Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Guest Submission: Moral Case for Fossil Fuels II

The following guest submission was sent by the same individual that made the first guest submission on this topic. You can read his first submission, and my comments, here.

From: David Okner
Date:12/30/2014 11:00 PM (GMT-06:00)
To: ""
Subject: Re: Moral Case for Fossil Fuels

And I’ll respond to your response:

1.  The first and biggest point is you didn’t actually read my submission, which was the book. I suggest you debate Alex Epstein, not me. I know the book is a lot, but just say you don’t want to read it rather than invoking logical fallacies.

Take a one look at Alex Epstein's history and it easy to see this issue is entirely false. 

The first clue is his education - a B.A. in philosophy. Where are his scientific credentials to justify his claim he is smarter than all of the world's climate scientists are wrong? Answer: He has none.

2. Seriously? This is a logical fallacy and actually a philosophy background is exactly the best background to have to make sure everything has been integrated to look at the big picture and thought of correctly. That doesn’t come from credentials though. Climate experts are just one area of expertise. If you had any background in philosophy you would know that science is based on philosophy, reason. Perhaps you wouldn’t use so many logical fallacies if you were familiar with logic. Smarter than all the world’s climate scientists? Are you serious? Is that how you think science works? You just give an intelligence test and then whoever is the smartest then whatever he says is true? Also, Alex is not a climate scientist, he is showing you the work of the “smartest climate scientists” you advocate. Alex never said he was smarter than the world’s climate scientists. What you are saying is that you are an authority to be obeyed, not an expert to be consulted.

The next clue? He actually brags about working for the fossil fuel industry. It is not surprising he will simply, out-right lie for them. Which he does. For instance:
“One point I like to stress is that we should think of coal, oil, natural gas, and nuclear, as clean energy.”
Nothing about fossil fuels could possibly be further from the truth. I won't mince words, anyone saying this is a liar. All of these energy sources listed are lethal poisons. Now, don't misunderstand me, I am not saying we need to get rid of them, I am simply pointing out they are lethal poisons and not 'clean' as Mr. Epstein wants you to believe. The only possible reason he would say something like that is to deceive because there is just no truth to that statement. Hopefully, even the deniers can recognize the truth to that.
3. Again, character attacks. Logical fallacies. I could also attack your character and dream up hidden motives which are irrelevant anyway. The idea that the only way somebody would support fossil fuels is if they are paid off is ridiculous. You are looking for hidden motives and not examining the arguments in the book. And likewise the only reason somebody would oppose fossil fuels is because they are paid off is equally ridiculous in credit to your side. That is not a valid argument.

I watched his video and I can sum it up with one word - ridiculous. He begins right away with crazy claims that you are required to accept as truthful without any supporting references or evidence. Not only is it filled with nontruths (It is good the world uses fossil fuels and it would better if we used more), but is, in essence, an enormous bait and switch.

4. The book is full of references, which you would know if you actually read it. Just say you don’t want to read it instead of making ridiculous logical fallacies. Debate Alex if you don’t want to read his book. Show everybody how wrong his thinking is.

Here is the fallacy in Mr. Epstein's entire argument - he wants you to believe the only kind of energy source are fossil fuels. He states, 'the truth must be exposed'. Well, here is the truth about Mr. Epstein's argument - it isn't fossil fuels that have improved lifestyles, it is available energy at affordable prices, but Mr. Epstein wants you to believe the only source of that energy is fossil fuels. That is the big lie he is selling. He continues the lie by wanting you to believe it is a good thing for us to change the environment and we need to do as much to change the environment as we possibly can.

5. No fossil fuels aren’t the only source. There is nuclear too, but that doesn’t cause greenhouse gasses, so who cares. If you read the book you would know that fossil fuels are the cheap, reliable and plentiful source of energy, which is what matters when it comes to energy. Energy that doesn’t meet these requirements isn’t very useful. You can get energy from a lot of things, but who cares.

Yes, no one will deny that fossil fuels have provided affordable energy in the past, but now it is no longer true. The total cost of fossil fuels has become unacceptable. The amount of damage to the environment and climate and the world economies has reached proportions that it is lowering standards of living around the world (contrary to his claims) and is resulting in increased deaths (also contrary to his claims). Don't take my work for it, do a little research for yourself. Here is just one study on the matter. And, another. How about this one? Or, this one? And, don't forget this.

6. No, fossil fuels are the cheapest, most abundant and reliable source of energy. Weather disasters happen and thanks to fossil fuels climate related deaths from all the kinds you mentioned are at a record low.  There is no comparison. This is the issue of looking at the big picture. You can’t ignore the positives and being philosophically minded like Alex and myself allows one to make sure the big picture is being integrated and being thought of properly. The first chapter of the book is free.

So, Alex Epstein is accepting funds from the biggest polluters the world has ever seen and telling us this pollution is not only good for us, but we need to do more.

7. What? More character attacks about motives and also ignoring the big picture? Pollution is at an all time low thanks to modern filtering technology and also you can’t ignore the positives of fossil fuels. It is wind and solar that are dangerous to our environment because they can’t provide cheap, reliable and plentiful energy and of course they pollute too. If we were to switch to those our environment would be destroyed and our protection from climate danger would be almost non existant. Hundreds of millions would die if we followed your ideas. People who love what fossil fuels do for our lives pay Alex for his ideas. The reason is because we don’t want our environment destroyed and climate danger to drastically increase because of your bad ideas. Can you fault us for loving our environment and wanting to live and thrive on Earth?

A point made in the book is that some people have humans as their standard of value and want to improve our environment. Others have a totally different standard which is based on minimizing impact on “the environment”, which means sacrificing humans for a untouched Earth out of a bias against what humans do as morally wrong. If you want to minimizing impact on our environment then I think Alex would agree with you that we should stop using fossil fuels. But I and others in humanity want to maximize our impact on our environment and do so in an extremely positive way so humanity can thrive, because that is our standard of value. They are his ideas, just like your ideas are yours. People who like your ideas pay you for your ideas. The question is who has the right ideas. You don’t examine the ideas, you use logical fallacies to evade.

Read the book if you care about the issue. There is no other book that addresses the heart of the subject directly and in the big picture. The first chapter is free:



Paragraph 1:
One thing you are correct about is that I did not read the book and I won’t be. That is pretty close to the only thing you are correct about. Here are some references I consulted on the topic:

No, I am not going to read the book. I don’t need to. It is easy for people to tell a book’s claim is false without reading it – such as books that claim the Moon landings were faked, the Holocaust didn’t happen, Elvis Presley is alive and we are holding aliens captive in Area 51. For the record, yes, I am grouping this piece of work in with those others and I apologize to those other authors for including Alex Epstein in with them. Those others are merely nuts, not overtly harmful.

Paragraph 2:
No, the best background to integrate science is a science one.  You continue to demonstrate your logic failure by assuming I don’t have a background in philosophy. I do. And, no, I did not use a logical fallacy by criticizing Mr. Epstein’s credentials. Would you allow a philosophy major to perform surgery? Why not? After all, according to you, it is the best background to integrate all of the issues to obtain the big picture. I mean, don’t you want your surgeon to have the big picture when he’s standing out your wide-open body? To answer my questions for you, just to make sure you get them correctly – No, I want a surgeon that knows the science and has the skills to perform the job. Same thing with science. It takes decades of hard work to obtain the necessary skills. Mr. Epstein simply decided one day that reading Aristotle and Kant was enough to be able to prove all of the world’s scientists wrong. We aren’t even talking about climate scientists alone because he isn’t limiting himself to the single most complicated science of all, he’s taking on all of science and all scientists everywhere. There’s a term for that in philosophy – hubris.

