Year 3, Month 12, Day 21: Hush Now, Don’t Explain

The Independent (UK) confirms that denialists just never stop.

An attempt by climate sceptics to hijack the latest UN report on global warming by selectively leaking claims that it is caused by sunspots rather than man-made emissions of carbon dioxide has backfired.

Sceptics described the forthcoming report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) as a “game changer” because of its apparent support for the controversial theory that solar activity, interacting with cosmic rays from deep space, can explain global warming.

Alec Rawls, a Republican blogger in the United States who signed himself up as an expert IPCC reviewer, decided to leak the panel’s Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) on the grounds that it is a taxpayer-funded document.

Mr Rawls claimed the report suggests that the IPCC has finally come round to the idea that solar activity – sunspots – is partly responsible for the observed global temperatures rise seen over the past half century.

“The admission of strong evidence for enhanced solar forcings changes everything. The climate alarmists can’t continue to claim that warming was almost entirely due to human activity over a period when solar warming effects, now acknowledged to be important, were at a maximum,” Mr Rawls said.

“The final draft of [the IPCC report] is not scheduled to be released for another year, but the public needs to know now how the main premise and conclusions of the IPCC story line have been undercut by the IPCC itself,” he said.

However, climate scientists pointed out that Mr Rawls has selectively quoted from the draft report and has ignored other parts of the document stating that solar activity and cosmic rays cannot explain the increase in global temperatures seen over the past half century, as sceptics have repeatedly claimed.

There are lies, damn lies, and climate denialist lies. Fuckers. Sent December 15:

Let’s not dignify climate-change denialists like Alec Rawls with the monicker, “skeptics.” Leaking cherry-picked sections of the forthcoming IPCC report is not representative of skepticism, a term which properly describes a profound level of intellectual honesty. Mr. Rawls and others of similar stripe are selectively misinterpreting data and analysis in order to support their ideology. We’re going to see a lot of this sort of behavior in the coming decades, as the evidence for planetary climate change grows from being incontrovertible to being overwhelming.

A good test of self-described “climate skeptics” is to ask them what sort of evidence could change their minds. A genuine skeptic like Dr. Richard Muller put his hypotheses to the test — and promptly changed his tune on the greenhouse effect’s causes and dangers. By contrast, it seems likely that (absent instructions from his petroleum paymasters) Alec Rawls’ mind will stay permanently shut.

Warren Senders


Year 3, Month 5, Day 12: Not Phrenology, Phenology

USA Today runs an article on phenology. Ominous:

As the climate warms, many plants are flowering 8.5 times sooner than experiments had predicted, raising questions for the world’s future food and water supply, a new international study concludes.

Higher carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels can affect how plants produce oxygen, and higher temperatures can alter their behavior. Shifts in natural events such as flowering or leafing, which biologists call “phenology,” are obvious responses to climate change. They can impact human water supply, pollination of crops, the onset of spring (and allergy season), the chances of wildfires and the overall health of ecosystems.

To better understand this, scientists from 22 institutions in Canada, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States studied 1,634 species of plants across four continents. They compared how plants responded based on historical monitoring data and on small-plot experiments in which warming was artificially induced.

Jeez. Nobody saw that coming, did they? Sent May 3:

It’s unsurprising that researchers studying the responses of plants to increased atmospheric CO2 found their predictions nearly an order of magnitude too low. The uncomfortable fact is that almost without exception, scientific forecasts have underestimated the magnitude, speed and significance of climate change and its effects. There are two important reasons for this disconnect.

The first is that scientific language is inherently conservative, striving for accuracy without emotion. A phrase like “statistically significant correlation” doesn’t immediately trigger anyone’s adrenalin — even when it’s linking greenhouse gas concentrations to a warming planet. The second is that scientific research is usually specialized, thereby minimizing the effects of interacting factors in a complex situation — and if any situation deserves the term “complex,” it’s global warming.

