Thursday, December 10, 2009

Getting Warmer. No Cooler. No, ...

DougJ: Contemporary politics, described up in a single sentence

Steve Benen:

This morning, Gore appeared on MSNBC, where Andrea Mitchell read from Sarah Palin’s Facebook page to ask the former vice president questions about climate change.
QOTD, Al Gore:
If the people that believed the moon landing was staged on a movie lot had access to unlimited money from large carbon polluters or some other special interest who wanted to confuse people into thinking that the moon landing didn't take place, I'm sure we'd have a robust debate about it right now.
Aravosis: Number of Americans who believe in global warming plummets

A new poll from PEW:

The percentage of Americans who say there is solid evidence the earth is warming has fallen sharply over the last year. In an April 2008 survey, 71% said there was solid evidence of global warming, and almost half of Americans (47%) said it was the result of human activity. In an October survey, however, just 57% of Americans said there was solid global warming evidence, and only 36% of the public said it was the result of human activity. While the declining acceptance of global warming evidence has come from across the political spectrum -- even among Democrats the percentage seeing strong evidence of global warming has fallen from 91% in 2006 to 71% in 2009 -- the decline has been precipitous among independents in the last year. While 75% of independents said there is solid evidence the earth is warming in 2008, only a small majority (53%) continue to see such evidence now. Republicans have always been more cynical about global warming evidence but doubters have mounted quickly in recent years, after a very slight increase in support of global warming evidence in 2007. Fully 62% of Republicans said there is solid evidence the earth is warming in 2007, but currently just slightly more than a third (35%) agree.
I've never understood why there would be a global conspiracy promoting global warming when there would be more money (via Exxon et al.) in denying global warming.
Four more words: Barnum low-balled his estimate.

John Dickerson chatted with Al Gore this week. The Nobel laureate and former vice president was apparently not in the mood to tolerate stupidity.

"[W]e're putting 90 million tons of it into the air today and we'll put a little more of that up there tomorrow. The physical relationship between CO2 molecules and the atmosphere and the trapping of heat is as well-established as gravity, for God's sakes. It's not some mystery. One hundred and fifty years ago this year, John Tyndall discovered CO2 traps heat, and that was the same year the first oil well was drilled in Pennsylvania. The oil industry has outpaced the building of a public consensus of the implications of climate science.

"But the basic facts are incontrovertible. What do they [global warming deniers] think happens when we put 90 million tons up there every day? Is there some magic wand they can wave on it and presto! -- physics is overturned and carbon dioxide doesn't trap heat anymore? And when we see all these things happening on the Earth itself, what in the hell do they think is causing it? The scientists have long held that the evidence in their considered word is 'unequivocal,' which has been endorsed by every national academy of science in every major country in the entire world.

"If the people that believed the moon landing was staged on a movie lot had access to unlimited money from large carbon polluters or some other special interest who wanted to confuse people into thinking that the moon landing didn't take place, I'm sure we'd have a robust debate about it right now."

This morning, Gore appeared on MSNBC, where Andrea Mitchell read from Sarah Palin's Facebook page to ask the former vice president questions about climate change.

"Well, you know, the global warming deniers persist in this air of unreality," Gore explained. "After all, the entire north polar icecap, which has been there for most of the last 3 million years, is disappearing before our eyes. Forty percent is already gone. The rest is expected to go completely within the next decade. What do they think is causing this?

  • digby adds:
    That Sarah Palin is just a little bit too quick for that old plodder Al Gore. From her Facebook page:
    The response to my op-ed by global warming alarmists has been interesting. Former Vice President Al Gore has called me a “denier” and informs us that climate change is “a principle in physics. It’s like gravity. It exists.”

    Perhaps he’s right. Climate change is like gravity – a naturally occurring phenomenon that existed long before, and will exist long after, any governmental attempts to affect it.

    However, he’s wrong in calling me a “denier.” As I noted in my op-ed above and in my original Facebook post on Climategate, I have never denied the existence of climate change. I just don’t think we can primarily blame man’s activities for the earth’s cyclical weather changes.

    Former Vice President Gore also claimed today that the scientific community has worked on this issue for 20 years, and therefore it is settled science. Well, the Climategate scandal involves the leading experts in this field, and if Climategate is proof of the larger method used over the past 20 years, then Vice President Gore seriously needs to consider that their findings are flawed, falsified, or inconclusive.

