The Age Of Embarrassment

Tenth of a series

I may have mentioned this before, but as a way of supporting real news I obtained a digital subscription to The New York Times, for which I am being pleasantly rewarded. I get to read prior issues, going back to 1851. That was before most of us were born. Anyhow, I consider the NYT to be a reliable news source, certainly compared to a raft of other spigots adorning the wires these days.

Conservatives, and also the newest President, consider the Times to be a liberal fire hose. Many liberals, as well, claim to notice a leftward slant. My thinking is this appearance is due to the paper’s contrast with concerted right wing outlets. Readers should look to a source’s editorial section to pick up any scent of tip to one direction, and in this respect the Times asserts some balance. We see, or have seen:

  • David Brooks
  • Maureen Dowd (an equal opportunity agitator)
  • Mark Shields
  • Paul Krugman
  • Thomas L. Friedman
  • George Will

Now there is Bret Stephens, and his first column appeared today, 28 April. He opens with the following:

When someone is honestly 55 percent right, that’s very good and there’s no use wrangling. And if someone is 60 percent right, it’s wonderful, it’s great luck, and let him thank God.

But what’s to be said about 75 percent right? Wise people say this is suspicious. Well, and what about 100 percent right? Whoever says he’s 100 percent right is a fanatic, .

— An old Jew of Galicia

We soon learn he is talking about the scientific consensus supporting anthropogenic global warming (AGW), and he is cautioning against certainty. In fact, the headline of his opinion piece is “Climate of Complete Certainty.”

My first take on his column’s epigraph is that it is overly general. Supposing the old Jew of Galicia is right, in which case I am “a thug, and the worst kind of rascal.” And so is columnist Stephens. And I added my comment to that effect to the on-line piece. I (Stephens, as well) am 100% certain the Earth rotates counterclockwise as viewed from above the North Pole. Equally certain are we that the sun rises in the east. So, the old Jew notwithstanding, 100% certainty is not a mark of thuggery.

But Stephens spreads his message thinner:

There’s a lesson here. We live in a world in which data convey authority. But authority has a way of descending to certitude, and certitude begets hubris. From Robert McNamara to Lehman Brothers to Stronger Together, cautionary tales abound.

We ought to know this by now, but we don’t. Instead, we respond to the inherent uncertainties of data by adding more data without revisiting our assumptions, creating an impression of certainty that can be lulling, misleading and often dangerous. Ask Clinton.

The Clinton reference is thought to be regarding Hilary Clinton’s strong stand on AGW during her campaign, a factor that cost many votes in conservative areas.

But surely certitude does beget hubris, and if you want to appear warm and fuzzy (as when you are seeking somebody’s vote) it may be better to be less certain. In politics.

I’m not a politician, and I have no need to please anybody. At this I am immensely successful. Take the screen shot gracing the head of this column. That’s from a Facebook dialog I had with a friend named Dan. He opened with:

I guess Algor is coming out with a sequel to his “Inconvenient ‘Truth'” film.

I hope the film will answer these questions:

  1. How does CO2, which is 1.4x the weight of air get up above the Troposphere to  form a greenhouse? What is its density there, given that CO2 is less than 004 of 1% (= four ten-thousandths or 40 PPM) of all gasses in the atmosphere?

Followed by items 2 through 8 in a similar vein. Others chimed in, including Mark. As one who studied some science in college (also high school) I have to say Mark’s understanding of science does not bode well for the American educational system. Details on request.

Again, forgetting the politicians, Bret Stephens can forgive scientists for some hubris if he will pause for a moment to examine the complaints made by the AGW deniers. These arguments generally boil down to something like those of Dan and Mark. Many are steeped in a gross misunderstanding of basic science plus ignorance (or denial) of available data.

Stephens attempts to avoid this trap with qualifying language:

Well, not entirely. As Andrew Revkin wrote last year about his storied career as an environmental reporter at The Times, “I saw a widening gap between what scientists had been learning about global warming and what advocates were claiming as they pushed ever harder to pass climate legislation.” The science was generally scrupulous. The boosters who claimed its authority weren’t.

He’s not disputing the data. The problem is what are advocates for remedy postulating. On this point Stephens and I are in agreement. A sweltering summer day in Chicago (people dying). A devastating tornado rips through a Mississippi town. It’s the doom of global warming! There is no doubt boosters for remedy are overstating the case.

Let them. Put them in their place. The science still stands. Human activity is producing increased concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere (CO2 concentration currently exceeds 400 ppm). Global temperature averages are increasing in correspondence with increasing concentrations of  CO2. Polar ice is melting. The mean sea level is rising. Coastal areas are being affected. All else is bull shit. The need for human intervention is manifest on this issue alone.

The cadre of politicians and vocal citizens may like to take heart from Stephens’ analysis, but they need to appreciate that he is only showcasing their own agenda. Attacks on the science may not be successful, but the political ploy of gaming the statements by AGW fanatics is a quiver full of ammunition for the deniers. In the end it will not matter.

Stephens quoted a (mythical?) old Jew of Galicia. Another quote from way back goes, “Man proposes. Allah disposes.” Think what you want, Nature will have its way.

The Age Of Embarrassment

Ninth of a series

I’ve been a serious skeptic since 1988, at which time I joined up with The North Texas Skeptics. It’s been a lot of fun. We looked into claims made by astrologers, graphologists, faith healers, psychics, and ultimately creationists. It has been skepticism well spent We continually found the claims of these groups to be baseless at best and fraudulent on the extreme side. Generally, rational skepticism has been based on the following:

  • You have to follow the facts.
  • Assertions made in the face of vast experience are worth a very close look.
  • Loyalty and personal bias are often the basis for false belief.
  • Verify, verify, verify.

A lot of bad science has come and gone in recorded history. The four basic elements—fire, water, earth, air—have been superseded by more useful concepts. Phlogiston turned out to be a useless idea for describing the flow of heat. N-rays turned out to be a figment of an experimenter’s expectations, and Nobel chemist Irving Langmuir figured the same thing was happening in experiments carried out at Columbia University.

More recently, some valid science has come under scrutiny. First the correlation between tobacco smoking and lung cancer was strongly denied by companies that marketed tobacco products. Executives even lied under oath at congressional hearings. Then rigorous studies demonstrated the relationship was causal. Smoking in this country decreased dramatically since, and so have new cases of lung cancer. Scientists determined that chlorinated fluorocarbons released into the atmosphere were contributing to the destruction of the ozone layer in the stratosphere, and laws were passed to restrict the use of these chemicals. There was much push back against this science—it was viewed as supporting government meddling and therefor bad science. Some members of The North Texas Skeptics were among those who spoke out against the science. Then two chemists won the Nobel prize for their studies related to the destruction of the ozone layer, and restricted use of CFCs has correlated with a healthier ozone layer.

One bit of science that has been around for decades is global warming caused by greenhouse gases. The greenhouse effect in the atmosphere is likened to the way a planter’s greenhouse works. The transparent covering allows in energy from sunlight in but traps the resulting heat. Calculations projected a rise in average atmospheric and ocean temperatures, the result being melting of land ice and significant rise in ocean levels, among other consequences. Again there is vocal resistance. This resistance has come from both genuine disbelief that human activities can have a significant effect and from political resistance to any actions taken to curb the use of fossil fuels.

That brings us to the current discussion. Dan, a friend on Facebook, from time to time posts items hostile to the science behind anthropogenic global warming (AGW). From interchanges with Dan, I know he has a free-market bent and is a champion of personal liberties. Government action to combat AGW is anathema to Dan, and an ignorance toward some basic science teams up to make for some interesting exchanges. This is about one of them.

It kicks off with a posting by Dan. He’s talking about an opinion piece that ran in the 3 November 2013 issue of Forbes:

Blood And Gore: Making A Killing On Anti-Carbon Investment Hype

I write about aerospace, environment, energy, Second Amendment policy

Here is what Dan posted:

I guess Algor is coming out with a sequel to his “Inconvenient ‘Truth'” film.

I hope the film will answer these questions:

1. How does CO2, which is 1.4x the weight of air, get up above the Troposphere to form a greenhouse? What is its density there, given that CO2 is less than 0.04 of 1% ( = four ten-thousandths or 40 PPM) of all gases in the atmosphere?

2. If Global Warming is really happening, why have the central researchers of it (East Anglia Univ.) been caught at least three times faking the statistics?