Paragraph 3:
Showing someone’s motives is not only valid, but is critically important. Why is someone saying the things they are saying? We have learned, from Mr. Epstein himself, he is saying the things he does because he is funded by the fossil fuel industry. That is important information to know and explains why people such as Richard Lindzen and the Oregon Petition Project work so hard to hide that information.

Notice, did not engage in character attacks on Mr. Epstein. I only questioned his motives. I did not discuss his sexual orientation, if he kicks his dog, how he votes or if he undertips the waiter. Those would be character attacks and those kinds of things would be irrelevant. Keep your false arguments in line, please.

Paragraph 4:
I would love to debate him in a public forum.

Paragraph 5:
Fossil fuels are not so cheap anymore (Nuclear is not even close to being cheap, and I’m a nuclear energy supporter.) Also, when you start including the cost of damage done by fossil fuel they become one of the least affordable sources of energy of all.

But, wait! We just identified why the fossil fuel industry is supporting Mr. Epstein. Mr. Epstein wants us to believe fossil fuel pollution is GOOD for us. So, when it spoils our water, poisons our air, makes our children sick and kills us, it is all a GOOD thing for us and we shouldn’t be saying bad things about those benevolent fossil fuel people. After all, Mr. Epstein tells us they have made our lives so much better. And, don’t even THINK about holding them accountable for their actions because changing the environment is a GOOD thing.

Speaking of using false arguments, that whole line is nothing more than a crock of horse manure.

Paragraph 6:
This paragraph has so many false statements (short and poisonous) that I don't know where to begin. Let's just address your claim that "thanks to fossil fuels climate related deaths from all the kinds you mentioned are at a record low." Then, tell me how you explain these facts:

  • Climate change affects the social and environmental determinants of health – clean air, safe drinking water, sufficient food and secure shelter.
  • Between 2030 and 2050, climate change is expected to cause approximately 250 000 additional deaths per year, from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea and heat stress.
  • The direct damage costs to health (i.e. excluding costs in health-determining sectors such as agriculture and water and sanitation), is estimated to be between US$ 2-4 billion/year by 2030.
  • Areas with weak health infrastructure – mostly in developing countries – will be the least able to cope without assistance to prepare and respond.
  • Reducing emissions of greenhouse gases through better transport, food and energy-use choices can result in improved health, particularly through reduced air pollution.

Paragraph 7:
Do you really expect someone to believe that pollution is at an all time low?

More of the same. Yes, I am justified in questioning his motives, especially when they are so transparent and his claims are so false.

Then, you make a statement that is actually sick:
It is wind and solar that are dangerous to our environment because they can’t provide cheap, reliable and plentiful energy and of course they pollute too. If we were to switch to those our environment would be destroyed and our protection from climate danger would be almost non existant. Hundreds of millions would die if we followed your ideas. People who love what fossil fuels do for our lives pay Alex for his ideas. The reason is because we don’t want our environment destroyed and climate danger to drastically increase because of your bad ideas. Can you fault us for loving our environment and wanting to live and thrive on Earth?
So, the scientific evidence is conclusive – fossil fuels are destroying the environment and the climate. And, you want to justify them by saying “Can you fault us for loving our environment…..?” I can – and do – fault you, but it’s for lying.

Just another one of your false arguments. You make the claim that anyone not wanting to use fossil fuels wants to “sacrifice human” and that you and others (presumably, those that want to use even more fossil fuels) “want to maximize our impact on our environment and do so in an extremely positive way so humanity can thrive.” These are both incredibly false arguments and you will certainly get people to fall for them because they sound so nice. “Trust us, we’re the good guys and those environmentalists over there are the bad guys. They want to turn off your lights! They want all of you to die so the air and water are clean. How unreasonable of them! Bad environmentalists! Bad! Bad!”

Some of the several false arguments you make with your statement is that people that oppose the use of fossil fuels want to ‘sacrifice humans’ when it is actually the opposite. By keeping the air and water clean, it will improve the lives of humans, not sacrifice them. And, of course, the biggest false argument you make is that the only way we can have energy is by burning fossil fuels. This is not only every obviously false, but we are seeing an increasing number of people turn to alternatives. Solar power alone will likely rewrite the entire energy industry. That is another example of why the fossil fuel industry is paying Mr. Epstein – they don’t want people to realize they can break free of fossil fuels and IMPROVE their standard of living at the same time.

And, when you speak of ‘maximize our impact on our environment’ you automatically assume that any change is good. That is the central false argument Mr. Epstein makes the entire time – the natural state of the environment is actually bad for us, so changing it (no matter how or why) has to be good. Go back to your philosophy and logic classes. This is a completely false argument with nothing to support it.

Really, do you think I would hesitate to debate Mr. Epstein on these issues in a public forum?

By the way, no one is paying me for my ideas. I would love to get financial support from some source, but I don’t.

In summation, your entire statement is an amazingly bad failure of logic and science.

Reviewing Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Incentive Programs

As 2014 fades from view, I am barely making my monthly deadline for the Straight Talk column. but I would like to leave you with a couple of thoughts for the new year. There have been more than a few articles detailing the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS)grant awards as well as enforcement efforts impacting your health care. First, let's start with the positive, CMS provides grant awards for government agencies as well as multi-agency initiatives to study ideas for improvement of health care. In 2014, these states received grant awards for initiatives to better resource care for Medicare, Medicaid, and the Children's Health program: Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania , South Dakota, Texas, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin. Washington State has received a 65 million dollar grant, starting February 2015, to work with government and private sector health care providers across the state to look at methods to reduce administrative redundancies, eliminate unnecessary costs, and strive to improve health care. So, congratulations to Washington for going after the grant, which is a multi-year laborious effort, and for winning it! The venerable Washington Health Care Authority will be in charge of the project, which is the same agency which has run the State Employees Health Plan for decades and also implemented the Health Insurance Exchange. For more information on the type and amount of the award follow this link to the CMS site:

Scale of these Government Funded Health Care Programs
To give you an idea of the scale of Medicare, it represents 12% of the entire federal budget. Medicaid and the Children's Health Program represent 8% of the nation's budget, but remember these programs are also funded by the states. According to the Center on Policy and Budget Priorities, the 2013 budget allocated 22% for these three programs, which is a significant increase over 2010, when the total was 20% for these three programs. For more information on this you can follow this link:  Just to keep this in perspective, defense spending was 19% during the same time frame. CMS is the primary government authority charged with administering these programs, as well as performing investigations into health care innovations. And finally, a huge aspect of CMS's role is to police the payment system and stop abusive practices.

