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Global Warming = More Snow!!??

Sounds screwy, right?  Sounds about as likely as the proverbial snowball in well, you know..


Another example where “intuition” leads us astray.  Science is full of examples of phenomena that defy “common sense.”    That’s why we need to leave science to the experts, and not to pundits.

For the record, the average temperature of the planet is still rising.  NOAA has confirmed that 2010 was the hottest year on record (tied with 2005).

Table source.

And it was the wettest year on record, according to the Global Historical Climatology Network.

Ok, that is all very nice, but that still doesn’t explain how warmer temperatures create more snow.

The quick version — it is about energy.

The earth’s atmosphere is heating rapidly due to an increasing concentration of green house gases. Warmer air can hold more water vapor (Click  here for the real science behind that).  Warmer temperatures cause water to evaporate more rapidly from the earth’s surface.  Water is going into the air more rapidly, and the air is holding more of it (The faucet has been opened up more, and the reservoir has gotten bigger).  When the air can finally hold no more moisture it comes down in a deluge.  In the summer that means more intense rain storms and flash floods.  In the winter that means more blizzards.  And the warmer temperatures means this whole cycle will repeat more rapidly so expect an increase in frequency of  severe weather.  A visual summary of these ideas:

If you want a bit more details on how this works check out this great explanation by  Denis Dubay.  And if you want more charts and good science on these topics, check out Joe Romm’s  post here at Climate Progress.

At last it seems that main stream media is starting to get the story right:

Of course, some folks try to use bad science to promote their world view.  Here is fun retort to peek-a-boo-ologists

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
We’re Off to See the Blizzard
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog</a> Video Archive

Climate change, and its impacts, are not off in the future.  It is happening, right now.

Climate change represents one the greatest threats to life on the planet.

Do everything you can to reduce your carbon emissions.  Change your life.  Talk to family and friends about it.  Make your vote count.

What could be…

An exciting day here at Sustainable Thoughts:  our first guest blogger.  Josh Foster, a friend and former colleague traveled to Europe over the summer and was amazed at how easy it was to get around, mostly without the need for a vehicle.  I asked him to share his experience with us.

Josh is a self-described policy wonk and climate science “groupie” with over 15 years working on adaptation to climate change (working on how to deal with the changes caused by our rapidly changing climate; learn the basics here). He spent 13 years at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) improving the  communication of climate information to decision makers and the public. He now works with local governments to enhance their resilience to climate change impacts and to ensure adaptation is on the national policy agenda.

First, my little prologue:

For most of us in the U.S. it is hard to imagine life without a car.  The car is wrapped up in our country’s history, our popular culture, and for many, it makes up part of our personal identity.  Owning a car is a national birth right.  Our landscape is defined by the privately owned vehicle.  Thousands of miles of highways.  Shopping centers located miles from where we live with massive parking lots.  Zoning laws that require us to drive to go from work, to school, to find a loaf of bread.  Mile after mile of strip malls and low density development.

This reality did not happen overnight.  Our government has invested many billions of dollars since the 1950s to subsidize road building around the country.  Our taxation system encourages the discovery and use of massive amouts of oil needed to fuel this system.  The military is used with greater frequency to protect oil supply lines.

If you live anywhere outside of a large city in America your life would be very hard without a vehicle.

Using a 1.5 ton piece of machinary to move one person around is stunningly unsustainable.  The carbon emissions that are destroying the climate.  The pollution that kills thousands each year.  Thousands more who die in accidents.  The material use.  The mining.  The toxic chemicals.

Any proposition to reduce the use of cars is seen as an attack on the American way of life.  Many can only imagine a life of extreme inconvenience and suffering.  A loss of independence and freedom.  It is easy to understand why — public transportation in the US is typically woeful and unreliable.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

Many societies have created public transporation systems that are clean, efficient and useful.  People get to where they need to go with minimal delay and discomfort.  These systems are many times more efficient than the one we have in America.

Cars are not part of a sustainable future.  It is that simple.

Below is a view to world that could be.  That already is.  When do we catch up?

From Josh Foster:

It’s mid-afternoon on the Thursday before the Memorial Day weekend May 2010. I am crawling along in pre-Holiday bumper-to-bumper Beltway traffic on my way to Washington Dulles International Airport. My goal is to fly to Bonn, Germany to speak at the Resilient Cities 2010 – 1st World Congress on Cities and Adaptation to Climate Change. The Congress is a first ever, global gathering dedicated to sharing the latest scientific findings, effective approaches and state-of-the-art programs on climate change adaptation and resilience-building in cities and urbanized areas.

I had left my condo in Cleveland Park, DC three hours before my flight for the 45 minute drive to Dulles Airport—ostensibly to “beat the traffic”, but found my fellow drivers had the same idea regarding their long-weekend vacations—2 days in advance! Reaching the Dulles access road running 17 miles to the airport traffic continues to crawl along behind trucks hauling dirt for the future Silver Metro Line connecting Falls Church to Dulles…hints of a better future. Arriving at the airport I park in the sprawling satellite economy lot full of cars…and board my first public transportation…the shuttle bus to the terminal. On the bus I reflect that it’s still overall cheaper, faster, and more convenient to drive to an airport 35 miles from downtown Washington, DC, park, and fly internationally than to take a cab or bus to Dulles, or Metro to Washington National—the “downtown” DC airport—and connect to Europe via another domestic airport. Essentially the incentives embedded in the design of my hometown’s urban system encourages my less sustainable behavior…and here I am one who has dedicated my career to encouraging better.

Arriving at the check-in line I find 500 of my fellow travelers also waiting to enter the airport system. Needless to say, I missed my flight…reason given, “traffic congestion,” resulting in a sage nod from the rebooking agent — and the need to return home for the night and do it all again the next day with associated expenditure of time and resources.

The next day, as we are in the glide path into Frankfurt Airport, and I am looking across green farm fields around the city studded with the iconic towers of windmills, blades turning lazily in the available breeze. After clearing customs, I follow signs over a foot bridge directly into the adjacent train station to catch the high-speed rail to Bonn. In about 20 minutes I am cruising along at 232 mph past the same farm fields and windmills I saw from the plane. Near Bonn, some obstruction in the track sends us back to Frankfurt—but redundancy in the dense track system allows an alternate scenic route along the Rhine River — beautiful towns, castles, and water but also working cargo barges plying their trade. From the train I also notice the ubiquity of individual and community gardens growing vegetables in almost every yard and town.

Arriving at Bonn Station, I exit within a stones throw of dense light tram-rail and bus lines. Running late, I grab a cab to the conference center where food, lodging, and facilities are all centralized around an open-air garden and pond. A nearby 700-acre park allows space for early morning jogs overlooking the Rhine intersecting a miles long foot-path along the river that doubles as a bicycle commuter route. Going downtown for the evening we walk to the nearby subway station for a 20-minute ride. After a fun evening of fine food, drink, and fellowship we return to the conference center in a mini-van taxi that fits our entire group of 8. Upon leaving Bonn, I take a taxi to the nearby city of Cologne to visit a friend, and then a train to the airport…flying to Vienna, Austria.

On the glide path into the airport in Vienna, I again see the green farmland around the city studded with windmills. I am staying with a friend in a suburb surrounded by vineyards and walking trails…each vineyard with it’s own local restaurant. Groceries and many other amenities line the local dense network of streets and houses. An urgent trip to his daughters school to deliver a science project means a 5-minute walk to a light rail-tram, followed by a bus ride, and a short walk to the school. His kids ride public transit to school daily and children as young as 5 ride unsupervised. Going downtown from the school we board a bus, to a subway station, and exit in the heart of the city. Adjacent to the subway exit is a trash to energy incinerator that is high-tech, clean, and a local icon having been designed as a work of art. Walking around the Viennese “old city” it is nearly carless…and I notice that parking necessitates a special permit at $10s per hour. We return home hopping a bus, to tram, and walk in the door a few minutes later. When we go hiking the next day a bus that passes every 10 minutes takes us to the top of a nearby range of hills with great views and networks of trails through miles of parkland that are all still inside the city limits.

