Have I become a target of the Heartland Institute?

I may be flattering myself, but I may have become a target of the Heartland Institute. If you are not familiar with this prize group, they are one of the prime climate change denier organizations. If they really are targeting me then I am truly flattered.

I made some comments on a blog posting by Tom Donelson on a website called Texas GOP Vote pointing out many flaws in his claims. What happened? I got challenged to a debate by James Rust of the Heartland Institute. He wanted each of us to put up $10,000 for a two hour debate. The winner got to donate the money to his choice of charity.¬† I don’t work for charity, and I certainly am not going to be crazy enough to pay $10,000 for every chance to debate a denier. With their stack of money I would go broke very quickly. Instead, I invited him to take up my $10,000 Global Warming Skeptic Challenge. So far, no submission from him. Funny, if it is as much of a sure thing as they claim, you would think it wouldn’t be any trouble for them to prove their point. Well, what do you expect, after all.

Then, today, I received a comment from Russell Cook, also of the Heartland Institute. It seemed to me to be some kind of intimidating message. He wanted me to reveal what proof I had of my statements and he wanted to know if I had all of this clandestine information on skeptics. Really weird. What I find very interesting is that the Heartland Institute has someone on their staff (payroll?) with (according to their webpage) a job description that includes this statement:

He specializes in research of the origins of accusations leveled at skeptics and the associations of people surrounding it, most notably anti-skeptic book author Ross Gelbspan.

Really? They have a guy for the purpose of hunting down people that criticize deniers? And, he specializes in one author in particular? This really says an awful (emphasis on awful) lot about the Heartland Institute and Russell Cook.

Now, this blog is not about exposing deniers and criticizing them, no matter how much fun it is. This blog is to discuss the issues of global warming and highlight science on the subject. But, when something is put forward by groups of individuals it is reasonable to investigate the background of those individuals. It really is unfortunate that all the climate change deniers have what I would generously call questionable backgrounds. That is not the point of my postings, but it is relevant.

So, I have now been challenged by two individuals from the Heartland Institute within a matter of a couple of weeks. Why in the world do they feel so threatened by a little blogger like me? If this blog and my comments upset them so much, wait until they read my book. Boy, are they gonna be pissed!

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New Book Has Been Published

My new book has been published as an ebook for Kindle on Amazon.com. Undeniable: Dialogues on Global Warming is in a debate format involving three friends along the same style that Galileo used when writing his books. One friend is an advocate of global warming, one is a denier and one goes back and forth. This format gave me the opportunity to present both sides of the argument and examine them critically. The premise of the book is that there is so much science supporting climate change that you don’t need to be a scientist to prove it anymore, anyone can do it. I tried to make the conversation interesting and an easy read, but it is full of science.

Someone that believes in global warming doesn’t really need to read this book. They already know it is real and don’t need proof. Someone that doesn’t believe in it won’t read it. They are not interested in the facts and have rejected science. This book is principally written for those people that don’t know what to believe and want to learn more.

I hope you read it. I hope you enjoy it. But, mostly, I hope you learn that global warming is real and a very serious problem that we need to address.

Christopher Keating

Arctic Sea Ice and the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation

The Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO) is a naturally occurring 60-90 year cycle in sea surface temperatures in the North Atlantic. This cycle consists of alternating cold and warm periods and has an influence on the climate in the region. A recent paper by Martin W. Miles, et al, examines the history of ice extent in the area and compares it to the AMO record. What they found is that ice extent in the region fluctuates in response to the changes in the AMO, resulting in periods of greater and lesser ice extent. They suggest that some of the unprecedented loss of sea ice in the recent decades can be tied to a warm cycle in the AMO.

I have no problem with this. I would expect there to be just such a naturally occurring cycle. But, I do not find this to be enough to explain what we have been witnessing, and the authors emphasize that this in only a part of the puzzle and there are other factors, including warming from manmade emissions, that are contributing to the ice loss.