    Vice President Gore, the Climategate scandal exists. You might even say that it’s sort of like gravity: you simply can’t deny it.
    Boy, she got him good. He is so, like, pwnd!

    In truth, the "Climategate" scandal doesn't really exist. TP has put together an essential primer on how the scandal was manufactured. It's just as one might have expected.

    As someone who hails from a state that is one of the places on earth where this rapid change is manifesting itself before our eyes, Palin taking a leading role is probably no accident. There's big money to be made in climate change denialism.
Kevin Drum: Quote of the Day: Climate Denialism
From Al Gore, on why climate deniers get so much attention:

If the people that believed the moon landing was staged on a movie lot had access to unlimited money from large carbon polluters or some other special interest who wanted to confuse people into thinking that the moon landing didn't take place, I'm sure we'd have a robust debate about it right now.

I just happen to have a good example of this on tap. Last night I read a post over at Volokh about how climate data was being faked. I sighed and moved on. Then, about an hour ago, I got an email from a conservative reader asking if the Volokh post undermined my faith in global warming. I told him it didn't. Then, a few minutes later, I noticed Megan McArdle linking to the same post. Obviously this thing wasn't going to go away quietly.

Basically, the Volokh post (by Jim Lindgren) passes along an analysis by Willis Eschenbach claiming that the instrument data for Darwin Airport in Australia shows flat or declining temperatures if you look at the raw data, and only shows an increase if you "homogenize" it. Conclusion: the evidence of warming isn't from the data at all, but only from the manipulation of the data! But via Tim Lambert, here's an excerpt from the original NOAA paper that explains how the homogenization was done:

A great deal of effort went into the homogeneity adjustments. Yet the effects of the homogeneity adjustments on global average temperature trends are minor (Easterling and Peterson 1995b). However, on scales of half a continent or smaller, the homogeneity adjustments can have an impact. On an individual time series, the effects of the adjustments can be enormous. [Italics mine.]

So, if you're a climate denier, what would you do? You'd look for local effects and you'd look for an individual time series. Look hard enough and you're bound to find some with large changes due to the homogenization. And then you'd cry foul. The books are being cooked!

Well, as I told my emailer, I'm not qualified to judge this stuff. Neither is he. Neither is Willis Eschenbach. But it's easy to make a pretty graph that looks damning and then demand that the scientific community address it. And when they don't — because it's amateur crap and isn't worth anyone's time — the deniers have a scalp. Look! The scientific community is so corrupt they won't even look at our evidence! And Fox and Drudge and the Wall Street Journal all merrily pass it along.

Rinse and repeat. Unfortunately, it's working pretty well. More from Tim here. Chris Mooney addresses the larger problem here.

Think Progress: A Case Of Classic SwiftBoating: How The Right-Wing Noise Machine Manufactured ‘Climategate’
In mid-November, thousands of emails from the University of East Anglia Climatic Research Unit webmail server — a top climate research center in the United Kingdom — were hacked and dumped on a Russian web server. Polluter-funded climate skeptics, along with their allies in conservative media and the Republican Party, sifted through the e-mails, and quickly cherry picked quotes to falsely accuse climate scientists of concocting climate change science out of whole cloth. The skeptics also propelled the story, dubbed “Climategate,” to the cover of the New York Times and newspapers across the globe. According to a Nexis news search, the Climategate story has been reported at least 325 times in the American press alone.

While the hacked e-mails may reveal that scientists might not have nice things to say about climate change deniers at times, they do nothing to change the scientific consensus that carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel use are raising temperatures and making oceans more acidic. As the right attempts to use the Climategate story to derail the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference this week, arctic sea ice is still at historically low levels, Australia is still on fire, the northern United Kingdom is still underwater, the world’s glaciers are still disappearing and today NOAA confirmed that not only is it the hottest decade in history, but 2009 was one of the hottest years in history. But how did the right-wing noise machine hijack the debate?

The methods for the right-wing political hit machine were honed during the Clinton years. Columnist and language-guru William Safire, a former aide to actual Watergate crook President Nixon, attached “-gate” to any minor post-Nixon incident as a “rhetorical legerdemain” intended “to establish moral equivalence.” (See phony manufactured scandals “Travelgate,” “Whitewatergate,” etc.) A right-wing echo chamber — including the Rev. Moon-funded Washington Times, the Wall Street Journal editorial page, talk radio, and the constellation of various conservative front groups and think tanks — would then blare the scandal incessantly, regardless of the truth. But the more troubling aspect of this gimmick is the increasing willingness for traditional media outlets, from the Evening News to the Washington Post, to largely reprint unfounded right-wing smears without context or critical reporting.