America and the world must mount a robust and meaningful response to the climate crisis, if we are to avoid a future full of unpleasant surprises.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 4, Day 4: They’ll Pry My Light Bulbs Out Of My Cold Dead Sockets…Or Something

The Boston Globe covers the IPCC report:

Global warming is leading to such severe storms, droughts, and heat waves that nations should prepare for an unprecedented onslaught of deadly and costly weather disasters, an international panel of climate scientists says in a report issued Wednesday. The greatest danger from extreme weather is in highly populated, poor regions of the world, the report warns, but no corner of the globe – from Mumbai to Miami – is immune. The document by a Nobel Prize-winning panel of climate scientists forecasts stronger tropical cyclones and more frequent heat waves, deluges, and droughts.

More of the same. Sent March 29:

The latest IPCC report forecasting greatly increased risks of extreme weather disasters caused by global climate change is sure to surprise no one.

The people who’ve been paying attention to the ongoing war on the environment are already gloomily aware that things are going to get a lot worse before they get any better, given that it’s going to take the planet’s climate centuries or millennia to recover from the past century’s profligate carbon-burning spree.

And the people who believe in a giant secret cabal planning to raise our taxes and outlaw incandescent bulbs are already fully convinced that the IPCC is in on the conspiracy.

Given that science has an impressive record of steadily-more-accurate predictions and a built-in self-correction system — unlike political conservatives, who have been consistently wrong about pretty much everything — perhaps it’s time for our politicians and media to pay attention to the IPCC’s report.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 4, Day 3: But They’re So Un-Serious

The Laredo Morning Times runs an AP article by Seth Borenstein on the most recent IPCC report, headlined “Mumbai, Miami on list for big weather disasters”. Heh:

WASHINGTON — Global warming is leading to such severe storms, droughts and heat waves that nations should prepare for an unprecedented onslaught of deadly and costly weather disasters, an international panel of climate scientists said in a new report issued Wednesday.

The greatest threat from extreme weather is to highly populated, poor regions of the world, the report warns, but no corner of the globe — from Mumbai to Miami — is immune. The document, by a Nobel Prize-winning panel of climate scientists, forecasts stronger tropical cyclones and more frequent heat waves, deluges and droughts.

The 594-page report blames the scale of recent and future disasters on a combination of man-made climate change, population shifts and poverty.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, founded in 1988 by the United Nations, has generally focused on the slow inexorable rise of temperatures and oceans as part of global warming. This report by the panel is the first to look at the less common but far more noticeable extreme weather changes, which lately have been costing on average about $80 billion a year in damage.

Watch the denialists rise up in outraged hordes to smite algore! Sent March 28:

It’s certainly possible that the climatologists in the IPCC have it wrong in their predictions of extreme weather and heavy storms. Scientific errors have happened in the past; they’ll happen again. But let’s make a few comparisons.

Science has a built-in error-correction mechanism. When scientific results are published, people everywhere around the planet try to reproduce the experiments, searching for errors or misinterpretations. Scientific method has become the most potent truth-finding tool in humanity’s arsenal, steadily enhancing its predictive accuracy; the storms of today were forecast by climate scientists decades ago.

By contrast, those vehemently disputing the IPCC’s findings have time and time again been proven wrong. They were proven wrong about Iraqi WMDs, proven wrong about tax cuts on the richest 1 percent — and they’ll eventually be proven wrong on climate change, too.

Perhaps it’s time to pay more attention to the people who’ve been proven right.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 11, Day 30: I Feel A Tingle…

Look, everybody! Actual, unambiguous good news:

A new study in the journal Science suggests that the global climate may be less sensitive to carbon dioxide fluctuations than predicted by the most extreme projections, and maybe slightly less than the best estimates of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Andreas Schmittner, a climate scientist at Oregon State University in Corvallis, Ore., and lead author on the new study, notes that, while man-made global warming is happening and tiny changes in global average temperatures can have huge and deleterious effects, the atmosphere may not be as sensitive to carbon dioxide change as has been reported.

“We used paleoclimate data to look at climate sensitivity to CO2 doubling in the atmosphere, and we are coming up with a somewhat lower value,” says Schmittner.

How long before James Inhofe suddenly discovers that science is cool and groovy? Sent November 26:

The authors of the newly released study on climate sensitivity very carefully note that while their conclusions suggest lower values than the IPCC’s more extreme projections, this does not diminish either the reality of global climate change or the importance of a robust policy on greenhouse emissions. But since the precise, reality-based language of scientists is incomprehensible to politicians desperately seeking excuses to avoid confronting inconvenient choices in an election season, we can anticipate a chorus of conservative legislators eagerly ignoring their cautionary words.

