Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Harlan Ellison, On Thinking

“If you make people think they're thinking, they'll love you; but if you really make them think, they'll hate you.”

-- Harlan Ellison

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Latest Sign the World Won't Cut CO2

So it turns out the world can come together to face a common problem -- except it's in opposition to the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions instead of for it.

All the big non-European countries -- the United States, China, Japan, Russia and India -- are signatories to the "Moscow Joint Declaration," which expresses disapproval of EU's plan to charge airlines for the carbon their planes emit flying to Europe.

The reduction is quite small -- 0.6% of world emissions -- and the cost works out to $21 per metric ton, or about $2 on a one-way ticket. But even this doesn't seem acceptable, and if this isn't, it's difficult to imagine what will.

Here are some of the particulars: the aviation industry emits 3.5% of worldwide CO2, or currently about 1,000 Mt per year. The EU's wants to reduce this by 183 Mt per year in 2020, or 46% for the planes whose landing and take-offs happen in Europe.

183 Mt is really quite small -- it's the emissions of 10.8 million Americans (in 2009). Or 36 million Chinese.

By comparison, in 2009 the World emitted 29,000 Mt from fuel consumption.

The EU is initially waiving 85% of the fees, but by 2020 it's estimated to cost airlines €2.8 billion ($3.8 billion). But I guess that can be alot to the airline industry, if they can't pass it on for reasons of competition.

But it shows how unwilling anyone is -- except the Europeans and (about half of) the Australians -- to charge for carbon emissions.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Tar Sands Compared to Mountaintop Removal

Here's an interesting nugget from the Calgary Herald: "Mountain top coal mining in the U.S. has already disturbed 10 times more surface area than current [Alberta] oilsands development and will mine more area than oilsands developers can ever exploit in the lifetime of the resource.

That's not something you often hear from environmentalists.

Friday, February 24, 2012

McKibben's Dishonest Huff Post Piece

Bill McKibben has written an astonishingly dishonest article for the Huffington Post.

Yes, I get it: McKibben thinks he is making hay with the Keystone XL issue -- and he certainly has made some -- and doesn't want to lose that. But that's no reason to fudge the facts.

He wrote about last weekend's Swart and Weaver article in Nature Climate Change -- the one that finds the carbon content of the "proven" Alberta tar sands will only raise average global temperatures by 0.03°C -- and he completely avoids mentioning their result. Completely.

In fact, much like Joseph Romm, he twists the article into implying it supports his established position -- when it does not. There isn't a single mention of the +0.03°C result in his article. Instead he bypasses it completely and moves beyond to report on the consequences of burning all of it -- which no one is currently talking about -- and of burning all available coal -- which we all accept would be disastrous.

A new study from a pair of British Columbia scientists shows that there's a lot of carbon in the tarsands -- but a lot more yet in the planet's coal deposits.

If you burned all the tarsands we know about now, you'd raise the planet's temperature more than half a degree -- i.e., half again as much as the global warming we've already seen, which has been enough to make the seas 30% more acid and cut Arctic sea ice 40%. But if you burned all the coal we know about it, the temperature would go up 15 degrees.

At a certain point, I suppose, it doesn't matter -- most scientists think anything more than two degrees Celsius puts us into a zone of extreme danger, and we're already halfway there. Fifteen degrees would be just gilding the lily. Still, it makes it clear that even if, as NASA's James Hansen has said, burning the planet's unconventional fuels like tarsands would mean it was "game over the for the climate," stopping that burning won't be enough. We also have to address the most obvious, conventional forms of energy -- coal, especially. It was the first kind of fossil fuel we learned to burn, 300 years ago. And we've got to kick the habit.
Do you see any mention of the paper's main result? No, I don't either.

Sure, it's easy for McKibben or me or you to say we shouldn't burn all the tar sands or all the coal. But we have very, very good lives and get to fly all over the world to do what we want.

Do you think about carbon when you fly? Anywhere? No, neither do I.

I'd FOIA McKibben's travel schedule if I could. But 350.org is a private organization, so I can't. I know he sometimes tries to do video appearances instead of in-person lectures. I also know he recently flew to Corvallis, Oregon to give a lecture in person. And that he's been all over. McKibben has surely emitted far more carbon than he's "entitled" to, on the per-capita basis that would keep atmospheric CO2 levels from reaching "dangerous" levels. Of course, so have I (but not as much as McKibben). And so have you (but not as much, I suspect, as McKibben.))

