Saturday, May 26, 2018

Guest Post: Fact-checking Duluth News Tribune

RE: Fact checking the May first, 2018, “other view,” titled “necessity or defense? That’s laughable.”

Good morning Chuck,

Today’s May 1st, 2018 opinion page in the Duluth News Tribune contains some grossly false information concerning Co2 and man’s role in climate change. So, because the Tribune never bothers to check such articles for accuracy, here is a little information from the latest IPCC report on Climate change.

As far as the legality of the act of civil disobedience committed by protesters in Clearwater Minnesota, I am not going to pretend to be a legal authority concerning the charges, except to say that If you have a beautiful fenced in back yard, and I decided I had a legal right to dump all my excess garbage all over your lawn, you might just become angry and might protest my actions if the police did nothing about your complaint. Perhaps you can also share this letter with the Tribune’s Citizen’s Advocates?

In the case of climate change however, unlike the letter’s author who is not mentioned except that he or she apparently writes for the Sentinel of Fairmont, Minn., unlike his or her many claims that “There is nothing proven about ‘climate change,’ and, “There is nothing proven about mankind’s contribution to it” or that, “There is nothing to indicate that Canada tar sands are the cause,” there are enormous amounts of scientific and observational evidence proving that global warming is happening, and that man is the primary cause. As far as the dangers caused by extracting tar sands oil, many climate scientists believe that if that is done completely, the impact on the environment from adding Co2 may be fatal—that is, it would place us beyond a “tipping point” where concentrations of Co2 become so great, it will literally be impossible to reduce Co2 back to safe levels. Here is some info from this scientifically valid website:

“The environmental impact of the oil sands is an issue that has been extremely divisive. As with the extraction and use of any fossil fuel, negative environmental effects arise as a result of the extraction, upgrading, and processing of bitumen from the oil sands. Although some steps are being taken to reduce the severity of these impacts - such as reclamation - there are still associated climate, air, and water effects. Since there are so many environmental impacts that can be discussed, the main concerns have been broken down into several core issues including:
Tailings Ponds Impacts: Tailings ponds are settling ponds that contain the waste byproduct of oil sands extraction and upgrading. They are a mix of water, sand, silt, clay, unrecovered hydrocarbons, and other contaminants.

Climate Impacts: The greenhouse gas emissions for oil sand extraction and processing are significantly larger than for conventional crude oil. These emissions contribute to global warming and the enhanced greenhouse effect.

Water Impacts: The extraction of bitumen from oil sands requires a large amount of water, and thus water use is a concern when looking at oil sands extraction. Water used in the oil sands can be recycled, but only small amounts of this water are returned to the natural cycle.

Air Quality Impacts: Along with greenhouse gases, other pollutants are released into the air during oil sands operations. These pollutants are harmful to the environment and human health and include gases such as NOx and SOx.

Reclamation: Reclamation is the attempt to return previously used land - whether it is old surface mines, or more frequently tailings ponds - to their natural state. The chemicals in the tailings are factors that can make reclamation difficult. And as far as what science knows about Co2 and man’s contributions to it, therefore global warming;”

Here are a few relevant findings from the 2014 Climate support summary for policy makers;

These important findings are highlighted in orange throughout the PDF

“Observed Changes and their Causes Human influence on the climate system is clear, and recent anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases are the highest in history. Recent climate changes have had widespread impacts on human and natural systems. {1}”

“Observed changes in the climate system Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia. The atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished, and sea level has risen. {1.1}”

“Causes of climate change Anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions since the pre-industrial era have driven large increases in the atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) (Figure SPM.1c). Between 1750 and 2011, cumulative anthropogenic CO2 emissions to the atmosphere were 2040 ± 310 GtCO2. About 40% of these emissions have remained in the atmosphere (880 ± 35 GtCO2); the rest was removed from the atmosphere and stored on land (in plants and soils) and in the ocean. The ocean has absorbed about 30% of the emitted anthropogenic CO2, causing ocean acidification. About half of the anthropogenic CO2 emissions between 1750 and 2011 have occurred in the last 40 years (high confidence) (Figure SPM.1d). {1.2.1, 1.2.2} Anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions have increased since the pre-industrial era, driven largely by economic and population growth, and are now higher than ever. This has led to atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide that are unprecedented in at least the last 800,000 years. Their effects, together with those of other anthropogenic drivers, have been detected throughout the climate system and are extremely likely to have been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century. {1.2, 1.3.1}”

“Impacts of climate change in recent decades, changes in climate have caused impacts on natural and human systems on all continents and across the oceans. Impacts are due to observed climate change, irrespective of its cause, indicating the sensitivity of natural and human systems to changing climate.”