3. If GW is really going to flood the seacoasts in another 2 years, why did Algor buy TWO ocean-side mansions, one on the East Coast and one on the West?

4. If Global warming is real, why have the purveyors of it changed their warnings from “Global Cooling” in the 70s, to “Global Warming” in the 1990s – 2010s, to “Climate Change” in the Obama years, to now, “Climate Disruption?”

5. If Global warming is real, why is one of the temperature stations atop a building near an air conditioner’s WARM air outflow, and another atop an ACTIVE volcano which spews heat and CO2 (Moana Loa).

6. Since we’re still emerging from an Ice Age, what is the PROPER temperature for the world, and how do you arrive at that number?

7. How will paying a tax which largely benefits a firm owned by Algor* save us from the alleged Global Warming? Is he going to use the money to save the world? How?

(* Gore & Blood is the only approved “Carbon Exchange” mentioned in the proposed US legislation. formerly, the Chicago Carbon Exchange was the official repository, until Barack Obama was found to have a material stake in the firm)

8. If Humans cause Global Warming, why and how are our neighboring planets warming, and how was this variable removed from your secret climate model?

That takes some digesting. I exchanged a few comments with Dan and hoped to elicit his acknowledgement he was serious, and this was not some kind of spoof. What alarmed me was a lack of knowledge and logic. I will get to some of the additional exchanges, but first the forgoing needs some analysis. Start with Dan’s point 1, if you will pardon the repetition:

1. How does CO2, which is 1.4x the weight of air, get up above the Troposphere to form a greenhouse? What is its density there, given that CO2 is less than 0.04 of 1% ( = four ten-thousandths or 40 PPM) of all gases in the atmosphere?

His first question, “How does…” is an example of begging the question. This is manifest when a question is asked, but the wording of the question presumes a premise, something the speaker wants to assert. There are two parts here.

First, asking how CO2, being denser than air, makes it into the stratosphere and beyond. The implication loaded into the question is that it does not. This is not true. The gases in the atmosphere are well mixed below 90 kilometers altitude, and that is close to the fringes of the atmosphere. The second implication is CO2 must reach into the stratosphere before it produces a greenhouse effect. There is no basis for this. In fact, CO2 close to the Earth’s surface absorbs infrared radiation as effectively, just closer to the surface. The answer to Dan’s question, “What is it’s density there…” is answered by any reference to the composition of the atmosphere. There is little variation, and the concentration of CO2 above the troposphere is still approximately 400 parts per million.

2. If Global Warming is really happening, why have the central researchers of it (East Anglia Univ.) been caught at least three times faking the statistics?

Dan is going to need to elaborate on this. Again, it’s a loaded question. The question presumes the East Anglia University researchers were caught faking the statistics.

3. If GW is really going to flood the seacoasts in another 2 years, why did Algor buy TWO ocean-side mansions, one on the East Coast and one on the West?

Really. Really? Global warming is going to flood the seacoasts in another two years? Get serious. I will address one of Dan’s concerns here. Purchasing a house on a cliff overlooking an ocean would be a safe investment. By “Algor” I presume Dan means Albert Gore, former Vice President of the United States. Al Gore is not a young man, and by the time the land ice melts and the oceans rise 200 feet, he, plus Dan and I, will be long dead.

4. If Global warming is real, why have the purveyors of it changed their warnings from “Global Cooling” in the 70s, to “Global Warming” in the 1990s – 2010s, to “Climate Change” in the Obama years, to now, “Climate Disruption?”

The science behind global warming has not changed. Based on history, the Earth is due for another ice age in the northern hemisphere in the next few thousand years. AGW is another issue, and it is AGW. Climate change will be an offshoot of AGW, and you may want to call it climate disruption if you want.

5. If Global warming is real, why is one of the temperature stations atop a building near an air conditioner’s WARM air outflow, and another atop an ACTIVE volcano which spews heat and CO2 (Moana Loa).

Dan is going to need to provide some facts to back this up. Again there is a loaded question—the presumption being that these vital measurements are made at inopportune locations. In case Dan is confused about one item, the station at Mauna Loa Observatory is a major location for taking measurements of CO2 concentration. Great care is taken to ensure that CO2 from the volcano does not contaminate the measurement. It is obvious Dan is pulling his information from unreliable sources. It would have been better had he done some on-line research before posting some of this stuff.

6. Since we’re still emerging from an Ice Age, what is the PROPER temperature for the world, and how do you arrive at that number?

Dan should have been able to answer this one for himself. The answer is there is no “proper” temperature. The Earth has, in the past, been hotter, and it has been colder. Evidence is that at one time the oceans were frozen over. That is, perhaps, why the terms climate change and climate disruption are used. We have built our cities where they are, we live where we do, and our crops flourish as they do because the global average has been stable for thousands of years. Relatively stable. People did experience the previous ice age. The problem is that some cities, Miami and New York City being two examples, were constructed very close to the level of the current ocean. Miami is already combating ocean level rise, and New York City is making preparations for ocean rise. A rise in the order of 50 feet within the next 100 years would be very disruptive. Bottom line—it would be best for world economies if the global average stayed about where it is right now.

7. How will paying a tax which largely benefits a firm owned by Algor* save us from the alleged Global Warming? Is he going to use the money to save the world? How?

Dan has me on this one. Maybe he can answer that, either in the affirmative or in the negative.

8. If Humans cause Global Warming, why and how are our neighboring planets warming, and how was this variable removed from your secret climate model?

It would be nice if I could treat this one as some kind of joke. However, Dan has refused to disavow his comments, so I must take him seriously. Venus, as is well-known, is an extreme case of greenhouse warming. The planet’s atmosphere is a different composition from the Earth’s, and it has created a furnace, compared to Earth. Also, Venus is 20 million miles closer to the sun. Mars, not so much so. It’s farther from the sun and barely has an atmosphere. If Mars is warming, Dan will need to give me some evidence.

Dan posted an additional comment:

John: You told me the Periodic Table was irrelevant. That CO2 was denser at Sea Level than the average of air. That didn’t refute my statement, only attempted to muddy it.

A balloon filled with CO2 would not rise, on Earth, correct?

I told you I’m not going ’round with you. It’s your religion and you are stuck with it. I’m sticking with facts as we know them, e.g. molecular weight of air vs CO2 means CO2 won’t rise by itself at normal conditions on Earth.

But… we both know where each other stand.

Yes, the periodic table is not relevant to this. The periodic table only associates elements according to their similar chemical characteristics, which characteristics having been determined to be predicted by quantum theory. No properties of individual elements (atoms) are involved in the greenhouse process, since only argon and helium are the atomic gases that exist in quantities in the atmosphere.

Yes, CO2 and all other gases are denser at sea level, this being due to greater atmospheric pressure at sea level (than higher up), that coupled with Boyle’s Law.

True, a balloon filled with CO2 will not rise. What does this have to do with the discussion at hand?

Dan continues to insist, in defiance of all known facts, that CO2 does not mix in the atmosphere.  CO2 is about equally represented in the stratosphere as it is at lower altitudes. Dan needs to read some basic science.

Mark, apparently a Facebook friend of Dan’s, added the following bit of wisdom:

Chemistry 101: CO2 is not a Greenhouse Gas, nor is it a “pollutant”, nor has the quantity of CO2 changed on Earth for many hundreds of millions of years. Water vapor in the atmosphere is many times (close to 100X) more capable of capturing the Sun’s ion radiation than CO2. One single volcano spews more CO2 in one day than all of the CO2 emitted by Human activities in their ENTIRE existence. Finally, it’s the weather, which is constantly changing in reaction to the Sun spot activities. That is the end of the class kiddies.

Yes, that’s weird. CO2 is a greenhouse gas due to it’s molecular structure, which causes it to absorb long wave infra red radiation. Details on request. This can get lengthy.

The quantity of CO2 has changed significantly within the past few decades. Here is the Keeling Curve, the concentration of CO2 since about 1958:

Yes, water vapor is a major greenhouse gas. Without the water vapor we presently have in the atmosphere, temperatures would be about 20C lower. The difference is that water vapor was already built in when humans first appeared, and we have done nothing to change that. Nor could we likely. Water vapor has a mechanism for removal that CO2 does not have, and that mechanism is called “rain.” Rain continually cycles water from the atmosphere back to the surface, maintaining a steady state condition, globally.