Once activists get into a cause, you just can't trust them to accurately portray the facts, especially if the facts change against them. I wonder how much funding 350.org gets, anyway. Does anyone know? Have they ever revealed it?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Heartland Documents Up at Climate Document Storehouse

As the Heartland Institute documents are now clearly of journalistic and even historical interest, I've started a "Climate Document Storehouse" and uploaded them here.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Interview with AGU President Michael McPhaden

I spoke with American Geophysical Union President Michael McPhaden tonight, who was in Australia. He answered my questions about the Peter Gleick/Heartland Institute incident and Gleick's resignation as Chair of the AGU Task Force on Scientific Integrity. We also discussed its potential impact on AGU, scientists who are also activists and/or concerned citizens, and politicalization in the climate debate, including that of Chris Mooney who was on the Board of Directors of the AGU.

As background, see today's AGU statement on the Gleick affair. The full podcast is about 21 minutes long.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Bast Again Says Gleick "Forged" the Memo

In a video interview today Joseph Bast (President of the Heartland Institute) said explicitedly that Peter Gleick "forged" the two page said-to-be fake memo. I've again asked him and Jim Lakely how they know it was Gleick who did this, but still haven't received a response.)

Via The Hockey Schtick

AGU Statement; Gleick Resigned Last Thursday

The American Geophysical Union just issued the following statement:
AGU Encourages Integrity in all Aspects of Climate Change Discourse

Scholarly Society Rejects Deception Regarding Heartland Institute Documents

February 21, 2012
AGU Release No. 12-11
For Immediate Release

In response to a blog post late yesterday, 20 February 2012, by Dr. Peter Gleick regarding documents purportedly from the Heartland Institute which he disseminated, AGU President Michael McPhaden issued the following statement:

“AGU is disappointed that Dr. Gleick acted in a way that is inconsistent with our organization’s values. AGU expects its members to adhere to the highest standards of scientific integrity in their research and in their interactions with colleagues and the public. Among the core values articulated in AGU’s Strategic Plan are ‘excellence and integrity in everything we do.’ The vast majority of scientists share and live by these values.

“AGU will continue to uphold these values and encourage scientists to embrace them in order to remain deserving of the public trust.  While this incident is regrettable, it should not obscure the fact that climate change is occurring or interfere with substantive scientific discourse regarding climate change.”

On Thursday, 16 February, prior to his blog post, Dr. Gleick resigned as chair of AGU’s Task Force on Scientific Ethics, which first convened in November 2011. In his resignation, he cited “personal, private reasons” and expressed concern that he would not be able to fulfill his responsibilities as chair. His resignation was accepted.

Following Dr. Gleick’s resignation, a search began immediately for a replacement. Effective today, 21 February, the new chair of AGU’s Task Force on Scientific Integrity is Linda Gundersen, Director, Office of Science Quality and Integrity, USGS (U.S. Geological Survey).

The American Geophysical Union is a not-for-profit society of Earth and space scientists with more than 61,000 members in 146 countries. Established in 1919 and headquartered in Washington, D.C., AGU advances the Earth and space sciences through its scholarly publications, meetings, and outreach programs. For more information, visit www.agu.org.

The Two Sides of Desmogblog's Mouth

These words are from Richard Littlemore at Desmogblog, but I've added the colors. Can someone please explain to me how the sentiment in blue is not in direct opposition to the sentiments in red??
"Whistleblowers - and that's the role Gleick has played in this instance - deserve respect for having the courage to make important truths known to the public at large. Without condoning or promoting an act of dishonesty, it's fair to say that Gleick took a significant personal risk - and by standing and taking responsibility for his actions, he has shown himself willing to pay the price. For his courage, his honor, and for performing a selfless act of public service, he deserves our gratitude and applause."
Is a PR agency saying anything if its sentences add up to exactly zero?

Gleick Removed from AGU Task Force

Peter Gleick's name has been removed from the AGU's site on their Task Force on Scientific Ethics, but no mention from them otherwise. Earlier I asked them for a statement from, or interview with, AGU President Mike McPhaden, and they say they will get back to me.