Accountable Care Organizations
Under the Affordable Care Act, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid are charged with implementing the Accountable Care Act, which specifies performance indicators linked to government payments for health services. In a recent report, 2, 225 hospitals, which represent about one fourth of the nation's hospitals, are going to experience reductions in CMS payments because they didn't meet the standards. Now, in the private sector, this is referred to as a performance agreement and if a contractor doesn't hit his target, he gets dinged with a penalty. However, this is a new aspect of publicly funded health care. A 2% penalty is also huge, because as you have already observed, CMS provides anywhere from 20% to half of some of these hospital budgets. For example, trauma center and public hospitals, like Harborview Medical Center, in Seattle or Bellevue Hospital, in New York, serve a much greater population of low-income patients, so government funding provides most of their budgets. Though hospitals are concerned about the penalty assessments, the program appears to be working, because penalties are down nationally by 4% overall for 2013, compared to the previous year. And let's give credit where it is due because 1,154 hospitals, which represent about 10% of the nation's facilities, did not get fined. This means they met all of the Accountable Care Organization targets, including reducing re-admission rates. For more information on this program go to Kaiser Health at:

Concerns About Cost Punish Clinicians
One of the consequences of the cost reduction efforts, which are certainly needed, is that clinicians who treat these patients are not getting paid enough, especially for Medicaid. This worrisome trend has continued in a downward trajectory for years. Presently, only 46% of doctors will accept Medicaid patients nationwide. Further, by punishing safety-net hospitals, like Harborview, we are making it even harder for low-income folks to access health care. It seems to me if CMS decided to pay even a modest $10 more per patient visit for Medicaid, this would help offset the dearth of providers for Medicaid patients. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter how fantastic your grant program is if the people who are supposed to benefit are unable to see a doctor. Access to health care is really the issue. Meanwhile, the medical device companies are lobbying their way through Congress trying to get out of their lousy 3% assessment to fund their part of the Affordable Care Act, while they charge Americans 40% more for their equipment than they do other nations. Here's a thought, let's use all of that 3% to provide money for primary care clinicians to serve Medicaid patients. In fact, I suggest you contact your Congressman or Congresswoman and lobby for this provision.

This is the healthpolicymaven signing off, wishing you a healthy new year. For more information on my work, you can also follow me on TUMBLR or Twitter. In 2015, I will be offering some new services as well.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Guest Submission: Moral Case for Fossil Fuels

From: David Okner
Date:12/29/2014 2:21 PM (GMT-06:00)
Subject: Moral Case for Fossil Fuels


I submit for you Alex Epstein's book "The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels" which was recently published.

Nobody cares if humans can warm the planet, net warming or not. That is a a childish straw man and non sequitur. Let's have a real dialogue on the actual subject.

The question is in the big picture do fossil fuels improve our environment and make us safer from the climate? The answer is insurmountably "yes" as proven in Alex's groundbreaking book.

We should be using more if we want to improve our environment even more and make ourselves even safer from the climate. That is the subject, not "Do you believe in Climate? Science told me Climate is a fact because greenhouse gasses are real."

Trailer here:

Challenge website:



Take a one look at Alex Epstein's history and it easy to see this issue is entirely false. 

The first clue is his education - a B.A. in philosophy. Where are his scientific credentials to justify his claim he is smarter than all of the world's climate scientists are wrong? Answer: He has none.

The next clue? He actually brags about working for the fossil fuel industry. It is not surprising he will simply, out-right lie for them. Which he does. For instance:
“One point I like to stress is that we should think of coal, oil, natural gas, and nuclear, as clean energy.”
Nothing about fossil fuels could possibly be further from the truth. I won't mince words, anyone saying this is a liar. All of these energy sources listed are lethal poisons. Now, don't misunderstand me, I am not saying we need to get rid of them, I am simply pointing out they are lethal poisons and not 'clean' as Mr. Epstein wants you to believe. The only possible reason he would say something like that is to deceive because there is just no truth to that statement. Hopefully, even the deniers can recognize the truth to that.

I watched his video and I can sum it up with one word - ridiculous. He begins right away with crazy claims that you are required to accept as truthful without any supporting references or evidence. Not only is it filled with nontruths (It is good the world uses fossil fuels and it would better if we used more), but is, in essence, an enormous bait and switch.

Here is the fallacy in Mr. Epstein's entire argument - he wants you to believe the only kind of energy source are fossil fuels. He states, 'the truth must be exposed'. Well, here is the truth about Mr. Epstein's argument - it isn't fossil fuels that have improved lifestyles, it is available energy at affordable prices, but Mr. Epstein wants you to believe the only source of that energy is fossil fuels. That is the big lie he is selling. He continues the lie by wanting you to believe it is a good thing for us to change the environment and we need to do as much to change the environment as we possibly can.

Yes, no one will deny that fossil fuels have provided affordable energy in the past, but now it is no longer true. The total cost of fossil fuels has become unacceptable. The amount of damage to the environment and climate and the world economies has reached proportions that it is lowering standards of living around the world (contrary to his claims) and is resulting in increased deaths (also contrary to his claims). Don't take my work for it, do a little research for yourself. Here is just one study on the matter. And, another. How about this one? Or, this one? And, don't forget this.

So, Alex Epstein is accepting funds from the biggest polluters the world has ever seen and telling us this pollution is not only good for us, but we need to do more.

And, that is everything that needs to be said about him.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Another Example of JoNova's Silliness

There is this climate change denier, Joanne Nova, that goes by the name 'JoNova.' I have read a number of her postings and I sometimes suspect she is actually a climate change supporter. Her postings are so ridiculous and lacking in valid science that it is easy to think she is actually spoofing denialism in an attempt to show how silly deniers really are. Unfortunately, that is not the case. She is sincere in her silliness. Someone submitted one of postings for the Skeptic Challenge. One of her 'proofs' that manmade climate change isn't real is because it's happening. No, that was not a typo. She actually said the fact that manmade climate change is occurring, but not as fast as some scientists predicted, is proof that it isn't real. Seriously, who needs comics when you have people like JoNova around?

A reader pointed me to another one of her postings and asked me to review it. You can see her posting here. You can save yourself a lot of trouble and simply go to her list of references at the end. The list includes John Christy, Fred Singer, Richard Lindzen, Roy Spencer and Ross McKitrick. All of these individuals have two things in common - they are all climate science deniers and they have all been shown to be frauds. Oh, they have one other thing in common - they all accept money from the fossil fuel industry (Lindzen even lied about it for years). One thing they don't have in common is a science background. McKitrick is an economist with no science credentials. If you are not familiar with these individuals, I would suggest you do a little checking. They all have a sordid record. So, that is JoNova's source of information to refute climate science? No wonder her postings aren't scientifically valid. She is using scientifically invalid sources.

I am not going to refute her point-by-point simply because it isn't worth my time. It would be like refuting the 'Moon landings were faked' claims point-by-point. Since everything she (and the landing-hoaxers) say is false, it would take me all day to go through it all and I have other things going on. I'll limit myself to some highlights and invite you to see how many other failures you can find in her logic. It is kind of like a scientific scavenger hunt.

JoNova's ire in this posting is directed at a guide that is available online - A Scientific Guide to the "Skeptics Handbook". The title will show you right away why JoNova spent so much time on this posting. The Skeptics Handbook is her own little baby and she had to come to its defense. If she is going to do this for everyone that debunks her claims, she's going to be busy. One of her statements is (emphasis in original):
But they hide the minor amount of warming this evidence relates to. They don’t admit that there is no evidence for catastrophic warming.
Really? No evidence for catastrophic warming? Well, I guess that depends on how you define 'catastrophic,' something she never does. I will agree with her the planet is not going to erupt in a fireball, if that is what she means. But, if you are one of the thousands of people that loses your life due to climate change, or one of the millions of people suffering from a decreased standard of living, you might have a different definition. Why doesn't she address that?

Now, I want to take some time here and point out the bait and switch tactic deniers like JoNova are using nowadays. They are saying there is no climate change because there is no 'catastrophic' climate change. In fact, any time you see someone referring to 'CAGW', be assured they are trying to pull a bait and switch on you. Make them define 'catastrophic' when they do this. I promise you, if they can respond at all, they will only be able to make extreme statements they can't back up.

JoNova, the argument is manmade emissions are causing climate change and you refute that by saying there 'is no evidence for catastrophic warming.' This is a false argument and you are making it because you can't support your claims with science. You can only do it with lies and deception. Don't feel lonely, though. That is the only way ANY denier can support their claim (refer to Christy, Singer, Lindzen, Spencer and McKitrick, among many others). I put my money where my mouth is in regards to this statement when I made the Global Warming Skeptic Challenge. No one even came close. You can see all of the submissions here.