Mark further says, “One single volcano spews more CO2 in one day than all of the CO2 emitted by Human activities in their ENTIRE existence.”

No. Look at the Keeling Curve. This time period includes several major volcanic eruptions, and these do not show up on the graph. Here is another graph:

No, it is not volcanoes.

Nor is it solar activity. Here is another graph:

Mark concludes, “That is the end of the class kiddies.” Yes, it is the end of the class for Mark. I suggest somebody read a science book.

Peter is another of Dan’s friends. He posted:

This area of science is not my specialty but I would speculate that C02 is distributed in the upper atmosphere by airplanes. I know some fly as high as 60K ft. and their exhaust contains C02. The upper jet stream can carry it higher. It can account for it with all the military and commercial planes up there.

Peter, read the above. CO2 is distributed naturally.

Dan has asked me why I am not skeptical of AGW. The interchange I just analyzed illustrates why I am skeptical of assertions made against AGW. They are all of this quality. Nobody, even any serious scientists, has ever made arguments against AGW that did not have a level of prevarication or misinterpretation of the facts.

It’s up to Dan and his friends to provide some kind of realistic argument, of which the ones so far presented are not. Fetching imaginary facts out of the air will not do. It would help if these people would research the subject and verify assertions they are about to post. There seems to be little to no evidence any of them are doing that. Scientific explanations concerning the greenhouse mechanism and details of the nature of the atmosphere abound on the Internet. Even a brief check before posting would have avoided the failures manifest in these postings.

Dan, Mark, and Peter are charged with heading to a library or at least to the Internet and coming back to me with something to back up what they have posted. This is the end of class, kiddos.

The Dumbest Kind

You wanna embrace the golden calf?
Ankle, and thigh, and upper half?
Here it is!
I mean, here it is!

That’s one way to get it started. Here’s another way.


Yes, that’s Texas’ own Congressman Joe Barton, representing District 6, just south of Dallas. He’s been in place for 32 years and appears to be well-entrenched. Something about Congressman Barton’s district favors his odd mentality, and he’s likely to stick around for awhile. The topic of the featured meme epitomizes his thinking:

At a 2009 hearing on renewable energy, Barton asserted that large-scale wind power projects could slow down God’s method for cooling the earth and possibly contribute to global warming.


A reference to the source comes from Newsweek, as reported 17 June 2010:

Wind is God’s way of balancing heat. Wind is the way you shift heat from areas where it’s hotter to areas where it’s cooler. That’s what wind is. Wouldn’t it be ironic if in the interest of global warming we mandated massive switches to energy, which is a finite resource, which slows the winds down, which causes the temperature to go up? Now, I’m not saying that’s going to happen, Mr. Chairman, but that is definitely something on the massive scale. I mean, it does make some sense. You stop something, you can’t transfer that heat, and the heat goes up. It’s just something to think about.

Forget for a moment that Congressman Barton has just referenced a mythical being, what does the remainder of his statement say about the thoroughness of his thought processes? Some diagnosis:

  • Regarding wind being a finite resource, like many things, it is. Also, Barton made his relevant comment in a Congressional sub committee hearing. He started by citing university research that asserted wind is a finite resource, and he ended by summarizing in his own words, invoking God. Snopes has a complete discussion.
  • Regarding wind being a way of balancing heat, this is essentially true. It gets hot somewhere, the wind blows, heat gets distributed. Fact is, heat is what makes the wind blow.
  • Regarding less wind contributing to global warming, university research may or may not make this claim, but my own authority, being a certified physicist, is that less wind will amount to less global warming. The reasoning is this. If less wind causes heat to remain accumulated in a spot, the rise in  temperature at that spot will increase radiative loss of heat. The affected spot will lose more heat, while unaffected regions will not accumulate additional heat to make up the difference. Run the numbers for yourself.

Notably, Barton has also stated he does believe there is global warming, but he attributes this to natural causes. For Joe Barton, natural causes are documented in the Bible:

“I would point out that people like me who support hydrocarbon development don’t deny that climate is changing,” he added. “I think you can have an honest difference of opinion of what’s causing that change without automatically being either all in that’s all because of mankind or it’s all just natural. I think there’s a divergence of evidence.”

Barton then cited the biblical Great Flood as an example of climate change not caused by man.

“I would point out that if you’re a believer in the Bible, one would have to say the Great Flood is an example of climate change and that certainly wasn’t because mankind had overdeveloped hydrocarbon energy.”

Hint: Congressman Barton receives considerable campaign support from the petroleum industry. A video uploaded to YouTube on 25 March 2009 elaborates on his thinking. People, he says, should be prepared to adapt to global warming as they have adapted to climate change in the past. He proposes we cease useless attempts to forestall efforts at ameliorating non-existent human causes and devote our immediate attention to accommodating the inevitable.

Congressman Barton is likely correct in thinking we will not be able fix global warming in time to avoid its impact on our lives. In his talk, presented in the video, he does not specify any steps we need to take to accommodate global warming. Among steps he fails to address is the need to protect coastal areas from the rise in sea level, already being observed. Miami, Florida, is a city currently dealing with sea level rise, and its projected cost to mitigate the problem is impressive:

From his sunny corner office on the sixth floor of Miami Beach City Hall, the engineer has spent the past two and a half years working on one of the hardest jobs in the country: trying to keep this city of 90,000 above water.

This is, of course, Miami Beach, which is strictly not Miami. I visited the area a few weeks ago and can attest the city is situated on a barrier island, separated from Miami and the mainland by a lagoon. These barrier islands exist all along the east and Gulf coasts, from New Jersey to Brownsville, Texas. They are not now and never have been permanent, being continually obliterated and reformed by wave action over cycles that last in the order of a thousand years. It was foolish for people to build facilities on these islands and expect them to be permanent.

Miami is on the mainland, on the coast of a state whose highest point is around 300 feet above sea level. It would not take much of a rise in sea level to erase much of Florida’s present coast line. Is this the kind of global warming problem Congressman Barton expects us to accommodate as though it were a hot summer day? The dumbness is strong in this one, Master.

The Age Of Embarrassment

Eighth of a series


I’m sure I saw this coming.


That was during the campaign. Donald Trump is now President of the United States. This has consequences:

Leading candidate for Trump’s science advisor calls climate change a cult

In January, the Trump transition team arranged for two scientists to meet with Trump. Since then, both have been considered front runners to become the new presidential science advisor, a position that typically heads the Office of Science and Technology Policy. While the two—Princeton’s William Happer and Yale’s David Gelernter—have radically different backgrounds, they have a couple of things in common: strong support for science in general and extreme skepticism of climate science in particular.

The above appeared in Ars Technica on 15 February, written by John Timmer. The subtitle is Both picks support science, doubt its conclusions. I keep getting  the idea that Professor Happer has the lead here, and I’m going with that for the time being. Either way, what we are likely to have is a presidential science advisor who does not consider anthropogenic global warming (AGW) to be a serious concern.

To be sure, Professor Happer is a legitimate scientist. From Wikipedia, “He is the Cyrus Fogg Brackett Professor of Physics at Princeton University, and a long-term member of the JASON advisory group, where he pioneered the development of adaptive optics. From 1991-93, Happer served as director of the Department of Energy‘s Office of Science as part of the George H. W. Bush administration.” That he may soon lend his opinions on AGW at the highest levels of government science is worrisome. Some background is worth a notice.


YouTube has a short interview, and it illuminates the core of his thinking:

Published on Oct 26, 2012

Professor of Physics at Princeton, William Happer debunks, then destroys global warming alarmism & hysteria in 7 minutes.

This appears to show testimony at a government hearing. Some of Happer’s remarks are worth noting. From the video. These are not verbatim quotes:

  • Global warming has been going on for the last 200 years.
  • There have been periods, like the last ten years when warming has ceased. In fact there’s been a little bit of cooling the past ten years.
  • We have experienced substantial cooling from the period 1942 to 1970.
  • Atmospheric concentrations of CO2 have increased from about 280 to 390 parts per million over the past 100 years.
  • The combustion of fossil fuels has contributed to this increase in the atmosphere.
  • Increases in the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere will cause some warming of the Earth’s surface.
  • The key question is whether the net effect of the warming and any other effects of  CO2 will be good or bad for humanity.
  • I believe the effects of CO2 will be good.