Romm's Rage Shtick Now Playing in Theatre 3

The worst thing about all this is that there are a certain group of people who, if this were a high school debate and you had them reverse all their positions, their tactics and tone would be completely predictable and the tenor of the debate would be completely unchanged.

Joe Romm is in that group.

Romm -- whose organization, let's remember, refuses to reveal its own funders -- just can't help himself. In a post whose very title says that civilization is imploding (actually it's fairly quiet here in Oregon, and it's even stopped raining for a few hours), Romm spends over 1500 words on excuses explaining that the climate debate is a street fight and THEY'RE WORSE! and "many immoral and unethical acts that regularly occur on a far less grand scale are condoned or winked at or simply ignored," before finally finding it within himself to write this one sentence:
But Gleick is right that he committed a serious lapse of professional judgment and ethics. He is right to regret his actions and make a personal apology.
before reverting back into his shtick of rage, spending another 1,000 words attacking Andrew Revkin because Revkin wrote this and smeared him and didn't retract that and owes an apology and on and on and on.
And when exactly will Revkin apologize for his various lapses, including his absurd and I think hypocritical response to Gleick’s post?
To review:
They're worse! ~1500 words
Gleick was wrong: 27 words
Journalist scum! ~1000 words 

Whatever keeps the talk shows calling, I guess, right?

Oh yeah: I was wrong when I guessed that Romm would ignore the Swart and Weaver article claiming that the Alberta tar sands will only add +0.03°C to future warming. Romm did mention it -- and calls it confusing, and then turns the tables and claims the paper "makes a strong case against the tar sands if we want to avoid catastrophic warming." That, people, is how this game is be played.

Gleick Resigns from NCSE Board

Peter Gleick resigns from board of the National Center for Science Education, and his resignation is accepted:


Eugenie Scott, NCSE Executive Director: "Gleick obtained and disseminated these documents without the knowledge of anyone here, and we do not condone his doing so.... They show that NCSE was right to broaden its scope to include the teaching of climate science. There really are coordinated attempts to undermine the teaching of climate science, and NCSE is needed to help to thwart them."


UCS: The Devil Made Him Do It

This is a disappointing response from the Kevin Knoblach, the President of the Union of Concerned Scientists:
"It’s unfortunate that the bitter, personal attacks on his colleagues and their work contributed to what he called a lapse of his own personal judgment and ethics."
This just isn't a time to for yeah-buts and they-do-it-too's. There just isn't any place for Gleick's illicit actions -- lying, at the least -- in science. And he is still a scientist, even if he is also an activist. This is the same thing that disturbed me about Michael Mann's apparent search for an journalist to "investigate and expose" Steve McIntyre. Science has its ethics, just as golfers are expected to call penalties on themselves even when no one else sees their foul. Gleick did, but only eventually and only when the suspicions grew. It wasn't right in the first place. It certainly undercuts Knoblach's sentence in the same message, that Gleick is "a strong advocate for the important role science plays in society."

Maybe I have a rose-colored view of what science is supposed to be. But I do.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Ouch: Gleick Chairs AGU Task Force on Scientific Ethics

Wow, this is bad -- Peter Gleick chairs an AGU Task Force on Scientific Ethics:


"The Scientific Ethics Task Force is responsible for reviewing and guiding the Union’s standards, principles, and code of conduct on ethics and integrity in scientific activities."

What a tragedy. I thought Steve McIntyre's thoughts tonight were well said: "No one should feel any satisfaction in these events, which have been highly damaging to everyone touched by them, including both Heartland and Gleick."

Unfortunately I see a lot of piling on, though unfortunately some of it is not unexpected. Ever classy, Morano puts Gleick's picture and email address on his page -- both of them three times.

Heartland Accuses Gleick of Faking the Memo, Too

At a time when an evening's silence would have shown a little class and dignity, the Heartland Institute instead chooses to stay in the muck and mire:
FEBRUARY 20, 2012: Earlier this evening, Peter Gleick, a prominent figure in the global warming movement, confessed to stealing electronic documents from The Heartland Institute in an attempt to discredit and embarrass a group that disagrees with his views.

Gleick’s crime was a serious one. The documents he admits stealing contained personal information about Heartland staff members, donors, and allies, the release of which has violated their privacy and endangered their personal safety.

