Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Tom Harris' Lies About The Temperature Record

Fossil fuel-supported deniers are selling the story that the temperature record is false and there is no global warming. This is particularly interesting considering the number of paid shills who keep insisting the warming is all natural, or the warming is good for us. How could warming be natural if there is none? How could warming be good for us if there is none? This is merely one simple, shining example of how the paid deniers are liars with the goal of deceiving people. Now, there is another, a editorial written by Tom Harris.

Tom Harris is a paid shill of the fossil fuel industry. He also has strong ties to the tobacco industry. These are both industries with track records of falsifying the scientific record in order to prevent any government or public actions that might be damaging to them. These links include a strong affiliation with the Heartland Institute, which receives considerable funding from the fossil fuel and tobacco industries. (Heartland, by the way, is a major player in the fight to convince people that second-hand smoke is harmless.) Mr. Harris denies his link to these industries, but the evidence is conclusive. Take a look at these postings on Mr. Harris and his affiliations.

Part of Mr. Harris’ job, possibly his entire job, is to put false claims in editorials and letters to the editor anywhere he can. In this way, he can promulgate any lie he wants without worrying about being held accountable. After all, he’s entitled to his opinion, even if it is a lie. Mr. Harris has a long record of making false statements. Take a look at his comments from 2006 on Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth documentary.

A recent posting of his concerns the temperature record and is filled with falsehoods and false arguments. You can see his entire posting here:

Let’s take a look and see exactly how he goes about lying.

Mr. Harris states, “But government spokespeople rarely mention the inconvenient fact that these records are being set by less than the uncertainty in the statistics.” The uncertainty, he claims, makes the data ‘meaningless.’ This, of course, is nonsense and is a clear demonstration of his intent to deceive. Let’s take a closer look.

The NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information (  did an analysis of the temperature record for 2014. Taking into account the uncertainty and assuming all years (1880-2014) in the time series are independent, they found the chance of 2014 being
  • Warmest year on record: 48.0%
  • One of the five warmest years: 90.4%
  • One of the 10 warmest years: 99.2%
  • One of the 20 warmest years: 100.0%
  • Warmer than the 20th century average: 100.0%
  • Warmer than the 1981-2010 average: 100.0%
Wait! There is ‘only’ a 48% chance 2014 actually was the hottest year on record. That sounds like Tom Harris is right. And, there is the lie. It’s the lie of omission. If 2014 wasn’t the hottest, then some other year must be. Take a look at the rest of the data. The chance of 2014 being one of the top ten hottest years is 99.2% (virtually certain) and it is 100% likely it is in the top 20. It is also 100% certain 2014 was hotter than the 20th century average of the 1981-2010 average. Every year of the 21st century is in the top sixteen hottest years.

These are facts Tom Harris and other paid deniers fail to mention. The important point is not that 2014 (and soon, 2015) is the hottest year on record, what is important is that every single hottest year ever recorded has occurred since 1997, and they are consistently getting hotter. The data fluctuates from year to year, but the trend is what is important and is unmistakable. Take a look here:

Tell us, Mr. Harris, if July 2015 wasn’t the hottest month ever recorded, why didn’t you discuss the trend? But, it gets worse. Mr. Harris in no way demonstrated July 2015 was not the hottest month on record. In fact, he made a clear-cut argument it is bad and could be much worse than claimed. The reason for this is deniers always take the margin of error the way they want and it doesn’t work that way. Taking the data you want is known as ‘cherry picking’ and is one of the biggest and most common lies deniers use.

The margin of error is a plus-or-minus. When they say the data is ± .14 degrees, that means the range, with great probability, is between .14 degrees less and .14 degrees greater. So, in fact, if there is a chance the temperature was less, there is an equal chance it was greater. In other words, there is a reasonable chance July 2015 was even hotter than reported. The data is conclusive – the temperature trend is upward and the planet is getting hotter. This is true even if July 2015 isn’t the hottest month ever. Funny how Mr. Harris didn’t mention that. Was that because he doesn’t want you to know? I mean, he wouldn’t be doing his job if you end up thinking for yourself. By the way, the temperature rise over the 20th century average is many times the size of the margin of error. Strange, Mr. Harris didn’t mention that either. Another lie of omission on his part.