That covers the first minute of a seven-minute clip. At this point Professor Happer has conceded that AGW exists, and he takes the assumption that he has proved his case against the dangers and forges ahead. He now transitions out of the field of physics, in which he holds a Ph.D. from Princeton.

He leaves the scientific realm entirely and begins by comparing the movement against AGW with the temperance movement of 100 years ago. Prohibition, we learn seemed like a good idea at the time, and we passed the 18th Amendment to prohibit the manufacture and sale of alcoholic beverages. That resulted in massive resistance to the laws that were put in place, and it led to an unprecedented crime wave, the beginning, he says, of organized crime in this country.

Professor Happer’s retelling of American history is accurate on that point, but it stretches a point to compare environmental activism with the Prohibition Era. In sum total, he advocates that attempts at government regulation, as it relates to AGW, will have adverse effects with no redeeming benefit. Again, this is an area where his training in physics is of little use.

He touts the benefits of increased CO2 concentration in  the atmosphere. Green plants receive a boost when more CO2 is available, which seems logical and which is borne out. The obverse is also true. Too much CO2 can kill green plants. What Professor Happer fails to tell is one of the downsides of this increased greening.

He rightly refers to a side effect of CO2 concentration in  the atmosphere, but he does not completely elaborate. With additional warming, the atmosphere will take up more water, and water vapor is a significant greenhouse gas. One concern of climate scientist is the possibility of runaway warming due to water vapor. The warmer the air, the more water vapor the more warming the more water vapor and so on. This is likely ameliorated by increased cloud formation, which will reflect sunlight, increasing the Earth’s albedo, keeping warming under control. He cites satellite data.

The Happer video was published in 2012, when his remarks regarding satellite data would have had more credibility in some circles. Not so much anymore:

Climate change doubters may have lost one of their key talking points: a particular satellite temperature dataset that had seemed to show no warming for the past 18 years.

The Remote Sensing System temperature data, promoted by many who reject mainstream climate science and especially most recently by Sen. Ted Cruz, now shows a slight of about 0.18 degrees Fahrenheit since 1998. Ground temperature measurements, which many scientists call more accurate, all show warming in the past 18 years.

“There are people that like to claim there was no warming; they really can’t claim that anymore,” said Carl Mears, the scientist who runs the Remote Sensing System temperature data tracking.

In that regard, Happer’s more recent thoughts may be more pertinent:

In July 2014 Happer said, during a CNBC interview, that “The demonization of carbon dioxide is just like the demonization of the poor Jews under Hitler.”

In December 2015 Happer was targeted in a sting operation by the environmental activist group Greenpeace; posing as consultants for a Middle Eastern oil and gas company, they asked Happer to write a report touting the benefits of rising carbon emissions. Concerned that the report might not be trusted if it was known that it was commissioned by an oil company, Happer discussed ways to obscure the funding. Happer asked that the fee be donated to the climate-change skeptic organization CO2 Coalition, who suggested he reach out to the Donors Trust, in order to keep the source of funds secret; hiding funding in this way is lawful under US law. Happer acknowledged that his report would probably not pass peer-review with a scientific journal.

In February 2017 Happer said “There’s a whole area of climate so-called science that is really more like a cult … It will potentially harm the image of all science.”

This excerpt from Happer’s Wikipedia entry contains links to the sources.

Jews under Hitler:

“The demonization of carbon dioxide is just like the demonization of the poor Jews under Hitler,” said Princeton University professor William Happer while being interviewed on “Squawk Box” on CNBC. Before host Andrew Ross Sorkin could respond in incredulity, Happer went on to say, “Carbon dioxide is actually a benefit to the world, and so were the Jews.”

There is scientific objectivity, and then there is scientific objectivity. Sometimes more. Sometimes less.

The Greenpeace sting:

The proposed report for the fake consultant was intended to highlight the negative aspects of the climate agreement being negotiated in Paris, he was told in the email approach. The physicist was receptive to the commission, and asked to donate his fee to the CO2 Coalition, a group founded this year to “shift the debate from the unjustified criticism of CO2 and fossil fuels”.

“My activities to push back against climate extremism are a labor of love, to defend the cherished ideals of science that have been so corrupted by the climate change cult,” he wrote in an email. He did not respond to a request from the Guardian for comment.

This is not a case of a scientist selling his soul for grant money. Taking Happer at his word that he did not pocket the payment.

Regarding climate science as a cult, a Guardian article says much the same as the excerpt at the top of this post, and it says more:

“There’s a whole area of climate so-called science that is really more like a cult,” Happer told the Guardian. “It’s like Hare Krishna or something like that. They’re glassy-eyed and they chant. It will potentially harm the image of all science.”

Trump has previously described global warming as “very expensive … bullshit” and has signalled a continued hardline stance since taking power. He has nominated the former Texas governor Rick Perry, a staunch climate sceptic, as secretary of energy and hopes to put the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) under the leadership of Scott Pruitt, the Oklahoma attorney general, who has been one of the agency’s most hostile critics.

John Holdren, Barack Obama’s science adviser, said Happer’s outspoken opinions would be a “substantial handicap” for a job that has traditionally involved delivering mainstream scientific opinion to the heart of policymaking.

“Every national academy of science agrees that the science is solid, that climate change is real,” he said. “To call this a cult is absurd and … an insult to the people who have done this work.”

Happer also supports a controversial crackdown on the freedom of federal agency scientists to speak out about their findings, arguing that mixed messages on issues such as whether butter or margarine is healthier, have led to people disregarding all public health information.

Jesus, I am so glad he’s not blaming the Chinese.

The National Center For Science Education

The NCSE is the premier organization in this country promoting legitimate science in public schools and in the public forum. They are a 501 (c) (3) organization, deserving of your contributions. I give money to the NCSE. You should, too.

Following is a recent notice from the NCSE:

1904 Franklin Street, Suite 600 Oakland, CA 94612-2922

510.601.7203 •

With the unprecedented 2016 election finally behind us, we can all turn our attention back to issues that haven’t been in the spotlight lately. Like science education. As you’ll read below, there’s plenty to be concerned about. But NCSE has not taken its eye off the ball, and our new programs are really starting to pay off. I hope that you’ll consider joining our effort to help teachers cover evolution and climate change confidently and completely.

When you consider the state of science education today, it’s easy to be disappointed, disturbed, and dismayed. Consider the following recent incidents.

  • In Alabama, the state board of education voted to continue to mandate a disclaimer about evolution in the state’s textbooks. Such disclaimers date back to 1996. But even after Alabama adopted a new set of state science standards in 2005, that described evolution as “substantiated with much direct and indirect evidence,” the board disappointingly voted to retain the scientifically unwarranted and pedagogically irresponsible message.
  • A national survey conducted by NCSE with researchers at Pennsylvania State University, which asked 1500 science teachers in public middle and high schools about their attitudes toward and practice in teaching climate change, found disturbing gaps in their knowledge. For example, less than half of the teachers realized that more than 80% of climate scientists agree that recent global warming is caused primarily by human activities.
  • In Kentucky, a young-earth creationist ministry opened a Noah’s-ark-themed amusement park. The truly  dismaying aspect of Answers in Genesis Ark Encounter was its invitation to local public schools to flout the principle of church/state separation by bringing students there on field trips, at a special discounted rate. Judging from reports received by NCSE over the years, public school excursions to creationist attractions are dismayingly common.

Dealing, and helping people to deal, with such assaults on science education is all in a day’s work for us at NCSE.

But as you know, that’s not all that we’re doing. A suite of innovative new programs is aimed at reinforcing the confidence of teachers, recruiting scientists to help, and rallying communities to support science education locally:

  • NCSEteach (, NCSE’s network to support climate change and evolution educators, now includes nearly 6,000 teachers, each of whom receive regular advice and resources from NCSE aimed at improving their scientific knowledge and pedagogical confidence. And they now know that NCSE will have their backs when they encounter challenges to the teaching of evolution or climate change!
  • NCSEteach’s “Scientists in the Classroom” program is bringing eager and energetic early career research scientists into middle and high school classrooms across the country to enrich students’ climate change and evolution learning experiences. Over one hundred teacher—scientist partnerships have already been formed, to the great and continuing benefit of all involved. More are in the works.
  • NCSE’s Science Booster Club project, piloting in Iowa, has provided fun, hands-on, and accurate educational activities on evolution and climate change to over 50,000 participants at local events in the last year, and raised funds to purchase science equipment for the benefit of over 3,000 local students. In 2016, the project not only exhibited at county and state fairs but also hosted a free summer science camp to provide rural low-income students with evolution education.

