Monday, April 30, 2012

Larry Bell is a Liar!

I don't subscribe to antagonistic rhetoric, but the facts are the facts and Larry Bell is a liar and this needs to be said. He knows where to find me if he thinks I'm committing libel.

For those of you that aren't familiar with this person, Larry Bell is an architecture professor who has decided he is an expert in climate science and writes global warming denial articles for Forbes magazine. Forbes is a little strange in that I have seen both very good, scientific articles about global warming and I have also seen articles written by the deniers, such as Larry Bell. I guess they are willing to go both ways.

Typically, Bell's articles are merely ridiculous and easily debunked. But, I read one today that was particularly noxious. Hellfire and Heresy: Global Warming Hotheads Inflamed About Skeptical Challengers was a truly bad piece of writing. I would be very embarrassed to put my name on something like that and I hope Bell is, too. Let's take a look at some of the reasons I say this.

He starts out innocently enough by pointing out Nobel prize winner Ivar Giaever is a global warming denier. He also points out that the author Michael Crichton was also a skeptic. Neither of these points is relevant. Neither Giaever nor Crichton are climate scientists. The fact that Giaever won the Nobel prize for his work in quantum tunneling is somehow interpreted to mean he knows what he is talking about with regards to climate science. Unfortunately, he has never shown any kind of expertise in the area. And, Crichton was a well-known kook, believing in astral projection, clairvoyance and aura viewing. He may have been a great writer, but he was not a climate scientist.

So, Bell's great references are two men, neither of which knows much about climate science. This should be a red flag.

However, I have to agree with Bell in the next thing he takes exception to. He refers to an article (also in Forbes) by Steve Zwick. In this article, Zwick talked about keeping a list of names of people that contribute to global warming and making them pay for the damage that results later on. This was very extremist of Zwick and I don't agree with his sentiments. As a note, I would point out that I drove my car today and I bet Zwick drives on as well, at least on occasion.

Bell then goes on to point out that some environmental bloggers have compared global warming deniers to Holocaust deniers and even to Hitler. Again, Bell is correct in his condemnation of these people. I have a very low opinion of deniers, but they are not the criminals. I compare them to the scientists that took the tobacco industry money and then produced 'scientific' results showing smoking was not linked to cancer.

But, then he shows his true colors as someone who is out to deceive by complaining about individuals who point out that global warming deniers are funded by the fossil fuel industry. His response to these complaints? He complains that people like Al Gore take money from environmental groups. So what? What about the thousands of climate scientists worldwide whose work proves global warming is real and DON'T take money from environmental groups? Now, show me any reputable climate scientist claiming global warming isn't real and is not taking money from the fossil fuel industry.

I repeat a claim I have made before, the only way you can deny global warming is to deny science. The proof is that strong and conclusive.

Then, this is where Bell begins to just plain lie.

He talks about Peter Gleick, the scientist that obtained internal memos from The Heartland Institute. These memos were freely provided by the Institute without knowing who it was they were giving them to. Their bad, not Gleick's. However, Bell calls this an illegal act and further says Gleick forged some documents. Neither claim is true and Bell knows it. The problem is that The Heartland Institute was revealed as the fossil fuel industry tool that it is and is really upset about being exposed. By slinging lies like this they are trying to take the spotlight off themselves and focus it on someone else.

Then, Bell makes an incredible statement by stating emails were obtained from scientists at the East Anglia Climate Research Unit under the Freedom of Information Act. There are two gigantic lies here. First, the emails are well know to have been obtained by anonymous hackers that illegally hacked into the university's computers. This has become known as ClimateGate. Also, East Anglia is in the U.K. and the Freedom of Information Act doesn't apply there because it is an American law. Bell knows this, so, he made two amazing lies in one sentence.

But, he doesn't stop there. He goes on the misquote, quote out of context and selectively quote from these emails in an attempt to show the scientists were doing something illegal. Eight independent reviews of  the emails has concluded the scientists did nothing wrong. In fact, reviews of the released emails and the originals show that some were altered.

Does anyone besides me think The Heartland Institute might be involved?