Later, she states there are no positive feedback mechanisms in the atmosphere. Take a look here or here for an explanation of feedback mechanisms (positive and negative) and decide for yourself if there is no positive feedback. Then, she does another bait and switch by changing the topic to 'total feedback', saying the total feedback is negative. Again, she's wrong. Here is just one scientific paper discussing how the total feedback is positive and states,
A fully coupled carbon-climate simulation and several sensitivity runs were conducted for the period of 1860–2100 with prescribed IPCC-SRES-A1B emission scenario. Results indicate a positive feedback to global warming from the interactive carbon cycle, with an additional increase of 90 ppmv in the atmospheric CO2, and 0.6 degree additional warming, thus confirming recent results from the Hadley Centre and IPSL.

I picked this one because it came out BEFORE she wrote her guide or the posting I am referencing. In other words, this information was available to her that the total feedback is positive, and she just kept going on as if it didn't exist. A true denier.

Her next claim is one of the most fraudulent, and frequently repeated, claims by the denier community on the topic of increasing temperatures around the globe (emphasis in original).
Warm nights are more likely due to the urban heat island effect, which is compounded by putting thermometers next to exhaust vents — that was my point. We can’t trust these thermometers.
Here is an excellent video on that topic showing JoNova's hero, Anthony Watts, is completely wrong on this topic, which means she is too. Too bad she didn't bother doing any homework before making her claim. The topic of urban heat island effect was submitted to the Skeptic Challenge and you can see my response here. Once again, JoNova's claims are based on nonscience.

Amazingly, she repeats the same claim I discussed in the first paragraph above:
I didn’t say the effect was saturated, I said “almost” and that there would be warming from CO2, but it was minor. The Wang paper merely tells us what we already knew, that the atmosphere has got a bit warmer, and surprise, it’s giving off more infra red. We’d be shocked if it wasn’t.
Once again, she is claiming AGW isn't real because it's real. I'd be shocked if she would make sense.

She then continues in the same spirit, making claims that not only ignore the science, but have been debunked many times. I don't understand why someone will merely lay down and accept what people like this tell them without doing even the most modest amount of homework, but they do. That is how people like JoNova make a living. So did P. T. Barnum (although he did not actually make the statement famously attributed to him about suckers being born every minute).

In conclusion, JoNova didn't do anything that shows manmade climate change is not real. She didn't even produce anything scientifically valid and all her statements have been repeatedly debunked. If there is some specific line you would like me to address, let me know in the comment section and I will.

I find JoNova to be like all of the other professional deniers. She is a fraud.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Free Market Won't Be Fooled

Deniers keep telling us there is no such thing as global warming. Yes, I know, I have heard several of them insist that that isn't true. Their problem is I've been doing this blog for a long time and I can point to comments and challenge submissions where people are claiming exactly that. Plenty of them. And, if that isn't enough, just check out John Coleman, the TV weather forecaster that claims there is no global warming, there never has been and there never will be. By the way, Coleman is with the Heartland Institute, one of the Three Stooges of climate change denialism. So, yes, the denier industry is claiming there is no global warming.

Part of their methodology is to go out on a cold winter day, when it is supposed to be cold, and make some mindless comment such as, "what happened to global warming?" But, tell me where are these people on winter days, when it is supposed to be cold, and the temperature is setting record highs? This tactic actually works pretty well for them (amazing!) but the market place can't be fooled that easily.

It turns out, the eastern half of the United States is having a very mild winter. Take a look:

Source: CCI Reanalyzer

It is easy to see the eastern half of the U.S. is colored red, indicating the temperatures have been higher than normal (Be sure to take a look at the temperature departures shown on the bottom of the graphic). The result of this above average heat is a decreased demand in natural gas used for heating and that has led to lower gas prices.
natural gas prices chart
Source: CNNMoney

Apparently, the free market didn't get the memo that global warming isn't real.

So tell us, Mr. Coleman, if there is no global warming, why is it so warm? Not just here (less than 2% of the globe), but everywhere.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Greenland is Melting Differently

I was reading a report about a presentation at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) meeting in San Francisco last week. Lora Koenig, a glaciologist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) led a group that found the way ice is melting on the Greenland Ice Sheet changed during the 1990s. The principle means of melting used to be glaciers calving off into the sea. What Koenig's group found is that, while the glacial flow continues, melt ponds have now become the dominant means of mass loss. The ice will melt during the summer and forms bodies of water that range from small ponds to large lakes. This water finds ways to get through the ice and rivers of melt water form. Some of these ponds are even staying liquid through the winter with a layer of insulating snow on top. This provides a jump start on the next melt season. Additionally, the conditions have changed to allow even more melt water to run off. The top layer of snow used to absorb a lot of melt water, but it has now absorbed so much in some places that it is saturated and freezes solid. Since the snow can no longer absorb the melt water, the water flows over the surface and eventually goes into the sea.

So, if the climate isn't changing, as the denier industry wants us to believe, then why is the means of melting changing on something as large as the Greenland Ice Sheet?

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Time Magazine Was Right!

No, I didn't mean the article in Newsweek from the 1970s that misinterpreted what scientists were saying. I mean the Time magazine article from 1956 that said:

Since the start of the industrial revolution, mankind has been burning fossil fuel (coal, oil, etc.) and adding its carbon to the atmosphere as carbon dioxide. In 50 years or so this process, says Director Roger Revelle of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, may have a violent effect on the earth’s climate.

The temperature of the earth’s surface depends largely on two minor constituents of the atmosphere: water vapor and carbon dioxide. They are transparent to the short-wave energy (light and near infrared) that comes from the sun, but opaque to most of the long-wave heat radiation that tries to return to space. This “greenhouse effect” traps heat and makes the earth’s surface considerably warmer than it would be if the atmosphere had no water vapor or carbon dioxide in it. An increase in either constituent would make it warmer still. Warm eras in the geological past may have been caused by CO2 from volcanoes.

At present the atmosphere contains 2.35 trillion tons of carbon dioxide, existing in equilibrium with living plants and sea water (which tends to dissolve it). Up to 1860, man’s fires added only about 500 million tons per year, and the atmosphere had no trouble in getting rid of this small amount. But each year more furnaces and engines poured CO2 into the atmosphere. In 1900, the amount was 3 billion tons. By 1950, it was 9 billion tons. By 2010, if present trends continue, 47 billion tons of carbon dioxide will enter the air each year. [actual @37 billion tons]

This will be only 2% of the total carbon dioxide, but if it is more than can be dissolved by the oceans or absorbed by plants or minerals, the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere will tend to increase. The greenhouse effect will be intensified. Some scientists believe that this is the cause of recent warming of the earth’s climate. Dr. Revelle has his doubts.

In the future, if the blanket of CO2 produces a temperature rise of only one or two degrees, a chain of secondary effects may come into play. As the air gets warmer, sea water will get warmer too, and CO2dissolved in it will return to the atmosphere. More water will evaporate from the warm ocean, and this will increase the greenhouse effect of the CO2. Each effect will reinforce the other, possibly raising the temperature enough to melt the icecaps of Antarctica and Greenland, which would flood the earth’s coastal lands.

Dr. Revelle has not reached the stage of warning against this catastrophe, but he and other geophysicists intend to keep watching and recording. During the International Geophysical Year (1957-58), teams of scientists will take inventory of the earth’s CO2 and observe how it shifts between air and sea. They will try to find out whether the CO2 blanket has been growing thicker, and what the effect has been. When all their data have been studied, they may be able to predict whether man’s factory chimneys and auto exhausts will eventually cause salt water to flow in the streets of New York and London.

