People Unclear

This is number 24

Somebody posted this on Facebook, and I thought it was kind of cute, so I stole a copy.

These come at me at such a rate, it’s getting hard to keep up. To avoid papering over this site with the stuff, I’m spreading them out at one a day, at the most. I may get behind if this keeps up.

So who is it who’s unclear today? How about we go with Kathleen Hartnett White, previous chair of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality under Governor Rick Perry and now President Trump’s pick for senior adviser on environmental policy? And an interesting selection this appears to be. The President’s choice to advise on the environment is, from all appearances, a person with great disregard for the environment:

Like other members of the Trump administration, she has long questioned the overwhelming scientific consensus on human-fueled climate change and has criticized the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a volunteer group of climate scientists whose findings are considered the gold standard of climate science. And she has described efforts to combat global warming as little more than an attack on the fossil fuel industry.

I will get back to White’s disdain for the environment shortly, but first I need to address her unclear concept regarding how the universe works. Here is more from the Washington Post item:

She has displayed similar contempt for international climate efforts, calling scientific conclusions from United Nations panels “not validated and politically corrupt.” Hartnett-White has also questioned the idea that carbon dioxide is a pollutant at all, calling it “an odorless, invisible, beneficial, and natural gas.”

The last part illustrates how to say a bunch of true stuff while pushing a false notion. Specifically:

  • Carbon dioxide is odorless.
  • Carbon dioxide is colorless, virtually invisible when viewed using certain wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum.
  • Carbon dioxide is what feeds all the green plants, providing them the carbon they need to make sugar to power their processes.
  • Although people produce a bunch of carbon dioxide on purpose for industrial use, most of it occurs naturally.

What White wants readers to think is that putting a bunch more COinto the atmosphere is harmless. All related science has demonstrated this is not harmless. I have covered this in prior postings. You can follow the link, or you can search this site for “age of embarrassment” to locate a collection of associated postings.

About “scientific conclusions from United Nations panels” being “not validated and politically corrupt,” there is more to be said. Let’s start saying:

While working at TPPF, Hartnett-White also directs the Fueling Freedom project, which seeks to “Explain the forgotten moral case for fossil fuels” while “building a multi-state coalition to push back against the EPA’s unconstitutional efforts to take over the electric power sector by regulating CO2 via the Clean Power Plan” as well as “End the regulation of CO2 as a pollutant.”

Most interesting is the nature of the TPPF, the Texas Public Policy Foundation.

The Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF) is a conservative think tank based in Austin, Texas, and a member of the State Policy Network (SPN). The think tank’s funders from 2010 were inadvertently made public a few years ago. According to Al Jazeera America, “A 2010 donor list from the IRS shows the Texas Public Policy Foundation receives funding from groups long associated with big oil, gas, and coal, such as Koch Industries, the electric utility Luminant, and the oil and gas investment company the Permian Basin Acquisition Fund.”

A 2013 report by Progress Texas and the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) found that TPPF received over 3 million dollars from the Koch brothers or organizations they fund. For example, the Koch family foundations and Koch Industries sent $733,333 to TPPF, and $2,581,258 has been donated from the dark money groups DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund. In 2015, the Charles Koch Foundation and the Charles Koch Institute contributed a total of $199,697.

Another interesting entity is The Heartland Institute. From their Web site:

Kathleen Hartnett-White is a distinguished senior fellow and director of the Armstrong Center for Energy and the Environment at the Texas Public Policy Foundation.

The Honorable Kathleen Hartnett White joined the Texas Public Policy Foundation in January 2008. She is a distinguished senior fellow-in-residence and director of the Armstrong Center for Energy & the Environment.

I have discussed The Heartland Institute in previous posts, starting over five years ago:

So, what do people do? They do what people always do. They shoot the messenger who brings the bad news. It’s as though if the message goes away then the problem will go away. As with all problems there is a profit to be made solving the problem. Which brings us to the matter of Heartland Institute.

A quick trip to their home page reveals their message in a circulating marquee:

HEARTLAND FIGHTS BACK

Left-wing groups commit fraud, but we’re fighting back! Join our legal defense fund and remove false and defamatory materials and prosecute the true criminals.

The site also mentions a number of these “left-wing” groups:

NCSE (National Center for Science Education)
Greenpeace
Desmogblog
Huffington Post
Thinkprogress
Pacific Institute

There is much to read, but there is no escaping Heartland’s political investment. Nor White’s. Some additional fun:

Billboards in Chicago paid for by The Heartland Institute along the inbound Eisenhower Expressway in Maywood, Illinois. Photograph: The Heartland Institute

And this:

Anyhow, White’s assertions regarding the political nature of the NATO science panel pale with some insight.

As an open advocate for fossil fuels, White has taken some bizarre stands:

Fossil fuels dissolved the economic justification for slavery. When the concentrated and versatile energy stored in fossil fuels was converted to mechanical energy, the economic limits under which all societies had formerly existed were blown apart. A life of back-breaking drudgery was no longer the inescapable condition of the overwhelming majority of mankind.  The productivity made possible by fossil fuels led to the institutionalization of compassion and respect for the inalienable rights of each human individual.

So, fossil fuels provided a means to replace human muscle power with mechanical power. I  think not. Looking back, when industrialists wanted raw power they did not turn to human sources, paid or enslaved. They turned to (surprise) wind power, water power, and—lower down—animal power. On very rare occasions was human power ever sufficient to supplant those other sources. In this country’s prior slave industry slaves were used where human dexterity and intellect were required. On this matter, White is decidedly unclear.

Twisting the knife, suppose slaves had been used as an industrial power source. Eradicating slavery in this country was accomplished by changing laws and fighting a civil war. Where did fossil fuel enter into the picture?