Those lies still were not enough for Bell, though. He had to attack NASA climate scientist James Hansen with misquotes before he could call it a day. Bell stated Hansen claimed sea levels would rise by more than 80 feet by the end of this century. In fact, Hansen did not state that and it has to be assumed Bell knew this, since he was supposedly quoting from the article. What Hansen said was

The Earth’s history suggests that with warming of two to three degrees, the new sea level will include not only most of the ice from Greenland and West Antarctica, but a portion of East Antarctica, raising the sea level by twenty-five meters, or eighty feet. Within a century, coastal dwellers will be faced with irregular flooding associated with storms. They will have to continually rebuild above a transient water level.

Notice, he did not say sea levels would rise 80 feet by the end of this century.

For most people that would have been enough. A pretty good day's worth of lies in print. But, he had to throw one more false argument out there. He referred to the 49 former NASA employees and astronauts that wrote a letter to NASA criticizing the agency for its role in climate research. First, the letter is ridiculous. Second, not one of the signers is a climate scientist. The fact that you can find 49 people that deny global warming is not relevant to any argument. I can find 49 people to support any claim you want to make. I can find that many people that claim the world is hollow and we are living on the inside of it. That isn't hyperbole, there really are people that believe that.

Am I exaggerating by comparing deniers to hollow Earth believers? Yes, I am. The point is, just because you have 49 people, even some notable people, signing a letter doesn't make the issue a real one. Those 49 people have rejected science and are wrong in their beliefs. Hopefully, that is the worst they have done. Unlike Larry Bell who has written some bald-faced lies.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Global Warming Effects Showing Up

One of the misconceptions about global warming (and there are many) is that the effects won't be felt for decades or centuries. This encourages a 'Why should I care?' attitude among the general public. When scienti sts say the glaciers will be melted in 350 years, it doesn't sound off the alarms for most people.What we need to do is to show people that global warming is already affecting their daily lives. And, the evidence keeps rolling in.

A report this week shows water evaporation is accelerating. By studying the ocean's salt content scientists have found that the water cycle has increased by 4% over the last 60 years. This means drying places will dry even more and do it more quickly. And, that water will eventually come down meaning wetter places are getting wetter. In fact, what is being seen is the dry areas of the world are getting dryer and saltier, while rains in other regions are getting bigger. In other words, droughts and floods are both getting more frequent and more severe. This is what has been predicted all along and now we are seeing it.

It will continue to get worse over the coming decades. If you live in a dry area, it will get drier. If you live in a flood-prone area, it will flood more often.

So tell me, if the effects of global warming happen just as  predicted, how is it the deniers still don't get it? I would say it is getting more and more difficult for deniers to deny global warming, but the science has long been so overwhelming that it is already clear they will have no problem ignoring any science that comes along.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Sometimes, the problem is just terminology

Scientists have their own set of words and meanings and sometimes, these are different than what the general public thinks. Take the word 'theory,' for instance. When a scientist uses that word, he means something that has been tested over and over and passed every test. But, to the general public the word 'theory' means a best guess. That is what a scientist calls a 'hypotheses.' We observe something and we make our best guess, a hypotheses, as to the cause. Then, we put it to the test and observe the results. Based on those observed results, we modify our hypotheses and test it again. And, we do this over and over until we no longer need to modify the hypotheses and we then call it a 'theory.'

So, when a scientist says, 'We have a theory,' other scientists hear, 'We have tested the dickens out of this thing and it looks to be sound,' but the public hears 'We are making a guess.' People who are skeptical of the scientific results are fond of disdainfully saying, 'Well, its just a theory!' To a scientists, this statement is a complement.

And, there is the crux of the problem. We are not saying and hearing the same thing.

In the world of climate change I hear the words 'weather' and 'climate' used interchangeably all the time. The words are not even close to each other, though. In a nut shell, 'climate' means what you expect and 'weather' is what you get. It is spring so I expect moderate temperatures in the day, a little chilly at night and lots of rain. I base that on the fact that this is the description of what happens between winter and summer. That is climate. But, on a given day it might be in the 90s or it might get below freezing. That is weather.

I would never say 'the climate tomorrow is a high of 90 degrees.' Neither would I say 'the weather tomorrow is spring.' The importance is that we are saying the climate is changing and that is not what we expected. But, weather is constantly changing and is expected to change.

We cannot take the weather on some given day and say that it is proof for or against climate change. There is natural variability in both the climate and weather. As we know, the weather can change from day to day and even from hour to hour. However, the climate is much more stable and takes a long time to change. In my example above, spring will always fall between winter and summer, but what are the dates and what are the average temperatures? We can see that spring is starting earlier and earlier and the average temperatures are going up, but it takes decades, and longer, to document this.