An additional document Gleick represented as coming from The Heartland Institute, a forged memo purporting to set out our strategies on global warming, has been extensively cited by newspapers and in news releases and articles posted on Web sites and blogs around the world. It has caused major and permanent damage to the reputations of The Heartland Institute and many of the scientists, policy experts, and organizations we work with.

A mere apology is not enough to undo the damage.

In his statement, Gleick claims he committed this crime because he believed The Heartland Institute was preventing a “rational debate” from taking place over global warming. This is unbelievable. Heartland has repeatedly asked for real debate on this important topic. Gleick himself was specifically invited to attend a Heartland event to debate global warming just days before he stole the documents. He turned down the invitation.

Gleick also claims he did not write the forged memo, but only stole the documents to confirm the content of the memo he received from an anonymous source. This too is unbelievable. Many independent commentators already have concluded the memo was most likely written by Gleick.

We hope Gleick will make a more complete confession in the next few days.
What a pitiful display by both sides.

To Clarify: Gleick Wasn't the Faker, But the Scanner

Just to clarify, I checked with the Pacific Institute, and they say Peter Gleick did not create the document the Heartland Institute says is fake -- that it was the document mailed to him that he mentioned in the 2nd paragraph of his HuffPost piece.
At the beginning of 2012, I received an anonymous document in the mail describing what appeared to be details of the Heartland Institute's climate program strategy. It contained information about their funders and the Institute's apparent efforts to muddy public understanding about climate science and policy. I do not know the source of that original document but assumed it was sent to me because of my past exchanges with Heartland and because I was named in it.
Gleick then scanned it on 2/13 (according to its metadata). So the mystery of the faker remains....

Revkin: Gleick's "reputation in tatters...."

Andrew Revkin writes "...Gleick has admitted to an act that leaves his reputation in ruins and threatens to undercut the cause he spent so much time pursuing."

Revkin's breaking tweet is here.

Peter H. Gleick: The Origin of the Heartland Documents

Peter Gleick admits to illicitedly obtaining the Heartland documents.... and sets environmental activism back 10 years (at least).


Hitler Does Heartland

At least someone still has a sense of humor....

Sunday, February 19, 2012

CTV News Story on Today's Tar Sands Paper

Here's a new story from Canadian TV about the Swart & Weaver paper:


It includes these quotes from Andrew Weaver:
"I was surprised by the results of our analysis.... I thought it was larger than it was."
"The conventional and unconventional oil is not the problem with global warming. The problem is coal and unconventional natural gas."
"This idea that we're going to somehow run out of coal and natural gas and fossil fuels is really misplaced. We'll run out of human ability to live on the planet long before we run out of them.
"I have always said that the tar sands are a symptom of a very big problem. The problem is dependence on fossil fuels."

Heartland Threatening Bloggers, Too

Blogs that have received threatening letters from the Heartland Institute:

Little Green Footballs
Greg Laden:
350 or bust

Gary Wamsley

Is the Pressure Getting to the Heartland Institute?

It seems the pressure is getting to the Heartland Institute. Their reaction to a private email sent by a private person goes completely overboard -- read about it here, and below.... Gary Wamsley let them know what he thought, in no uncertain terms:
From: Gary Wamsley [mailto:editor@berthoudrecorder.com]
Sent: Friday, February 17, 2012 5:16 PM

To: Joseph Bast
Subject: Heartland Institute disinformation campaign

You should be ashamed of yourself. The United States already has a problem in keeping up with the rest of the world in science education and now you want to play a role in further destroying our nation as well as our planet.

You are a traitor to your own country. I did not spend 30 years in the military to protect the likes of you.

Gary Wamsley
Colonel, USAF, Retired
and the response he received (which Wamsley forwarded to me when I asked; it looks legitimate) included this (emphasis mine):
From: Joseph Bast
Date: Sat, 18 Feb 2012 09:46:00 -0600

To: Gary Wamsley
Cc: Jim Lakely
Subject: RE: Heartland Institute disinformation campaign

Mr. Wamsley,

I assume your intemperate comments are based on a forged memo that misrepresents our efforts in the area of global warming research education, so let me explain before demanding an apology.