My next stop is Helsinki, Finland. Exiting the airport terminal I board a bus (leaving twice per hour) for the 50-minute ride downtown. The bus arrives at the center city train station surrounded by light tram-lines and bike paths with streets sparsely crowded with cars. After a fine dinner near the train station we hop a frequent bus out to his apartment in the suburb.  He does not have a car. His apartment complex is near the ocean and surrounded by forest. It has a grocery store, a child-care center, and a health-care clinic — most apartment complexes have these facilities. And these are the “cheap” apartments. My friend’s wife was in the hospital for 2 months—and they only paid $500 out of pocket. In the morning, I notice numerous pedestrian bridges over roads and bike paths in and around the complex. Buses passing through leave for downtown every 10 minutes. A short walk takes us to nature trails threading through woods, across cliffs with great views of the ocean, and through estuaries full of waterfowl. He rides the bus to work—an office building overlooking the water.

Upon leaving my friend’s on the way home to the US, I continue on downtown by bus. I kill time at a sidewalk café in the sun with a coffee and pastry overlooking a parkland running between main thouroughfaries. I reflect that skillful urban design, public transportation, and a willingness to pay collectively to provide for the common good are a real kind of security. It is also gratifying to know that there are countries in the world that are seeking a path toward sustainability while also providing a high quality of life. There are those in the US that would call it Socialism as if it was a pejorative…but as I board the bus to the airport, I think it feels like freedom…and that there is a different way to live…

Shameful, Part 2

At the risk of being tiresome I will continue my rant from Tuesday (July 27, 2010).  On Thursday the US Senate decided that it will not debate the climate bill sitting in its docket this year.  So our society again takes no action on the greatest threat to life on the planet.  I, like Thomas Friedman, am left speechless as to how to understand our indefensible intellectual, ethical, and moral failure.

Proud to be an American?

Thomas Friedman’s take on it all:

July 24, 2010

We’re Gonna Be Sorry


When I first heard on Thursday that Senate Democrats were abandoning the effort to pass an energy/climate bill that would begin to cap greenhouse gases that cause global warming and promote renewable energy that could diminish our addiction to oil, I remembered something that Joe Romm, the blogger, once said: The best thing about improvements in health care is that all the climate-change deniers are now going to live long enough to see how wrong they were.

Alas, so are the rest of us. I could blame Republicans for the fact that not one G.O.P. senator indicated a willingness to vote for a bill that would put the slightest price on carbon. I could blame the Democratic senators who were also waffling. I could blame President Obama for his disappearing act on energy and spending more time reading the polls than changing the polls. I could blame the Chamber of Commerce and the fossil-fuel lobby for spending bags of money to subvert this bill. But the truth is, the public, confused and stressed by the last two years, never got mobilized to press for this legislation. We will regret it.

We’ve basically decided to keep pumping greenhouse gases into Mother Nature’s operating system and take our chances that the results will be benign — even though a vast majority of scientists warn that this will not be so. Fasten your seat belts. As the environmentalist Rob Watson likes to say: “Mother Nature is just chemistry, biology and physics. That’s all she is.” You cannot sweet-talk her. You cannot spin her. You cannot tell her that the oil companies say climate change is a hoax. No, Mother Nature is going to do whatever chemistry, biology and physics dictate, and “Mother Nature always bats last, and she always bats 1.000,” says Watson. Do not mess with Mother Nature. But that is just what we’re doing.

Since I don’t have anything else to say, I will just fill out this column with a few news stories and e-mails that came across my desk in the past few days:

  • Just as the U.S. Senate was abandoning plans for a U.S. cap-and-trade system, this article ran in The China Daily: “BEIJING — The country is set to begin domestic carbon trading programs during its 12th Five-Year Plan period (2011-2015) to help it meet its 2020 carbon intensity target. The decision was made at a closed-door meeting chaired by Xie Zhenhua, deputy director of the National Development and Reform Commission … Putting a price on carbon is a crucial step for the country to employ the market to reduce its carbon emissions and genuinely shift to a low-carbon economy, industry analysts said.”
  • As we East Coasters know, it’s been extremely hot here this summer, with records broken. But, hey, you could be living in Russia, where ABC News recently reported that a “heat wave, which has lasted for weeks, has Russia suffering its worst drought in 130 years. In some parts of the country, temperatures have reached 105 degrees.” Moscow’s high the other day was 93 degrees. The average temperature in July for the city is 76 degrees. The BBC reported that to keep cool “at lakes and rivers around Moscow, groups of revelers can be seen knocking back vodka and then plunging into the water. The result is predictable — 233 people have drowned in the last week alone.”
  • A day before the climate bill went down, Lew Hay, the C.E.O. of NextEra Energy, which owns Florida Power & Light, one of the nation’s biggest utilities, e-mailed to say that if the Senate would set a price on carbon and requirements for renewal energy, utilities like his would have the price certainty they need to make the big next-generation investments, including nuclear. “If we invest an additional $3 billion a year or so on clean energy, that’s roughly 50,000 jobs over the next five years,” said Hay. (Say goodbye to that.)
  • Making our country more energy efficient is not some green feel-good thing. Retired Brig. Gen. Steve Anderson, who was Gen. David Petraeus’s senior logistician in Iraq, e-mailed to say that “over 1,000 Americans have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan hauling fuel to air-condition tents and buildings. If our military would simply insulate their structures, it would save billions of dollars and, more importantly, save lives of truck drivers and escorts. … And will take lots of big fuel trucks (a k a Taliban Targets) off the road, expediting the end of the conflict.”

The last word goes to the contrarian hedge fund manager Jeremy Grantham, who in his July letter to investors, noted: “Conspiracy theorists claim to believe that global warming is a carefully constructed hoax driven by scientists desperate for … what? Being needled by nonscientific newspaper reports, by blogs and by right-wing politicians and think tanks? I have a much simpler but plausible ‘conspiracy theory’: the fossil energy companies, driven by the need to protect hundreds of billions of dollars of profits, encourage obfuscation of the inconvenient scientific results. I, for one, admire them for their P.R. skills, while wondering, as always: “Have they no grandchildren?”


On Thursday, July 22, 2010 the Senate decided to not move forward on climate change legislation this year.

Shame on our leaders for failing to lead.  Shame on us for not making them lead.

this blogger captures it best for me:

…if the current generation fails to take action to prevent dangerous or catastrophic climate change, that failure is what history will remember us by. We will be remembered as the people who had all the necessary information, but who were so selfish and dysfunctional that they couldn’t step up and take even the first small step.

Wise words from Paul Krugman on our failure:

July 25, 2010

Who Cooked the Planet?


Never say that the gods lack a sense of humor. I bet they’re still chuckling on Olympus over the decision to make the first half of 2010 — the year in which all hope of action to limit climate change died — the hottest such stretch on record.

Of course, you can’t infer trends in global temperatures from one year’s experience. But ignoring that fact has long been one of the favorite tricks of climate-change deniers: they point to an unusually warm year in the past, and say “See, the planet has been cooling, not warming, since 1998!” Actually, 2005, not 1998, was the warmest year to date — but the point is that the record-breaking temperatures we’re currently experiencing have made a nonsense argument even more nonsensical; at this point it doesn’t work even on its own terms.

But will any of the deniers say “O.K., I guess I was wrong,” and support climate action? No. And the planet will continue to cook.

So why didn’t climate-change legislation get through the Senate? Let’s talk first about what didn’t cause the failure, because there have been many attempts to blame the wrong people.