Are these programs working? Judging from the heartfelt expressions of thanks from teachers who have participated in NCSEteach, from teacher/scientist partners who have participated in Scientists in the Classroom, and from thousands of Iowans involved with a Science Booster Club, yes!

But to science fans like you and me, what’s even more convincing than testimonials is data. The Science Booster Club in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, administered a twenty-four-question science literacy survey at its public events throughout the year. And voilà:


That’s significant—literally (p = 0.03) and figuratively. Working with a low budget but a high degree of enthusiasm, the science boosters in Cedar Rapids—and elsewhere in Iowa—are making a measurable difference.

I’m excited about these efforts, and I hope that you are, too. We want to extend these programs to communities across the country. To do so, we need your support. Your gift to NCSE will help us help teachers to present science properly.

You can donate on-line at A gift of only $500 will allow us to provide a new booster club with all the materials needed to provide hands-on evolution or climate change activities to 10,000 participants! Or consider a recurring gift of $10 or $20 per month; such donations help make our budget more predictable so we can start new projects with confidence. A gift of any size will go directly to improving science education.

By reinforcing the confidence of teachers, recruiting scientists to help, and rallying communities to support science education locally, NCSE is helping to ensure that science will be taught honestly, accurately, and confidently. Please help us to do so.

Sincerely yours,

Ann Reid

Executive Director, NCSE


Debating Lefty


Truth be told, I was searching for a different book on Amazon when I found this one by conservative columnist Ben Shapiro. And what a deal! Only $0.99 in Kindle. The full title is How to Debate Leftists and Destroy Them: 11 Rules for Winning the Argument, but you are allowed to abbreviate. I recommend just How to Debate Leftists.

But wait. That’s what I said to myself, “But wait!” If Amazon is selling it for 99 cents, it’s possible all 20 pages (as advertised on Amazon) can be found somewhere for free on the Internet. Seek, and ye shall find. It is available in  PDF for free, but running to 34 pages. Here’s a link.

And here’s a review.

My overall take: Shapiro is dead on in his approach. If your aim is to win the argument, get in the first punch and hit hard. That’s Shapiro’s Rule #2:

Rule #2: Hit First. Don’t take the punch first. Hit first. Hit hard. Hit where it counts. Mike Tyson used to say, “Everybody has a plan ‘til they get punched in the mouth.”

[Page 12]

As advertised, Shapiro lays out eleven tactics you will find most helpful in winning an argument:

  • Rule #1: Walk Toward the Fire.
  • Rule #2: Hit First.
  • Rule #3: Frame Your Opponent.
  • Rule #4: Frame the debate.
  • Rule #5: Spot Inconsistencies in the Left’s Arguments.
  • Rule #6: Force Leftists to Answer Questions.
  • Rule #7: Do Not Get Distracted.
  • Rule #8: You Don’t Have To Defend People on Your Side.
  • Rule #9: If You Don’t Know Something, Admit It.
  • Rule #10: Let The Other Side Have Meaningless Victories.
  • Rule #11: Body Language Matters.

I am impressed that somebody barely 30 years old has reinvented concepts I long considered personal secrets of my own. But some of them can use explanation.

Walk toward the fire. Don’t avoid the debate. Look forward to it and be prepared. Seek out the fight.

Frame your opponent. Reinvent your opponent into somebody you can beat. If you debating, for example, President-elect Donald Trump, establish him as a person who gropes women before he gets a chance to remind everybody he has just been elected president.

Frame the debate. Establish what the debate will be about before your opponent can cast it in a form you will be unable to assail.

You don’t have to  defend people on your side. I know that one well. Many are the liberals and progressives I would rather not have brought up when I  am having a “friendly” conversation with a right wing nut case. The best thing to do when your opponents brings up a stinking corpse is to immediately throw the body under the bus and move on. This is no time for misplaced loyalty.

The business about body language is something I  have never been  able to master. When somebody is arguing against the science behind anthropogenic global warming (AGW), it is impossible for me to  wipe that shit-eating grin off my face.

These are all good things to  know and sound approaches to take, if your aim is to win the debate only. If you aim is to educate and  to put over something of substance, then you need to get serious and take a more pragmatic approach. I’ve done that, as well.

Knowing Ben Shapiro’s approach to wining arguments with liberals, it is additionally worthwhile to appreciate why he needs to use this approach. The fact is, many of the causes he advocates have little or no worth. An example:

When you’re discussing global warming, for example, the proper question is not whether man is causing global warming. The question is whether man can fix global warming – a question to which the universally-acknowledged answer is essentially no, unless we are willing to revert to the pre-industrial age.

[Page 24]

A cold reading of this gives pause to wonder whether Shapiro believes AGW has no basis or whether it is real, and there is nothing we can/should do about it. A video clip from October 2015 seems to show him saying he does not believe it is real.

[After saying that certain aspects of AGW have been  debunked] The idea that the hockey stick graph is anything remotely resembling reality… The hockey stick graph shows that over the last century, and it’s too short a period of time to do climate change statistics like this, it shows that over the last century, century and a half that the climate, along with carbon emissions, go like that [sweeps his hand across and up], and it’s a hockey stick.

The problem is that’s all falsified data. There have been multiple problems with the measurement data, as far as global warming.

He goes on to say this is the reason it’s called “climate change” and not “global warming” now. He asserts the planet has not been warming for the past 15 years.

Despite what Ben Shapiro is trying to get across in his talk, the problem is not that the data have been falsified, and the problem is not that the planet has not been warming. The problem is that Ben Shapiro is lying to his audience. My guess is he has been reading some of his own stuff.

He was in charge of from 2012 (when Andrew Breitbart died) until March of last year. It was from this period I mined the following:

I have no record of who posted it, but a link showed up on Facebook:

Scientists at two of the world’s leading climate centres – NASA and NOAA – have been caught out manipulating temperature data to overstate the extent of the 20th century “global warming”.

The evidence of their tinkering can clearly be seen at Real Science, where blogger Steven Goddard has posted a series of graphs which show “climate change” before and after the adjustments.

When the raw data is used, there is little if any evidence of global warming and some evidence of global cooling. However, once the data has been adjusted – ie fabricated by computer models –  20th century ‘global warming’ suddenly looks much more dramatic.

This is especially noticeable on the US temperature records. Before 2000, it was generally accepted – even by climate activists like NASA’s James Hansen – that the hottest decade in the US was the 1930s.

The excerpt from Breitbart is noticeable wrong, as I mentioned at the time:

This is interesting. Government agencies, NASA (National Aviation and Space Administration) and NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), have been tweaking scientific measurements to give the false impression that global temperatures are rising. That would be scientific misconduct at best and criminal misuse of governmental authority at worst. If only it were true.

Besides already knowing the background, I picked up on an obvious clue in the last paragraph above. “[T]he hottest decade in the US was in the 1930s.” Taking first that the statement is true, how does this bear on average global  temperatures over the past hundred years or more? The world wonders.

From that point forward this item from Breitbart needs additional scrutiny. The facts may not be as interesting as Breitbart, but they have the advantage of being facts. The NOAA has posted an explanation of the process so recently assailed by that reputable scientific source, Breitbart. Here is an excerpt:

Monitoring Global and U.S. Temperatures at NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information

There are several factors that are important in monitoring global or U.S. temperature: quality of raw observations, length of record of observations, and the analysis methods used to transform raw data into reliable climate data records by removing existing biases from the data. An additional process takes the multiple climate data records and creates U.S. or global average temperatures.

And more. Follow the link and get back to me if you still have questions.

Shapiro’s response to fiery criticisms of his stance on AGW and also his stance on a number of other issues is to note the quality of his attackers. Continuing the section quoted from the book above:

This is a more useful question, and it also avoids the left’s preferred line of argument on global warming, which is a variation on their preferred line on gun control: “Global warming is man-made. Don’t agree? That’s because you’re stupid and hateful.” As a general matter, the left’s favorite three lines of attack are (1) you’re stupid; (2) you’re mean; (3) you’re corrupt. Sarah Palin is supposedly stupid; Mitt Romney is supposedly mean; Dick Cheney is supposedly corrupt. Take away those lines of attack and watch the discomfort set in.