Andreas Schmittner’s historically grounded examination of paleoclimate data should not be used to bolster the usual denialist shibboleths. Employing these hopeful findings as an argument for inaction on the gravest existential threat our species has yet faced is the twisted logic of a cancer patient who, when told that the progress of the disease is slower than doctors’ worst-case projections, resumes smoking five packs a day.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 11, Day 26: Cluck Old Hen!

The Portsmouth (NH) Herald notes a locally-based conference addressing regional implications of the IPCC report:

PORTSMOUTH — The likelihood of more frequent and severe weather events, increased asthma and the death of crucial plant life in Great Bay are all realities on the Seacoast.

That was among the conclusions reached by experts who were in Portsmouth on Thursday at a conference sponsored by the New Hampshire Carbon Action Alliance.

“Climate Change and New Hampshire’s Seacoast” brought together professors, engineers, doctors and scientists who provided statistical evidence to suggest a correlation between climate change and a number of issues facing the region.

Their talks were framed, many said, by the recent draft document by the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change that links man-made climate change to the extreme weather conditions in much of the world in recent years.

I think I come off as a bit of a scold here. On the other hand, who could resist the allure of “carbon dioxide chickens”? Sent Nov. 22:

There have been many failures in our civilization’s handling of the crises posed by global climate change. Our politicians have failed in their responsibility to the common good, and their corporate paymasters have failed to look beyond the demands of their next quarterly profit reports. Our reporters, seduced by the ease of he-said, she-said stenography, have failed to live up to their journalistic responsibilities. And we, as citizens, have sustained a collective failure of imagination: unable to conceive the consequences of a runaway greenhouse effect, we have chosen to pretend the carbon dioxide chickens will never come home to roost.

The failure of those who insist that “climate change” is a liberal conspiracy rests in their inability to recognize that scientific reality trumps conservative ideology. But if humanity is to succeed as a species we must stop avoiding the truth of the climate crisis, and start making profound changes in our ways of life. Recent climate studies from organizations such as the International Energy Agency and the IPCC make it clear: the time for failure is past.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 11, Day 25: It Looks Like It’s Climbing Clear Up To The Sky

The Gannett News Service for New York’s Lower Hudson Valley is called; they run an article about the study of climate change’s impact on New York state:

If you lost power after the recent nor’easter or struggled with flooding from Tropical Storm Irene, gear up. There’s more to come.

Scientists at some prestigious New York universities say the recent bizarre weather may be a part of a trend in the coming decades as the state faces an outsize effect of climate change because of its northern latitude and geology.

“It’s certainly an excellent example of what is to come,” said Klaus Jacob, a senior research scientist at Columbia University’s Palisades-based Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, one of several scientists who authored a study on the impact of climate change on New York state.

“It has been relatively rare till now. What will be different is that it will be more frequent. Therefore the impact will be more severe,” Jacob said.

This letter was a little longer than 150 words; I didn’t have time to pare it down due to various domestic exigencies. Sent Nov. 21:

The Energy Research and Development Authority study on climate change’s likely impact on New York State is just one of several recently released documents to discuss the shape of our future in a post-greenhouse-effect world. Along with the globally relevant work of NASA, the International Energy Agency, and the IPCC, regionally-focused climatologists have helped build a pile of scientific evidence far higher than your average denialist’s head. The picture they paint of the coming century is not a pretty one.

Those “once-in-a-lifetime” storms are going to be coming once or twice a decade; maybe even more often. More droughts, heat waves, shattered infrastructure, disrupted agriculture — our children and grandchildren may not be able to forgive us our decades of apathy.

While it will take many centuries for excess atmospheric CO2 to dissipate even if we stopped burning fossil fuel tomorrow, there is no longer any time for temporizing if we are to avoid catastrophic outcomes. Our politicians must stop protecting the oil industry’s profits, and bend their efforts towards protecting all of us from the consequences of climaticide.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 11, Day 24: Who’s That Knocking At My Door?

More on the IPCC report, this time from America’s McNewspaper:

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, obtained in draft form by USA TODAY, stresses that expanding cities and populations worldwide, also raise the odds of severe impacts from weather disasters.