The Heartland Institute has never tried to “dissuade teachers from teaching science, “undermine” any other sources of research, or “keep opposing voices out” of the debate over global warming. In fact, our goals and activities are just the opposite: We have helped thousands of teachers upgrade the ratio of science to rhetoric in their classes on climate change. We have complied two hefty reports – one 800 pages long and another 400 pages long – summarizing peer-reviewed literature on climate change. We have sought to promote debate and a free exchange of ideas, despite efforts by the most alarmist voices in the debate to try to shut down discussion and ruin the reputations of any who doesn’t toe the ideological line of a small but politically powerful faction of the global science community.

The forged memo has been quoted in scores of articles and hundreds of blog posts. We are working to get those statements removed and retracted. Meanwhile, and regrettably, many people like you are being misled about our work and intentions.

Now that you know the truth, I ask that you apologize for your intemperate and very offensive letter. Since your letter is threatening, I’ve forwarded it to our legal counsel, forensics team, and the FBI. It is important that you not delete the email from your sent file, or any other emails you may have exchanged with other people while preparing it, since this could be evidence in criminal and civil cases.

Please write back to let me know if you will comply with my requests.

Best regards,

Joseph Bast
The Heartland Institute

One South Wacker Drive #2740
Chicago, IL 60606
Phone 312/377-4000
Email jbast@heartland.org
The next reply from Bast wasn't any better -- see Wamsley's site for the full correspondence.

Unfortunately this doesn't surprise me, based on stuff I've received from "skeptics" every once in awhile.

How about a little grace under pressure?

Today's Email from Heartland to Desmogblog

Apparently this email was sent this morning (unless it also is fake). Desmogblog still has the documents up as of 3:18 pm CST.


From: Jim Lakely
Sent: Sunday, February 19, 2012 9:32 AM
To: 'editor@desmogblog.com'
Subject: Stolen and Faked Heartland Documents

February 18, 2012

By e-mail to: editor@desmogblog.com
By Federal Express to:

Mr. Brendan G DeMelle
DeSmog Blog
9527 13th Avenue NW
Seattle, WA 98117-2303

Re:      Stolen and Faked Heartland Documents

Dear Mr. DeMelle:

On or about February 14, 2012, your web site posted a document entitled “Confidential Memo: 2012 Heartland Climate Strategy” (the “Fake Memo”), which is fabricated and false.

On or about the same date, your web site posted certain other documents purporting to be those of The Heartland Institute (“Heartland”). Heartland has not authenticated these documents (the “Alleged Heartland Documents”).

Your site thereafter has reported repeatedly on all of these documents.

Heartland almost immediately issued a statement disclosing the foregoing information, to which your web site has posted links.

It has come to our attention that all of these documents nevertheless remain on your site and you continue to report on their contents. Please be advised as follows:

1.         The Fake Memo document is just that: fake. It was not written by anyone associated with Heartland. It does not express Heartland’s goals, plans, or tactics. It contains several obvious and gross misstatements of fact. Publication of this falsified document is improper and unlawful.

2.         As to the Alleged Heartland Documents your web site posted, we are investigating how they came to be in your possession and whether they are authentic or have been altered or fabricated. Though third parties purport to have authenticated them, no one – other than Heartland – has the ability to do so. Several of the documents say on their face that they are confidential documents and all of them were taken from Heartland by improper and fraudulent means. Publication of any and all confidential or altered documents is improper and unlawful.

3.         Furthermore, Heartland views the malicious and fraudulent manner in which the documents were obtained and/or thereafter disseminated, as well as the repeated blogs about them, as providing the basis for civil actions against those who obtained and/or disseminated them and blogged about them. Heartland fully intends to pursue all possible actionable civil remedies to the fullest extent of the law.

Therefore, we respectfully demand: (1) that you remove both the Fake Memo and the Alleged Heartland Documents from your web site; (2) that you remove from your web site all posts that refer or relate in any manner to the Fake Memo and the Alleged Heartland Documents; (3) that you remove from your web site any and all quotations from the Fake Memo and the Alleged Heartland Documents; (4) that you publish retractions on your web site of prior postings; and (5) that you remove all such documents from your server.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you require any further information.

                                                                        Very truly yours,

                                                                        Maureen Martin
                                                                        General Counsel

Where Did the Alberta-Catastrophe Linkage Come From?

So where do claims of a Alberta tar sands climate catastrophe come from?