“Evidence of observed climate change impacts is strongest and most comprehensive for natural systems. In many regions, changing precipitation or melting snow and ice are altering hydrological systems, affecting water resources in terms of quantity and quality (medium confidence). Many terrestrial, freshwater and marine species have shifted their geographic ranges, seasonal activities, migration patterns, abundances and species interactions in response to ongoing climate change (high confidence). Some impacts on human systems have also been attributed to climate change, with a major or minor contribution of climate change distinguishable from other influences (Figure SPM.4). Assessment of many studies covering a wide range of regions and crops shows that negative impacts of climate change on crop yields have been more common than positive impacts (high confidence). Some impacts of ocean acidification on marine organisms have been attributed to human influence (medium confidence). {1.3.2}”

“Extreme event Changes in many extreme weather and climate events have been observed since about 1950. Some of these changes have been linked to human influences, including a decrease in cold temperature extremes, an increase in warm temperature extremes, an increase in extreme high sea levels and an increase in the number of heavy precipitation events in a number of regions. {1.4}”

“Future Climate Changes, Risks and Impacts Continued emission of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and long-lasting changes in all components of the climate system, increasing the likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems. Limiting climate change would require substantial and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions which, together with adaptation, can limit climate change risks. {2} SPM 2.1 Key drivers of future climate Cumulative emissions of CO2 largely determine global mean surface warming by the late 21st century and beyond. Projections of greenhouse gas emissions vary over a wide range, depending on both socio-economic development and climate policy. {2.1}”

“Projected changes in the climate’s system surface temperature is projected to rise over the 21st century under all assessed emission scenarios. It is very likely that heat waves will occur more often and last longer, and that extreme precipitation events will become more intense and frequent in many regions. The ocean will continue to warm and acidify, and global mean sea level to rise. {2.2}”

Here is some info about planned future reports done by the IPCC:

Sixth Assessment Cycle

“In March 2017, the IPCC approved the outlines of the Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate, and Climate Change and Land: an IPCC special report on climate change, desertification, land degradation, sustainable land management, food security, and greenhouse gas fluxes in terrestrial ecosystems. The two reports are expected to be finalized in September 2019.”

In September 2018 the IPCC will also finalize Global Warming of 1.5°C, an IPCC special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty. The IPCC will also refine the 2006 IPCC Guidelines for National Greenhouse Gas Inventories for delivery in 2019.”

Despite all of the evidence above, many deniers continue to push the idea that there is no proof that human caused global warming exists, or that worldwide temperature averages have even risen? However, science has known for more than 150 years that concentrations of Co2 can, and do, affect the heat from infrared solar radiation. This means that when certain kinds of Co2 isotopes collect naturally in the atmosphere they prevent much of the infrared radiation that would normally enter space and be gone, from leaving. And the Co2 disperses or scatters more infrared back into the atmosphere, meaning it accumulates and the warming cycle will continue rising due to that accumulation.

There are also tons of observational evidence that prove just how much warming is caused by greenhouse gases, which are also causing worldwide temperature averages to rise. One of which is the melting ice in the Arctic. When the snow cover is present across the arctic, the white snow reflects greater amounts of solar radiation, but with warming less and less of that snow and sea ice is present year-round. We are already at a point where we have almost no sea ice during the summer seasons in the Arctic. And when the land snow melts it runs into the ocean and has gradually been increasing water levels there. Currently they amount to relatively small amounts each decade, but, are expected to accelerate in the future, and could result in releasing methane gas from ancient organic material under the snow—which could greatly accelerate sea rise. And although methane is another powerful greenhouse gas, overall the greatest danger is from Co2, since it stays in the atmosphere much longer than methane or water vapor and can take hundreds of years to be completely absorbed by natural buffers in the environment—so daily Co2 emissions continue to accumulate.

The arctic snow cover and sea ice are just one factor among dozens of others that provide powerful evidence that human caused global warming does exist and is primarily caused by greenhouse gases. And you can look them up on many well-established sites that are scientifically reliable sources, such as NASA and NOAA.

Here is a great video put out by NASA of sea ice diminishing from the 1980s to 2016:

Deniers like to pick at various aspects of warming and trying to deny they prove that global warming is happening--often by cherry picking data, or by emphasizing honest statements from scientists who have readily admitted that not enough data is available to determine the extent of some of global warming’s specific aspects. How many deniers have written letters to the Tribune admitting they were wrong about anything they said in their letters, or that they have no other proven ideas about why global warming is happening?