First of all, we didn’t fail to act because of legitimate doubts about the science. Every piece of valid evidence — long-term temperature averages that smooth out year-to-year fluctuations, Arctic sea ice volume, melting of glaciers, the ratio of record highs to record lows — points to a continuing, and quite possibly accelerating, rise in global temperatures.

Nor is this evidence tainted by scientific misbehavior. You’ve probably heard about the accusations leveled against climate researchers — allegations of fabricated data, the supposedly damning e-mail messages of “Climategate,” and so on. What you may not have heard, because it has received much less publicity, is that every one of these supposed scandals was eventually unmasked as a fraud concocted by opponents of climate action, then bought into by many in the news media. You don’t believe such things can happen? Think Shirley Sherrod.

Did reasonable concerns about the economic impact of climate legislation block action? No. It has always been funny, in a gallows humor sort of way, to watch conservatives who laud the limitless power and flexibility of markets turn around and insist that the economy would collapse if we were to put a price on carbon. All serious estimates suggest that we could phase in limits on greenhouse gas emissions with at most a small impact on the economy’s growth rate.

So it wasn’t the science, the scientists, or the economics that killed action on climate change. What was it?

The answer is, the usual suspects: greed and cowardice.

If you want to understand opposition to climate action, follow the money. The economy as a whole wouldn’t be significantly hurt if we put a price on carbon, but certain industries — above all, the coal and oil industries — would. And those industries have mounted a huge disinformation campaign to protect their bottom lines.

Look at the scientists who question the consensus on climate change; look at the organizations pushing fake scandals; look at the think tanks claiming that any effort to limit emissions would cripple the economy. Again and again, you’ll find that they’re on the receiving end of a pipeline of funding that starts with big energy companies, like Exxon Mobil, which has spent tens of millions of dollars promoting climate-change denial, or Koch Industries, which has been sponsoring anti-environmental organizations for two decades.

Or look at the politicians who have been most vociferously opposed to climate action. Where do they get much of their campaign money? You already know the answer.

By itself, however, greed wouldn’t have triumphed. It needed the aid of cowardice — above all, the cowardice of politicians who know how big a threat global warming poses, who supported action in the past, but who deserted their posts at the crucial moment.

There are a number of such climate cowards, but let me single out one in particular: Senator John McCain.

There was a time when Mr. McCain was considered a friend of the environment. Back in 2003 he burnished his maverick image by co-sponsoring legislation that would have created a cap-and-trade system for greenhouse gas emissions. He reaffirmed support for such a system during his presidential campaign, and things might look very different now if he had continued to back climate action once his opponent was in the White House. But he didn’t — and it’s hard to see his switch as anything other than the act of a man willing to sacrifice his principles, and humanity’s future, for the sake of a few years added to his political career.

Alas, Mr. McCain wasn’t alone; and there will be no climate bill. Greed, aided by cowardice, has triumphed. And the whole world will pay the price.

When your tooth hurts, who do you listen to?

Recently a reader sent me a note explaining that they don’t believe in climate change.  I responded and tried to enter into a discussion on the issue — you know where two people exchange ideas and offer evidence for their respective position.  The reader took ombrage at this.  From their perspective we were each entitled to our point of view and the other should respect that.  I tried to make the case that climate change is about science, and not all opinions are created equal.  If your tooth hurts, who are you going to listen to?  Your dentist or your cousin Larry who is handy with a pair of pliers? 

And then just a few days later I came across this interview of Stephen Schneider on Climate Progress who does a great job of making the same point but by using good science. It gets a bit geeky at times, but give it a shot as his insights are exceptional.

Here is the short version:  The scientists who most strongly support the theory of man-made climate change are also the researchers that have produced the largest body of credible, peer-reviewed studies on the topic.  The people who speak out most against climate change have virtually no scientific standing; they have produced few to no peer reviewed studies on climate related topics.

If nothing else skim down to the end of the interview. Schneider does a nice job of explaining the role of scientists and where opinion fits in.  I highlighted this paragraph in red for easy finding.
And a couple of terms that appear below that you may not be familiar with:

ACC = Anthropogenic Climate Change (man-made climate change)

IPCC = Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change:  The IPCC is a body created by the UN (at the request of the United States and other members) to study climate change.  The IPCC issues a summary report about each 7 years.  The most recent report was in 2007.  The IPCC report is considered THE defining word of the scientific community’s view on climate change.  ( A great, easy to read summary about the IPCC can be found here.)

The remainder of this posting is from Joe Romm at Climate Progress:

Interview with scientist Stephen Schneider on his “Expert Credibility in Climate Change” study

July 14, 2010 Last month I wrote about the new study that reaffirmed the broad scientific understanding of climate change and questioned the media’s reliance on a tiny group of less-credibile scientists for “balance.” The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences study “Expert credibility in climate change,” was predictably attacked and misrepresented by the disinformers as part of their ongoing efforts to promote their fringe anti-science views.
To set the record straight, talked with one of the article’s coauthors, Stanford University Prof. Stephen Schneider.  The video and transcript of the interview are below.  First, let me repost the study’s main conclusion:

Here, we use an extensive dataset of 1,372 climate researchers and their publication and citation data to show that 1) 97-98% of the climate researchers most actively publishing in the field support the tenets of ACC outlined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change; and 2) the relative climate expertise and scientific prominence of the researchers unconvinced of ACC are substantially below that of the convinced researchers.
That is the conclusion of an important first-of-its-kind study published today in the

Here is the CSW interview with Stephen H. Schneider, Melvin and Joan Lane Professor for Interdisciplinary Environmental Studies, Professor, Department of Biology, and Senior Fellow, Woods Institute for the Environment, at Stanford University
Note:  The transcript “contains more extended text from the interview, in addition to what is included in the video.”