But what this is about, from all appearances, is a desire on the part of major industries to unfetter themselves of government regulation. Regulations so cramp industrialist’s style, it’s hard to get anything done. Regulations—prod me if I am wrong—make industrial concerns uncompetitive. This can be true in the case where a company that complies with the regulations is forced to compete with one that does not. Where have we seen this before?

On April 17, 2013, an ammonium nitrate explosion occurred at the West Fertilizer Company storage and distribution facility in West, Texas, eighteen miles (29 km) north of Waco, while emergency services personnel were responding to a fire at the facility. Fifteen people were killed, more than 160 were injured, and more than 150 buildings were damaged or destroyed. Investigators have confirmed that ammonium nitrate was the material that exploded. On May 11, 2016, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives stated that the fire had been deliberately set.

Passing over whether the fire was deliberate, what is at issue is a facility such as this being allowed near human habitation. Among the facilities heavily damaged was a school building. In this case it was not so much of there not being a regulation, it was a case of the regulation not being enforced. Also, people were too stupid to notice a dangerous situation developing.

And there is this:

The Elk River chemical spill occurred on January 9, 2014 when crude 4-methylcyclohexanemethanol (MCHM) was released from a Freedom Industries facility into the Elk River, a tributary of the Kanawha River, in Charleston in the U.S. state of West Virginia.

The chemical spill occurred upstream from the principal West Virginia American Water intake and treatment and distribution center. Following the spill, up to 300,000 residents within nine counties in the Charleston, West Virginia metropolitan area were without access to potable water. The areas affected were portions of Boone, Clay, Jackson, Kanawha, Lincoln, Logan, Putnam, and Roane counties and the Culloden area of Cabell County.

Crude MCHM is a chemical foam used to wash coal and remove impurities that contribute to pollution during combustion. The “do-not-use” advisory for drinking water from West Virginia American Water’s system began to be gradually lifted by West Virginia state officials on January 13 based upon “priority zones.”

On Tuesday, January 14, the company revealed that the tank, which leaked about 7,500 gallons into the ground by the Elk River, had also contained a mixture of glycol ethers known as PPH, with a similar function as MCHM.

The chemical spill was the third chemical accident to occur in the Kanawha River Valley within the last five years. On June 12, 2014 another spill of containment water occurred at the same site.

I have had conservative friends tell me that these matters can be handled through direct action, without resorting to job-killing regulations. Somebody does something bad, then you sue them, and that serves as a lesson to others who might be considering to indulge. No, it does not. In this case the culprits slipped neatly out of reach of any consequences of their actions. More from the Wikipedia entry:

By January 13, a Kanawha County judge had granted a temporary restraining order against Freedom Industries, and the number of lawsuits filed in the Kanawha County Circuit Court had risen to 19. On January 17, 2014, Freedom Industries filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, requiring a court–appointed trustee to run the company.

However, according to the Charleston Gazette, a company “whose characteristics are strikingly similar to Freedom Industries,” Lexycon LLC, registered as a business with the West Virginia secretary of state about two months after Freedom Industries filed for bankruptcy. The company is registered at the same addresses and phone numbers as the former Freedom Industries, and is founded by a former Freedom executive.

And that appears to be the order of drill for the Trump administration. Take on as chief executives for the various agencies the very people determined to undo the purposes of these agencies:

  • Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary
  • Rick Perry as Energy Secretary
  • Ben Carson has Housing and Urban Development Secretary
  • Scott Pruitt in charge of the Environmental Protection Agency
  • Jeff Sessions as Attorney General
  • Steve Mnuchin as Secretary of the Treasury
  • Ryan Zinke as Interior Secretary
  • And finally Kathleen Hartnett White as the President’s senior adviser on environmental policy

Looks like a dream team in some perverse sense. We are going to experience consequences.

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The Age Of Embarrassment

Number 16 in a series

This takes some telling. Bear with me.

Start with a paper published in the journal Science 26 June 2015. It’s by Karl Thomas and others, and it carries the title “Possible artifacts of data biases in the recent global surface warming hiatus.” Here’s the abstract:

Much study has been devoted to the possible causes of an apparent decrease in the upward trend of global surface temperatures since 1998, a phenomenon that has been dubbed the global warming “hiatus.” Here, we present an updated global surface temperature analysis that reveals that global trends are higher than those reported by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, especially in recent decades, and that the central estimate for the rate of warming during the first 15 years of the 21st century is at least as great as the last half of the 20th century. These results do not support the notion of a “slowdown” in the increase of global surface temperature.

That was a couple of years ago. Now come forward to September of this year:

WASHINGTON — Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), an early and loyal supporter of President Donald Trump, likes to make noise about the liberal media’s coverage of climate change, often dismissing it as “fake news.”

In February, however, this vocal denier of near-universally accepted climate science promoted a story about a climate data manipulation scandal that is about as flawed as they come.

The representative of Congressional District 21, just up the road from me, has, from all appearances, a mental block regarding aspects of modern science:

Smith publicly denies global warming. As of 2015, Smith has received more than $600,000 from the fossil fuel industry during his career in Congress. In 2014, Smith got more money from fossil fuels than he did from any other industry.

Under his leadership, the House Science committee has held hearings that feature the views of climate change deniers, subpoenaed the records and communications of scientists who published papers that Smith disapproved of, attempted to cut NASA’s earth sciences budget, and “the committee has earned a reputation for questioning climate scientists and environmental groups that say human activity, like burning fossil fuels, is the main cause of rising temperatures.” In his capacity as Chair of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, Smith issued more subpoenas in his first three years than the committee had for its entire 54-year history. In a June 2016 response letter to the Union of Concerned Scientists, Smith cited the work of the House Un-American Activities Committee in the 1950s as valid legal precedent for his investigation. On December 1, 2016 as Chair on the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, he tweeted out on behalf of that committee a Breitbart article denying climate change.