Time Magazine, May 28, 1956

Whoa! How is that? They predicted Superstorm Sandy 55 years in advance. And, deniers have been telling us all along that scientists were predicting a new ice age in the 1970s. Well, that's alright, because the deniers assure us there is no consensus among climate scientists on climate change. But wait! Take a look here at the report of the Environmental Pollution Panel, President's Science Advisory Committee from 1965. Speaking of carbon dioxide emitted by the burning of fossil fuels, the report stated (page 113),
The part that remains in the atmosphere may have a significant impact on climate: carbon dioxide is nearly transparent to visible light, but is a strong absorber and back radiator of infrared radiation, particularly in the wavelengths from 12 to 18 microns; consequently, an increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide could act, much like the glass in a greenhouse, to raise the temperature of the lower air.
This was so phenomenal, President Lyndon Johnson sent it to Congress as a special message.
But, it continues. The history of climate science shows it was becoming increasingly clear during the 1960s and 1970s that fossil fuel emissions would change the climate. The NRC report of 1977, the JASON report of 1979 and the Charney report of 1979 all came to the same conclusion: carbon dioxide emissions would lead to global warming.

So, not only is there a consensus, but that consensus was reached over 40 years ago!

You mean, the deniers were lying to us? How could that be?

There is an excellent video of Naomi Oreskes discussing this history.  I highly recommend it.

The point being, the denier industry, led by the Three Stooges (the George C. Marshall Institute, the Cato Institute, and the Heartland Institute - all stooges for the fossil fuel industry) have been heavily involved in a campaign to mislead the public. And, they are very skilled at this. These are the same people that led the fight to convince the public the medical research linking tobacco to heart and lung disease was flawed. Their work ended up killing hundreds of thousands of people by delaying regulation of tobacco products. Today, they are killing hundreds of thousands of people by delaying action on climate change.

Keep telling yourself these people have your best interest at heart.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Results from the Arctic Report Card

NOAA has released the 2014 update to the Arctic Report Card. What it reveals is mostly more of what we have been seeing. The Arctic region is warming at twice the rate of anywhere else in the world, meaning the Arctic region is really bearing the brunt of global warming and climate change. Here are some highlights (excerpted from the original report with hyperlinks included):

The warming Arctic atmosphere was strongly connected to lower latitudes in early 2014 causing cold air outbreaks into the eastern USA and warm air intrusions into Alaska and northern Europe. Polar bears numbers in western Hudson Bay and the southern Beaufort Sea are decreasing in connection with a decrease in the availability of sea ice. Sea surface temperatures and primary production are increasing as the sea ice retreats throughout the Arctic Ocean.
Snow cover extent in April 2014 in Eurasia was the lowest since 1967 and sea ice extent in September was the 6th lowest since 1979. The tundra is "browning" as the length of the growing season is decreasing in Eurasia, but maximum tundra greenness and biomass are increasing across the Arctic. On the Greenland ice sheet nearly 40% of the surface experienced melting conditions in summer 2014 and the albedo (reflectivity) reached a new record low value in August.

The principle editor of the annual report card stated, “The impacts of the persistent warming trend of over 30 years remain clearly evident in the land and ocean environments, and these impacts are influencing the Arctic marine and terrestrial ecosystems.”

A study by the University of Eastern Finland and the Finnish Meteorological Institute also showed Finland is warming at twice the average planetary rate and Finland has warmed by over 2 degrees Celsius in the last 166 years.
How long will it take for someone to claim there is no change in the Arctic environment or it has fully recovered? I am reminded of the quote of E.M. Butler,
Humanity tends to believe in the teeth of the evidence, or disbelieve in spite of the evidence, but never believes because of the evidence.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

If Arctic Sea Ice Is Recovering, Why Is Everyone Claiming Arctic Ownership?

One of the common false claims being made is that the Arctic sea ice has made a full recovery. The truth is that it is not even close. The 2013 melt season saw a large rebound (approximately 60%) over the 2012 melt season. However, that rebound was from an exceptionally low year. The minimum sea ice extent in 2012 was so low it was shocking. A large rebound from almost nothing is still a small amount overall. Then, the 2014 minimum extent was smaller than the 2013 and approximately 40% below the 1980 level (which was large). The trend line is very clear, the Arctic sea ice extent is decreasing. Still, the claims come in, mostly by people that don't want to bother with the facts.

But, there has been a trend over the last few years that is very difficult for anyone to deny - oil businesses are moving into the Arctic Region. This would not be possible with previous ice extent. The only way it is at all possible to erect drilling rigs in the Arctic is if the ice is melting away. If you set-up on top of the ice, the drifting ice would tear you away from the drill hole. It would not be possible to get a ship through the ice to drill and, even if you did, the drifting ice would push the ship out of position. For the same reason, it would not be possible to erect a drilling platform. The ice would demolish it. The Arctic Ocean, on average, is about 1000 meters deep (about 3200 feet) with a maximum depth of 5500 meters (18,000 feet). The deep parts of the ocean are too deep for a platform, but the shallow areas could accommodate one, but only in the absence of massive, drifting ice flows. If millions of tons of moving ice hit a platform, the ice is going to win.

But, wait. Companies are actually drilling up there and making claims so they can drill in the future. The U.S., Norway, Denmark, Canada and Russia have all made claims to ownership of some part of the Arctic Ocean basin. Denmark and Russia have claimed ownership of the North Pole itself.

So, if it is impossible to drill in the Arctic Ocean with ice present, why are the companies drilling? Clearly, claims the ice extent is fully recovered are all wrong. And, that makes you wonder about the motive for people to make claims that are obviously false.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Can We Address Climate Change Without Texas?

My family came to Texas in the 1850s, making me multi-generational Texan. I was born in Fort Worth, but we lived on a farm out of town and I grew up in the countryside. I was a junior scientist and explorer, doing things and going places that many parents wouldn't allow their kids to do (my parents weren't fully informed of my activities), but would get a lot kids full scholarships to college today. All the while, I was being educated on the history and culture of Texas. As a result, I grew up loving the state and when I left academia and the military I came home.

But, the fact that I love my home state doesn't mean I have to love everything about it. There are many things I would change, if I could. Certainly, the shame of having a governor supporting creationism would be high on the list. At least, he's gone and we have a new governor coming in next month. Except, the new one is even worse than the old one. Hard to believe.

In addition to creationism, another subject our state gets a big, fat "Failed" for is climate change. This is very strange considering just how vulnerable we are to the changes. The temperature has gone up since the 1970s, water shortage is becoming the single most important issue in the state, sea level rise is threatening millions of people and the changes in weather patterns are damaging the agricultural industry, one of the largest in the world. I'm sure you have seen pictures of empty reservoirs. I've seen them in person.

I know a highway overpass over the Pedernales River between Austin and the town of Llano. This overpass crosses a beautiful canyon with lovely, high bluffs. I used to take that route just to see that sight. Of course, it is so lovely someone decided it had to be developed and they put multi-million dollar homes there, equipped with floating docks so they could have their boats on the river. Today, the river is almost completely dry and those floating docks are not only sitting on dry ground, they have been there for so long they are overgrown with bushes and trees. Not just weeds - trees. My stand is I'll know the drought is over when I see those docks floating again. It is possible they never will.

I am involved with the wine-industry and am a certified viticulturalist through Texas Tech University. The Texas wine industry is one of the largest in the country and I am right in the middle of one of the principle grape-growing regions in the state. Several of my friends have vineyards and I work in their vineyards from time-to-time. What goes on with the farm fields is big news out here. So, when hail storms come through and pound the crops into mulch in a matter of a few minutes, it is a big hit for the community. Likewise, when we get hard freezes weeks after the average last freeze, you have to wonder what is going on.