Here also is a link to a rebuttal at the website below that explains why deniers’ claims that the earth has not been warming is dead wrong! It makes perfect sense to me and is certainly backed up by pertinent and verifiable data—scientists do not just make up the temperature readings from around the world in order to prove that we have continued to warm for a long period of time! In reality, all of those readings ARE added together and used to determine their global mean values. If you go to the link below, you will see about 200 other rebuttals that debunk many other common talking points used by deniers. Most of the letters sent to the Tribune by deniers, will probably use some false information which has been circulated, and which is drawn from such bogus myths! So Please just try consulting this link, or simply contact a knowledgeable professor from the UMD Earth sciences department, if you should ever decide to actually check the letters from deniers or “skeptics” to determine if their info is real or is just flat out wrong.

Sincerely, Peter W. Johnson

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Pruitt: Possibly most corrupt official in DC runs from press

Scott Pruitt, the director of the EPA currently facing 16 (that's right, 16!) investigations for unethical behavior tried to run and hide from the press yesterday. Only friendly press was allowed into a meeting concerning water contamination while other reporters were excluded and even physically removed from the premises.

Why in the world would Pruitt want to excluded the press from a meeting on an issue of critical importance to everyone (we ALL drink water)? Why would they physically lay hands on a reporter to remove her from the premises? And, why in the world would Pruitt think he would get away with it? It all points to how corrupt he is - he thinks he can get away with anything because he has been getting away with everything. Even a science hater like Pruitt can do that math.

Eventually, you have to ask why Trump keeps such an obviously corrupt official. After seeing how his 'fixer' was taking payoffs for access to Trump (pay to play), I'm waiting for the revelation of how much the fossil fuel industry 'donated.' Pruitt is dirty. By association, so is Trump.

Watch this for a little pertinent fun: Do-it Pruitt

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Heartland's deceptions are on display

Our favorite paid shill for the fossil fuel industry recently placed one of his typically deceptive anti-science pieces in the LancasterOnline, resulting in a response letter from one reader, Pete Kuntz. Interestingly, the Heartland Institute decided to step in and act as Harris' attack dog. This is the role normally reserved for Russell Cook, but he turned out to be more of a yap-dog than an attack one, so I guess Harris is upping the ante. The results are pretty predictable. Not only are Harris' deceptions exposed, so are Heartland's. You can read Harris' original letter here and Mr. Kuntz's response letter here. Heartland's letter to LancasterOnline is included in the comments section and includes a demand by Heartland that the response letter be removed. I'm reproducing the comment from Jim Lakely, Heartland's communication director below verbatim. For the sake of documentation, I'm including snapshots of both Mr. Kuntz's letter and Mr. Lakely's response at the bottom of this post.

I sent this letter to the Suzanne Cassidy, opinion editor of the LancasterOnline, yesterday morning. No response yet.


Ms. Cassidy,

I write today to let you know that the letter titled “Fossil fuel industry behind climate denial” by Pete Kuntz of Manheim Township contains several lies about The Heartland Institute. The errors are so egregious I believe it requires removing his letter from your site and explaining to your readers why it was removed.

You published this falsehood by Kuntz: “Harris is a ‘co-sponsor’ of the Heartland Institute, which receives hundreds of millions from the largest fossil fuel corporations in the U.S. to promote climate denial.”

The idea that “Heartland receives hundreds of millions” from fossil fuel companies is absurd and patently false. It appears Kuntz got this lie from DeSmogBlog, a smear site that has zero credibility. Perhaps Kuntz likely extrapolated a lie about someone else and put it on Heartland. You should be embarrassed that a letter-writer used DeSmog as a source your readers should trust.

The Heartland Institute’s annual budget the last few years has been around $5 million, and was less than that (and often half) for most of Heartland’s 34 years and counting as a free-market think tank. And we deal with a lot of public policy issues with climate and energy work taking up only about a quarter of our budget. Corporate financial support for Heartland is a small minority of our annual funding and no one corporation has ever contributed more than 5 percent of our total receipts. Click the URL below for more on our funding, including a link to our latest 990 form.

Also, Tom Harris is a policy advisor to Heartland, not a “co-sponsor,” whatever that is.

You published this falsehood by Kuntz: "The fossil fuel industry has spent well over $100 million in the past two decades to create the impression that there’s a scientific “debate” about man-made climate change, just as the tobacco industry, for decades, falsely claimed there was scientific debate about whether smoking caused lung cancer — also using the Heartland Institute as a front for the money they gave “doctors” (Union of Concerned Scientists’ website, “The Climate Deception Dossiers”)."