“Unprecedented extreme weather and climate events” look likely in coming decades as a result of a changing climate, says the draft report. The final version was released early today by IPCC chief Rajendra Pachauri at a meeting hosted by report sponsors, the World Meteorological Organization and United Nations Environment Programme, in Kampala, Uganda.

Nothin’ to see here, folks. Move along. Move along.

Sent November 20:

Climate-change denialists are sounding increasingly desperate these days, as the volume of evidence and analysis mounts ever higher. Coming hard on the heels of a recently-issued study from the International Energy Agency (which gives us about five years to change our fossil-fuelish ways or risk irreversible damage to the Earth’s climate) is the IPCC report, which offers a sobering preview of what that irreversible damage is likely to look like.

Enthusiastic fans of Armageddon will enjoy the IPCC’s predictions, which include droughts, wildfires, unpredictable storms of unprecedented severity, massive disruption of agriculture and infrastructure, and political instability, often in areas of the world that are nuclear-armed and dangerous.

It’s too bad the greenhouse effect doesn’t come with a scary-sounding name that politicians could invoke to mobilize our nation to action, for all that excess atmospheric CO2 is sure to do far more damage than any terrorist group ever could.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 11, Day 23: Defund or Defend?

More on the IPCC report, this time from the Washington Post:

Climate change will make drought and flooding events like those that have battered the United States and other countries in 2011 more frequent, forcing nations to rethink the way they cope with disasters, according to a new report the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued Friday.

The report — the culmination of a two-year process involving 100 scientists and policy experts — suggests that researchers are far more confident about the prospect of more intense heat waves and heavy downpours than they are about how global warming is affecting hurricanes and tornadoes. But the new analysis also speaks to a broader trend: The world is facing a new reality of more extreme weather, and policymakers and business alike are beginning to adjust.

It’s late at night in a hotel room in Madison, Wisconsin. I’ve got a big day tomorrow — four hours of classroom teaching and a concert, so I figured I’d get the letter out of the way before I went to sleep. Sent November 18:

As the case of Dr. Richard Muller case demonstrates, a responsible scientist changes his or her mind when confronted with factual evidence. The past few weeks have seen a plethora of studies demonstrating over and over again that the reality of human-caused climate change is no longer deniable. The newly released report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change offers an ominous look at a post-greenhouse-effect future in which extreme weather is the norm, with concomitant effects on agriculture, infrastructure and geopolitics that range from inconvenient to outright terrifying.

Scientific ethics compelled Dr. Muller to revise his opinion once he confirmed the validity of worldwide temperature measurements. Confronted with the same data, conservative politicians would resolve the problem differently — by defunding the IPCC and any other scientific organizations with the temerity to report facts as they are. In Republican politics, electoral exigencies trump the truth, every time.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 11, Day 22: If You’re So Rich, How Come You Ain’t Smart?

The Wall Street Journal runs a piece on the latest IPCC report, which is chock full of hideous news:

KAMPALA Uganda—Climate change is leading to at least some cases of more extreme weather events across the globe, according to a report released on Friday by a United Nations-led scientific panel on the subject.

The scientific link between climate change and extreme weather isn’t uniformly clear, according to the report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a body established in 1988 to assist global policy makers with climate change.

As usual with WSJ articles, the comments on this piece are a critical mass of stupidity. What’s with these people? Sent November 18, from Logan Airport while waiting for my plane:

You’d think that once a critical mass of evidence has accumulated, climate-change denialists would have no choice but to change their minds. Indeed, it’s interesting to ask self-styled “skeptics” what evidence would suffice to convince them that human-caused climate change is genuinely dangerous. Many say that nothing will alter their opinions — in which case they cannot be “skeptics.” Some require proof so definitive as to be unachievable — in which case they misunderstand both scientific consensus and the nature of the situation.

Even before the most recent IPCC report, evidence supporting anthropogenic global warming far exceeded the critical threshold required for unilateral action in other policy areas. The “Cheney doctrine” held that even a 1% chance of Iraqi WMDs was sufficient to justify an invasion, a level of likelihood acknowledged by even the stubbornest denialists. Our only remaining excuse for inaction is a toxic combination of cupidity and willful ignorance.

Warren Senders