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August 06 2012

17:47

Enviro News Wrap: A Break for Wind; Sustainable Farming and Ranching; Muller’s About Face, and more…


The Latest Environmental News HeadlinesGlobalWarmingisReal contributor Anders Hellum-Alexander wraps-up and comments on the climate and environmental news headlines for the past week:

August 01 2012

20:47

Victory Declared For The Climate Science Denialists

A VICTORY has been declared in the field of climate change but the lap of honour is not being run by research scientists or renewable energy bosses, or by coral reefs, drought-stricken farmers or the citizens of low-lying countries.

Rather, if you accept as valid this declaration of victory from one of Australia’s leading thinkers, then those popping the champagne corks are the fossil fuel lobby.

Standing by the track cheering this triumph, are the conservative think tanks and the free market ideologues that believe the world should be run on their terms. To follow the analogy through to the bitter end, the losers are everyone else.

Professor Robert Manne, a political philosopher at La Trobe University, is making this declaration in a 7000-word essay published tomorrow in The Monthly magazine – its cover screaming “Victory of the Denialists: How Climate Science Was Vanquished”.

Manne’s essay charts the decades-long effort to spread doubt and confusion about the science of human-caused climate change, focusing on the think tanks and corporations that created and backed a “relentless” campaign in the United States which has infected other parts of the western world, including Australia.

Manne draws on already published books and research papers about the climate denial industry, and so in that respect close watchers won’t find anything new. But it is his declaration that climate science denialists have won which will stick in the throat of many climate change campaigners and science communicators.

I asked Professor Manne why he had come to that conclusion.

I find it difficult to see how a reasonably objective observer could deny that this is what has happened—gradually at first but also dramatically since the end of 2009 due largely to the combination of the failure of Copenhagen and the impact of 'Climategate'.

 

The victory I write about is limited to the United States, although denialism is an important and almost certainly growing movement in Canada, Australia and the UK.

If climate change denialists are pleased [by the conclusion] then they have chosen to ignore the explicit claim of the article that they are part of an irrationalist movement that is placing the future of the Earth at risk. The role of analysis is to be as faithful to the truth as one can be, not to boost morale or to support delusion.

For the denialists to be “victorious” they do not need to "prove" that global warming is a "hoax". All they have to do is to "manufacture doubt", that is to say to create a substantial level of public doubt about the solidity of the science.


According to Manne, President Barack Obama has been “nobbled” by the denialist campaign and the Republican Party almost “entirely converted” to denying the science.

Manne concludes in his essay that the success of the denialist campaign is one that subsequent generations will look upon “as perhaps the darkest in the history of humankind”.

But just as Manne makes his declaration, a project funded by two of America’s greatest supporters of the “denialist” campaign has backfired spectacularly.

Professor Richard Muller, a physicist at the University of California at Berkeley, led a project that accepted a $150,000 donation from a foundation controlled by the Koch brothers to study global temperature records (the Kochs have pumped millions into the global climate denial campaign).

Muller had previously stated that claims by skeptics that temperature records were unreliable merited a major investigation. He has also previously criticised the work of Pennsylvania State University scientist Professor Michael Manne, whose research gave birth to the now famous hockey stick graph showing a sharp rise in recent global temperatures.

After going through 1.6 billion records from 36,000 temperature stations, Muller’s team says the world’s temperature has risen by 1.5C in the 250 years since the start of the industrial revolution. More than half of this increase has occurred in the last 50 years.

What’s more, Muller now says that human activity, mainly burning fossil fuels, is to blame for practically all of that warming.

Muller’s study, which has yet to be published in a peer-reviewed journal, has been widely reported not because of a novel approach to climate science research, or because it tells us anything new, but rather because of his reported “conversion” from being skeptical to accepting the science.  He now describes himself as a “converted skeptic”.

Presumably, the oil rich Koch brothers were so convinced the world’s temperature gauges were lying, that they were happy to provide a no strings donation to Muller’s project, which stipulated its donors  “have no say over how we conduct the research or what we publish”.

But in a chronology, Muller’s work has come to essentially the same conclusion as the rest of the climate science community, except they got there a good decade or so earlier.

In The Monthly, Manne defines “denialists” as “orthodox members of a tightly knit group whose natural disposition is not to think for themselves”.

But on the same spectrum is a group of individuals, lobbyists and think-tankers who hide their skepticism behind a charade of pragmatism. Professor Clive Hamilton, recently appointed to board of the Australian Government’s Climate Change Authority, describes them as the “luke warmists”.