The Heartland Institute has never supported a “scientific debate about whether smoking caused lung cancer.” This is our position on tobacco, which is on our website.

"Heartland's long-standing position on tobacco is that smoking is a risk factor for many diseases; we have never denied that smoking kills. We argue that the risks are exaggerated by the public health community to justify their calls for more regulations on businesses and higher taxes on smokers, and that the risk of adverse health effects from second-hand smoke is dramatically less than for active smoking, with many studies finding no adverse health effects at all. These positions are supported by many prominent scientists and virtually all free-market think tanks."

Are you going to remove this letter that contains multiple egregious lies about The Heartland Institute that are intended to hurt our reputation and misinform your readers?


Jim Lakely
Director of Communications
The Heartland Institute
o: 312-377-4000
Twitter: @HeartlandInst


Mr. Lakely’s letter to LancasterOnline is laughable at best and an outright lie at worst. Certainly, Mr. Lakely practices Heartland’s longstanding policy of deception with his letter. Let’s examine his statements concerning smoking.

Mr. Lakely stated, “Heartland's long-standing position on tobacco is that smoking is a risk factor for many diseases; we have never denied that smoking kills.”

Let’s examine the facts. Here is Heartland’s statement concerning secondhand smoke, reproduced from their webpage:

The research used to justify government regulation of second-hand smoke has been powerfully challenged by critics, including Congress’s own research bureau. According to the EPA, the risk ratio for forty years of exposure to a pack-a-day smoker is just 1.19. Epidemiologists as a rule are skeptical of any relative risks lower than 3 and dismiss as random ratios less than 1.3.
An important report on second-smoke appeared in the May 12, 2003 issue of the British Medical Journal. Two epidemiologists, James Enstrom at UCLA and Geoffrey Kabat at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, analyzed data collected by the American Cancer Society from more than 100,000 Californians from 1959 through 1997.
“The results do not support a causal relation between environmental tobacco smoke and tobacco related mortality,” the researchers wrote, although they do not rule out a small effect. “The association between tobacco smoke and coronary heart disease and lung cancer may be considerably weaker than generally believed.”
“It is generally considered that exposure to environmental tobacco smoke is roughly equivalent to smoking one cigarette per day,” according to Enstrom and Kabat. “If so, a small increase in lung cancer is possible, but the commonly reported 30 percent increase in heart disease risk--the purported cause of almost all the deaths attributed to secondhand smoke -- is highly implausible.”

Well, it didn’t take long to expose his deceptions. We see Heartland’s own documents undermine Mr. Lakely’s claims. But, there’s more.

Before proceeding, I would like to make an interesting observation about one of their links, specifically the link to a Congressional report. When you click on that link it only takes you to Heartland documents and never shows you an actual government report. In fact, the Congressional Research Service did an analysis of the secondhand smoke and this report was pretty much shelved – not because it didn’t give the desired results but because almost all of the data provided came from the tobacco industry and the reviewers were economists, not scientists. Those are little details Heartland never likes to publicize.

Speaking of things they don’t like to publicize, let’s take a look at the statements they’ve made in the press. Joe Bast, the former president of Heartland, wrote an opinion piece, “Five Lies about Tobacco,” where he stated, among other things, “smoking in moderation has few, if any, adverse health effects,” and stated it was safe to smoke up to seven cigarettes a day without increasing the risk of lung cancer. True to form, Mr. Bast later denied making any such statement.

What is really interesting is the emails uncovered between Mr. Bast and the tobacco industry, including the following snippets from a letter from Mr. Bast  to Roy Marden, the Manager of Industry Affairs for Philip Morris Management,  when he was soliciting $35,000 in contributions from Philip Morris: "Heartland does many things that benefit Philip Morris' bottom line." Mr. Bast cited a number of reports, opinion pieces, and news articles placed by Heartland in defense of the tobacco industry and in opposition to those seeking to highlight the health risks associated with smoking. Continuing, Mr. Bast stated, "Heartland has devoted considerable attention to defending tobacco," wrote Bast in the letter. He pointed to several examples, including "two of my essays, titled 'Five Lies About Tobacco' and 'Joe Camel is Innocent.'"