Smith has been criticized for conducting “witch hunts,” a “campaign of intimidation,” and “a direct attack on the rights of scientists and others to conduct research independent of government interference” against climate scientists. Smith has a lifetime score of 6% on the National Environmental Scorecard of the League of Conservation Voters. Smith is an “outspoken climate naysayer in Congress”, according to Scientific American magazine. Smith has been described as a “climate change denier” by Vice Media and by Organizing for America and as “Congress’s preeminent climate change denier” by Michael Hiltzik in the Los Angeles Times.

As a life-long Texas, this brings a small lump in my throat. Such notoriety and so little merit.

It is worth linking to the Breitbart posting at issue:

Global land temperatures have plummeted by one degree Celsius since the middle of this year – the biggest and steepest fall on record.

But the news has been greeted with an eerie silence by the world’s alarmist community. You’d almost imagine that when temperatures shoot up it’s catastrophic climate change which requires dramatic headlines across the mainstream media and demands for urgent action. But that when they fall even more precipitously it’s just a case of “nothing to see here”.

Yeah, let’s chase that down. Breitbart links to a story that ran in MailOnline, an organ of the British Daily Mail.

Global average temperatures over land have plummeted by more than 1C since the middle of this year – their biggest and steepest fall on record.

The news comes amid mounting evidence that the recent run of world record high temperatures is about to end.

The fall, revealed by Nasa satellite measurements of the lower atmosphere, has been caused by the end of El Nino – the warming of surface waters in a vast area of the Pacific west of Central America.

Obviously there is much more, and you need to read the complete posting. So, what happened next?

IPSO adjudication upheld against MoS climate science article

Following an article published on 5 February 2017 in the Mail on Sunday, headlined ‘EXPOSED How world leaders were duped over global warming’, Bob Ward complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the newspaper had breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice. IPSO upheld the complaint and has required the Mail on Sunday to publish this decision as a remedy to the breach.

The article reported on claims made by Dr John Bates, a climate scientist formerly employed at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), about a paper published in the journal Science that suggested that there had been no ‘pause’ in global warming in the 2000s. Dr Bates had published a blog criticising the way the data used for the paper had been analysed and archived. The article detailed at length the complainant’s concerns with the data; it then characterised them as demonstrating ‘irrefutable evidence’ that the paper had been based upon ‘misleading, unverified data’.

And more. Read.

So, MailOnline published an item based on faulty information, and IPSO, the Independent Press Standards Organization, called them down on it, and the item had to be disclaimed. On a side note, IPSO is a UK institution that oversees press standards. Ever wonder whether American outlets could use some oversight?

And the total of all this is that MailOnline published what was essentially a baseless claim, leading readers to conclude anthropogenic global warming (AGW) is a hoax.

Next, Breitbart, that stellar exemplar of journalistic integrity, regurgitated the item, I’m guessing much to the delight of their readership, said readership being the cream of American conservatism.

Finally, the Republican chair of the House Science Committee, tweeted out the gist of the Breitbart posting, apparently considering it justification for his anti-science position.

Get this, readers. A fatally flawed item in a British on-line journal worked its way into shaping this country’s science policy. I’m thinking the Brits have never gotten over Yorktown.

The Age Of Embarrassment

Number 15 in a series

From the journal Science

 

There was a time we now call the Age of Enlightenment, centered in the 18th century. It was a time of scientific awakening, a time from which sprang many of our modern scientific principles. That was so three centuries ago. We may now have entered the Age of Embarrassment:

Science Teaching Guidelines Trigger Criticism in New Mexico

Sept. 19, 2017, at 5:09 p.m.

By MORGAN LEE, Associated Press

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Environmentalists and educators raised new objections Tuesday to proposed changes to teaching standards for science in New Mexico that substitute references to rising global temperatures and climate change with statements about climate “fluctuations.”

The New Mexico Public Education Department has suggested several custom additions and deletions as it moves forward with adopting a set of science standards developed by a consortium of states and the National Academy of Sciences.

Additions that highlight the study of New Mexico’s unique natural history are being overshadowed by several deletions of references to evolution, the 4.6 billion-year age of the earth and climate change.

My goodness! Is it time to ride that old dinosaur into ground again?

The story, featured in The Washington Post yesterday, further describes idiotic themes promoted by the Mercer Counter public school system. According to the Post report, a lesson contained the following language: “imagine that human beings and dinosaurs existed at the same time.” It continued: “So picture Adam being able to crawl up on the back of a dinosaur!” Additionally: “He and Eve could have their own personal water slide! Wouldn’t that be so wild!”

The Associated Press story, running in U.S. News and World Reports, has more to say. Issues such as this are often advanced by politicians who have personal stakes. Apparently one such is Representative Jim Smith, who is also a retired school teacher. He is quoted as saying:

“I think it’s better to take the middle ground where people in all those different areas of the state can accept standards that they can teach within,” he said. “You give students the opportunity to come to their own conclusions. I as a science teacher certainly don’t deny that there is global warming happening. I think ‘fluctuations’ is a better term for it.”

An inch-deep Google search does not reveal a lot about Representative Smith’s personal life, and his record in Santa Fe shows a genuine concern for good government. However, statements such as “You give students the opportunity to come to their own conclusions,” are indicative of the creationist movement’s approach to public school encroachment. Laws enacted in other states to promote “teaching the controversy” have demonstrated to be thinly-disguised fronts to enable teachers desiring to promote creationism and other biblical teachings. One effect of such laws is to provide cover for teachers who go outside the curriculum and introduce religious concepts.

From all appearances, Dr. Smith finds fault with the idea that human activity is mainly responsible for global warming. He likes the term “fluctuations” to give the idea the climate has always been changing, and there is no need to take action to forestall any calamitous consequences. He takes this stance in defiance of the best conclusions of modern science.