Luke warmists, Hamilton wrote recently, accept the science but relentlessly and unrealistically emphasise uncertainties, play down the dangers and advocate for only tokenistic, low-impact policy responses.

But what about those world leaders who have accepted the science of human caused climate change and have articulated the risks? Even these have hardly covered themselves in glory.

Because after Kyotos, Copenhagens, Durbans, Cancuns and revisits to Rio for new earth summits, the world’s emissions continue to boom reaching an all-time record last year.

Even though Australia has introduced a price on greenhouse gas emissions on the heaviest polluters, the scheme will allow these emitters to buy carbon credits from overseas to offset as much as half their liabilities.

This means that Australia’s domestically generated emissions will likely rise for the next 20 years, although not nearly as quickly as they would have risen without the scheme altogether.

Bizarrely, this situation is seen by some as major progress.

The carbon price is an important step forward and will help drive the roll-out of renewable energy in the same way that decades of subsidies have helped the fossil fuel industry to retain its market dominance.

But then there is Australia’s hypocritical position of claiming to be concerned about climate change while at the same time becoming a world leader in the export of coal and gas to be burned outside the jurisdiction of any carbon pricing mechanism (although plans to price carbon in China could change things).

Research just published by not-for-profit group Beyond Zero Emissions suggests when Australia’s domestic emissions are added to those from the coal and gas we export, Australia becomes a major global emitter, ranking sixth globally.

The BZE Laggard to Leader report finds that by 2030, the emissions locked-up in Australian coal and gas exports would combine with domestic emissions to give the country an annual carbon footprint in the region of 2.2 billion tonnes.

In terms of exports, these emissions from Australian coal and gas exports will be almost double those coming from Saudi Arabia’s exports of oil.

And this is the position currently being advocated by Australia, whose Prime Minister Julia Gillard says that inaction on climate change is “ultimately threatening for our planet”. She is certainly no “denialist”.

Robert Manne says the denialist triumph might not be stable “in the long term”.“Who can tell?” he said in an email to me. “As Maynard Keynes once famously observed: in the long-term we are all dead."

July 30 2012

14:56

Conversion Fever! Why The Media Adores Former Climate Skeptics

If you’ve been following the science of global warming for over a decade—as I have—you might find the recent conversion of Berkeley physicist Richard Muller into a climate believer kind of underwhelming. That’s certainly the reaction of many longtime climate scientists, with whom Muller now, finally, agrees.

At this rate, Muller should be caught up to the current state of climate science within a matter of just a few years!” climatologist Michael Mann tweeted. Climate scientist Ken Caldeira also had an amusing take, as quoted by Joe Romm: “I am glad that Muller et al have taken a look at the data and have come to essentially the same conclusion that nearly everyone else had come to more than a decade ago.”

Why, then, does Muller draw New York Times op-ed attention for his conversion? Is it really news that one individual physicist has finally come to agree that the science of climate change is very solid?

Note that this is not the first time this has happened with climate skeptic conversions in the media, or in the New York Times in particular. Remember the former skeptical journalist Gregg Easterbrook, of the New Republic and elsewhere? The New York Times published his conversion op-ed in 2006. Even at the time, some of us thought Easterbrook was pretty tardy in his turnaround—and this was six years ago.

Another prominent 2006 convert was the libertarian publisher of Skeptic magazine, Michael Shermer. Once again, upon hearing the Shermer news some of us thought, “better late than never, I suppose.” Or as I blogged at the time:

As in the case of Easterbrook, I don’t see why people like Shermer held out so long…but as we all know, there’s a lot of misinformation out there that can lead earnest people astray. So perhaps we should simply applaud these rather late AGW converts, rather than presuming to judge…

So what is up with former climate skeptics, conversions, and media attention?

The short answer is that most non-science journalists (and editors!) simply don’t know much about the science of climate change, or how solid it is. In this area in particular, they are classic low information thinkers, and so they make up their minds about what is newsworthy based upon short-cuts and heuristics.

This has many consequences. For instance, it explains why journalists (like average Americans) are much more likely to focus on climate change in the context of extreme heat and weather. It also makes these non-science journalists highly susceptible to framing effects—which gets to the heart of our story.

