave to strike Australia in a century is due to climate change. That was the blunt message from their government this week as the country struggled to cope with the heat-related chaos, including buckling rail lines, numerous heat related deaths and sweeping power blackouts.

“Eleven of the hottest years in history have been in the last twelve, and we also note, particularly in the southern part of Australia, we’re seeing less rainfall,” said Climate Change Minister Penny Wong. “All of this is consistent with climate change, and all of this is consistent with what scientists told us would happen.”

The searing heat has topped 43 degrees Celsius (110 Fahrenheit) in Melbourne for the third straight day – and the first time in recorded history.

12 Trillion Reasons to Get Off Oil

Want to save $12 trillion? Get off the oil economy. That was the blunt message from a recent report showing that the worst of climate change could be contained by investing 1% of global GDP into energy efficiency, green power and preventing deforestation by 2030.

The do-nothing alternative is somewhat less of a wise investment. Nicolas Stern, the former Chief Economist for the World Bank found that ignoring climate change would cost the world economy up to 20% of global GDP due to lost productivity, extreme weather and water shortages.

This latest report was conducted by the international consulting firm McKinsey & Company on behalf of a number of disparate groups concerned about climate change including Shell Oil, Honeywell and the World Wildlife Fund.