A story appearing in the Albuquerque Journal further highlights attempts to dilute the teaching of biological evolution:

 

The plan was criticized Friday by Stephanie Ly, president of the American Federation of Teachers New Mexico, who called it a “perverted, watered-down vision” of the Next Generation Science Standards.

Ly accused Ruszkowski in a written statement of proposing standards “that question climate change, deny evolution, promote the fossil fuel industry, and even question the age of the Earth – all areas of consensus among the scientific community.”

One proposed addition to the high school curriculum asks students to use a model to describe the effects of energy flows on Earth “that were caused by natural occurrences that are not related to human activity.”

Another omits the word “evolution” and replaces it with the phrase “biological diversity.”

Nothing has to date been signed off, and science teaching in New Mexico remains safe for the present. The continued actions by fact-deficient public employees remains a concern to a population still possessed of a healthy respect for fact-based governance. Though it may never come to pass, we continue to look forward to that day when creationists ride the dinosaur into the sunset.

And may Jesus have mercy on our souls.

The Age Of Embarrassment

Number 14 in a series

First of all, take note of the meme posted above. I used that in the previous edition of this series, The Age Of Embarrassment. I didn’t create it. I stole it from my Facebook feed, where some “friend” posted it. Or somewhere else. Rapidly becoming moot.

The post in question apparently caught the attention of a few. Somebody read it. Erik read it. Go back to the previous post and read the comments section:

A million dollars for a two-year health study is peanuts, in terms of government spending, and I imagine the aforementioned Committee costs even less. I wonder if this is mostly penny-pinching based on the principle of “small government” or simply an attempt to silence inconvenient voices. Personally I think it’s the latter in disguise of the former.

Thank you, Mr. Blanton, for this write-up on the Trump administration’s latest ventures. It’s much appreciated.

All right. That made my day. As much as I enjoy receiving your scathing comments:

This author is your typical Deceitful and Dishonest DemonRat. Regardless of labels changing, it makes no difference on his word play on Liberals and Conservatives, the simple Truth is you can’t change the simple FACT DemonKKKrats have always been the Party of Racists with their KKK Wing, Jim Crow Laws, Segregation, and today with their Black Racial Arsonists and Poverty Pimps. Yes, the lone good Democrat in history in JFK called himself a Liberal, bit today he’s be a Far Right Wing NeoCon Teabagger by today’s Leftist DemonRats. It doesn’t change the FACT he was an aberration within the Dems Criminal Organization. JFK of course was murdered by sociopath LBJ, or at least those of US educated on the subject. But like this misleading opionion piece article, he tries whitewashing the Democrats shameful history of RACISM and Corruption that is the Dems past and present history….

[Pardon me for a moment while I recall with fondness that loving embrace from the far right.]

As much as I appreciate responses like this, I do feel a twinge of the heart when somebody says thanks.

So much for that, because it’s not what this post is all about. Here’s what it’s about.

Take another look at the meme. I did, after I posted it and after I basked in the glory. The meme is most totally fabricated. How did I figure that out? I figured it out the same way readers should have figured it out. I checked the facts. I cheated. I used Google. I Goggled “Will McAvoy.” There is no Will McAvoy. He’s a fictional character in a fictional TV series that ran on HBO starting in 2012 and titled The Newsroom. It was created and (so far) mostly written by Aaron Sorkin, the same person who wrote the script for A Few Good Men , previously reviewed, from 1992. Sorkin, an apparent liberal who has contributed consistently to Democratic candidates, also created and contributed much writing for The West Wing, a TV series that ran on  NBC for seven  seasons from 1999. The West Wing was a follow-on of The American President, a 1995 movie scripted by Sorkin and that glorifies a Democratic President.

So, you can see where Sorkin is coming from, and you have to wonder why he cast Jeff Daniels in the starring role as cable news anchor McAvoy, a registered Republican. In The Newsroom McAvoy is Republican, but he disavows the right wing nuts who seem to be tearing his beloved party to shreds, the above meme representing one such revelation.

But there is more that’s wrong with the meme in question. Look at what McAvoy says about hurricanes and gay marriage. People, hurricanes are created by low barometric pressure, not high barometric pressure. And certainly not by gay marriage. And by the way, here is the scene containing the famous quote. The screen shot is from Amazon Prime Video, where the TV series is currently streaming.

That’s Jeff Daniels as McAvoy saying the famous words:

First of all I’m a registered Republican. I only seem liberal because I believe hurricanes are caused by high barometric pressure and not gay marriage.

(To the left side of the screen that’s Sam Waterston as McAvoy’s boss Charlie Skinner, president of Atlantis Cable News (ACN).)

And nobody called me on it. I’m ending this for now, and I am going to some secluded corner for a quiet cry. May Jesus have mercy on your soul.

The Age Of Embarrassment

Number 13 in a series

There was in the 18th century a period now called the Age of Enlightenment. It was marked by intellectual and philosophical advance, noted predominantly in Europe, but not denied to others. There was born the notion that authority and legitimacy should be founded on reason rather than on social standing and political power. I state this because this series is my argument that we may have entered in this country into the Age of Embarrassment. People at the highest levels are acting contrary to reason, and we are beginning to embarrass ourselves. There is evidence:

(CNN) — The Trump administration has fired another shot at the scientific community, this time dismantling a federal advisory committee on climate change.

Members on the 15-person committee tell CNN they learned the news by email Friday. CNN has obtained a copy of the email sent from acting National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration head Benjamin Friedman.

As the meme posted above would indicate, the Republican Party seems to have passed through the Age of Enlightenment without catching on. We now have a President of the United States who previously declared:

The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.

Considering whether Donald Trump ever backed down from that claim, the core concept has never left him:

They changed the name from “global warming” to “climate change” after the term global warming just wasn’t working (it was too cold)!

Another freezing day in the Spring – what is going on with “global warming”? Good move changing the name to “climate change” – sad!

