Year 2, Month 10, Day 31: DFH Edition

The San Antonio Express-News reprints Eugene Robinson’s column (see yesterday’s letter for another quote):

Muller and his colleagues examined five times as many temperature readings as did other researchers — a total of 1.6 billion records — and now have put that merged database online. The results have not yet been subjected to peer review. But Muller’s plain-spoken admonition that “you should not be a skeptic, at least not any longer” has humbled many deniers.

Not so, I predict, with the blowhards such as Perry, Cain and Bachmann, who, out of ignorance or perceived self-interest, are willing to play politics with the Earth’s future

Here is what we know: The rise in temperatures over the past five decades is abrupt and large. It is consistent with models developed by other researchers that posit greenhouse gas emissions — the burning of fossil fuels by humans — as the cause.

Nobody’s fudging the numbers. Nobody’s manipulating data to win research grants, as Perry claims, or making an undue fuss over a “naturally occurring” warm-up, as Bachmann alleges. Contrary to what Cain says, the science is real.

It is the know-nothing politicians — not scientists — who commit an unforgivable fraud.

Muller has no idea what’s going to hit him. Sent October 26:

It’s an axiom of modern American politics: to find out what Republicans are up to, listen to what they accuse others of doing. This strategy, perfected by Karl Rove and his collaborators, is on vivid display in the GOP presidential primary, as aspirants vie with one another to make ever-more-revealing statements about their inability to accept the facts of climate change.

When Rick Perry claims that climatologists fake or cherry-pick evidence in order to win grant funding, it’s because he and members of his administration are notorious for fudging facts for personal gain. Michelle Bachmann’s claims of misinterpreted data are particularly risible; the White Queen of conservative wonderland can believe six impossible things before breakfast without even breaking a sweat.

Dr. Richard Muller, the erstwhile “climate skeptic” whose recent study undercut oft-repeated Republican shibboleths, is going to find himself stigmatized as a dirty hippie before the end of the week.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 10, Day 30: Sometimes These Letters Just Walk Up And Beg To Be Written

Eugene Robinson writes in the October 25 Washington Post about the logical consequences of the Muller/UC study:

For the clueless or cynical diehards who deny global warming, it’s getting awfully cold out there.

The latest icy blast of reality comes from an eminent scientist whom the climate-change skeptics once lauded as one of their own. Richard Muller, a respected physicist at the University of California, Berkeley, used to dismiss alarmist climate research as being “polluted by political and activist frenzy.” Frustrated at what he considered shoddy science, Muller launched his own comprehensive study to set the record straight. Instead, the record set him straight.

“Global warming is real,” Muller wrote last week in The Wall Street Journal.

Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann and the rest of the neo-Luddites who are turning the GOP into the anti-science party should pay attention.

Sharp learning curve ahead for Muller, who is going to find himself stigmatized as a leftist DFH within a few days. Sent Oct. 25:

In a sane political environment, the release of Dr. Richard Muller’s study confirming the reality of global climate change would be a game-changer of huge proportions. When a study administered by a leading “skeptic” and largely funded by arch-denialists the Koch brothers comes down conclusively on the other side of the debate, it should change a few minds.

And in a sane world, it would. But the people who funded Muller’s study aren’t interested in facts; they share a political philosophy with those who evinced disdain and contempt for the “reality-based community” during the previous administration. Corporate climate denialists and the politicians they subsidize have combined nihilism and solipsism in a toxic package: they care not for the continued survival of our species, because they (as a Bush official said to Ron Suskind) “create their own reality.”

And that’s why the Muller study won’t matter to Republican lawmakers.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 10, Day 29: Where Do These Guys Come From?

The October 25 edition of the Baltimore Sun wastes paper on a denialist named Richard Haddad, whose buffoonery goes under the title, “Moving Past Man-Made Global Warming Alarmism.” Heh:

It seems that the man-made global warming scare, long promoted by those opposed to the burning of fossil fuel, is now behind us.

It turns out that there is no unanimity of scientists supporting man-made global warming theory and never has been. It’s also now becoming widely recognized that there is no incontrovertible evidence that global warming is caused by human activity, and that there is quite a bit of evidence that human activity is not a primary cause of such warming.

It’s becoming better known that for at least 240,000 years, a rise in CO2 has followed rather than preceded global warming. This squares with the reality that the oceans hold the vast majority of the Earth’s carbon, and when the oceans warm, they release some of their gases into the atmosphere.