CSW: The article on climate science expert credibility that you co-authored, recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) – what prompted this study?
Schneider: There are so many claims out there from all kinds of interests, about how climate change is ‘the end of the world,’ or ‘good for you,’ and people – policymakers and media – are understandably confused. Part of the problem is that over time the media has fired so many of its specialists that there aren’t a lot of people left to sort out the relative credibility of all the claims. So, since a lot of those people who deny that humans have any impact on climate are claiming that they have scientific expertise, we said let’s just put it to a test.
There’s a very well-known and widely used independent index, which is: how many papers have you published and how many times have people cited them in the scientific literature? Those people who chose to put themselves on lists and petitions denying that there was a human impact on climate, let’s see how many papers they’ve published, and how many citations they have. Those people associated with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), let’s check them and see if there’s a difference.
CSW: In terms of how you defined the groups in the study, you have one category that you refer to as “convinced by the evidence” – convinced by the evidence for anthropogenic climate change. The other group is the “unconvinced by the evidence.” Are you defining them by scientific perspective, or are you defining them by policy positions?
Schneider: It’s a bit controversial how you define anyone in categories like “convinced” and “unconvinced” since none of us – I hope – are 100% convinced of anything, or 100% unconvinced, but we can have a vast preponderance of evidence. There are lists where groups have organized themselves into pro, basically, and con human impacts on climate. Most of the ‘pros’ work on the IPCC, mainstream science, and most of the ‘cons’ do not. Only two or three are in common. They wrote petitions saying they didn’t think there was much likelihood of anthropogenic change, and we put them in the unconvinced category. That is, they put themselves in the unconvinced category. As far as those who spent much of their life working at IPCC, there’s a very high probability they are convinced this problem is real or they wouldn’t be putting in all this time. The bottom line is that we let people self-define and then we let the numbers fall where they were, in terms of the relative credibility of each of those groups – and the credibility was vastly different. Not surprisingly, those people who do work daily in climate science have a much, much higher citation count and more published papers than those who just claim it isn’t true but really, for the most part, are not prime workers in climate change.
CSW: Well then, what about the charge that the study, in effect, is creating a ‘blacklist’ of certain scientists? It’s saying that these are the skeptics, the unconvinced by the evidence, but they don’t have any credibility and so you shouldn’t pay any attention to them.
Schneider: Well it’s laughable that it’s a blacklist. A blacklist is what somebody like Joe McCarthy did back in the 50’s, or Senator Inhofe is doing now, when we all know it’s the senator who is deliberately distorting. How could we be doing a blacklist when we’re using the names that they gave? All we did was test it. The fact that they don’t publish very much is not our issue. This is a fact check.
It really matters what your credentials are. If you have a heart arrhythmia as I do, and I also have a cardiologist, and you also have an oncological problem as I do, I’m not going to my cancer doc to ask him about my heart medicine and my cardiologist to ask about my chemo, I’m going to the experts. Who’s an expert really matters. People with no expertise, their opinion frankly does not matter on complex issues. And in my opinion shouldn’t even be quoted when we’re talking about the details of the science.
When we’re talking about what to do about it, then every citizen’s opinion is just as important as anybody else’s, and everybody should be quoted. But not about how many degrees of warming there is – that takes a lot of knowledge, to be able to know what you’re talking about. That knowledge is very well reflected in the counts of the number of times people’s scientific papers have been cited by their colleagues. That’s where the mainstream climate scientists have a major advantage over those who are unconvinced. We feel that’s a robust conclusion, that most of the claimants that there’s no anthropogenic climate change are very weak scientists – by and large – and most of their comments are really not very scientifically credible.
CSW: I believe Judith Curry argued that, on your various lists, under “convinced of the evidence” you were including people who are ecologists and biologists, and who aren’t really experts in the climate change detection and attribution research. So that somehow skews your notion of how to sort people out in terms of credibility. What’s your response to that?
Schneider: Well, there are two responses. First of all, there are a couple dozen people in the world that work in ecology – that includes people like Terry Root, Camille Parmesan, and myself, among others – who actually look at the bloom dates of roses in your grandmother’s back yard and when birds come back. We do detection and attribution studies. Those people are in the IPCC and they are legitimate experts and they have published research in Science and Nature and PNAS and places like that. There was an entire chapter on it in [IPCC] Working Group II and those people, again, like Cynthia Rosenzweig, were included in the IPCC database.
But she does have a point, that not everyone in IPCC is an expert in detection and attribution. That’s certainly true. But when she said that the IPCC group that we used in our PNAS study should be cut down to something like 20% of the original. That’s hundreds of people, that’s still quite a lot of people. If you look at the “unconvinced of evidence” group, virtually nobody in it has ever published a paper on detection and attribution. So, by Judy’s own logic, that means it’s virtually a null set. That means there’s almost nobody in the unconvinced category who has any expertise whatsoever in detection and attribution. So, if you take her logic, and apply it symmetrically to the “convinced” and “unconvinced” you narrow the “convinced” group down to a smaller but still clear and robust population and the “unconvinced” has virtually no expertise, and their opinion becomes completely irrelevant.
CSW: What about the argument that some of the people critical of the study have made, that there’s something wrong with the metric of counting numbers of publications and counting how often your work is cited by other scientists. Some people will say that just the number of your publications doesn’t necessarily tell what the quality of your science is, and of course people of similar viewpoints will cite each other, or some articles have 10 or 12 authors and that racks up a lot of totals for some people, so using the publication and citation metrics doesn’t necessarily represent a scientifically correct perspective. Rather, it’s an elitist appeal to authority claiming that one group is more credible on the basis of these questionable metrics.
Schneider: Well, first of all, there’s no perfect metric. What we’re trying to do is find out, in the spirit of risk management, where is the preponderance of evidence? Where is the preponderance of skill? We didn’t make [these metrics] up, which is the number of papers people publish and the number of times colleagues cite them. There is a very widespread belief, built on evidence, that those people with stronger publication records, getting themselves published many more times in peer reviewed literature – which is not easy – and the number of times you’re cited, the number of times other people are quoting you, is a very good metric as to whether you just published a meaningless paper about something irrelevant, or whether that paper has real clout.
The only way you can get citation and not have quality is if you have made a big error. In fact, one of the things we did to try to eliminate that is we didn’t just look at the average number of cites, we looked at the top four or five papers each person published, and then we tried to check and see whether one of them was massively cited. We’d cut that out, saying either that was their one brilliant shining star or they made so many mistakes that everybody caught them. As it turns out it made almost no difference in the statistics. We feel that these statistics are pretty robust in giving you the strong preponderance of evidence that those people who publish more and have more citations are much more scientifically credible.
About the ‘elitist’ part: Scientists are really stuck. It’s exactly the same thing in medicine, it’s the same thing with pilot’s licenses and driver’s licenses: We don’t let just anyone go out there and make any claim that they’re an expert, do anything they want, without checking their credibility. Is it elitist to license pilots and doctors? Is it elitist to have pilots tested every year by the FAA to make sure that their skills are maintained? Is it elitist to have board certification on specialities in various health professions? I don’t think so. I think it’s the way we have safety. We have an FDA, which analyzes food and drugs.
We’re talking about planetary life support. People who are special interests in making money in the fossil fuel industry, who are ideologues, who are so deeply opposed to government regulation or international agreements, will just make any wild claim to support their ideology or special interest. They’ll find some hired gun PhD, or they’ll pick weak scientists for the most part – and should they really be afforded as much credibility? Can you tell me that a hundred institutions around the world, that have been working for 40 years, that have had dozens and dozens of carefully reviewed assessments, are somehow no more credible – even if they’re more elitist – than petroleum geologists funded by an oil company? They’re as knowledgeable about climate science as I would be about how to fix the leak in the Deepwatergate problem. I mean, they’re really not experts, and it really does matter what people know. If we do not do the due diligence of letting people understand the relative credibility of claimants of truth, then all we do is have a confused public who hears claim and counter-claim.
That’s why there’s a National Academy of Sciences: it has to sort out the relative credibility of claims. Why is there an IPCC? Because the average person is not trained in what cloud feedback is, nor is the average geologist, just as the average climate scientist is not trained in how to find oil! So, let’s stay where we have our expertise. Science is a meritocracy. You have to have evidence. When somebody says I don’t believe in global warming, I ask, “Do you believe in evidence? Do you believe in a preponderance of evidence?”
CSW: What about the charge that there is a sort of commingling of science expertise with policy prescription here, in that, to say “convinced by the evidence for anthropogenic climate change,” that takes in most of the science community but it would also incorporate people who have a range of views on what kind of a climate policy would be desirable. There may be people who accept anthropogenic climate change but don’t support legislation for a strong mitigation policy. Or don’t support strong government regulation to limit greenhouse gases. Does it seem to you that real credible expertise in climate science points in the direction of a particular type of policy prescription, that we need a strong mitigation policy? Can you disconnect the two – and should we?
Schneider: I think it’s very difficult to disentangle them, without looking up every statement everyone has ever made. But most of people that signed the petitions saying they do not believe anthropogenic global warming is very likely, and they’re not convinced, are also making very strong statements that we shouldn’t have climate policy. Actually, very often people who say they aren’t convinced by the climate science are saying that simply because they do not want regulations, because they are anti-regulation ideologues, or special interest in the fossil fuel industry, or have a world view about private rights being more important than collective protection. Now, we aren’t going to be able to specifically separate them one by one unless you can find petitions that separate them – and those petitions don’t exist. But there’s a very, very high correlation between people who are convinced that there’s anthropogenic climate change and their argument that something should be done to slow it down to protect the planetary life support system. And there’s a very very high correlation between those who are unconvinced and saying “why should we have climate policy if we aren’t even convinced this is going on?” So, I think our conclusions are quite robust, though I have no doubt there could be 10 or 20% exceptions.
We have a database of over 1,000 people. Only a small number of them are going to fit into those ambiguous categories, and therefore do almost nothing to the statistics. So these are nitpicks, designed to discredit the overall preponderance of evidence we found. So while we feel that it is not a perfect measure, it’s a very close fit to the basic preponderance of thinking of the convinced and unconvinced. And if they don’t believe that, let them do their own study.
They also make a claim, which we haven’t discussed yet, that the reason the mainstream scientists have more papers and citations is because the “unconvinced” scientists have been systematically blocked by the peer review system, which is a cabal of government-funded scientists who are trying to eliminate the opinion of the contrarians. Now, this is pure assertion. They have absolutely no data. Have they ever shown us how many papers they’ve submitted, relative to the others?
I edit a journal called Climatic Change and I can tell you that the number of submissions I get from people with completely unconventional views is trivial, a tiny fraction of the hundreds and hundreds of submissions where people are not convinced of every detail, but they’re convinced the problem is real enough that it has to be studied and looked at and we have to take a look at the implications. So there are very few of them that are submitting. Now, they could come back and say, well that’s because we know that we’ll never get through the peer review process. Now they’re imputing that we’re some dishonest community who’s not going to give them a fair shake. When I get those papers, I often publish them, but I publish them with editorials that have opposite points of view. Just as, if I get a new radical idea in saying that climate change is going to be worse than the mainstream now thinks, I’ll probably publish it in Climatic Change, but then I’ll get an editorial from someone who is a little more conservative.
So they make this assertion that they’re being systematically excluded, because they have no other argument, they no have evidence for the assertion. Let them do a study. Let them show us the letters of all the papers that have been rejected. What we did is look at real evidence, independently collected: How many papers, and how many citations. That’s independent, and the only way you can claim it isn’t true is to invoke some massive conspiracy that is frankly laughable.
CSW: One critic, I believe it was Roy Spencer, called attention to your use of the term “tenets” –“the basic tenets of anthropogenic climate change,” or “the basic tenets of the IPCC.” He said that the term tenets belongs in religion, not science.
Schneider: Roy Spencer ought to know about religion since he publishes on creationist blog sites and I don’t, so I’ll give him expertise on religion that I don’t have. However, the word tenet has been used since I can remember being in 8th grade referring to a set of conditions and beliefs and criteria. So, in the sense that it’s criteria, or underlying aspects of a problem, I don’t have any difficulty using that word. I mean the tenets of those people who are unconvinced about climate change is that as long as there are loose ends anywhere, they don’t accept it.
The tenets on the side of the IPCC? Well it’s that greenhouse gases have increased. They trap heat. A significant fraction, almost all recent increases, are from human activities. And so forth. Each one of those is a component of the knowledge base. ‘Tenet’ is perfectly legitimate, it’s a standard word. The religion does not come from the side of the mostly convinced.
CSW: Last thoughts to leave us with?
Schneider: The main thing I want people to remember is that when we’re talking about expertise, we’re not talking about expertise in what to do about a problem. That is a social judgment and every person has the same right to their opinion as any person in climate. However, we are talking about the relative likelihood that there could be serious or even dangerous changes. Because before you even decide how you want to deploy resources as a hedge against a wide range of important social problems, you have to know how serious the problems are. All we’re trying to do in science is give the best estimate that honest people with a lot of evidence can, about the relative risks, so they can make wise decisions in their own lives and in who they elect about how we should deal with it.
If you have no idea about the risk, it’s very hard to rationally do risk management. And we feel that there many people deliberately muddying the risk waters because of a combination of ideology and special interest. We have every right to point out that they have weaker credentials in science than those who are convinced on the basis of the forty year record and longer that the scientific community has been successively examining, year after year after year. That is how we make decisions in medical, in health, or in business. We operate on the basis of preponderance of evidence. The same thing must be done for the planetary life support system. That’s why it’s so important to understand who’s credible.