It’s 46º (really cold) and snowing in New York on Memorial Day – tell the so-called “scientists” that we want global warming right now!

Ice storm rolls from Texas to Tennessee – I’m in Los Angeles and it’s freezing. Global warming is a total, and very expensive, hoax!

We should be focusing on beautiful, clean air & not on wasteful & very expensive GLOBAL WARMING bullshit! China & others are hurting our air

I’m running out of room here. I will just skip over some of these and print one more:

Any and all weather events are used by the GLOBAL WARMING HOAXSTERS to justify higher taxes to save our planet! They don’t believe it $$$$!

So we elected Donald Trump President, and we got what we asked for:

WASHINGTON — President Trump announced on Thursday that the United States would withdraw from the Paris climate accord, weakening efforts to combat global warming and embracing isolationist voices in his White House who argued that the agreement was a pernicious threat to the economy and American sovereignty.

In a speech from the Rose Garden, Mr. Trump said the landmark 2015 pact imposed wildly unfair environmental standards on American businesses and workers. He vowed to stand with the people of the United States against what he called a “draconian” international deal.

“I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris,” the president said, drawing support from members of his Republican Party but widespread condemnation from political leaders, business executives and environmentalists around the globe.

You will note that in his speech President Trump is no longer denying anthropogenic global warming (AGW). He’s just saying it’s bad for business. Except…

Except, the city he named, Pittsburgh (not Paris), does not considered itself to be represented by Donald Trump. The voters of Pittsburgh went overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton in the November election, and the city of Pittsburgh is all in for combating AGW. Again we are reminded we are no longer in the Age of Enlightenment.

So, has President Trump, rather the Department of Commerce under the command of Donald Trump, decided he can go it alone without the benefit of reason, previously provided by those scientists, now dismissed. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is part of the Department of Commerce, and the following is now posted on the NOAA site:

Per §102-3.55 of the Federal Advisory Committee Act, the Federal Advisory Committee for the Sustained National Climate Assessment (Committee) charter expired on August 20, 2017. The Department of Commerce and NOAA appreciate the efforts of the Committee and offer sincere thanks to each of the Committee members for their service.

Please note this action does not impact the completion of the Fourth National Climate Assessment, which remains a key priority for the Department and NOAA. 

Under the Global Change Research Act of 1990, the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) is responsible for climate assessment activities and the quadrennial National Climate Assessment (NCA) report. The NCA integrates and evaluates the findings of the USGCRP in the context of current and projected global climate change trends, both human-induced and natural, and analyzes the effects of current and projected climate change on: ecosystems and biological diversity, agriculture, energy production and use, land and water resources, transportation, human health and welfare, and social systems. USGCRP is implementing a sustained National Climate Assessment process that will ultimately facilitate continuous and transparent participation of scientists and stakeholders across regions and sectors, enabling new information and insights to be synthesized as they emerge.

In 2015, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) established the Advisory Committee for the Sustained National Climate Assessment under the provisions of the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA). The Advisory Committee consists of 15 experts that advise on the engagement of stakeholders and on sustained assessment activities and the quadrennial NCA report.

The diverse membership of the Advisory Committee assures expertise that reflects the breadth of the NCA activities, including: communications, engagement, and education; risk management and risk assessment; economics and social sciences; technology, tools, and data systems; and other disciplines relevant to the sustained NCA process. These non-federal eminent experts also reflect the NCA regional and sectoral interests, as well as the ethnic and gender diversity of the United States. Members are appointed by the Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and NOAA administrator, in consultation with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Director.

For a concise overview of the Advisory Committee, please view our fact sheet.

ANNOUNCEMENT: The Advisory Committee for the Sustained National Climate Assessment is seeking public input on a draft outline of Near-term Recommendations on Sustained Assessment. Comments can be sent to snca.advisorycommittee@noaa.gov. Comments received by August 14, 2017 will be incorporated into the initial draft recommendations.

For further information contact:
Dr. Cynthia Decker, Designated Federal Officer
Advisory Committee for the Sustained National Climate Assessment
1315 East-West Highway
Silver Spring, MD 20910
Phone: (301) 734-1156
FAX: (301) 713-1459

Lest you imagine fifteen highly invested scientists and other professionals are being dumped on the street, take note: this is not a paid position:

Members will be selected for appointment on a clear and standardized basis in accordance with Department of Commerce guidance. Each member shall be appointed for a term of one, two, or three years and shall serve at the discretion of the Under Secretary. Thereafter, members may be reappointed for successive terms of two years. To the extent possible, not more than one-third of the total membership shall change in any one year. Members will be appointed as special government employees (SGEs) and will be subject to the ethical standards applicable to SGEs. Members are reimbursed for actual and reasonable travel and per diem expenses incurred in performing such duties, but will not be reimbursed for their time. As a Federal Advisory Committee, the Committee’s membership is required to be balanced in terms of viewpoints represented and the functions to be performed as well as the interests of geographic regions of the country and the diverse sectors of U.S. society.

[Emphasis added]

The CNN item above additionally noted:

The Trump administration’s dismissal of the advisory committee on climate change, first reported by The Washington Post, will not affect the completion of the Fourth National Climate Assessment, according to NOAA, which says the report remains a key priority.

Scientists who discussed this with CNN expressed concern the Fourth National Climate Assessment (NCA4), due for release next year, will be suppressed:

A not-yet-released federal report on climate change finds that humans are already witnessing the effects of a warming globe — and the report’s authors are fearing that the White House will intervene before it’s published. CNN’s Rene Marsh reports.