One of the most successful coups for right-wing hit men was the “SwiftBoat” campaign, a well financed effort orchestrated by lobbyists and Bush allies to smear Sen. John Kerry’s (D-MA) war record. But “Climategate” is no different, with many of the same conservatives actors playing their respective roles:

(Cross-posted from the Wonk Room. Click MORE to read the Wonk Room’s timeline of Climategate)

Nov. 17:

– RealClimate blogger Gavin Schmidt realized that someone was hacking his computer and downloading 160MB of files from a Turkish IP address. About an hour after the intrusion, a mysterious commenter at the climate skeptic blog Climate Audit posted a link to the hacked files with a note reading: “A miracle just happened.” Schmidt noted that, “four downloads occurred from that link while the file was still there (it no longer is).”

Nov. 19:

– Hackers then used a computer in Saudi Arabia to post the stolen e-mails, stored on a Russian server, on the climate skeptic website Air Vent.

– Skeptic blog “Watts Up With That” curiously is among the first blogs to posts the hacked e-mails.

– Chris Horner, an operative of the Koch Industries/ExxonMobil-funded Competitive Enterprise Institute, blogged giddily at National Review that although he had not been “able to fully digest this at present,” “the blue dress moment may have arrived” on climate science.

– Sarah Palin appears on Fox News’ O’Reilly Factor to discuss her new book. Palin and O’Reilly compare a young man who briefly hacked into her e-mail account in 2008, calling the incident “extremely disconcerting and disruptive” and “Watergate-lite.” O’Reilly and Plain do not discussed the hacked climate e-mails.

Nov. 20:

– In a front page article, the New York Times’ Andy Revkin reports that the e-mails “might lend themselves to being interpreted as sinister.”

– Myron Ebell, of the Koch Industries/ExxonMobil-funded Competitive Enterprise Institute, releases a statement pointing to the stolen e-mails to conclude that global warming science is “phony.”

– Reading reports on right-wing blogs on air, Rush Limbaugh dedicates a segment to the hacked e-mails, claiming they vindicate his belief that global warming does not exist.

– Conservative Ed Morrissey concluded the e-mails prove global warming is “not science; it’s religious belief.”

– Right-wing blogger Michelle Malkin cheers “the global warming scandal of the century,” adding: “The Chicago Way is the Global Warming Mob Way.”

– ExxonMobil-funded front group FreedomWorks blasts out an e-mail asking “Has the Global Warming Lie and Conspiracy Been Truly Exposed?”

– Marc Morano, a former Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) staffer who helps to distribute climate change denying propaganda to a network of news outlets and conservative organizations, broadcasts Climategate to talk radio.

— The Wall Street Journal’s environmental blog publicizes the conservative blogosphere’s furor: “this should get interesting … Maybe this will spice things up.”

Nov. 22:

– Sen. David Vitter’s (R-LA) staff distributes a letter claiming the stolen e-mails reveal what “could well be the greatest act of scientific fraud in history.”

Nov. 23:

– Heralding the stolen e-mails, infamous climate science skeptic Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) call for congressional investigations against climate scientists.

– Fox News’ Fox Nation headlines the e-mails: “Global Warming’s Waterloo

– Glenn Beck devotes both his radio and Fox News program to covering Climategate, claims the e-mails show a “brand new reality” on climate science.

– Investors’ Business Daily editorializes that the e-mails show that global warming is “junk science.”

– The ExxonMobil-funded Heritage Foundation publicizes the stolen e-mails.

– Right-wing activist Viscount Monckton says climate scientists are “criminals.”

Nov. 24:

– Fox News’ Stu Varney begins his daily coverage of Climategate. He continues to attack global warming science, using the e-mails, on both the Fox News and Fox Business network.

– Washington Times editorial board, Drudge Report, both chime in to claim hacked e-mails show global warming is not real.

Nov. 29:

– Fox News regular Andrew Breitbart calls for climate scientists to be killed over Climategate.