There are few frames that journalists dig more than the conversion story, the “Nixon Going to China” narrative, in all its various incarnations. And of course, they don’t dig it for scientific reasons—they dig it for political ones. A convert represents a shift—movement—in the overall political narrative. A convert is also likely a proxy for the public, especially at a time when more and more Americans are shocked and alarmed by extreme weather, and highly open to considering global warming as its cause.

What all of this means, of course, is that while in a scientific sense Muller’s conversion is quite insignificant—in fact, its tardiness may even seem rather trying—in a political sense, his recent arrival is all that matters. So just declare victory, my scientific friends. True, we won over most of the scientists that matter a long time ago. But politically, converts still count for a great deal. 

November 18 2011

19:09

Musings of a Malcontent: Greenie – Poopie – Can’t We All Get Along?


Musings of a Malcontent: Environmental Irony in an Imperfect (but humorous?) World“Musings of a Malcontent” is a weekly op-ed by GlobalWarmingisReal contributor Carlyle Coash

I continue to be baffled.

This is good as it gives me something to write about.

Last week we received a comment on the post I did here about Richard Muller, the scientific skeptic who shifted his stance on global warming. I know – I am asking you to remember something from two weeks ago. I am so difficult. Anyway I bring it up because there was something in it that has really stuck in my craw, so to speak. The commenter suggested that the place I received my information must have come from a “greenie left” publication.

Being left-handed and a big fan of the color green I was initially impressed he knew so much about me.

Then it sunk in that this was intended as an insult, or at least a suggestion that my source of news is limited and biased. The article I used was credited to the Associated Press and was posted on MSNBC’s website. Now I realize that Ronald Reagan did not write the article, but I would think the Associated Press might be a somewhat reliable source to get information from.

Right?

Obviously not.

Left, very left.

Since Richard Muller had been running around after the initial new story broke saying he was never on the side of the nay-sayer group – just a normal skeptic – this clearly meant I was out to get him unfairly. I guess only “ greenie left” thinking publications skew the facts and present misinformation to push their agenda. They twist the truth – all in the name of silly earthy-crunchy Democratic socialism. They just want to control what we think, even if it means attacking the innocent. I bet they would impale puppies if they had the chance! Evil lefties!

Glad I get my news from Fox.

And what is up with the word “Greenie”? Are you suggesting interest in the environment warrants a derogatory remark? You….you…..carer! Yea you heard me! Carer! You care about things like the planet. THE PLANET? What a loser. Only losers care about the planet! Planet carer! How stupid is that. You are just wishing you had a skeptic turned environmentalist on your side but – HA HA – he was just a skeptic turned….skeptic. Only a “greenie” would want that.

Loser.

What do the “winners” care about I wonder – if not the planet. Space? Void? A field of debris like the one the Millennium Falcon warps into thinking it is the planet Alderaan in Star Wars? An environment so depleted of nutrients that even a Twinkie would not survive  – or be created for that matter? You need wheat for that to happen apparently, which in a Twinkie is a bit of a stretch, but still no place for the foundational Twinkie elements to be grown? Why would you want to deny us such things?

Sorry – Twinkies always get me off track.

I think the winners care about taking. Take as much as possible and give back – maybe. Giving optional. Yet it is giving that makes it all possible. There has to be a cycle of replenishment. A cycle of rest, not just extraction, is required. After all it is not like the earth can just pop out a few million years of geologic fossil fuel creation by 2020.

So do me a favor – those with so much time on their hands they think “greenie” is a clever diss – use your time to actually help the world around us. The planet needs allies, not people spending their time finding ways to separate people. “Greenie left” is an attempt to put me down – to show I should be ignored. Well – fine – but then do something to make this a better place. Are you doing that? I hope so because if you think for one minute we can sustain what we are doing for even 50 years you are responsible for believing just as much hype as you are accusing me of believing.

What sort of “poopie right” propaganda are you reading?

Like how I used the word “poopie”? It seemed to fit somehow – all brown and squishy.

You can make stuff up –  so can I.

What goes around….well you know…

October 25 2011

18:51

Berkeley Climate Study Just Proves that People Believe What They Want to Believe


global warming is real“Global warming is real,” reads the headline of an Oct. 21 article by James Delingpole on the blog of the UK’s The Telegraph newspaper, as well as another by USC Annenberg School of Communication & Journalism staff reporter Shea Huffman.

Neither Delingpole nor Huffman is referring to this website, but rather to the results of an independent, comprehensive study of global temperature change since the 1950s led by UC Berkeley physics professor and now former self-professed climate change skeptic Richard Muller.