This concern has motivated the unauthorized release of an early draft of NCA4:

A final draft of a key federal report on the science behind climate change has been leaked to the New York Times and made public. The “Climate Science Special Report” (CSSR), produced by the US Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), is a cornerstone of the Fourth National Climate Assessment (NCA4), a periodic study of climate change impacts across US regions. Many wonder how the Trump-Pence White House will deal with this first major US government report on climate change to come across its desk; a report warning that Americans are feeling the harmful impacts of climate change in real time, and therefore “directly contradicts claims by President Trump and members of his cabinet” as noted by the Times. Initially released for public review and comment during the last days of the Obama Administration, the final draft was submitted to the White House for final approval on June 28.

The New York Times has made a copy available online:

A final draft report by scientists from 13 federal agencies concludes that Americans are feeling the effects of climate change right now. The report was completed this year and is part of the National Climate Assessment, which is congressionally mandated every four years. AUG. 7, 2017

A related Times article elaborates:

A final draft of a key federal report on the science behind climate change has been leaked to the New York Times and made public. The “Climate Science Special Report” (CSSR), produced by the US Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), is a cornerstone of the Fourth National Climate Assessment (NCA4), a periodic study of climate change impacts across US regions. Many wonder how the Trump-Pence White House will deal with this first major US government report on climate change to come across its desk; a report warning that Americans are feeling the harmful impacts of climate change in real time, and therefore “directly contradicts claims by President Trump and members of his cabinet” as noted by the Times. Initially released for public review and comment during the last days of the Obama Administration, the final draft was submitted to the White House for final approval on June 28.

In other news, the Trump administration has decided to hold off pursuing the study of the health effects of surface coal mining:

(CNN) — The Trump administration has halted a study of the health effects of a common mining technique in Appalachia, which is believed to deposit waste containing toxic minerals in ground waters.

letter from the Interior Department directed the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine to “cease all work” on a study of the potential health risks of mountaintop removal mining for people living near surface coal mine sites in central Appalachia. The Interior Department acknowledged in a statement that it had “put on hold” $1 million in funding for the two-year project as part of a review of its grants, which is focused on “responsibly using taxpayer dollars.”

I’m guessing, bad for business. Are you embarrassed yet?

 

The Age Of Embarrassment

Number 12 in a series

Somehow it has come to pass that conservative politics and science don’t fit together in the same sentence. I’m guessing I first noticed this decades ago when scientists connected tobacco use with a big risk for cancer. Conservative politicians, needing to protect their base in tobacco-growing  regions, pushed back mightily. It’s been sort of downhill from there. Additional examples abound.

Sitting in on a television panel discussion I took notice of a panelist from the Cato Institute. Cato attributes to itself a libertarian philosophy, but that’s conservative enough for our purposes. The topic of discussion was a holding by a government agency (could have been the Environmental Protection Agency) that the allowable limit for arsenic in drinking water should be lowered from 50 parts per billion (ppb) to 10. The Cato guy (I do not recall  his name) argued against that. His position was the proposed limit was arbitrary and had no scientific basis. At the time I was inclined to think Mr. Cato’s concern was not so much with what was proper for public health, a subject beyond his area of expertise, but rather a matter of government intrusion. He did not go so far as to say that public health is no business of the government, but conservative thinking has reached into that dark region.

A few decades back some scientists noticed that chlorinated fluorocarbons, produced and used in industry, tend to not break down  until they reach the stratosphere. There ultraviolet radiation breaks down the molecule, releasing atomic chlorine. The free chlorine then proceeds to catalyze the decomposition of ozone in the stratosphere, allowing more ultraviolet radiation to  flood through. The obvious fix was to quit making and using these chemical compounds.

This was an obvious violation of people’s rights and an unwarranted government intrusion. Besides, the science behind it was flawed and also politically motivated. A previous editor of The North Texas Skeptic was Pat Reeder, who professed conservative (and anti-environmentalist) views. He had occasion to comment:

Of course, this could be connected to changing rainfall patterns, etc., but it seems a stretch to blame Chicago’s killer heat wave on that one degree uptick. Having lived for awhile in the northeast, I think I have an idea of why so many people died from the heat in Chicago, and the concerned citizens in the environmental movement have it in their power right now to prevent it from happening again. They don’t even have to lobby Congress or drive one of those dorky electric cars.

Most of the victims of the Chicago heat wave were elderly people in poor health, living alone, without air conditioners or the money to buy them. They weren’t acclimated to the heat, they weren’t able to overcome it, and they had nobody to look in and help them (many of the victims were buried by the city because nobody claimed the bodies). It wasn’t so much ozone breakdown that killed them as it was societal breakdown.

All right. I still have not figured out the ozone connection, but I do recall that Pat came out against it at the time.

Wouldn’t you know it? The scientists who figured out the ozone connection moseyed on up to Stockholm in 1995 and picked up the Nobel Prize for their findings. And that pretty much put the kibosh on claims of flawed science, except (trust me on this) winning a Nobel Prize doesn’t count with most conservatives. Anyhow, the governments of the world squelched CFC production and its use, the presence of these compounds in the stratosphere dwindled, and the ozone layer repaired itself with the production of more ozone up there.

But recall Pat’s remarks concerning heat deaths back in 1995. Anthropogenic global warming (AGW) remains in  dispute by conservative politicians. I will just call it global warming for convenience. It’s science. It has global human impact. The resolution requires drastic action. Therefore it must be politically-motivated and seriously-flawed science. Conservative politicians and conservative pundits have spoken.

Not only that, now that the Republican (conservative) party is in power, they have acted and have plans to continue to do so. Their standard bearer is currently Donald Trump, the Commander-in-Chief. He has the ball, and he is running with it. Things are happening. A bit of history:

The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.

Snowing in Texas and Louisiana, record setting freezing temperatures throughout the country and beyond. Global warming is an expensive hoax!

It’s hard to back down from that, not saying that Donald Trump could not do it if he wanted to. He has shown signs of waffling:

WASHINGTON — President Trump announced on Thursday that the United States would withdraw from the Paris climate accord, weakening efforts to combat global warming and embracing isolationist voices in his White House who argued that the agreement was a pernicious threat to the economy and American sovereignty.