Global warming is definitely making it worse here. I was out hiking with a friend last weekend and we both commented on how plants were starting to bud. It was the middle of December and there are plants showing new growth that normally don't do that until March, April and May. Fall and spring have gotten longer, winter has gotten shorter and milder and the plants are responding. And, that is fatal because the late-spring winter storms and freezes have increased in recent decades. A hard freeze will burn off new growth like a flame-thrower. If plants are no longer dormant and are sucking fluids up into the above ground parts that fluid will freeze and split the plant open. If this happens to a grape vine you might as well pull the plant out and replace it - along with the years invested to get to that point. It takes three growing seasons to get a crop out of a grape vine.

With all of this, why is Texas so reluctant to address climate change? Well, what is the thing Texas is most known for? Oil. We pump 40% of the nation's production, we have refineries all along the coast and we have some of the largest ports for the ships that carry it. Being the largest producer of fossil fuels means we are also the number one producer of greenhouse gases in the country. Would you like to guess where much of the funding came from for Greg Abbott's run for governor? Connect the dots and it isn't hard to see why our state politicians are climate change deniers.

But, the effect on climate change doesn't stop there. The reach of the Texas industry goes far beyond the state borders. To paraphrase the old commercial, when Texas speaks in Washington, people listen.

The irony is that Texas is also one of the biggest producers of renewable energy. The United States produces more electricity from wind turbines than the rest of the world combined. Texas produces more electricity from wind than the rest of the world combined, with the exception of the U.S. Wind power is big business here and it's getting bigger all the time.  

So, as long we have a governor that states carbon dioxide can't be a pollutant because it is emitted by humans, it is going to be an uphill fight. But, the fact is, if we want to do something about climate change, we need to start right here in Austin. If we can win that fight, the rest of the world is doable.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Wherefore Art Thou, John Coleman?

I issued a public challenge to John Coleman back in early November. I posted my challenge here on my blog, but I also sent an email directly to him at the Heartland Institute. They responded by asking if I was the same Christopher Keating that did the Global Warming Skeptic Challenge and I told them I was. This shows they received my challenge, but I have not heard anything from them since.

This is just one more example that confirms my belief John Coleman is nothing more than a fraud. It's fine for him to go around making unsupported claims as long as he doesn't have to defend them. But, there is no way he will go into a public forum where he could be forced to justify his statements.

In any event, if you happen to figure out where he's hiding, let him know I'm still available.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Record Heat Continues Through November

The National Climatic Data Center released the Global State of the Climate report for November this morning. The global combined sea and land temperature for November was the 7th hottest November ever recorded. The period of September through November was the hottest such period ever and the year-to-date (January through November) was the hottest year-to-date ever recorded. Here are some highlights from the report:

  • The combined average temperature over global land and ocean surfaces for November 2014 tied with 2008 as seventh highest in the 135-year period of record, at 0.65°C (1.17°F) above the 20th century average of 12.9°C (55.2°F).
  • The global land surface temperature was 0.82°C (1.48°F) above the 20th century average of 5.9°C (42.6°F), the 13th highest for November on record. For the global oceans, the November average sea surface temperature was 0.59°C (1.06°F) above the 20th century average of 15.8°C (60.4°F), record high for November.
  • The combined global land and ocean average surface temperature for the September–November period was 0.70°C (1.26°F) above the 20th century average of 14.0°C (57.1°F), the warmest such period on record.
  • The September–November worldwide land surface temperature was 0.90°C (1.62°F) above the 20th century average, the ninth warmest such period on record. The global ocean surface temperature for the same period was 0.63°C (1.13°F) above the 20th century average, record high for September–November.
  • The combined global land and ocean average surface temperature for the year-to-date (January–November) was 0.68°C (1.22°F) above the 20th century average of 14.0°C (57.2°F), the warmest such period on record.
Updating the tally for the year, we now have:

November was the 7th hottest November ever recorded;

October was the hottest October ever recorded;

September was the hottest September ever recorded;

August was the hottest August ever recorded;

July was the fourth hottest July ever recorded;

June 2014 was the hottest June ever recorded;

May was the hottest May ever recorded;

April tied 2010 as the hottest April ever recorded;

March was the fourth hottest March ever recorded;

We got a break in February. It was only the 21st hottest February ever recorded;

But, that break followed the hottest January since 2007 and the fourth hottest January on record.

So, let's see what the score is so far for 2014: one 21st hottest month, one 7th hottest month, three 4th hottest months, and six hottest months ever.

Additionally, we have the hottest year ever recorded.

I saw an editorial by an editor-at-large with Fox News the other day in which he stated there is "virtually no evidence that global temperatures have risen in the past two decades." Maybe he should check his facts before he says things like that. But, I guess he wouldn't be a denier if actually bothered with facts.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Greenland Mass Loss is Bad and Getting Worse

Greenland is melting, which is not good. Recent studies indicate it is even getting worse, too. Take a look at the mass of the Greenland Ice Sheet (GIS) and see what has been going on. This is plot of the GIS mass and comes from the Danish Polar Portal site:

Source: Polar Portal

This graph is of data obtained by the GRACE satellite and shows the change in mass due to the small change in the gravity field. It is easy to see the total mass of the the GIS is declining. The upticks in the graph show the mass is growing in the winter and the down ticks show the mass is declining in the summer. Hopefully, that is not a surprise nor should there be any controversy with that. But, what we see is that over a period of time the mass is decreasing more during the summer melt season than it is growing during the winter freeze season. As a result, the overall mass is decreasing on an annual basis.

But, there is something even more significant. Take a trend line for the period of about 2003 - 2009. Then, take another trend line for the period of 2010 - 2014. The second trend line is much steeper than the first. That means the rate of decline was much greater in the second period than in the first. Is the rate of decline accelerating? The data suggests it is and is something we will need to monitor. But, it gets worse.

A recent study used NASA laser altimeter data to study the entire surface of the ice sheet. That study found the estimate of mass loss was actually low and the amount lost during the 2003 - 2009 period amounted to 243 metric gigatons per year. This mass loss was enough that it contributed .68 millimeters of sea rise per year. During that one, seven-year period, Greenland melt water raised the oceans by about 5 millimeters (about .2 inches) all by itself. Projections are that melt water from the GIS will add about 9 inches (22 centimeters) to the sea level by the year 2100. That figure does not include melt water from Antarctica and glaciers.

Meanwhile, another study has been released that also indicates the melt rate is not going in our favor. The second study has to do with the melt ponds on the surface of the ice. As the ice melts in the summer, not all of it can flow away and it forms lakes on top of the ice. Sometimes, these lakes will refreeze when winter returns. Sometimes, the ice will crack and the water can flow into the interior of the ice sheet in a matter of a few hours. Either way, melt ponds are not good. Ponds are darker than ice and absorb more sunlight than the bright ice. The more ponds you have, the more heat gets absorbed, leading to more melting. If the water flows into the interior then it transports that heat into regions that would otherwise be insulated. That heat then gets trapped inside instead of being able to radiate into space. One scenario leads to more melting. The second scenario leads to a lot more melting.

The study released some interesting data. The melt ponds normally do not form outside of a band along the edge of the ice sheet. Away from the coast, it remains cold enough through most summers to prevent melt ponds from forming. But, that melt pond band has grown by 35 miles (56 kilometers) since the 1970s and is expected to have doubled by the middle of this century. Meaning, the melt rate will accelerate.

This changing nature of the melt ponds has not been included in projections, so the authors of this study believe the projections are low and we can expect to see even larger amounts of ice melt than we previously thought we would.