Nov. 30:

– Rep. Candace Miller (R-MI) issues a statement to demand for an investigation of Climategate, and begins speaking about it on the floor of the House. In the following week, Reps Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI), Darrell Issa (R-CA), John Linder (R-GA), Bill Shuster (R-PA), Joe Barton (R-TX), Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO), Dana Rohrbacher (R-CA), Mike Rogers (R-MI), Dan Burton (R-IN), Steve Scalise (R-LA), Greg Walden (R-OR) and Charlie Dent (R-PA) begin blasting press releases on the subject.

Dec. 1:

– Newt Gingrich, who only 2 years ago said America must act “urgently” to address climate change, seizes on the stolen e-mails to spread skepticism of global warming science. Gingrich’s political attack group, ASWF, is heavily funded by coal interests.

Dec. 2:

– Right-wing billionaire David Koch, of the oil empire Koch Industries, sends his front group Americans for Prosperity to attend the Copenhagen conference to attempt to hijack the debate. AFP intends to “expose” the science using the stolen e-mails.

Dec. 3:

– Canada’s National Post reports that burglars and hackers have been attacking the Canadian Center for Climate Modeling and Analysis at the University of Victoria in British Columbia. In the lead up to the Copenhagen conference, Andrew Weaver — a University of Victoria scientist and key contributor to the Nobel prize-winning work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — noted that his campus office was broken into twice and that a dead computer was stolen and papers were rummaged through.

– Saudi Arabian climate negotiators for the Copenhagen summit endorse Climategate, charging that the e-mail show “there is no relationship whatsoever between human activities and climate change.”

– Fox News’ Brian Kilmeade says “damning” e-mails show scientists who “think … Antartica is becoming like the Bahamas.”

Dec. 4:

– NBC’s Nightly News with Brian Williams adopts right-wing Climategate smear: “Have the books been cooked on climate change?”

Dec. 7:

– ExxonMobil-funded think tanks the Heartland Institute and the National Center for Policy Analysis publicize the e-mails to “discredit” global warming science.

Dec. 8:

– The Wall Street Journal accuses climate scientists of being Stalinists.

– Fox News devotes a segment to a right-wing Rasmussen poll with a graphic that claims 120 percent of the public believes scientists falsified global warming data.

Dec. 9:

– Sarah Palin, who only weeks earlier decried the hacking of e-mails, writes in an op-ed that the Climategate e-mails are proof that anthropogenic global warming does not exist. The Washington Post publishes Palin’s op-ed, despite the fact it is riddled with errors and outright falsehoods.

Marshall: Junk Science

I was raised by a scientist (life sciences) and then studied some history of science in graduate school. And because of both I approach all scientific knowledge with what I think is a healthy measure of skepticism. Because our understanding of the natural world is often very different from one decade, certainly from one century, to the next.

But to maintain a skepticism which is rooted in the inherently tentative nature of all scientific knowledge is quite different from assuming that the science is wrong and that what's right is what I'd prefer to be true even though I don't know anything about the science at all -- which is where a lot of the public discussion of climate change seems to occur.

What I've been thinking about for a while is how it is that very few people doubt physicists or oncologists when it comes to their areas of specialty even though theories come and go in those fields and as well. There's little doubt, for instance, that physicists at the end of this century will know a lot of things today's scientists got wrong or don't know. And they'll know how many things today's physicists believe that are just wrong. Still, I'm pretty confident nuclear warheads will go off, even if, as far as I know, one's never been tested on the tip of an ICBM. Perhaps more to the point, medical science today clearly has only a very limited understanding of cancer. But how many oncology skeptics do you know who choose to take a pass on chemo or radiation if they get sick?

Admittedly these are not perfect analogies. Nuclear warheads and clinical oncology have both in different ways been shown to work. And that's a basic difference. You don't have the same ability to run tests in geo- or climate sciences.

I can't say that I really have any sophisticated understanding of the science of climate change. I don't think that most people I know who are pro-cap and trade do either. For me, the fact that the vast majority of people with specialized knowledge in the field think there's a problem is good enough for me.

I would not be shocked if the predictions we're getting today about the climate turned out to be dramatically off. (Of course, it could be dramatically worse as well as dramatically better.) But in our own lives, in the real world, we live in a science based world. It's the premise on which almost everything rests. And pretty much everyone assumes that cell phones will work, bombs will go off, medical treatments will give us the best chance of survival. Only this one example is different.


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