Take a look at the ice anomaly for September 2012:

And the ice extent for the same month:

The Barents Sea is the area on the right, between Norway and the polar sea ice. With the North¬† Pole marked in both images, it is the area at about the 4-5 o’clock position. Comparing the two figures, we can see this region has experienced a great deal of sea ice since 1980. Can the AMO explain all of this loss? I would be not, but let’s say that it is still under study.

But, what about the rest of the Arctic Ocean? There is significant loss all around the North Pole and this cannot be explained by the AMO. So, before we get all excited that maybe the loss of the Arctic sea ice is just a naturally occurring event, we can already see that it may be contributing to the recent loss, but it cannot explain for all of it. After all, we never saw the level get this low in previous warm cycles. And, the current loss began during a cool cycle. Clearly, there is more to the ice loss than the AMO.

Update on NIPCC

So, I’ve been reading the reports posted by NIPCC and it has been very interesting. Not because I have seen anything worth reading, but because of the massive amount of writing they put out there. Unfortunately, from what I can tell so far, none of it is scientifically valid and you don’t have to go far to find out why. Check this list of Lead Authors/Editors from their latest report on Biological Impacts:

Idso, Craig D.
Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change
USA

Idso, Sherwood B.
Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change
USA

Carter, Robert M.
Emeritus Fellow
Institute of Public Affairs
Australia

Singer, S. Fred
Science and Environmental Policy Project
USA

If you are at all familiar with the climate wars you will recognize at least two of those names. Craig Idso and Fred Singer are two of the most notorious climate change deniers and are funded by The Heartland Institute. To be thorough, let me say that The Heartland Institute is the same group of people that promoted that cigarette smoking was harmless and CFCs are harmless to the environment. Today, they are promoting the idea that second-hand smoke is harmless.

Sherwood Idso is Craig Idso’s father and the president of the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change, a well-known climate change denier organization. Robert Carter rounds it out. He is also a well-known climate change misinformer.

When you look at the credentials and track-history of the people in charge of the report you really know everything needed about the report itself. This is a group of people who are professional climate change deniers and it is well documented that each of them has engaged in disinformation on the topic.

I will comment on some of the specifics of their report, but they have cranked out thousands of pages and it is not possible for me to spend the time needed to debunk it all. Which, of course, is their objective. But, I will do what I can.

Texas GOP and Climate Mythology Claims

I dearly love my home state of Texas and feel privileged to live here. Unfortunately, when you have a population of over 26 million there are going to be those individuals you wish lived somewhere else. One such example is Tom Donelson, who writes for the blog Texas GOP Vote. The saving grace is that he may not actually live in Texas. He is a real estate agent in Iowa (at least his link says he is) who apparently thinks he is smarter than all of the climate scientists in the world combined.

The issue I have with Mr. Donelson is the work he does as a climate change denier. Why this issue has become a rallying cry for the GOP is beyond me. I am certainly not a liberal, but I have no problem with following the scientific evidence to where it leads me. So, why do Republicans like Mr. Donelson deny climate change science and then make every effort to convince other people that climate change isn’t real?

Mr. Donelson wrote a blog entry, The Mythology of Climate Change, where he makes many of the same tried and false claims that climate change deniers keep making. I have engaged in a couple of responses with him on his claims. It is clear that neither will ever convince the other to change their minds. Mr. Donelson cannot change my mind because he is not presenting any credible, valid scientific evidence. In fact, several of his claims are just plain false. If he could provide credible scientific evidence to support his claims I would have to follow the scientific evidence and change my opinion. But, like I said, there is no such evidence. I have been reading and working in this field for over 30 years and have read thousands of papers and articles on the subject. I have met with leaders in the field and leading dissenters and been able to discuss the issues first hand with them. The conclusion is always the same: The amount of scientific evidence on climate change is so large that it is incontrovertible that climate change is real and is being caused by human activities.