All in all, the data is not looking good for anyone in low-lying coastal areas. That's only a few billion people.

Once again, tell me how global warming is good for us.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Deniers Win This One - Thanks Greenpeace

You would think a group as devoted to protecting the environment as Green Peace is would know better than to pull off the stunt they did this week in Peru. While the international climate conference was in progress in Lima, Green Peace activists decided to make a splash protest demonstration. But their choice of how to go about doing this was both poorly advised and very curiously against their own philosophy. They chose to trespass on a world heritage site and damaged the amazing Nazca lines by putting a protest message out there.

The Nazca lines are made by removing a very thin layer of what is called 'desert varnish,' a thin crust over a lighter-colored substrate. For some unknown reason, the people living in the area 1500 years ago very carefully removed this varnish to make various drawings. This varnish is so thin that walking on it will damage it. And, that is just what Green Peace did. They trespassed on the site and walked out there to place signs on the surface that were visible from the air. I wonder if future pictures of the site will point out the tracks left behind by these people.

While I laud the thought of making a statement, I condemn the way they did it. For the record, Green Peace itself has been extremely apologetic about this action taken by some of its members and apparently had no foreknowledge of it. Still, the damage is done and not to just the Nazca lines. Now, any time we talk about how climate change is damaging the environment we will have to defend climate science against this criminal act.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Are Republican's Coming Around on Climate Change?

Can the Republicans really be changing their ways? Even just a little?

Last month, Senator John Thune, R-SD, stated,
“Well, look, climate change is occurring, it’s always occurring, Chris,” he said on Fox News Sunday, addressing the host, Chris Wallace. “There are a number of factors that contribute to that, including human activity. The question is, what are we going to do about it and at what cost?”
Can we hear that again? - "There are a number of factors that contribute to that (climate change), including human activity." (Emphasis added.) I wonder if he got a phone call from the Heartland Institute the next day threatening to cut off their donations.

But, it doesn't stop there. Congress Chris, R-NY announced he intends to introduce a resolution acknowledging the role human emissions play in climate change.
“My district has been hit with three 500-year floods in the last several years, so either you believe that we had a one in over 100 million probability that occurred, or you believe as I do that there’s a new normal, and we have changing weather patterns, and we have climate change. This is the science,” Gibson reportedly told his audience."
 Wow! So refreshing. It is certainly a start and it's easy to think this might be the start of something good. But, let's not forget, these are the same people that decided to ignore their own scientists. Other historical evidence is not good, either.

Let's keep an eye on this and see what happens.

California Drought

As we (hopefully!) know, California has been suffering through a record-breaking drought these last few years. Recent studies have indicated that this has been the worst California drought in as much as 1200 years. Now, there is some relief coming. California has been hit with some rain in recent weeks and is now getting more. In fact, there is an atmospheric river in place that promises to bring quite a bit of precipitation. Rain would be great, snow would be even better.

If you are not familiar with the term, an atmospheric river (AR) is a narrow band of atmospheric moisture and they are responsible for the majority of moisture movement outside of the tropics. They form in the lower atmosphere and can move with wind currents for thousands of miles, lasting many days. When they strike obstacles, such as mountain ranges, the uplift causes the moisture to condense and precipitate out. That is why they cause so much precipitation in California - they travel in from the Pacific and strike the Sierra Nevada mountains. Take a look at this graphic showing the amount of precipitable water in the atmosphere and you can clearly see the atmospheric river heading into California.

Source: CCI Reanalyzer

Note how the AR passes over Hawaii, hence the nickname "Pineapple Express." Also, notice how much more moisture there is in the tropics. You can also see how the AR ends on the West Coast and doesn't move inland very much. West of the mountains will get rain, but the areas east of the mountains will remain dry. While some rain is good, ARs are capable of bringing catastrophic amounts. An AR in 1861-2 brought 43 straight days of rain to the West Coast and turned the interior valleys into lakes, causing massive amounts of damage and killing thousands.

Is this the end of the drought? We can hope so, but we'll have to wait and see to be sure. Hopefully, we won't see anything like the AR of 1861.

So, now the question is, is the drought a naturally-occurring event or because of climate change? The answer, as is typically the case, a mixture of both. California has had droughts in the past and will continue to have them in the future. This drought may have been a naturally occurring event. There are reports going both ways. But, the one thing that is consistent is that global warming certainly made this drought much worse than ones in the past. What studies have shown is that there have been droughts in the past that had even less rain than this current one, but they were all much cooler. This current drought has been a 'hot drought' and California has experienced record high temperatures (remember that the next time someone tells you East Coast temperatures mean the planet is cooling) at the same time the rain failed.

In short, the drought was caused by what has become known as the 'ridiculously resilient ridge.' This ridge caused the wind currents to go north, parallel to the West Coast, preventing moisture from reaching the coastal regions. The currents went up into Alaska and Canada before turning south and plunging into Mid-America, leading to our cooler than average winters in the east these last couple of years. There is debate if this ridge was natural or caused by climate change. But, drought was exacerbated by the high temperatures and the higher temperatures were most certainly caused by global warming.

What that means is that we can expect the naturally occurring drought cycle going forward, but they will look more and more like this last one. Even if this AR brings relief, California needs to make plans because this is going to happen again.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Australia and Climate Change - Updated

When Julia Gillard was campaigning for Prime Minister of Australia in 2010, she stated no carbon tax would be imposed under a government she led, but did exactly that with the Clean Energy Bill of 2011. This led to her being met with placards that read 'Ju-liar' and, through a series of Parliament events, resigned her position as Prime Minister in June, 2013. Tony Abbott hammered her on the broken promise. His conservative coalition won the September 2013 election and Abbott introduced a bill on his first day as Prime Minister to repeal the carbon tax. The bill passed in July 2014, much to the fanfare of climate change deniers and fossil fuel billionaires everywhere.

Happily ever after? Not hardly.

While campaigning, Abbott vowed he would not cut popular programs. Now that he is in charge, he has cut funding for schools and hospitals by A$80 billion over the next decade. As can be expected from someone that is demonstrating his contempt for science, the science budget is being hit with cuts of A$420 million. The national science budget amount to just .6% of the national GDP. His reasoning for cutting their budgets? To cut the budget deficit.

But, wait a minute, one of the reasons Australia has a budget deficit is because Abbott cut the carbon tax and then replaced it with a tax-payer funded program to pay polluters to cut back on carbon emissions. Instead of making the polluters pay to clean-up their own mess, Abbott decided the taxpayers had to pay for it. Instead of having an income stream, he now has an expense. Who benefits and you doesn't? Well, the polluters benefit because they are now being paid by the government to pollute. The more they pollute, the more they get to clean it up. The taxpayers lost because their tax dollars are being used to pay Abbott's corporate sponsors and they have to live in the pollution.

Now, the government is reeling and Abbott is getting back what he dished out - his integrity is being questioned and he is being accused of lying about his campaign promises. Ms. Gillard probably thinks it all sounds familiar. The popularity of Abbott's coalition government has plummeted and he is being met with placards that read, "Abbott-Liar." On November 29, Abbott's coalition lost in the state election in Victoria.

Abbott is finding himself isolated in the international community, as well. As the U.S. and China negotiate limits to greenhouse gas emissions, Abbott is busy paying polluters to clean-up their own mess. Abbott tried, and failed, to keep climate change off the G-20 agenda. The man that said the "climate change argument is absolute crap," is now finding himself in the minority on the issue.

It just keeps getting worse for them. The Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop has been getting hammered from all sides on the issue. First, being embarrassed at the Australia-hosted G-20 conference on the subject, and now at the climate change conference in Lima, Peru.