“Expert Credibility in Climate Change” (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, published online before print, June 21, 2010)

Stephen Schneider’s website

Science as a Contact Sport: Inside the Battle to Save Earth’s Climate

I’ll repeat what I wrote a month ago:  The disinformers are upset with this study since it exposes just how phony the entire disinformation campaign is.
Ironically, the best defense that some of the disinformers seem to have is, “I am not a skeptic.”  But that label was originally pushed by the disinformers themselves — in fact, all serious scientists are skeptics.  The issue is not whether someone is skeptical of the supposed ‘consensus’ — another ill-defined term that is it not terribly useful (see “Disputing the ‘consensus’ on global warming“).  The issue is whether folks are actively spreading disinformation, especially disinformation that has been long debunked in the scientific literature.  As I’ve said for many years now, it is time for the media to stop listening to, quoting, and enabling those who spread anti-science and anti-scientist disinformation.

Wanna Play the Lottery? (Risk Analysis and Climate Change)

Have your doubts about climate change?  Know some friends or family members that are still skeptical?  Given the overwhelming scientific evidence (see my blog post on this here) I find this mind blowing, but let’s forget the science for a moment.

Let’s talk about risk management.  What are the potential risks if we take action to mitigate against global warming?  What are the risks if we do nothing?  What would a prudent/reasonable person then do?

Watch this video and then ask your skeptic friend/family member to rationalize how we should not take action.

Climate Chorus Growing Every Day

Short on time today but I figured I would post a short follow up to last week’s post Why Al Gore Doesn’t Matter.  In that missive I tried to demonstrate why it doesn’t matter what I think or what Al Gore thinks about climate change.  We should be listening to the experts, and if you cut through all the propaganda, lies and mistruths, 99% of the world’s leading scientists are to put it technically, freakin out.

And the chorus of support for this concern is growing every day.  Many of the worlds business leaders are lining up demanding action.  It makes sense if you think about it.  In the business world those who thrive are the ones who do the best job of deciphering trends and predicting the future operating environment.  Some are driven by concerns over the environment while others see that the future “industrial revolution” will be an “energy revolution.”  The country that makes that shift first will lead the world.

Below are several articles.  Make sure to follow the links in RED to really see who is speaking out.  You might be surprised….

Here is an article that highlights how more and more business leaders want the US government to pass climate legilsation.