The two articles couldn’t be more different in nature or tone, however. While Huffman’s piece is straight news reporting, Delingpole’s blog post is an editorial in which he proceeds to disparage not only the study’s science and data, but Muller’s motivations, and his being described a “climate change skeptic,” as deceiving and dishonest.

Ironically, the three-plus year Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature study was funded in part by the Koch Brothers, billionaire industrialists and avowed proponents of climate change denial, noted The Christian Science Monitor in a news report.

Why all the attention?

Why has this particular study attracted so much media attention? Why is it significant in terms of climate science? And what are the research team’s main conclusions? Let’s take a look.

Well, besides being a hoped for but dashed “cause celebre” for climate change deniers and skeptics, the three-plus year study is touted as the first “non-partisan” study of climate change.

The Berkeley Earth research team conducted a study independent of the the three institutions whose climate data and models are widely relied upon by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the international climate science community.

Climate change deniers and skeptics continue to deride the means and manner in which these institutions have carried out the scientific research that underlies climate change and global warming theory.

To put it politely, much of the skepticism and denial just doesn’t hold up, nor does it do justice to or say much for the reliability or credibility of the climate science being being carried out at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, the US National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), or the UK Met Office’s Hadley Centre, which works with the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit, but there you go.

The research scientists assembled by Muller are known as experts in the development and application of analytical methods to research situations in which data sets are fragmented and of varying, sometimes questionable, scope and quality. That’s been a point of contention that climate change skeptics and deniers have raised and continue to raise.

Regarding the scope of the data set, models and other analytical methods and techniques, Muller and team made use of previously unavailable data that they were able to gather, clean up and organize for analysis. They devised their own customized methods of analyzing it.

“The Berkeley Earth analysis is the first study to address the issue of data selection bias by using nearly all of the available data, which includes about 5 times as many station locations as were reviewed by prior groups,” commented Robert Rhode, lead scientist for Berkeley Earth.

The research team analyzed temperature data from 15 sources, in some cases going back as far as 1800. In doing so, the Berkeley Earth Study “addressed scientific concerns raised by skeptics, including the urban heat-island effect, poor station quality and the risk of data selection bias,” according to the UC Berkeley news release.

Though the most direct, it should be noted that direct temperature readings are not the only proven, reliable means of measuring past temperatures. The use of oxygen isotope analysis has been accepted as one such means for decades now, and it has been and continues to be used in longer-dated studies of climate change.

So what does & what doesn’t the research team actually conclude?

So exactly what did they conclude? To cut right to the chase, the research team found “reliable evidence of a rise in the average world land temperature of approximately 1 degree Celsius since the mid-1950s, according to the UC Berkeley news release.

Ironically, that’s right in-line with the conclusions reached independently by NOAA, NASA and the Hadley Center, which found that land temperatures increased approximately 1 degree Celsius since the 1950s.

In and of itself, that’s nothing new. It’s well-known and almost universally accepted by climate scientists and the broader scientific community that we’re living in the midst of comparatively benevolent climatic period known as an inter-glacial – a period of relatively warm average global temperatures between Ice Ages that have typically lasted around 10,000 years.

Nonetheless, the study does provide independent, “non-partisan” confirmation that we’re in the midst of a global warming trend. That, in and of itself, is of scientific significance.

Putting paid to deniers & skeptics’ claims

Furthermore, it puts paid to claims that climate change studies by NOAA, NASA, the UK’s Met Office, the IPCC and other studies from the world’s leading climate research centers are doctored, as Texas government officials working for Republican presidential candidate and former Governor Rick Perry did to suppress and deceive the public interest.

“Our biggest surprise was that the new results agreed so closely with the warming values published previously by other teams in the U.S. and U.K.,” Muller said. “This confirms that these studies were done carefully and that potential biases identified by climate change skeptics did not seriously affect their conclusions.”

Muller and his team don’t go a step further and take on the question of whether or not man-made, or anthropogenic, CO2 is a or the main cause of this warming. That’s a significant omission and difference between it and the findings of the IPCC and numerous climate scientists working on their own and/or independently of the IPCC.

So, it seems the team set out a more modest goal, which leaves something for skeptics and deniers to hang their hats on.

Image credit: CBS San Francisco

Enhanced by Zemanta

April 28 2011

17:26

Climate Crock: Watching Muller trying to "hide the decline"

Peter Sinclar of Climate Crock of the Week unpacks one of the most famous quotes from the stolen East Anglia emails - in his typically clear and entertaining way. He also shows how frankly disingenuous the Berkeley physicist Richard Muller is being in his own climate science presentations.