Guys like this give the rest of the world’s idiots a bad name, y’know? Sent October 25:

Richard Haddad’s anti-science screed reminds me uncannily of the previous White House’s readiness to disregard well-grounded warnings from their political opponents, as when Bush officials treated the briefings they’d received from Clinton staffers about Osama Bin Laden and Al Quaeda as unwarranted alarmism. 9/11, of course, brought us the infamous Cheney doctrine: even a one-percent chance that Saddam had WMDs was sufficient reason to mount a military offensive.

Notice that beforehand, justified warnings were dismissed, and afterward, no evidence was required to justify action.

Mr. Haddad needs to hear a few plain facts: the earth is in fact getting hotter; the scientific consensus on human causes of global warming is exceptionally strong; the “climategate” scandal has been repeatedly debunked; the economic consequences of shifting to renewable energy are overwhelmingly positive. When scientific expertise is politicized by conservatives who prefer to deny inconvenient facts, our country and the world are the losers.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 10, Day 28: Muller’s Earth

I grew up reading Popular Science (thanks to my Aunt Virginia, who gave me a gift subscription one Christmas and kept renewing it year after year). It was good to see them carry a clearly presented explanation of the UC/Muller study:

Last year, as climate change deniers were up in arms over the so-called “Climategate” controversy involving alleged manipulation of climate data, one skeptical scientist proposed taking a fresh look. Richard Muller, a physicist at the University of California-Berkeley and a self-described climate skeptic, undertook to review the temperature data underlying most global warming studies. Now his team has wrapped up their work, and it apparently solidifies the other studies’ findings.

Actually, the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project found the Earth is getting even warmer than other climate scientists claim.

The findings have neither been peer-reviewed nor published, so some skeptics and deniers are as yet unsatisfied, but Muller says the group has submitted the papers for publication. Meanwhile, the data is all online for anyone’s review.

I’ve never written to them before. This was fun. Sent October 24:

Now that the data on global warming has been confirmed once again, this time by a denialist-funded study led by prominent “skeptic” Richard Muller, the petro-funded anti-science talking points will have to change. We can say goodbye to “it isn’t happening, therefore it makes no sense to do anything about it,” and say hello to “nobody knows why it’s happening, therefore it makes no sense to do anything about it.”

While Dr. Muller and his colleagues made no attempt to attribute causality, this doesn’t mean that “nobody knows why it’s happening.” The scientific consensus on the primary drivers of global climate change is quite robust: it’s us — human beings, and our relentless consumption of carbon fuels.

Given the grave sociopolitical and environmental consequences of our fossil-fuel addiction, a shift to renewable energy is an absolute necessity even if we ignore global warming. All that is lacking is the will.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 10, Day 27: Phlogiston?

The Miami Herald has an opinion piece by Fred Grimm. It’s shrill:

A sobering study released by Florida Atlantic University contemplated the effects of global warming in specific terms, particularly for South Florida, considered one of the more vulnerable metropolitan areas in the world, with six million residents clustered by the ocean, living barely above sea level.

The study from FAU’s Center for Urban and Environmental Solutions, adding to an overwhelming scientific consensus about the disastrous effects of global warming, and along with growing hard evidence that temperature changes are already altering the environment, ought to have sent tremors through the halls of government.

Except it didn’t. Perhaps the most peculiar phenomenon associated with global warming has been a burgeoning disdain for climate science even as scientific consensus grows more urgent. Forget the stickier question of whether global warming has been fueled by human activity (as an overwhelming percentage of climate scientists believe), a poll by the Pew last year found that only 59 percent of Americans will even acknowledge the earth is warming, compared to 79 percent just five years ago.

I’m busy; this letter is largely recycled material. Sent October 23:

Conservative zealots have politicized the public discussion of climate change, thereby turning science into an ideology. As with their many other adventures in regressive thinking, we will eventually hear them protest that, “nobody could have known…” Nobody could have known that dismissing warnings about Osama Bin Laden would be a bad idea, that an invasion based on fabricated evidence would turn out badly, that ignoring engineers’ warnings about levees would help to destroy a vibrant city — or that politicizing climate science would paralyze our nation in the face of the most serious threat humanity’s yet confronted. And the many of us who knew were mocked and derogated for our cries of warning.

Eventually, climate-change denial will be as dead as phlogiston and the medieval theory of humours. Unfortunately, by then all that “empirical evidence” will have submerged vast areas of land, crippled agriculture, and profoundly disrupted our civilization.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 10, Day 26: Your Lips Are Moving, But I Can’t Hear A Word You’re Saying.