The Wall Street Journal

Business Groups Say Climate Impasse Undermines Clean Energy

WASHINGTON—The Capitol Hill politics bogging down a climate bill in the Senate are also hobbling investments in low-carbon energy and prompting calls from some business groups for action.
President Barack Obama is scheduled to travel Tuesday to a Siemens Corp. wind turbine facility in Fort Madison, Iowa, Tuesday as part of the White House effort to tout the economic, environmental and national security benefits of clean energy investments. The company expanded the plant, adding more than 600 jobs with capital from the stimulus package and tax credits.
Siemens, a unit of the German parent company Siemens AG, is representative of thousands of companies looking to capitalize on a carbon-constrained economy. It is building a range of products that would be attractive if there was a cost for emitting carbon. Besides efficient motors and generators, they are also developing technology to capture emissions from coal plants, have a retro-fitting business that installs energy-efficient equipment in buildings, and plan to expand their solar power unit in the U.S.
Nearly every sector of the energy industry is in some way affected by Congressional deliberations on climate and energy policy, whether it is makers of wind turbines and solar plants, utilities planning nuclear power projects or companies that make natural-gas generators and clean-coal technology. While some want to see a carbon market that will create demand for their products, others say they want to get clarity on how the new emission rules will affect their plans.
“The U.S. faces a critical moment that will determine whether we will be able to unleash billions in energy investments or remain mired in the economic status quo,” the U.S. Climate Action Partnership said after the meltdown in negotiations over the weekend. USCAP represents nearly two dozen Fortune-500 companies that have urged Congress to pass a climate bill, including General Electric Co., Duke Energy, and NRG Energy.
The American Business for Clean Energy, a group representing 3,000 businesses that support passage of a climate bill, urged lawmakers to keep pushing it as a legislative priority. “American businesses, large and small, are urging Congress to act in order to make the United States a world leader in clean energy technology, reduce our dependence on foreign energy sources, and create millions of new jobs,” the group said.
Portfolio managers, investment firms and businesses have been betting that Congress would act this year on legislation that would put caps on greenhouse gas emissions, and offer incentives to companies investing in technology to produce or use energy without heavy carbon dioxide emissions.
But the latest effort to craft legislation that could pass the Senate appears to have foundered after the lone Republican working on the bill, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) said he will pull out of the talks because Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid could move a controversial immigration bill to the floor before the climate bill. Mr. Reid has suggested Mr. Graham’s real problem is pressure from other Republicans to stop working on the climate measure. Sens. John Kerry (D., Mass.) and Joseph Lieberman (I., Conn.) say they will continue to work for a bill.
The impasse leaves utilities that have worked with the Senate trio to craft climate legislation, such as Exelon Corp., American Electric Power Co. and FPL Group, flummoxed.
“We are disappointed by this temporary setback. We remain hopeful that the issues will be resolved quickly, and that the U.S. Senate will make passage of an energy and climate bill an urgent priority,” said Exelon spokeswoman Judy Rader.
A senior lobbyist that works for a large utility said the political intervention is frustrating because, “We thought progress had been made and we were moving in the right direction.”
With businesses fearing their work on the bill will have been in vain, he said there is “an effort to try to get many people to weigh in with Graham, and say, ‘please go back to the table.'”
The setback—which some say may be fatal for the bill this year—happens as the White House has been ramping up the rhetoric about how vital passing the climate bill is to invigorate the U.S. economy and compete with China. Obama administration officials have been hitting the public-speaking circuit to fan support for putting a price on carbon to stimulate clean energy investment.
Write to Ian Talley at [email protected]

And this:

175 Companies Urge Senate to Move Forward with Climate Legislation

On April 28, 175 U.S. companies sent a letter to Senate leadership, urging them to continue working to enact comprehensive climate and energy legislation this year. The letter was brought together by the We Can Lead coalition, a project of the Clean Economy Network (CEN) and Ceres. The businesses come from some of the nation’s largest electric power, manufacturing, and clean tech companies, including Nike, Exelon, PG&E and eBay. “Today, the United States is falling behind in the global race to lead the next global industrial revolution. U.S. businesses need strong policies and clear market signals to deploy capital, harness innovative technologies, and compete in the global marketplace,” the letter stated. “Every day the Senate fails to pass comprehensive climate and energy legislation is a day our economy falls another step behind and delays our ability to create millions of new American jobs. America’s energy future is not a partisan issue. Now is the time to bring the parties together and finish what we started.”
For additional information see: We Can Lead Letter

And another addition to the choir are leaders from our armed forces.  Many of the top brass in the US military now understand the profound threat climate change represents to the future of our country.  This community is not typically considered card carrying members of any tree hugging group.

Check this out:

33 Retired Military Leaders Call for Climate Legislation

On April 28, 33 retired military leaders issued a statement, calling on “Congress and the administration to enact strong, comprehensive climate and energy legislation to reduce carbon pollution and lead the world in clean energy technology.” The statement goes on to note that the “Pentagon and security leaders of both parties consider climate disruption to be a ‘threat multiplier’ – it exacerbates existing problems by decreasing stability, increasing conflict, and incubating the socioeconomic conditions that foster terrorist recruitment.” The statement, released in conjunction by The Truman National Security Project and Operation Free (OPFREE), is another attempt by the military community to inform the public about the national security issues connected to climate change. OPFREE says America’s dependence on oil puts money into the hands of dangerous enemies. In January, the United States imported 506,000 barrels of oil each day from Iraq, 911,000 from Venezuela and 463,000 from Russia, according to the Energy Information Administration. “At the same time, the climate change caused by carbon pollution is destabilizing nations like Somalia, Yemen, Sudan, Nigeria and Afghanistan — creating safe havens for terrorists,” Operation Free campaign manager Jonathan Murray said.

For additional information see: Truman Project Press Release
Why aren’t our leaders, leading?

Why Al Gore Doesn’t Matter

From time to time I meet someone who tells me that they don’t believe in climate change. Usually, about 70% of the time, within the next 2 to 3 sentences after making this proclamation, said person will argue that it is all a conspiracy orchestrated by Al Gore. He might add that the issue is just something made up by Al Gore so he and a few scientists can make a lot of money, etc.  Some have heard a rumor that he has this really big house with a huge energy bill so that just proves that he is a hypocrite so global warming must be a lie.

Al Gore?  Who the hell cares what Al Gore has to say?  What do climate scientists say about all this?  Deniers argue that there is no clear scientific consensus on the topic.  They claim that the scientific community is widely split and many doubts remain.  This is beyond ludicrous.  Let me give you a visual representation of how the camps are divided.

 A photo taken at a climate scientists’ recent flag football game.  😉

Ok, the photo is a joke but the message is accurate — the vast, vast majority of the science community accepts that climate change is happening and that it is caused by humans.  This is may be shocking to some, especially if you only occasionally follow the issue or catch sound bites from Fox News or if you only catch the headlines from articles and columns from the major newspapers.  Yes, the media has done a terrible job of explaining the story.  And it turns out, not surprisingly, that scientists are poor communicators.  (I will deal with that issue at a later time.)

So, who exactly is saying that climate change is real?  And when did they start saying it?  Is it just a couple of hacks that Al Gore found somewhere?

The Experts
Scientists around the world started to notice the effects of climate change in the 1980s.  In response the United Nations (at the request of the United States and other concerned countries) created the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 1988 to look into the issue.  The IPCC is made up of the top climate scientists from around the world.  The IPCC does not carry out new research nor does it monitor climate-related data.  So what does it do?  Every few years they produce an assessment report based on a review of the latest technical data and peer-reviewed published reports related to climate science.  The purpose of the assessment report is to offer guidance to policy makers (e.g. world leaders and politicians).  Four reports have been produced to date: 1990, 1992, 2001, and 2007.

The IPCC Assessment Report represents THE official view of the scientific community on climate change.  Is this document credible?  Let’s look at the 2007 report.  The document was written after 6 years of work involving 130 countries, 450 lead authors and 800 contributing authors.  The validity of each topic section was checked, critiqued, and verified by the leading experts for that field.  The document was reviewed by 2,500 expert reviewers.  I am not sure if you fully appreciate how unbelievably rigorous this review process is. 
A bit of background.  How does science move forward?  Well, normally a scientist does research and then s/he submits the findings to a peer-review journal like the Lancet (health related) or Science, or Nature, etc.  The journal would then search out 1 to 3 experts in that field and ask them to review the study for scientific validity.  If the reviewers feel the methodology and calculations look fine, the study is accepted by the journal for publication.
The IPCC report is reviewed, and re-reviewed by THOUSANDS of the very best scientists of the world.  And the entire submission process is completely transparent – all submissions to the IPCC, all comments, and all responses to comments are available for anyone to review.
Hang on, we are not done yet.  The IPCC then submits the report to the world’s governments to review.  Each country has the right to critique the document and make edits.  The main recommendations and language are NEGOTIATED with the world’s political leaders.  The final document is then submitted to the United Nations where each country has the option to sign on in support of the findings.  If a country does not agree, they simply don’t sign.
The latest report has declared:
  1. Warming of the climate system is unequivocal.
  2. Most of the observed increase in globally averaged temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations.
Wow.  For science-speak this is like screaming from the roof-top.  Try getting a scientist to say anything is “unequivocal.”  And as defined in the report, the term “very likely” indicates a >90% probability.  The scientists are saying that they are more than 90% sure global warming is happening and it is caused by humans. 
So who has signed on in support of the IPCC findings?
  1. EVERY scientist who participated in producing the document has signed on.  Signature does not mean that a scientist necessarily agrees with every statement in the report but that s/he agrees that the content is fair and credible.
  2. EVERY country in the world, including the United States has signed on in support of the document.  Yes, George Bush signed his support for the 2007 report.
Anybody Else?
Has anyone else signed on in support of the findings of the IPCC report?  In the United States the National Academy of Sciences has said:
 “The IPCC’s conclusion that most of the observed warming of the last 50 years is likely to have been due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations accurately reflects the current thinking of the scientific community on this issue
Should we listen to the Academy?  It is home to about 2,100 of America’s top scientists with close to 200 of them having won Nobel Prizes for their work. Only the finest scientists our country produces are elected to join this body and membership is considered one of the highest honors that can be accorded to a scientist or engineer.  Don’t sound like hacks to me.
I got more.
In 2008 the National Academies of 13 countries (United States, United Kingdom, Russia, Canada, China, Germany, France, Italy, Brazil, Japan, India, South Africa, and Mexico). put out this statement:
 “….climate change is happening and that anthropogenic warming is influencing many physical and biological systems.” Among other actions, the declaration urges all nations to “(t)ake appropriate economic and policy measures to accelerate transition to a low carbon society and to encourage and effect changes in individual and national behaviour.”
So, the most prestigious scientific bodies, including most of the top scientific minds on our planet, from some of the most advanced societies in the world support the findings of the IPCC.
Oh, I’m not done