[Page 24]

Yes, it really is bad form to start calling names and making wild accusations in response to a philosophical affront. In a debate, in a dispute over a point of fact, the person who throws an insult is revealing he has no facts. However…

Shapiro says, “As a general matter, the left’s favorite three lines of attack are (1) you’re stupid; (2) you’re mean; (3) you’re corrupt.” The last two are way out of line, but number 1 is a valid argument. If you are arguing with a person who says the Earth is flat, then, “You’re stupid” might be an appropriate response. I run into into this at times:

Daniel G. Kuttner You have no idea of my qualifications. You throw your ample supply of tomatoes at me, rather than my assertions, which are backed BY science (e.g. that engineering reference link). Thus, you were replying ad hominem, literally.
I could be a bum on the street and still report correct – or incorrect – science. My lack of a white lab coat has no import.
If you are so full of science, where is your scientific refutation of my numbers? All I see from you is condescension and sarcasm.
Saying something is “clearly wrong” is not refutation, it’s disagreement; an opinion. You are, of course free to have those.

I have highlighted the operative text. Because Dan’s information was ridiculously false, and I pointed this out, I was being condescending and sarcastic. Bad form? When is being honest and forthright being condescending and sarcastic?

Along the lines of stupid, and corrupt, consider Shapiro’s own conduct, not in a face to face debate, but in his description of people who disagree with him.

The problem is that’s all falsified data.

The people who don’t agree with him, the scientist, are lying. They are falsifying data. So much for acceptable etiquette in public discourse.

Rounding out, there is more. By now you might not expect this, but Shapiro is not a supporter of Donald Trump. For this he has come under considerable personal attack from, presumably, Trump supporters:

In May 2016 New York Magazine reported: “Shapiro…has increasingly found himself targeted by the so-called alt-right movement, a loose conglomeration of online personalities — many if not most of them anonymous — currently devoted to tweeting and posting their support for Donald Trump and attacking those who disagree, often in racist and anti-Semitic ways. They have been denigrating Shapiro as a “pussy,” a “cuck,” a “Jew” and a “kike.””

In an article in National Review, Shapiro wrote: “I’ve experienced more pure, unadulterated anti-Semitism since coming out against Trump’s candidacy than at any other time in my political career. Trump supporters have threatened me and other Jews who hold my viewpoint. They’ve blown up my e-mail inbox with anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. They greeted the birth of my second child by calling for me, my wife, and two children to be thrown into a gas chamber.”

An article in The Washington Post quoted an Anti-Defamation League report that “focused in particular on the anti-Semitic tweets aimed at journalists, frequently those whose writing about Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has displeased a large contingent of Twitter users who band together to attack these journalists online. The words most commonly found in the bios of the people who post these anti-Semitic attacks? “Trump,” “nationalist,” conservative,” “American” and “white…The target of the most anti-Semitic tweets, by far, was Ben Shapiro, a conservative writer who formerly worked for Breitbart and who does not support Trump.”  Shapiro stated “I’m honored because being targeted by mouth-breathing idiots is a compliment – you know you’re doing something right if people who tweet pictures of gas chambers on the day of your child’s birth find you unacceptable as a human being.”  He also said: “As the fellow who receives hook-nosed Jew memes more than any other journalist on the planet, I don’t believe that people ought to be suspended or banned from Twitter or Facebook for posting vile garbage, so long as it isn’t openly advocating violence. I make a habit of retweeting these pieces of human feces in order to mock their stupidity and to expose the fact that people like this exist.”

Apparently there is not a massive amount of  personal honor going to waste on the political  front these days.

The Age Of Embarrassment

Update: I fixed some flawed language in this posting.

Sixth of a series


This keeps coming up. Makes my day. Dan Kuttner likes to jump on items supporting the denial of AGW (anthropogenic global warming). For that I am thankful.

This time it relates to a post on the Scott Adams blog. Scott Adams, if you recall, is the cartoonist/commentator who has for over two decades ragged American corporate structure and our idiosyncratic social fabric. No scientist, himself, he likes to take on AGW, which he appears to doubt. Here’s the item in question:


I keep hearing people say that 97% of climate scientists are on the same side of the issue. Critics point out that the number is inflated, but we don’t know by how much. Persuasion-wise, the “first offer” of 97% is so close to 100% that our minds assume the real number is very high even if not exactly 97%.

That’s good persuasion. Trump uses this method all the time. The 97% anchor is so strong that it is hard to hear anything else after that. Even the people who think the number is bogus probably think the real figure is north of 90%.

But is it? I have no idea.

So today’s challenge is to find a working scientist or PhD in some climate-related field who will agree with the idea that the climate science models do a good job of predicting the future.

Notice I am avoiding the question of the measurements. That’s a separate question. For this challenge, don’t let your scientist conflate the measurements or the basic science of CO2 with the projections. Just ask the scientist to offer an opinion on the credibility of the models only.

Remind your scientist that as far as you know there has never been a multi-year, multi-variable, complicated model of any type that predicted anything with useful accuracy. Case in point: The experts and their models said Trump had no realistic chance of winning.

Your scientist will fight like a cornered animal to conflate the credibility of the measurements and the basic science of CO2 with the credibility of the projection models. Don’t let that happen. Make your scientist tell you that complicated multi-variable projections models that span years are credible. Or not.

Then report back to me in the comments here or on Twitter at @ScottAdamsSays.

This question is a subset of the more interesting question of how non-scientists can judge the credibility of scientists or their critics. My best guess is that professional scientists will say that complicated prediction models with lots of variables are not credible. Ever. So my prediction is that the number of scientists who ***fully*** buy into climate science predictions is closer to zero than 97%.

But I’m willing to be proved wrong. I kind of like it when that happens. So prove me wrong.

I pasted as much as I consider pertinent on the possibility it will be withdrawn in the future.

As you can see above, I posted a response to Dan’s posting on Facebook, inquiring whether he felt safe in venturing into this wilderness again. This considering his performance in a prior exchange:

In a previous conversation Dan made some claims related to atmospheric science. One went something like this (I do not have the exact quote), “Carbon dioxide weighs [some number] more than the rest of the atmosphere.” That statement struck me as odd to the extreme. The German physicists Wolfgang Pauli is noted as having said something like, “Das is nicht einmal falsch,” that is not even false (wrong).” It related to something so absurd that it went beyond not being true. Dan’s statement regarding carbon dioxide and the atmosphere is such a statement. Some explanation.

Carbon dioxide is a chemical compound, not a physical object. The atmosphere is a physical object. Any statement comparing a non-physical object with a physical object is beyond false. In this case there was no way for me to respond to Dan’s statement. The conversation unraveled from there.

So Dan has asked, “Did you answer his challenge?” I responded that I am in the process now, which is what this is. I need to answer Scott Adams’ challenge.

But first, what is his challenge? That may take some deciphering. The critical language is:

So today’s challenge is to find a working scientist or PhD in some climate-related field who will agree with the idea that the climate science models do a good job of predicting the future.

A trivial response to Adams’ challenge would be to find “a working scientist…” who will naively proclaim the models do a good job of predicting the future. I will not go that route. The matter concerning AGW is worth more attention than that. It is also worth more attention than Adams’ challenge. As stated, it would be impossible to address. For example, we would all have to agree on the meaning of the word “good” used to assess the quality of the models. Everything breaks down from there.

If Scott Adams will propose a challenge with more precise, even lucid, wording, it would be something everybody could work with. Something that would have to go would be any requirement that a model predict frequency and severity of hurricanes, future drought or flooding with great accuracy. Once again, an unquantifiable adjective is “great.”

Scott Adams’ challenge is really a phony challenge. Less than what he demands would be adequate. All Scott Adams needs to do to challenge the reality of AGW is to refute demonstrate one of the following:

  • Carbon dioxide, methane, and other such gases do not trap heat from solar radiation in the atmosphere.
  • The concentration of these gases is not increasing and has not been steadily increasing for the past 50 years and more.
  • Human activity is not contributing significantly to the increase of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Specifically, human activity is not responsible for the increase of carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere represented by the Keeling Curve.
  • The temperature of the combination atmosphere and hydrosphere is not increasing and has not been increasing for the past 50 years and more.
  • Events beyond human control are alone responsible for the warming.