So, Mr. Donelson will not be able change my mind until such a time that he can show me scientific evidence to the contrary. At the same time, I will never be able to change Mr. Donelson’s mind. He has bought into the myth of climate change denial. He ignores any scientific evidence to the contrary and has abandoned logic. All I can provide is scientific evidence and logic, so anything I say or do will be fruitless.

However, I might not be able to change Mr. Donelson, but I hope I can prevent someone else from becoming like him.

So, the fight continues.

Where are we going with the environment?

Climate change is not the only thing affecting the environment. Some of the other issues we have been forced to address in the past are acid rain, ozone depletion, pesticides and even over-fishing. We humans have managed to make a mess of the environment and its is going to take some real effort to make things better.

Earth Day is one of those things we do to help bring attention to the situation. Earth Day this year falls on April 22 and events are planned worldwide.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has 25 sites in the Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) Network for the purpose of in-depth studying of various ecologies around the world. The ecologies include diverse regions to provide a picture of the planet. Places located within the U.S. include such places as acid rain lakes in the Adirondacks, the Arctic in northern Alaska, the Pacific Ocean off the U.S. West Coast, the desert region around Phoenix, Arizona and river basins in Wisconsin. NSF held an annual mini-symposium on February 21 of this year to discuss where these ecologies are going.

Off course, there is bad news. Things are changing and not many of the changes are for the better. Some of these environments will take hundreds of years to recover from the damage done to them. The good news is that some of them are recovering. We are making a difference in some areas. Acid rain is a good example. We have managed to make some significant improvement here since the 1990s.

This is something we need to focus on when we discuss climate change. The climate is changing due to our actions. But, we can change the way we do business and maybe reverse some of the damage. At least, we can work to slow down the rate of change.

Fukishima Radiation Clouds the Topic

I made a presentation yesterday, April 11, about the Arctic sea ice and showed how the extent of sea ice has dramatically decreased over the last 30 years. After the talk a guy in the audience came to talk to me and ask some questions. His claim was that the radiation from Fukushima was responsible for the melting of the Arctic sea ice and he wanted to know what I thought of that.

First, the Fukushima disaster occurred after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. The sea ice extent has been declining since at least 1980, long before the earthquake ever occurred. But, here’s the bigger issue, the amount of radiation released from Fukushima is trivial on the global scale. If you are outside of the Fukishima exclusion zone the level of radiation falls way below background radiation levels.

He asked me if I would feel comfortable swimming off the coast of Washington state and I told him I would have no fear at all, at least not due to any radiation. The plume of radiation that is working its way across the Pacific Ocean is harmless and may even be undetectable by the time it gets to Washington. No monitors have even detected it yet.

I asked the guy if he knew anyone that smokes. He admitted that he does. I pointed out to him that the amount of radiation he gets every year from smoking a pack a day is more than four times the average total dose as a result of the Three Mile Island accident. A pack a day of cigarettes provides about as much radiation as a mammogram. Yet, he wasn’t concerned about this radiation. He wasn’t concerned that the radiation from his cigarettes is greater than the amount of radiation he was blaming for the melting ice caps.

This is an example of the problem we have educating the public. This guy made two assumptions, neither of which has any credibility: the radiation from Fukushima was enormously larger than the reality; and this radiation could melt the polar ice cap. He then used these two bad assumptions to come up with an invalid explanation for an observed event in an attempt to find a conclusion to support his beliefs.

Ultimately, the problem was he did not want to believe in global warming. When presented with incontrovertible evidence of what is going on, he wanted to deny global warming so much he came up with a completely unrealistic alternative explanation.

The easy, and obvious, explanation for the observed melting of the Arctic Ocean is global warming. The evidence is overwhelming. And yet, when confronted with something that challenged his beliefs, he rejected all of that evidence and created this fantasy that allowed him to maintain the beliefs he wanted to keep.

And, that is the moral of the story. So many people have reached the conclusion they want to believe in and no matter the evidence, they will continue to believe in them. And, if necessary, they will invent illogical and unrealistic scenarios to allow them to continue the way they are.

Its an uphill fight.