In a speech from the Rose Garden, Mr. Trump said the landmark 2015 pact imposed wildly unfair environmental standards on American businesses and workers. He vowed to stand with the people of the United States against what he called a “draconian” international deal.

“I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris,” the president said, drawing support from members of his Republican Party but widespread condemnation from political leaders, business executives and environmentalists around the globe.

All right. The President missed a beat on that last note. The citizens of Pittsburgh voted predominantly for Hillary Clinton, and the city government has a positive position on combating global warming. But I did mention waffling:

Last week, President Trump announced that the United States wouldwithdraw from the Paris climate agreement. But it will take more than one speech to pull out: Under the rules of the deal, which the White House says it will follow, the earliest any country can leave is Nov. 4, 2020. That means the United States will remain a party to the accord for nearly all of Mr. Trump’s current term, and it could still try to influence the climate talks during that span.

The item appearing in The New York Times back in June has more to say about the matter:

So the next four years will be a busy time for climate policy. Mr. Trump’s aides plan to keep working to dismantle domestic climate programs like the Clean Power Plan. And the world’s nations will meet regularly to hash out details of the Paris agreement, even as the United States’ exit looms. Here is what comes next.

And there is more, obviously. What speaks most loudly is not what the Trump administration is saying but what it is doing. For one, President Trump nominated former Texas Governor Rick Perry to head up the Department of Energy, a department he swore to abolish back when he was running for the Republican nomination. Now that he is Secretary Perry, his words have weight. An opinion piece appearing in The Hill, penned by Ross McKitrick, a noted critic of global warming, has the intent of casting doubt on the science. To wit:

Policy makers and the public need to understand the extent to which major scientific institutions like the American Meteorological Society have become biased and politicized on the climate issue. Convincing them of this becomes much easier when the organizations themselves supply the evidence.

That was the first shot out of the box in a piece titled, “In the fight between Rick Perry and climate scientists, Perry is winning.” Interestingly, McKitrick went on to say:

This happened recently in response to a CNBC interview with Energy Secretary Rick Perry. He was asked “Do you believe CO2 [carbon dioxide] is the primary control knob for the temperature of the Earth and for climate?”

It was an ambiguous question that defies a simple yes or no answer. Perry thought for moment then said, “No, most likely the primary control knob is the ocean waters and this environment we live in.” He then went on to acknowledge the climate is changing and CO2 is having a role, but the issue is how much, and being skeptical about some of these things is “quite all right.”

It is on this point McKitrick appears to have given away the game. First of all, the question is not ambiguous. It is straight-forward. Is our major concern CO2? Yes, or no. I’m going to answer for the Secretary and say it is yes. CO2 is the item people are putting into the atmosphere, it is the constituent within the atmosphere that is rising. It is something that humans have the ability to control.

And Secretary Perry whiffs the ball: “No, most likely the primary control knob is the ocean waters and this environment we live in.” No. The primary control knob is not the ocean waters. Nothing we are doing to the ocean waters is affecting global warming, especially to the extend that CO2 is. And the environment we live in is the thing that we are affecting. It is a symptom, not a cause. Professor McKitrick is not a physical scientist. His area of expertise is “environmental economics and policy analysis.” Tellingly, he is a senior fellow of the Fraser Institute, a conservative think tank, and he is a member of the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, of which he is a member of the academic advisory board. From Wikipedia:

The Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation is a conservative Christian public policy group that promotes a free-market approach to care for the environment that is critical of much of the current environmental movement. In particular, the Cornwall Alliance rejects claims of detrimental global warming. Originally called the “Interfaith Stewardship Alliance” it was founded in 2005 in reaction to the efforts of evangelical leaders (such as Rick Warren) to fight global warming. The name Cornwall come from the 2000 Cornwall Declaration. The organization’s views on the environment have been strongly influenced by the wise use movement of the 1980s and 1990s.

I don’t want to make a big deal of this, but McKitrick, from all appearances, holds religious commitments that put him in the same boat with those who believe the Earth is 6000 years old, snakes and donkey’s can talk, and people can  come back to life after they have been well and truly killed. He has shed a quantity of intellectual rigor along the way.

But then, his is an opinion piece. No deep, scientific introspection is claimed here. McKitrick’s The Hill piece is significant here because it reflects the thinking of the people making science policy decisions within the Trump administration. Much of this deciding is at odds with government scientists doing the actual work. Some bonds are becoming frayed:

Scientists Fear Trump Will Dismiss Blunt Climate Report

The item appearing in The Times yesterday provides additional analysis of the draft report. Of interest is any perceived connection between global warming (for real) and specific episodes. People should be cautious attempting to attribute specific events to global warming. What is most pertinent are trends directly attributable to increased concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere:

In the United States, the report concludes with “very high” confidence that the number and severity of cool nights have decreased since the 1960s, while the frequency and severity of warm days have increased. Extreme cold waves, it says, are less common since the 1980s, while extreme heat waves are more common.

Water vapor in the atmosphere is a major greenhouse gas. It interacts with infrared radiation, keeping heat from escaping by that route. Go to a place like Tucson, Arizona, where there is little moisture in the air, and when the sun goes down there is a noticeable drop in temperature. If you could remove all the air above you, then you would obtain a more dramatic effect. You would be like an astronaut in space, without the protection of the atmosphere. Heat would be radiated from your body, and if you were shaded from  the sun and other sources of radiation, you would frost up very quickly.

As CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere increase, any specific place on  planet will experience less cooling when the sun goes down. That’s global warming in  action. The long range effects will be profound.