These organizations have signed on in support of the IPCC findings:

U.S. Agency for International Development
United States Department of Agriculture
National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration
National Institute of Standards and Technology
United States Department of Defense
United States Department of Energy
National Institutes of Health
United States Department of State
United States Department of Transportation
U.S. Geological Survey
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
University Corporation for Atmospheric Research
National Center for Atmospheric Research
National Aeronautics & Space Administration
National Science Foundation
Smithsonian Institution
International Arctic Science Committee
Arctic Council
African Academy of Sciences
Australian Academy of Sciences
Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for Sciences and the Arts
Academia Brasileira de Ciéncias
Cameroon Academy of Sciences
Royal Society of Canada
Caribbean Academy of Sciences
Chinese Academy of Sciences
Académie des Sciences, France
Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences
Deutsche Akademie der Naturforscher Leopoldina of Germany
Indonesian Academy of Sciences
Royal Irish Academy
Accademia nazionale delle scienze of Italy
Indian National Science Academy
Science Council of Japan
Kenya National Academy of Sciences
Madagascar’s National Academy of Arts, Letters and Sciences
Academy of Sciences Malaysia
Academia Mexicana de Ciencias
Nigerian Academy of Sciences
Royal Society of New Zealand
Polish Academy of Sciences
Russian Academy of Sciences
l’Académie des Sciences et Techniques du Sénégal
Academy of Science of South Africa
Sudan Academy of Sciences
Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
Tanzania Academy of Sciences
Turkish Academy of Sciences
Uganda National Academy of Sciences
The Royal Society of the United Kingdom
National Academy of Sciences, United States
Zambia Academy of Sciences
Zimbabwe Academy of Science
American Academy of Pediatrics
American Association for the Advancement of Science
American Association of Wildlife Veterinarians
American Astronomical Society
American Chemical Society
American College of Preventive Medicine
American Geophysical Union
American Institute of Physics
American Medical Association
American Meteorological Society
American Physical Society
American Public Health Association
American Quaternary Association
American Institute of Biological Sciences
American Society of Agronomy
American Society for Microbiology
American Society of Plant Biologists
American Statistical Association
Association of Ecosystem Research Centers
Botanical Society of America
Crop Science Society of America
Ecological Society of America
Federation of American Scientists
Geological Society of America
National Association of Geoscience Teachers
Natural Science Collections Alliance
Organization of Biological Field Stations
Society of American Foresters
Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics
Society of Systematic Biologists
Soil Science Society of America
Australian Coral Reef Society
Australian Medical Association
Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society
Engineers Australia
Federation of Australian Scientific and Technological Societies
Geological Society of Australia
British Antarctic Survey
Institute of Biology, UK
Royal Meteorological Society, UK
Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences
Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society
European Federation of Geologists
European Geosciences Union
European Physical Society
European Science Foundation
International Association for Great Lakes Research
International Union for Quaternary Research
International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
World Federation of Public Health Associations
World Health Organization
World Meteorological Organization
Damn, that Al Gore guy is goooooood. 
But doesn’t it seem like there are a lot of people saying that climate change is not happening or that the science is far from done.  Yes, it does seem that way.  I will write on this later but for now think of it this way.
Remember when everyone thought smoking was honky dory?  Then a few scientists started producing evidence that smoking was linked to lung cancer.  The tobacco industry created a research consortium called the U.S. Tobacco Institute and within a few years some scientists and “experts” appeared with studies showing that there was no credible data linking smoking to cancer.  The tobacco industry bought off scientists, hired PR firms to spread disinformation, and lobbied heavily with government officials.  The whole goal of the campaign was to create doubt in the public mind.  We all know how it turned out.  The body of evidence became overwhelming and the tactics and fraud of Big Tobacco were revealed to the public.  We now all accept as common knowledge that smoking can kill you.
That is our reality now.  The illusion of doubt around climate change is simply the output of a well-funded campaign orchestrated by the fossil-fuel industry (because it threatens their profits) and right-wing political parties (because the solutions threaten their world view). 
The evidence however is overwhelming, and climate change can kill you.  We need action now.
Learn more here.
Change your life to reduce emissions that cause climate change.
Demand political action now.  Call your elected official and tell them you want action.
Want to learn more?
Here is a report that shows how Exxon Mobil has funded over 40 organizations to spread disinformation on climate change.
whew…i am exhausted….gotta write something shorter tomorrow


Here it is only day two on the job and I am already letting someone else pinch hit for me. Below is a posting (from yesterday) from one of my favorite bloggers, Joe Romm who writes Climate Progress, one of the best blogs out there on climate change. I like Joe’s writing style, it is clear and it is in your face. He doesn’t pull any punches. I don’t agree with everything he says but it is always a fun read.