So, Australians decided to elect a guy that is beholden to the fossil fuel industry, and now they aren't happy when they find out he will take care of industry instead of the citizens. I feel like saying this is a case of voter beware, except for the fact that we pretty much did the same thing in this country when we gave the Republicans full control of Congress last month. That is likely to be something we will regret, so I can't wag a finger at Australia.

UPDATE (12/10/2014): Did Australia cave in to international pressure? After saying all along that Australia would not contribute to the UN's global green fund, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has now announced Australia will pledge A$200 million to the fund to help third-world countries deal with climate change. Is this the start of a change in policy? We'll have to wait and see. 

Louisiana Candidate for Congress Self Destructs

I am frequently accused of being a liberal-progressive because I stand by the science of climate change. Not only is that wildly false, it is a prime example of how polarized the debate has become. People are making assumptions on my political views with nothing to support their conclusion other than their desire for it to be true. Much like their conclusions on climate science to begin with. Who needs facts when you have a preconceived conclusion? I don't really care to discuss my political beliefs, but I will state that I am a very committed independent and I always have been. I have never belonged to any political party and I probably never will. I believe very strongly both the Democrats and the Republicans are dominated by extremists. I view the Democrats to be the party that has rejected logic while the Republicans have rejected science. Just when I think I have heard some representative from one party say something that is so stupid it can't be beat, someone from the other party will open their mouth and prove me wrong. Does anyone really wonder why we have so little trust in our elected officials?

So, I have been asked to review a statement made by Lenar Whitney, a Republican candidate for Congress in the Louisiana 6th Congressional District this past year. This statement has already been panned pretty thoroughly with rating her statement as 'Pants on Fire', but I will add my two cents worth - and I am overpaying for this whopper. You can see her statement here. The good news is she finished a distant fifth in the election last month with only 7.41% of the vote (19, 151 votes). The bad news is that means there were 19,150 voters who supported this nut case (after allowing her to vote for herself).

Let's review her statements.

She didn't waste any time getting out of the starting gate when she opened her statement that she was attacked by 'liberals and lame-stream media' for saying global warming was a hoax. Again, we see the tendency to assume what someone's political stand is based on their understanding of science and to denigrate them for that understanding. How does she know everyone that objected to her statement is a liberal or in the 'lame-stream media'? She doesn't, but it looks good to her supporters to attack anyone that disagrees with her. This is a very common tactic in the denier arsenal. When you can't refute the science, attack the people that support it.

Then, she uses a quote by George Orwell to make it sound as if she is being noble and standing up to organized deceit. Sorry, Ms. Whitney, the reason people objected to your statement is because it was unsupported by any form of science.

After that, she goes on a diatribe about how global warming is 'perhaps the greatest deception in the history of mankind.' Wow! Let's face it, there have been some pretty big deceptions over the years. The deception of the climate change deniers does not equate to that level, no matter how much deception the fossil fuel industry is selling. Oh, wait. That wasn't what she meant. But, it should have been.

Her next whopper occurs when she states any 10-year old can prove man made global warming is not real by simply using a thermometer. If it is that simple, why doesn't she do it? She is putting her lack of scientific understanding on display here. First, that 10-year old would have to go all over the planet, including the polar regions, the open oceans and all of the wilderness areas to collect that data. Then, that 10-year old would have to do it for decades on end. It isn't the temperature that is the problem, per se. It is the change in the temperature that we are concerned with.

On that point, she claims the planet has gotten colder each year since the release of the movie An Inconvenient Truth (have you ever noticed the way these people froth at the mouth with the mention of Al Gore or this movie while being unable to refute the science?). Let's look at the record and compare it to her claims. If we look only at the surface temperature we see that the 1980s where the hottest decade ever measured. Every year of the 1990s was hotter than the 1980s average, making the 1990s the hottest decade ever recorded. Every year of the 2000s was hotter than the average of the 1990s, making the 2000s the hottest decade ever recorded. Every year of the 2010s has been hotter than the average of the 2000s, making the 2010s the hottest decade ever recorded. So far. By the way, 2014 is already the hottest single year ever measured. So much for the planet getting colder every year for the last 10 years.

But, that is only the surface temperature. What about if we include the ocean temperature? Take a look here. Yikes. The surface temperature rise has slowed down (the so-called 'pause') but not stopped. Include the ocean temperature and we can see global warming is continuing with a vengeance.

Her next bit of proof to support her claim? She stated that in the Obama administration 'down is up, 2 plus 2 equals five and ignorance is strength.' Where is the science and data here? There is none. Once again, when you have no science to support your claims, attack.

More inaccuracies. 'Last summer, Antarctica reached the coldest temperature in recorded history.' No, that is not a true statement. One single point had the coldest temperature ever recorded, but that does not reflect the temperature for the entire continent. In fact, the significance of the measurement is that it was done using satellites in regions where we have previously been unable to collect data. This is not evidence to support either side of the debate and it shows a lack of understanding on her part to try and make it so.

"There is record sheet ice and 60% rise in ice in the Arctic sea." By sheet ice, I am assuming she means the land ice, specifically the Greenland Ice Sheet. Sorry, Ms. Whitney, the only record it has set is for the record ice melt. And, as for that '60% rise' in sea ice, this is a wonderful example of cherry picking that the deniers keep insisting on. It is so bad that it has to be concluded they are doing it for the purpose of deception. The sea ice extent in 2012 shrank to an alarmingly low level. It was expected to rebound simply because the level was so low, and it did. The 2013, level was about 60% higher than the level in 2012, but it was also more than 40% lower than the level in 1980. They continue to forget to mention that last little bit. Oh, by the way, it was lower this past fall.

Moving on. "Polar bears have been forced out of their habitat because of over population." Sorry, polar bear numbers are down.

She claims experts agree that storms have decreased, contrary to claims made by climate scientists. Once again, she's wrong.

Then, she call climate science a 'scam' and accuses the 'lap dog media' of sweeping it under the rug. Her proof? She pulls out the East Anglia email hack, popularly known as ClimateGate as her proof. She ignores the fact that the scientists were cleared of all claims made by deniers by several independent panels and it was shown the scientists were not only quoted out of context, but some of the emails were actually rewritten by the hackers to change their intent. She would have known that if she had bothered doing her homework. Read about it here. Or, here. Or, any number of other sources. The evidence is clear, the claims by the deniers are not valid and not based on the facts. Why didn't she know that? If she wants to be a member of Congress, you would have thought she would do a better job of learning the facts.

Her next diatribe is to go on a great praise of the virtues of burning fossil fuels and what a wonderful thing it has been for America. The false argument she makes here is the unstated claim that the American dream can only be achieved by burning fossil fuels and there is no other way to have the modern amenities we enjoy. Obviously, this is entirely false and it makes me believe she received political donations from organizations associated with the fossil fuel industry.

She spends the rest of the video making equally senseless claims about the political situation oveseas and here at home - all very inflammatory and all without any supporting evidence.

All in all, Ms.Whitney helped prove my point that political parties are dominated by extremists and the Republican party is the party that rejects science. Her statement is so blatantly stupid that it makes me sad to think there were over 19,000 people in her district that thought she should go to Congress. Imagine someone in Congress doing such a poor job on the background checks before voting on a bill. Well, actually, you don't have to imagine that because that is the sad truth of what is going on right now. How about the "I'm not a scientist, but...." line some of them have been using? What they are saying is, "I'm not a scientists, but that won't stop me from proving what a jackass I am."

So, a Republican has shown just how incredibly stupid she is. Would any Democrat like to match the bar?