The study examines every corner of the United States and finds that all of it was touched by climate change. The average annual temperature in the United States will continue to rise, the authors write, making recent record-setting years “relatively common” in the near future. It projects increases of 5.0 to 7.5 degrees Fahrenheit (2.8 to 4.8 degrees Celsius) by the late century, depending on the level of future emissions.

The ability of political power to shape the narrative is evident. Some examples:

At the Interior Department, a climate scientist who has shared his thoughts on global warming was recently reassigned — to accountant. At the Agriculture Department, the man Trump has chosen to head science as undersecretary of agriculture for research, education and economics has no formal hard sciences background. At the Environmental Protection Agency, where the administration has successfully delayed a number of regulations drafted under President Barack Obama, Administrator Scott Pruitt is aiming to get more industry voices into the scientific process.

You should read the complete item posted by CNN. Those in power are enlisting the support of global warming opponents to accommodate interests of business groups that will be affected. The idea trotted forth is that these groups have a vested interest in the outcome and must be heard. Apparently the truth is negotiable.

We are presently deep into the Age of Embarrassment, and there will be more. Keep reading.

The Age Of Embarrassment

Number 11 in a series

When newly-elected President Donald Trump announced he had picked former Governor Rick Perry as Secretary of Energy, I was suitably impressed. As governor of Texas, Mr. Perry had shown extraordinary interest in science education. I know. I was around when Governor Perry nominated Bryan, Texas, dentist Don McLeroy to be chairman of the Board of Education. In turn, McLeroy’s appreciation for sound science education has been viewed by many as without equal:

In 2003, McLeroy led efforts by proponents of creationism and intelligent design to de-emphasize discussion of evolution in proposed new biology textbooks. He was one of only four board members who voted against biology textbooks that year that included a full account of evolution.

Over objections by his critics in 2004, McLeroy voted to approve health textbooks that stress “abstinence-only” in regard to instruction about pregnancy and prevention of sexually transmitted diseases.

In 2005, McLeroy conducted a sermon in his church, in which he said naturalism is “the enemy” and questioned: “Why is Intelligent Design the big tent? Because we’re all lined up against the fact that naturalism, that nature is all there is. Whether you’re a progressive creationist, recent creationist, young earth, old earth, it’s all in the tent of Intelligent Design.”

According to a 2008 article in The New York Times, “Dr. McLeroy believes that Earth’s appearance is a recent geologic event — thousands of years old, not 4.5 billion. ‘I believe a lot of incredible things,’ he said, ‘The most incredible thing I believe is the Christmas story. That little baby born in the manger was the God that created the universe.'” McLeroy’s statements regarding science have been criticized. McLeroy and other Board members who want to challenge evolution have received criticism from more than fifty scientific organizations over an attempt to weaken the currently-accepted science standards on the theory of evolution. In particular, biologist Kenneth R. Miller called McLeroy’s statements on science “breathtakingly” incorrect.

While it became clear to all that McLeroy’s appreciation for science is not all that high, none have lower.

Fortunately for us who enjoy a good light show, Governor Perry was re-elected, and when his subsequent re-appointment of Don McLeroy stalled in the Texas Senate, Mr. Perry was wise enough to appoint as DOE chair Barbara Cargill, whose scientific acumen scrapes close to McLeroy’s. I was there to enjoy the spectacle:

I struck up a conversation with Ide Trotter and reminded him of our meeting, nearly ten years previous. He remarked on my keen memory, but he should not have been amazed, because I had taken his photo at the time, so my memory was quite fresh. Dr. Trotter is a noted creationist, and I was very interested in talking to him about any progress his movement has made with Intelligent Design in the past ten years. He assured me Intelligent Design is on solid ground.

Also, Barbara Cargill joined us in our conversation. Dr. Trotter and I were discussing Intelligent Design when she walked up, and I am afraid she was confused and thought I was a creationist. She remarked “I’m one of you,” and gave us a reassuring clap on the shoulder. She conferred for a moment with Dr. Trotter over some notes, and she went off to visit other volunteers.

After Ms. Cargill left us I felt a little embarrassed, and I hoped I had not given the wrong impression. I reminded Dr. Trotter that I had previously headed up The North Texas Skeptics, and we were strongly supportive of the teaching the science of biological evolution in public schools. Dr. Trotter assured me that he, too, wanted evolution taught, only he wanted the correct facts to be taught.

Anyhow, that is water under the bridge. Rick Perry ran for president and came hard up against logic and reality, making him a prime choice for Secretary of Energy. Which brings us to our present Age of Embarrassment:

Energy Secretary Rick Perry says CO2 is not the main driver of climate change

Energy Secretary Rick Perry told CNBC on Monday he does not believe carbon dioxide emissions from human activity are the main driver of climate change, joining the EPA administrator in casting doubt on the conclusion of some of the government’s top scientists.

Asked whether CO2 emissions are primarily responsible for climate change, Perry told CNBC’s “Squawk Box”: “No, most likely the primary control knob is the ocean waters and this environment that we live in.”

“The fact is this shouldn’t be a debate about, ‘Is the climate changing, is man having an effect on it?’ Yeah, we are. The question should be just how much, and what are the policy changes that we need to make to effect that?” he said.

Allow me to interpret what the Secretary just told us. The primary driver behind climate change is the ocean waters and the environment. By environment we can assume the Secretary means the natural  environment, because if it’s not the natural environment, then it must be that human activity is the cause. So he means the natural environment. That is to say, the natural environment that has been around for millions (billions?) of years. The natural environment that has not seen fit to raise global temperature averages for hundreds (thousands) of years, and just waited until people started raising the CO2 concentration  in  the atmosphere from 300 parts per million to 400 ppm.

Or else it’s the ocean waters. Yes. The ocean waters are getting warmer. Ocean waters getting warmer is a manifestation of climate change (global warming), and that’s what’s causing global warming. Global warming is causing global warming. We needed former Texas Governor Rick Perry to tell us this.

And now I am embarrassed.

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.