Time Magazine offers Dominique Browning a chance to explain why people don’t talk too much about climate — and while her piece is reasonable enough, it largely ignores the elephant in the room:

There’s been much hand-wringing — but perhaps not enough soul-searching — among environmentalists about how climate change got to be the political third rail. The New York Times ran a lengthy piece asking “Where Did Global Warming Go?” which raised more questions than it answered.

Here is some more explicit finger-pointing, along with a few proposals. I speak as an informed, and deeply concerned, citizen; as a grumpy environmentalist fatoosted by my tribe; and as a person who has had a lifelong career in “communications.” But mainly, I’m up at night worrying about global warming because I’m a mom who hopes someday to have grandchildren. And I don’t like the terrifying mess my kids will face. (By the way, “climate change” is yesterday’s weak phrase; it doesn’t begin to convey the intensity of trouble that is now upon us. I’m going with “climate chaos.”)


We know exactly why climate chaos has fallen off the national agenda. We’ve let it happen. And by “we” I mean everyone from environmentalists to doctors to scientists to teachers to politicians, to parents. There’s no one else to blame. We care about this issue. But we’ll be more ardent, and more focused, when the message is more urgent: we should fight global warming because our lives depend on it.

It’s a good piece, but…

Sent October 22:

Dominique Browning barely touches on the pivotal role of the corporatized news system in her attribution of causes for the decline in robust discussion of climate change in the United States. The deregulation begun under Ronald Reagan has put our media increasingly under corporate control, and the national interest has suffered dramatically thereby. Nowhere is this more telling than in the media’s handling of climate change, where false equivalency — the “balancing” of each scientifically-informed voice with a petroleum-funded one — has helped convince the public that the debate is “still open.”

With each new study (even ones funded by conservative climate denialists) confirming the planetary scientific consensus, any debate we should be having about climate change is no longer whether it’s real and dangerous, but what to do about this increasingly immediate threat. And any action on climate that ignores media reform condemns itself to ineffectuality.

Warren Senders

Aaaaaaand…………….they published it!

Year 2, Month 10, Day 25: But They Say There’s A Hell. What The Hell. What The Hell Do They Think This Is? Do They Think About That?

The October 21 Irish Times also reports on the Richard Muller study:

An analysis of 1.6 billion temperature records dating as far back as 1800 gave results that are similar to data series by the British Met Office, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature said in a report published today.

“Our biggest surprise was that the new results agreed so closely with the warming values published previously,” the project’s founder, Richard Muller, said in a statement. “This confirms that these studies were done carefully and that potential biases identified by climate change sceptics did not seriously affect their conclusions.”

The project was established to try to produce a definitive temperature series after climate sceptics – including US senator James Inhofe – said leaked e-mails from the University of East Anglia showed data were manipulated. The British school helps compile the Met Office temperature series.

Three inquiries into the contents of the leaked e-mails found scientists hadn’t manipulated data, though they had tried to avoid disclosing data.

Wonder what Inhofe will say about this? Sent October 21:

We can be glad that the team of scientists from the University of California has verified the data on Earth’s rising temperature, but if the best news we’ve got is that some formerly doubting researchers are now convinced that important data on climate change really and truly wasn’t fabricated, things have gotten pretty grim. Those scientific skeptics may have been well-intentioned, but their stance has been adopted by conservative ideologues in American politics as an excuse for inaction — and by the complacent American news media as a way to avoid doing actual journalistic work. The UC study was commissioned by the ultra-conservative Koch brothers, who have been supporting climate-change denialists for many years, and who must be terribly disappointed by these results.

This is a crisis of the utmost urgency; only a commitment to genuine action from the world’s political leaders would constitute genuinely good news.

I will award one free Internet to anyone who can identify the provenance of this post’s title.

Year 2, Month 10, Day 24: I Pity The Fool

Erstwhile climate skeptic Dr. Richard Muller is changing his tune for the second time this year, reports the LA Times:

Remember when scientists who had cast doubt on global temperature studies boldly embarked on an effort to “reconsider” the evidence?

They have. And they conclude that their doubt was misplaced.

UC Berkeley physicist Richard Muller and others were looking at the so-called urban heat island effect — the notion that because more urban temperature stations are included in global temperature data sets than are rural ones, the global average temperature was being skewed upward because these sites tend to retain more heat. Hence, global warming trends are exaggerated.

Using data from such urban heat islands as Tokyo, they hypothesized, could introduce “a severe warming bias in global averages using urban stations.”