He then tries to make his case by personal attacks on the climate scientists. “Such misrepresentations are now commonplace...,” and “Scientists within the agencies know that this is dishonest.” These are the kind of statements you can expect from paid shills and have no value in the discussion. First, these are not ‘misrepresentations’ and they are in no way ‘dishonest.’ The most proper way to report the data is to provide the most likely value along with the amount of uncertainty. Mr. Harris proved himself they actually do this by quoting the data. Please Mr. Harris, show us how reporting the data with appropriate uncertainties is in any way ‘dishonest’ or a ‘misrepresentation.’

His deception continues when he states, “After all, there is very little data for the 70 percent of Earth’s surface that is ocean. There is also little data for mountainous and desert regions, not to mention the Antarctic. Much of the coverage is so sparse that NASA is forced to make the ridiculous claim that regions are adequately covered if there is a temperature-sensing station within nearly 750 miles.”
Why is this a deception? Again, Mr. Harris is engaging in the lie of omission, one of his favorite tactics. What Mr. Harris doesn’t want you to know is that the entire planet is measured every day by satellite instruments. That data is in addition to the ground stations he mentions which provide ground-truthing. This satellite data allows us to obtain the temperature at various levels of the atmosphere as well as the land and ocean surface. His claims about the distance between data points is entirely false. Why didn’t he mention the satellite data?

Mr. Harris then writes a peculiar paragraph, beginning with “In their award winning book…” I can find no reference that says Taken By Storm has won any awards. In fact, the only reviews I found soundly blasted it. Take a look at this one example (there’s plenty more):

Maybe they got an award from the Heartland Institute. That would be a true statement of its credibility (i.e., none). In any event, Mr. Harris goes on with a definition of temperature. Yeah. So, what? Temperature measures the amount of energy contained in something. I’m not sure what point he’s trying to make and I don’t think he does, either. That’s usually the case when deniers show and try to fool people into thinking they know something about science.

Then, he continues the lies, stating, “Even if enough accurate surface temperature measurements existed to ensure reasonable planetary coverage (it doesn’t).” We already covered this one. Yes, Mr. Harris, there are accurate enough records. But, he doesn’t stop there and continues with complaints about how the data processing methods aren’t known. First, the specific method isn’t as important as ensuring you use the same method on the entire data base. What we want to see is the trend over time. Again, Mr. Harris has committed the lie of omission. The truth is four agencies around the world and the Berkeley Earth Project all use different methodologies (and even different data bases), but come up with essentially the same results. Again, the lie of omission.

Mr. Harris then makes one of the most egregious statements I have ever seen him make and he has a record of whoppers. He states,

“Even if you could calculate some sort of meaningful global temperature statistic, the figure would be unimportant. No one and nothing would experience it directly since we all live in regions, not the globe. There is no super-sized being straddling the planet, feeling global averages in temperature. Global warming does not matter.” 

Wow! I had to read this several times to make sure I wasn’t misreading it. So, Mr. Harris, we don’t need to worry about all of those silly little things that happen on the other side of the planet because we don’t straddle the planet? Things like massive droughts, war, famine, ISIS, etc. I mean, no one is a ‘super-sized being straddling the planet.’ Of course, when those effects of global warming hit us directly we don’t need to worry about it because it’s just us and there is no ‘super-sized being straddling the planet.’ You know, effects such as mass extinctions, food shortages, hotter summers, more severe winter storms, more extreme weather, higher utility bills, loss of jobs, more flooding, coastal erosion due to sea level rise, and don’t forget the $44 trillion that climate change is expected to cost us.

Also, notice how Mr. Harris went from saying there is no global warming to saying it doesn’t matter. Which is it? No global warming or it doesn’t matter? You can’t have both.

Once again, the lie of omission. And, this was a huge lie.

Mr. Harris then states, “Future generations are bound to ask why America closed its coal-fueled generating stations, its cheapest, most plentiful source of electric power, and wasted billions of dollars trying to stop insignificant changes in imaginary phenomena.”

No, Mr. Harris, future generations are going to wonder why we debated for so long before acting. They are going to wonder why we didn’t immediately close the fossil fuel plants when we learned their emissions were destroying the ozone layer, causing acid rain, providing the number one source of mercury in the food chain (our food chain), poisoning the air with cancer-causing radioactive debris, poisoning our bodies with particulate matter, and poisoning our water supply with arsenic. And, oh yeah, destroying the world’s environment by causing climate change. They will see we had cheaper, safer energy sources. They will see the science was settled and the world’s scientists were in nearly unanimous agreement on the dangers. Then, they will wonder why we allowed paid shills to lie and deceive without holding them accountable.

The sad part is I don’t know how to answer that. Maybe the time is coming when we will hold them accountable.

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