So, we now know Heartland, in reality, has claimed secondhand smoke (and smoking in general, in moderation) is harmless, and they still do. But, what about the experts? Contrary to the claims made by Heartland, an organization with no scientific research facilities, this is what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has to say about second-hand smoke:

Secondhand smoke is the combination of smoke from the burning end of a cigarette and the smoke breathed out by smokers. Secondhand smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals. Hundreds are toxic and about 70 can cause cancer.1,2,3,4
Since the 1964 Surgeon General’s Report, 2.5 million adults who were nonsmokers died because they breathed secondhand smoke.1
There is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke.
  • Secondhand smoke causes numerous health problems in infants and children, including more frequent and severe asthma attacks, respiratory infections, ear infections, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).1,4
  • Smoking during pregnancy results in more than 1,000 infant deaths annually.4
  • Some of the health conditions caused by secondhand smoke in adults include coronary heart disease, stroke, and lung cancer.1,4

Pretty definitive and not in agreement with Heartland. But, that's only one source. What do others say? This is what the National Cancer Institute (part of the National Institutes of Health) says:

Does exposure to secondhand smoke cause cancer?
Yes. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. National Toxicology Program, the U.S. Surgeon General, and the International Agency for Research on Cancer have all classified secondhand smoke as a known human carcinogen (a cancer-causing agent) (1, 3, 5, 7).
Inhaling secondhand smoke causes lung cancer in nonsmoking adults (4, 5). Approximately 3,000 lung cancer deaths occur each year among adult nonsmokers in the United States as a result of exposure to secondhand smoke (2). The U.S. Surgeon General estimates that living with a smoker increases a nonsmoker’s chances of developing lung cancer by 20 to 30 percent (4).
Some research also suggests that secondhand smoke may increase the risk of breast cancer, nasal sinus cavity cancer, and nasopharyngeal cancer in adults and the risk of leukemia, lymphoma, and brain tumors in children (4). Additional research is needed to learn whether a link exists between secondhand smoke exposure and these cancers.

What are the other health effects of exposure to secondhand smoke?
Secondhand smoke is associated with disease and premature death in nonsmoking adults and children (4, 5). Exposure to secondhand smoke irritates the airways and has immediate harmful effects on a person’s heart and blood vessels. It may increase the risk of heart disease by an estimated 25 to 30 percent (4). In the United States, secondhand smoke is thought to cause about 46,000 heart disease deaths each year (8). There may also be a link between exposure to secondhand smoke and the risk of stroke and hardening of the arteries; however, additional research is needed to confirm this link.
Children exposed to secondhand smoke are at increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome, ear infections, colds, pneumonia, bronchitis, and more severe asthma. Being exposed to secondhand smoke slows the growth of children’s lungs and can cause them to cough, wheeze, and feel breathless (4, 5).

What is a safe level of secondhand smoke?
There is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke. Even low levels of secondhand smoke can be harmful. The only way to fully protect nonsmokers from secondhand smoke is to completely eliminate smoking in indoor spaces. Separating smokers from nonsmokers, cleaning the air, and ventilating buildings cannot completely eliminate exposure to secondhand smoke (4).

But, those are both American. What do other countries say? Here's what they're saying in Britain:

Breathing in other people's smoke, also called second-hand smoke, can cause cancer. Passive smoking can increase a non-smoker's risk of getting lung cancer by a quarter, and may also increase the risk of cancers of the larynx (voice box) and pharynx (upper throat).

Second-hand smoke can cause other health problems too. Every year, second-hand smoke kills thousands of people in the UK from lung cancer, heart disease, stroke and the lung disease Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).

According to conservative estimates, over 79 000 adults, including 19 000 non-smokers, died in the EU in 2002 due to exposure to tobacco smoke at home (72 000) and in their workplace (7300).

“There is no safe level of secondhand smoke.”

As you can see, Heartland’s history of deception goes way back. In fact, the Heartland Institute is, once again, in the position of telling all the world’s experts they are wrong and Heartland is right – the ONLY group that is right. It would be nice if Mr. Lakely would at least make an attempt to verify his facts. But, of course, the truth has never worked to serve the purposes of Heartland.

It is also notable that Mr. Lakely attempted to smear the reputation of DeSmogBlog. Once again, reality doesn’t agree with Mr. Lakely’s claims. The reality is that DeSmogBlog is a highly regarded source. A panel of journalists and public relations professionals selected them for an award for the "highest ethical and professional standards while performing outstanding work." 

Heartland’s concern with DeSmogBlog goes back to when a number of embarrassing Heartland documents were published on their website – documents Heartland has gone to increasingly embarrassing attempts to deny. In fact, DeSmogBlog is highly respected by everyone familiar with them. Except, of course, the people most engaged in deception – people like the Heartland Institute. It is no surprise to see that Mr. Lakely is continuing the tradition. 

 Here are screen shots of the letters from Mr. Kuntz and Mr. Lakely, just in case they should be removed for any reason.