In fact, the data trend was “opposite in sign to that expected if the urban heat island effect was adding anomalous warming to the record. The small size, and its negative sign, supports the key conclusion of prior groups that urban warming does not unduly bias estimates of recent global temperature change.”

Researchers conclude that “[t]he trend analysis also supports the view that the spurious contribution of urban heating to the global average, if present, is not a strong effect; this agrees with the conclusions in the literature that we cited previously.”

The literature they cite is the basis for the conclusion that the Earth has been warming in an unnatural way during the period of human industrialization.

There is another version of this news published by the Wall Street Journal. The comments demonstrate the nut of my letter exactly. Sent October 20:

When scientists change their minds, it means they’ve learned something new and important. This would appear to be the case with Dr. Richard Muller, the no-longer-skeptical physicist from the University of California.

When ideologically driven politicians change their minds, on the other hand, it means they are trying to avoid learning something new. We now have the opportunity to watch this happen in real time, as conservative Republicans who have in the past regarded Muller as an important authority (because of his contrarian climate-change stance) will now rush to rebrand him as a liberal hippie treehugger whose opinions are irrelevant and unrealistic.

Having their most heartfelt beliefs continually undercut by inconvenient facts must be terribly difficult for conservatives. The GOP’s climate-denial cohort must be feeling terribly betrayed by Muller’s act of intellectual honesty. It almost makes one feel sorry for them.


Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 10, Day 23: Governor Canute?

The Iowa State Daily, a college paper, comments on Rick Perry’s denial industry:

It is a sad time we live in when scientific findings are censored and silenced in favor of personal or political biases. This cannot be more apparent than in the recent example of Texan officials doing some unofficial editing of a environmental report.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has a contract with the Houston Advanced Research Center to report on the state of Galveston Bay, but their recent paper was apparently too full of references to climate change, destruction of wetlands or sea level to pass muster.

It’s probably not surprising, really, considering that the TCEQ has several top officials appointed by Rick Perry, who shares similar views on climate change.

This is a rehash of a number of earlier letters on similar themes. It’s too bad that this material continues to be relevant and useful. Sent October 19:

It was during the Bush presidency’s boom years that an unnamed administration official mocked journalist Ron Suskind as a member of the “reality-based community.” The aide went on to say that America was an empire, “and when we act, we create our own reality.” Of course, reality-based reality eventually caught up with the previous president and his team, most notably in the form of Hurricane Katrina and in the utter failure to find the Iraqi WMDs we were assured were there.

But the Republican party’s political experts still believe that troublesome facts can be negated with the right combination of photo opportunities, obfuscation, and stout denial. Maybe so, in the surreal world of electoral politics.

In the reality-based world, however, no amount of bluster can stop the rising sea levels in Galveston Bay, and denying ideologically inconvenient data can never be the foundation of good policy or good government.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 10, Day 22: Today Is The Tomorrow You Worried About Yesterday

The Columbus, Indiana “Republic” runs an AP article on the censorship of climate science in Texas:

GALVESTON, Texas — A Rice University oceanographer says the state’s environmental agency is refusing to publish his research article on a Texas bay unless he agrees to delete key references to rising sea levels and human involvement in climate change.

Professor John Anderson has declined the proposed edits by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, calling the changes to a report on Galveston Bay “censorship” and an attempt to mislead the public.

Consequently, the state agency said it will remove Anderson’s article, which deals with long-term sea level rise and mentions manmade climate change, which commissioners have publicly questioned in the past.

Republicans are the hardest Sapir-Whorfians of us all. If there are no words for the problem, there is no problem. Presto! Sent October 18:

It is an axiom of many politicians that many difficult problems are easily solved by eliminating them from the historical record. Military records and embarrassing photographs can be destroyed or made to vanish; statements are rendered “inoperative”; actions can simply be firmly denied. A compliant media enables this behavior by fostering a simulacrum of journalism in which the presentation of two divergent opinions is considered “objective.”

But when policy is based on science, absolute veracity is essential. The recent censorship of climate scientists’ work in an oceanographic report on Galveston Bay is a case in point.

Climate-change denial may be electorally convenient for Texan lawmakers, but rejecting actual measurements and analysis when they don’t fit a preset ideology is both unethical and stupid. Rising ocean levels aren’t Republican or Democratic; the greenhouse effect is neither conservative nor liberal.

Those who politicize scientific research destroy the value of both politics and science.

Warren Senders