 

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April 05 2011

02:04

Paul Krugman's Must-Read NY Times Op-Ed On Immoral Climate Denial

New York Times op-ed columnist Paul Krugman has a must-read piece today noting the "cynical careerism" of climate deniers who won't even acknowledge the truth when one of "their own" discovers that climate science is sound.  Singling out Anthony Watts as an example of this head-in-the-sand approach, Krugman notes that Watts and other climate skeptics changed their tune about the Koch-funded Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project when its lead researcher testified in front of Congress last week that climate change is real and man-made.  It wasn't what the skeptics - or the anti-science GOP - wanted to hear.

UC Berkeley physicist Richard Muller - whose reputation as a climate skeptic and funding by a Koch foundation the Republicans likely assumed made him one of "theirs" - instead shocked the hearing by reporting that his group’s preliminary results find a global warming trend “very similar to that reported by the prior groups.”

Krugman notes that Anthony Watts had recently "praised the Berkeley project and piously declared himself 'prepared to accept whatever result they produce, even if it proves my premise wrong.'"

But then of course when Professor Muller announced the preliminary results of his study upholding the scientific basis of climate disruption, Watts ridiculed the hearing Muller attended as “post normal science political theater.” <!--break-->
Krugman notes that the skeptic camp's decision to ostracize Professor Muller provides further evidence of the divisiveness of the political discussion about what we must do as a society to fight global warming.  This polarization, Krugman warns, "has probably ensured that we won’t do anything about climate change until catastrophe is already upon us." 

Read the rest at NYTimes.com: "The Truth About Climate Change, Still Inconvenient".

March 23 2011

04:39

PolluterWatch Memo to Koch PR Team: Ever Consider Making Your Astroturf A Little Less Obvious?

PolluterWatch is serving up a great tongue-in-cheek "memo to the Koch PR team" tonight, noting the obvious blunders from Koch Industries' astroturfing and attack squad lately. The Kochtopus keeps revealing just how highly coordinated its media and blogger network is, mysteriously generating defensive and offensive pieces in quick succession at the drop of a billionaire's hat.

If it weren't so blatantly obvious in slinging the same mud and honey around the media Koch-o-sphere, perhaps Koch's ever-ready defender squad might be worthy of compensation? Oh wait, New Media Services does get paid by Koch to blatantly and disastrously attempt to edit the Koch profile on Wikipedia. 

And even if Koch's friends in media claim to rush to the company's defense out of pure ideological zealotry and not for compensation, there are a few instances where that argument fails to impress.  As PolluterWatch points out, Koch's PR team recently posted on the company's Facebook page about a piece written by Steven Hayward that seemed to support Koch's anti-science position on climate change and predictably tooted the old Climategate dud.<!--break-->

Head over to PolluterWatch and then ClimateProgress to read about why that didn't work out so well for the Koch team.

Among the reasons, as PolluterWatch points out:

If ever there was a Koch-funded climate denial mouthpiece, it’s Steven F Haywood.  He’s a fellow at four of the Kochtopus-funded think tanks.  They’ve all had quite a bit of funding from your clients
1986-2009:
Reason Foundation ($2,536,521),
Heritage Foundation ($4,110,571),

Pacific Research Foundation ($1,515,800) and
American Enterprise Institute (only $150,000 from Koch but Exxon gave them $2.8 million). 

So the total Koch money to Hayward’s groups is $8,312,892.  Add Exxon’s $4,341,000 and that adds up to a massive $12.65 million of denial punch. 


PolluterWatch then points out the Koch Facebook goofs:

And finally, while we’re discussing your Facebook page, another word of advice: if you’re going to promote stories that you’ve managed to place in blogs, perhaps drip them out slowly? 

During the Wisconsin protests, Koch’s Americans for Prosperity group led the tea party in support of Scott Walker and Koch became a lightning rod for protestors. (Bet that got you going).

Nice work lining up all the bloggers to support Koch - but posting them all in one day on Facebook?   Six posts in just a few hours? 4th March was a busy day for you.  But seriously, if you’re going to go on the offense, maybe make it a little less obvious? 

We know you must be paid an awful lot by this client – are they really getting their money’s worth?  Or did you leave your Facebook strategy up to New Media Services?

But wait, there's more.

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