Joe is suggesting that we need to change the name of “Earth Day” (which was Thursday ) because if we don’t deal with climate change, it is the human species that is at risk, not the planet earth. For me, global warming is just a symptom of a much more ominous, much more profound problem. It just turns out that this one symptom is a doozy — this one side effect of our developmental path could single-handedly knock most of humanity off the map or at least make life very, very unpleasant for a few thousand years.
We are part of the environment. We are not above it. We do not control it (well, not for long). We are not separate from it. What happens to nature, happens to us.
Enjoy Joe’s provocative wit…….
Affection for our planet is misdirected and unrequited. We need to focus on saving ourselves.
April 21, 2010
In 2008, I wrote a piece for Salon about renaming ‘Earth’ Day. It was supposed to be mostly humorous. Or mostly serious. Anyway, the subject of renaming Earth Day seems more relevant than ever because this is the 40th anniversary.
In a 2009 interview last year, our Nobel-prize winning Energy Secretary, Steven Chu, said:
I would say that from here on in, every day has to be Earth Day.
Well, duh! Heck, we have a whole day just for the trees — and we haven’t finished them offyet. So if every day is Earth Day, than April 22 definitely needs a new name. So I’m updating the column, with yet another idea at the end, at least for climate science advocates:
I don’t worry about the earth. I’m pretty certain the earth will survive the worst we can do to it. I’m very certain the earth doesn’t worry about us. I’m not alone. People got more riled up when scientists removed Pluto from the list of planets than they do when scientists warn that our greenhouse gas emissions are poised to turn the earth into a barely habitable planet.
Arguably, concern over the earth is elitist, something people can afford to spend their time on when every other need is met. But elitism is out these days. We need a new way to make people care about the nasty things we’re doing with our cars and power plants. At the very least, we need a new name.
How about Nature Day or Environment Day? Personally, I am not an environmentalist. I don’t think I’m ever going to see the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. I wouldn’t drill for oil there. But that’s not out of concern for the caribou but for my daughter and the planet’s next several billion people, who will need to see oil use cut sharply to avoid the worst of climate change.
I used to worry about the polar bear. But then some naturalists told me that once human-caused global warming has completely eliminated their feeding habitat — the polar ice, probably by 2020, possibly sooner — polar bears will just go about the business of coming inland and attacking humans and eating our food and maybe even us. That seems only fair, no?
I am a cat lover, but you can’t really worry about them. Cats are survivors. Remember the movie “Alien”? For better or worse, cats have hitched their future to humans, and while we seem poised to wipe out half the species on the planet, cats will do just fine.
Apparently there are some plankton that thrive on an acidic environment, so it doesn’t look like we’re going to wipe out all life in the ocean, just most of it. Sure, losing Pacific salmon is going to be a bummer, but I eat Pacific salmon several times a week, so I don’t see how I’m in a position to march on the nation’s capital to protest their extinction. I won’t eat farm-raised salmon, though, since my doctor says I get enough antibiotics from the tap water.
If thousands of inedible species can’t adapt to our monomaniacal quest to return every last bit of fossil carbon back into the atmosphere, why should we care? Other species will do just fine, like kudzu, cactus, cockroaches, rats, scorpions, the bark beetle, Anopheles mosquitoes and the malaria parasites they harbor. Who are we to pick favorites?
I didn’t hear any complaining after the dinosaurs and many other species were wiped out when an asteroid hit the earth and made room for mammals and, eventually, us. If God hadn’t wanted us to dominate all living creatures on the earth, he wouldn’t have sent that asteroid in the first place, and he wouldn’t have turned the dead plants and animals into fossil carbon that could power our Industrial Revolution, destroy the climate, and ultimately kill more plants and animals.
All of these phrases create the misleading perception that the cause so many of us are fighting for — sharp cuts in greenhouse gases — is based on the desire to preserve something inhuman or abstract or far away. But I have to say that all the environmentalists I know — and I tend to hang out with the climate crowd — care about stopping global warming because of its impact on humans, even if they aren’t so good at articulating that perspective. I’m with them.
The reason that many environmentalists fight to save the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge or the polar bears is not because they are sure that losing those things would cause the universe to become unhinged, but because they realize that humanity isn’t smart enough to know which things are linchpins for the entire ecosystem and which are not. What is the straw that breaks the camel’s back? The 100th species we wipe out? The 1,000th? For many, the safest and wisest thing to do is to try to avoid the risks entirely.
This is where I part company with many environmentalists. With 6.5 billion people going to 9 billion, much of the environment is unsavable. But if we warm significantly more than 3.5°F from pre-industrial levels — and especially if we warm more than 7°F, as would be all but inevitable if we keep on our current emissions path for much longer — then the environment and climate that made modern human civilization possible will be ruined, probably for hundreds of years (see NOAA stunner: Climate change “largely irreversible for 1000 years,” with permanent Dust Bowls in Southwest and around the globe). And that means misery for many if not most of the next 10 to 20 billion people to walk the planet.
So I think the world should be more into conserving the stuff that we can’t live without. In that regard I am a conservative person. Unfortunately, Conservative Day would, I think, draw the wrong crowds.
The problem with Earth Day is it asks us to save too much ground. We need to focus. The two parts of the planet worth fighting to preserve are the soils and the glaciers.
Two years ago, Science magazine published research that “predicted a permanent drought by 2050 throughout the Southwest” — levels of soil aridity comparable to the 1930s Dust Bowl would stretch from Kansas and Oklahoma to California. The Hadley Center, the U.K.’s official center for climate change research, found that “areas affected by severe drought could see a five-fold increase from 8% to 40%.” On our current emissions path, most of the South and Southwest ultimately experience twice as much loss of soil moisture as was seen during the Dust Bowl.
Also, locked away in the frozen soil of the tundra or permafrost is more carbon than the atmosphere contains today (see Tundra, Part 1). On our current path, most of the top 10 feet of the permafrost will be lost this century — so much for being “perma” — and that amplifying carbon-cycle feedback will all but ensure that today’s worst-case scenarios for global warming become the best-case scenarios (see Tundra, Part 2: The point of no return). We must save the tundra. Perhaps it should be small “e” earth Day, which is to say, Soil Day. On the other hand, most of the public enthusiasm in the 1980s for saving the rain forests fizzled, and they are almost as important as the soil, so maybe not Soil Day.
As for glaciers, when they disappear, sea levels rise, perhaps as much as two inches a year by century’s end (see “Sea levels may rise 3 times faster than IPCC estimated, could hit 6 feet by 2100” and here). If we warm even 3°C from pre-industrial levels, we will return the planet to a time when sea levels were ultimately 100 feet higher (see Science: CO2 levels haven’t been this high for 15 million years, when it was 5° to 10°F warmer and seas were 75 to 120 feet higher — “We have shown that this dramatic rise in sea level is associated with an increase in CO2 levels of about 100 ppm.”). The first five feet of sea level rise, which seems increasingly likely to occur this century on our current emissions path, would displace more than 100 million people. That would be the equivalent of 200 Katrinas. Since my brother lost his home in Katrina, I don’t consider this to be an abstract issue.
Equally important, the inland glaciers provide fresh water sources for more than a billion people. But on our current path, they will be gone by century’s end.
So where is everyone going to live? Hundreds of millions will flee the new deserts, but they can’t go to the coasts; indeed, hundreds of millions of other people will be moving inland. But many of the world’s great rivers will be drying up at the same time, forcing massive conflict among yet another group of hundreds of millions of people. The word rival, after all, comes from “people who share the same river.” Sure, desalination is possible, but that’s expensive and uses a lot of energy, which means we’ll need even more carbon-free power.
Perhaps Earth Day should be Water Day, since the worst global warming impacts are going to be about water — too much in some places, too little in other places, too acidified in the oceans for most life. But even soil and water are themselves only important because they sustain life. We could do Pro-Life Day, but that term is already taken, and again it would probably draw the wrong crowd.
We could call it Homo sapiens Day. Technically, we are the subspecies Homo sapiens sapiens. Isn’t it great being the only species that gets to name all the species, so we can call ourselves “wise” twice! But given how we have been destroying the planet’s livability, I think at the very least we should drop one of the sapiens. And, perhaps provisionally, we should put the other one in quotes, so we are Homo “sapiens,” at least until we see whether we are smart enough to save ourselves from self-destruction.
What the day — indeed, the whole year — should be about is not creating misery upon misery for our children and their children and their children, and on and on for generations (see “Is the global economy a Ponzi scheme?“). Ultimately, stopping climate change is not about preserving the earth or creation but about preserving ourselves. Yes, we can’t preserve ourselves if we don’t preserve a livable climate, and we can’t preserve a livable climate if we don’t preserve the earth. But the focus needs to stay on the health and well-being of billions of humans because, ultimately, humans are the ones who will experience the most prolonged suffering. And if enough people come to see it that way, we have a chance of avoiding the worst.
We have fiddled like Nero for far too long to save the whole earth or all of its species. Now we need a World War II scale effort just to cut our losses and save what matters most. So let’s call it Triage Day. And if worse comes to worst — yes, if worse comes to worst — at least future generations won’t have to change the name again.
As a penultimate thought, I suspect that many environmentalists and climate science advocates will have their own, private name: “I told you so” Day. Not as a universal as “Triage Day,” I admit, but it has a Cassandra-like catchiness, no?
Finally, perhaps we should call it “science day.” We don’t have a day dedicated to celebrating science, and don’t we deserve one whole day free from the non-stop disinformation of the anti-science crowd?
As always, I’m open to better ideas….

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