An additional point that is not part of the science behind AGW is the following:

  • The increase in global temperatures will have little or no impact on human well-being.

And all of this has nothing to do with models.


As I was in the process of working this up, additional comments came in. Here is one:

David Varner The idea of constructing models without measurements sounds like something Dilbert’s pointy haired boss might have come up with.

As a retired scientist and engineer I  take exception to David’s remark. Properly, constructing a model does not rely on measurements. I have constructed models, computer simulations, that presuppose initial conditions. The idea of the model is to determine the consequence of a set of initial conditions, the measurements.

If by “measurements” David means measurements of the atmosphere and such to assess the validity of models, then he has not been keeping up with the science. Atmospheric/oceanographic models are constantly assessed against progressive measurements.


Dan posted a comment on the Scott Adams blog:

I challenge your basic assumptions.

1. The term “Fossil Fuels” was coined by John D. Rockefeller. He wanted to emphasize the supposed scarcity of oil in order to inflate its price.

2. Many old “dry” oil wells are filling up FROM THE BOTTOM. There’s evidence going at least back to Immanuel Velikovsky that petroleum has a non-organic origin, probably low in the Earth’s mantle.

What is to be said of this? I hope it is meant as a joke.

  1. What difference does it make who coined the term and for what reason? Petroleum, natural gas, and coal are fossil fuels. Fossil is a well-defined scientific term.
  2. Citing evidence going back to Immanuel Velikovsky is like citing evidence going back to Miguel de Cervantes. Does anybody care to follow up on that?

This post, and the ones in this series are titled The Age Of Embarrassment for a reason. Let’s not take that as a challenge and try to outdo each other.

Don’t Bump The Trump

One of a series


It really is unbelievable. Nine days until the election, and the Donald Trump story keeps rolling on—seemingly supported by thin air. Never has a candidate so obviously unqualified gotten this close to election without caving under the weight of his own impropriety.

Previously I aimed this series of posts at the comedy surrounding a narcissistic businessman vying for a job requiring real character. Now I’m leaving the high road and will be calling things as they are. As a reminder, self-obsessed billionaire Donald Trump earlier snatched the campaign torch from the Republican Party by scooping up conservative America’s low-hanging fruit. Full disclosure: it’s something I proclaimed over a year ago could not be done. I was wrong! Wrong I was, though it is becoming clear by the hour that justice is being served where it’s long overdue.

What next? The supply of material is seemingly without bound. Take candidate Trump’s view of modern science and how he attempted to rebut fact with fable:



Was that stupid? Did Bill bop Monica? But wait! There’s more:

Trump denies saying climate change was Chinese hoax — and is contradicted by his own Twitter account

Published: Sept 27, 2016 1:05 p.m. ET By ROBERT SCHROEDER

Hillary Clinton called out Donald Trump at their first debate on Monday night for labeling climate change a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese.

Trump denied saying that. But his own Twitter feed contradicts him, with the real-estate magnate tweeting back in 2012 that global warming was created “by and for the Chinese.”

Scandalously, Trump’s denial came during the first debate with candidate Clinton, on live TV, before the largest audience ever for a presidential debate. How many ways are there to spell chutzpah? How much longer can this lighter-than-air candidate keep up the charade?

Meanwhile, right on schedule, Donald Trump’s journey to self destruction continues, much as I predicted over a year ago. I post here the signature banner for this series:

A warning for those who chance to meet a wild Trump coming home late at night, past a graveyard, all alone in a storm: Don’t bump the Trump. [With apologies to Shel Silverstein.]

Enjoying my excursion into schadenfreude,  I have this to say. Thank you, Mr. Trump. It’s the nicest thing anybody’s ever done for me.Thank you very, very, very much!

Yeah, it’s game on. We are going to have more fun between now and November. We can be assured Donald Trump will never fail to entertain us.

Continue reading. And may Jesus have mercy on your soul.

Don’t Bump The Trump

One of a series


A warning for those who chance to meet a wild Trump coming home late at night, past a graveyard, all alone in a storm: Don’t bump the Trump. [With apologies to Shel Silverstein.]

I’ve been running this love fest with presidential candidate Donald Trump for nearly six weeks with no idea where it’s heading. Now I find I will be able to post a new item every day from now until November without repeating myself. Thank you, Mr. Trump. It’s the nicest thing anybody’s ever done for me.Thank you very, very, very much!

Self-obsessed billionaire Donald Trump earlier snatched the campaign torch from the Republican Party by scooping up conservative America’s low-hanging fruit. Full disclosure: it’s something I proclaimed over a year ago could not be done. I was wrong! How wrong? Very wrong. I completely failed to take into consideration Donald Trump’s mastery of essential world knowledge:

MUCH has been made about his controversial views, but there has been little coverage on what US Presidential hopeful Donald Trump thinks about climate change.

The 70-year old tweeted back in 2012 that climate change was a hoax “invented by and for the Chinese in order to make US manufacturing non-competitive”. However he later distanced himself from this, claiming that it was a joke.

Nonetheless, the outspoken billionaire does believe in climate change in a sense, but believes that it is a natural weather cycle.

Readers, this has all the appearance of a smear perpetrated by political opponents. Or does it?

During her take-no-prisoners foreign policy speech on June 2, Hillary Clinton reminded listeners of controversial things that Republican presidential rival Donald Trump has said over the years.

At one point, Clinton said, “Donald Trump says climate change is a hoax invented by the Chinese.”

Did he? Yes, though he later said it was a joke.

So, if I get this right, candidate Donald Trump has publicly claimed to be a fool, then later denies it.

Oh, Jesus! Not only does Donald Trump think anthropogenic global warming is a hoax, he has subsequently claimed he was only kidding when he called it a hoax. What a sense of humor this man claims. Because, who would claim to be a fool who isn’t?

Yeah, it’s game on. We are going to have more fun between now and November. We can be assured Donald Trump will never fail to entertain us.

Continue reading. And may Jesus have mercy on your soul.

The Comical Conservative

Updated to correct an error in wording that reversed the meaning of a paragraph.

Don’t get too excited about the title. I’m reusing it to maintain continuity. This is going to be about the Comical Environmentalist.

Sometime back I reposted a Rick McKee cartoon from Facebook and used that as a starting point for a discussion about anthropogenic global warming (AGW). Here’s the cartoon:


I have referred to this cartoon in multiple posts. After the most recent post Rick posted a lengthy comment, and I initiated an email dialog with him. And I agree with him on one point. From his comment:

So, I have a question for you: Can you not see how a reasonable person, having been bombarded with all of this contradictory, false and alarmist information for all these years, could be skeptical of anything to do with the topic of climate change, which, in fact, was the point of the cartoon?

And my answer is yes, I can see how environmental activists are sometimes their own worst enemy. You can have a noble cause. You can have a just cause. Your cause can be right. That is, it can be factually correct. And all of that can be undone by extremism in the name of conviction.

In a previous post I took the cartoon to task for oversimplifying a complex issue. A problem with the cartoon is it makes use of—as required by the cartoon medium—hyperbole and shallow presentation. I figure it’s no good to find fault without remedy. And I propose to provide remedy by doing better. I can do the cartoon one better. I can provide substance and detail. Where to start?

Let’s start with something Rick mentioned:

Ecologist Kenneth Watt stated, “The world has been chilling sharply for about twenty years. If present trends continue, the world will be about four degrees colder for the global mean temperature in 1990, but eleven degrees colder in the year 2000. This is about twice what it would take to put us into an ice age.”

All right, I tried to run that one down. The references I found could not confirm that Watt actually spoke those words. Neither did he say anything like that:

Best Answer:  I’m not sure. Each and every single website I see, as you found too, merely gives the quote and no link to the transcript of the speech, or any further context besides “He once said in a speech at Swarthmore…” Of course, we all know how easily stories are taken and repeated without any sort of analysis at their validity.

I had graphed temperature data from NASA’s GISS, NOAA, and HadCRUT3v together a little while ago. I’m not sure what data Watt presumedly [sic] looked at, but there was no discernible trend during the “twenty years” he allegedly referred to. Temperatures actually began their descent in 1940, and leveled out after 1945 until they began to rise again in the seventies. Why would he claim that that trend would produce 4˚C cooling in 20 years? And 11 in 30?…

Nobody’s saying Kenneth Watt never said it. It appears to be completely apocryphal, with no contemporaneous account of such a speech. The Wikipedia entry for Earth Day includes the quote, but there is no associated link. However, it is the kind of thing Watt might have said, taking into account some of his other proclamations:

Watt also stated, “By the year 2000, if present trends continue, we will be using up crude oil at such a rate…that there won’t be any more crude oil.”