So, to start defusing the debate and end the climate wars it would be helpful if we would all start using the same meaning for a set of words. If we can find a common ground to talk and communicate on then a lot of the tension might go away and we can move forward.

At least, its a theory.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

New Evidence of Global Warming

It keeps getting more difficult for climate change deniers to explain away all the evidence. A new NASA study shows how warm ocean currents are responsible for the majority of melting of Antarctic ice. Ice floating in the oceans around Antarctica is reducing in both extent and thickness. We have very good measurements of this using both radar and laser altimeter. Most of these measurements were made by instruments on ICESat, which flew between 2003 and 2009. ICESat 2 is scheduled to be launched in 2016. I'm sure it will be startling to compare the measurements of the second mission to the measurements of the first one with a gap of over seven years. Will we see the thinning continue? Or, will we see it reverse itself and get thicker? ICESat isn't the only way we have of measuring ice cover and those missions are showing the thinning trend continues.

The study showed that the ice is getting a double whammy. Warm air from global warming is melting it from above and warm currents are melting it from below.

So, explain to me how it is that both the air and ocean around Antarctica are getting warmer if we are not experience global warming? The scientific data is there. Any contrary explanation must take it into account. I am willing to post any explanation for this data that opposing viewpoints might propose. Just send it to me.

The silence is deafening.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Oil Industry and the Arctic

It has long been known that the Arctic Ocean region has some of the largest deposits of fossil fuels in the world. But, these resources have been unattainable due to the severe climate of the arctic and particularly due to the ice cover of the Arctic Ocean.

So, why are so many oil companies suddenly making plans to drill in the arctic?

In the last few weeks Rosneft (Russia's biggest petroleum company and one of the largest in the world) has made deals with ExxonMobil and Eni (Italian petroleum company). These deals involve many billions of dollars. Some of the development will occur in the Black Sea, but about two-thirds will take place in the ice-bound arctic. Or, at least it use to be ice-bound.

These companies are recognizing the world is changing and, by their actions, are acknowledging the inevitability of climate change. They don't need to worry about sea ice as much as they use to because there won't be as much sea ice as there use to. Less arctic ice means more open water and that translates into more accessibility to the arctic resources, including oil.

ExxonMobil continues to finance anti-science global warming deniers, but is also investing billions of dollars into regions that would be inaccessible if not for global warming. I guess they are covering both sides of the bet. With all the money they have, can you blame them? But, also note they are saying they believe global warming is real. They would not be making these deals otherwise.

Alarmism doesn't help

It is difficult to convince a skeptical public that climate change is real and is not to our advantage. There is definitely a well and well funded group of deniers whose purpose it is to subvert science. They are greatly assisted in this when someone makes very alarmist statements.

One of the principle alarmists has been James Lovelock, author of several books on the Gaia Hypothesis which asserts Earth is a living entity and will react accordingly to our actions. Under this line of reasoning, Lovelock came to the conclusion that Earth will react in an extreme manner due to the way we are changing the climate. He even claimed in an interview that the human race will essentially be wiped out by the end of the century with only a few remaining breeding pairs living in the arctic region where the climate would be milder.

This kind of alarmism appeals to a certain crowd, mostly the same kind of people that believe the world will end on December 21, 2012. But, the majority of people see it for what it is, something that has no basis in reality. The problem is that real scientists warning of the consequences of climate change have been painted with the same brush. Once an extremist has turned off the public, it is difficult for serious people to get them back.

Now, Lovelock has backed off and stated he was wrong. Does this help? I don't think so. In fact, I think it makes the case even worse because now the deniers will take his statements and use them against anyone discussing the consequences of climate change. There's that paint brush again. They will argue that, since Lovelock admitted he was wrong in his claims, this is proof that all of the other claims are also wrong. This, of course, is a totally false argument, but it will be an effective one. People will hear what they want to hear.

What is really interesting is that the data Lovelock used proves the deniers are wrong. Lovelock points out the data does not show the kind of temperature increase he claimed would be happening by now. A plot of average temperature, by year, since 1970 shows the temperature climbing. It also shows this rate of increase has slowed since 2000, but is still increasing. The deniers claim that there has been no temperature increase this century and will even claim it has been cooling. But, as we can see, neither claim is true. The temperature may be increasing at a slower rate, but is still increasing. See for yourself (CREDIT: Kevin Trenberth):