Neither does that one have a home, and readers are invited to help me find a link.

A problem with Internet research is the fluidity of the information. Often the provenance of sources is incomplete, and this is particularly true of sources that date from before the time everything started getting put on the Internet. More particularly, this applies to sources from deep history. An example, one of the references Rick cites, is this:

The Arctic ocean is warming up, icebergs are growing scarcer and in some places the seals are finding the water too hot…. Reports from fishermen, seal hunters and explorers, he declared, all point to a radical change in climate conditions and hitherto unheard-of temperatures in the Arctic zone… Great masses of ice have been replaced by moraines of earth and stones, the report continued, while at many points well known glaciers have entirely disappeared. Very few seals and no white fish are found in the eastern Arctic, while vast shoals of herring and smelts, which have never before ventured so far north, are being encountered in the old seal fishing grounds. – Washington Post 11/2/1922

Yes, we’ve seen this one before, and it was on this blog:

Second, Tom neglected to put the Post article into perspective. The article is based on an item in Monthly Weather Review, a publication of the American Meteorological Society. Here is the original article from the AMS:

And readers can go to the previous post and read the full context. It’s a context that is typically left out when enthusiasm gets the better of rigorous scholarship. The full context shows this was not some alarmist prediction from 1922 but was a report on a local climate anomaly observed in the vicinity of “Spitzbergen and Bear islands under the leadership of Dr. Adolf Hoel, lecturer on geology at the University of Christiania.”

What a serious writer will do is obtain access to contemporaneous sources—newspaper clippings, journal reports, correspondence.

Especially, newspaper reports are beyond value—they are next to impossible to forge. Somebody can print up a fake news clipping, but it can be exposed by matching it with any number of other copies of the same issue. Also of worth is the time value of a clipping. A news item published immediately after an event has credibility over something that finds print days, weeks, or years later. Additionally, corroboration can be obtained by comparing clippings from separate publications.

Journalistic sources published on the Internet are equally valuable, provided they are contemporaneous. Although Internet publications can be altered by a few keystrokes, the reputation of the source will preclude attempts at fraud. Absence of fraud is in no small part due to the thousands of readers who keep tabs on Internet news and place pages into archival storage.

The case of the 1922 Washington Post item is an example of obvious fraud. What happened is somebody scanned the clipping, did not follow up and obtain the complete context, and then posted the item on the Internet (or somewhere else) to highlight an argument against AGW. Subsequent users forwarded the fraudulent story without realizing the fraud, or caring. This is often the case when a story tells somebody what they want to believe. And it’s done by both sides of any divisive issue.

Rick McKee responded to my previous post with 124 years of Failed Climate and Environmental Predictions. I count 92 separate references in Rick’s comment, including the one relating to the 1922 Washington Post item.

Some others of the 92 are worth mentioning. I have made slight edits to Rick’s list, adding item numbers and such, and have produced a PDF. Readers can refer to the enumerated list, which I have posted on-line.

Take number 1:

Is our climate changing? The succession of temperate summers and open winters through several years, culminating last winter in the almost total failure of the ice crop throughout the valley of the Hudson, makes the question pertinent. The older inhabitants tell us that the Winters are not as cold now as when they were young, and we have all observed a marked diminution of the average cold even in this last decade. – New York Times June 23, 1890

What’s this all about? It appears to be a news report about weather changes of interest. If you’re like me, you’re going to have difficulty reconciling this with “124 years of Failed Climate and Environmental Predictions.”

Items 2 and 3 appear to discuss a coming ice age. Here is number 2:

The question is again being discussed whether recent and long-continued observations do not point to the advent of a second glacial period, when the countries now basking in the fostering warmth of a tropical sun will ultimately give way to the perennial frost and snow of the polar regions – New York Times – February 24, 1895

The word “failed” has no apparent relationship with these two items. These are newspaper articles discussing the projected repeat of the previous ice age. Although AGW may turn out to forestall the next ice age, nobody 100 years ago was thinking about this. For your viewing, here is a chart of historical global temperatures relating to previous ice ages:

Here’s number 5:

Scientist says Arctic ice will wipe out Canada, Professor Gregory of Yale University stated that “another world ice-epoch is due.” He was the American representative to the Pan-Pacific Science Congress and warned that North America would disappear as far south as the Great Lakes, and huge parts of Asia and Europe would be “wiped out.” – Chicago Tribune August 9, 1923

“North America would disappear as far south as the Great Lakes.” Yes. Just as in the previous ice age.

Number 8:

“Gaffers who claim that winters were harder when they were boys are quite right…weather men have no doubt that the world at least for the time being is growing warmer.” – Time Magazine Jan. 2 1939

As with a number of the others, it’s difficult to see how this is an argument for or against the current science related to AGW.

Here are numbers 76 and 77:

“Globally, 2002 is likely to be warmer than 2001 – it may even break the record set in 1998. – Daily Mirror August 2, 2002

Next year(2003)may be warmest recorded: Global temperatures in 2003 are expected to exceed those in 1998 – the hottest year to date – Telegraph UK- December 30, 2002


Would you believe these two predictions turned out to be pure bullshit. Actually not. They were only partially bullshit. An analysis of the top ten warmest years on record include 2002 and 2003. Both were warmer than 2001, which means the first prediction was true. But 2002 and 2003 tied for hottest years on record, meaning 2003 average temperatures were the same, not greater than, 2002. It might be interesting for readers to go to the NOAA site and check out the numbers.

Number 78 is a problem for climate scientists as well:

(The) extra energy, together with a weak El Nino, is expected to make 2005 warmer than 2003 and 2004 and perhaps even warmer than 1998 – Reuters February 11, 2005

Oops! Check with the NOAA page. 2005 turned out to be warmer than 1998, 2003, and 2004.

And I’m getting tired of playing this game. While I suspect there are some other clinkers among the 92, I’m going to spot Rick this, and agree that many of his references are accurate and pertinent. That allows me to avoid having to diagnose each of the 92 and to get back to the topic of this post. Sidestepping matters of AGW, here are some major fubars related to environmental issues:

By 1985 enough millions will have died to reduce the earth’s population to some acceptable level, like 1.5 billion people. – Paul Ehrlich

Yeah, you have to wonder what Ehrlich was thinking, if he was thinking, at all. It is comments like this and others that should have cost Ehrlich dearly in the marketplace of ideas. To give you an idea of how little effect this kind of silliness can have, I subsequently heard reference to “respected scientist Paul Ehrlich.”

Here are some additional silly comments by people who should know better:

“[Inaction will cause]… by the turn of the century [2000], an ecological catastrophe which will witness devastation as complete, as irreversible as any nuclear holocaust.” Mustafa Tolba, 1982, former Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Program

“We’ve got to pause and ask ourselves: How much clean air do we need?” Lee Iacocca, CEO/Chairman, Chrysler Corporation, 1979-1992

It isn’t pollution that’s harming the environment. It’s the impurities in our air and water that are doing it. Dan Quayle

Approximately 80% of our air pollution stems from hydrocarbons released by vegetation, so let’s not go overboard in setting and enforcing tough emission standards from man-made sources. Ronald Reagan

Rick McKee is right. We should be skeptical of what gets pushed into the nightly news or posted on the Internet.

In real science, as in real life, it’s not what what people say that matters, it’s what is that matters. In the end, facts trump opinion. People may, if they choose, post “124 years of Failed Climate and Environmental Predictions,” but that does not make an argument. What makes an argument is a statement of fact.  I’m going to restate something from previous posts:

I have been following the topic of AGW for over 20 years, and a recurrent observation is that people opposed to the science rely on quotes and opinions, some from real scientists, and not so much on the basic science. What any opponent to the science needs to do to refute AGW is to demonstrate one or more of the following:

  • Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere does not absorb infra red radiation.
  • Carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere are not increasing dramatically.
  • Increases in carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere are not due to human activities.
  • There are natural sources to the increased concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that supersede the human contribution.

I have put this out before, and nobody has come back at me on it. Keep reading.