Last summer James Hansen wrote an essay, "Silence is Deadly," in which he wrote:
"The tar sands are estimated (e.g., see IPCC AR4 WG3 report) to contain at least 400 GtC (equivalent to about 200 ppm CO2)."
That's a much higher carbon number than Swart and Weaver, which is only 22 GtC for the Alberta tar sands proven reserves and 238 GtC for the whole caboodle. Hansen's number is almost 20 times larger.

So where did he get his number? From the IPCC's Third Assessment Report, he wrote. I think he misread that report.

[Aside: I have a paper copy of that report here, because back when I lived on that mountaintop in New Hampshire with the most amazing view of Lake Winnipesaukee, the Fed Ex man showed up one day with a heavy box containing all three volumes of the IPCC 3AR. I never ordered it, so whoever sent that to me, thank you very much -- paper copies are much easier to browse through than online PDFs.]

Anyway, Figure SPM.2 of the IPCC 3AR WG3 (pg 6) shows unconventional oil reserves of about 400 GtC. Table 3.28b of the same volume gives a resource base of "Unconventional Oil" of 440 GtC. But that's all unconventional oil, worldwide, including (from the caption for Figure SPM.2) "tar sands, shale oil, and other heavy oil."

I'm not an expert on oil, so I'm not sure how much unconventional oil there is besides the Alberta tar sands. Wikipedia says Venezuela has 1.2 trillion barrels (Tb) of the stuff, and that oil shale deposits are an estimated 2.8 - 3.3 Tb of recoverable oil. Again, Alberta has an estimated total of 1.8 Tb.

So I think Hansen either misinterpreted the number from the IPCC 3AR, or wasn't clear about what he meant when he wrote "the tar sands...," or Romm/environmentalists didn't take the time to understand his number and mistakenly applied it to the Alberta tar sands.

In any case, his carbon number is almost 20 times too big. Of course, people may well exploit the other sources of unconventional oil, too. But that would only add another 0.6°C  or so to whatever warming will occur. When is it too much? Beats me. This 2010 TED talk by Richard Sears says the end of the petroleum age is already at hand, and it's coming about by better technologies (and not constraints on energy usage).

New Paper Says Only a Tiny Temperature Change From Alberta Tar Sands

A paper just out in Nature Climate Change finds that the climate cost of exploiting the Alberta tar sands is very slight: +0.03°C.

Neil Swart and Andrew Weaver added up the carbon in the oil sands -- total (1.8 trillion barrels), the economically viable "proven reserves" (170 Bb), and the amount currently under active development (26 Bb).

They then simply applied a carbon-climate response of 1.5°C per trillion metric tonnes of carbon burned. The result is the chart shown to the right. (The response function is, they write, observationally constrained to be between 1.0 - 2.1°C.)

That's less than I calculated last month, but then, I was being somewhat loose with my numbers, and the carbon-climate response I assumed was equivalent to 2°C/TtC.

It's difficult to argue that an extra 0.03°C of warming will be catastrophic, whatever future warming is. It won't even be noticeable. They didn't add any tar sands premium -- extra greenhouse gases from the tar sand-based oil itself, and the extra energy needed to extra the tar sands, compared to conventional oil, which is something like 20% -- that would make the temperature change +0.04°C instead. Meanwhile those proven reserves are worth about $17 trillion at today's prices -- one-fourth of world GDP; ten times Canadian GDP. I don't know how much of this money Canada will actually retain -- a CBC program I watched recently suggested it may be as low as $1/barrel. Still, $170 B is nothing to scoff at. And, of course, the world still runs on oil, and that's simply not going to change anytime soon.

Climate, of course, isn't the only consideration regarding the Keystone XL pipeline, and maybe not even the prime consideration. But it has been a used as an argument to stop building the pipeline. That simply isn't credible. (Though Bill McKibben recently told Joe Nocera, "Keystone, by itself, won't make or break the environment.")

Of course, that's the problem with all such considerations as this -- individually any additional carbon emitted looks very small, if not infinitesimal -- but collectively it all adds up, over decades, to an enormous impact. Humans have never been good at dealing with these kind of issues, either in our personal lives (it's only one doughnut) or collectively.

So I would say: Joe Nocera beats Joe Romm.

PS: Who's betting Romm ignores this paper?

Friday, February 17, 2012

Friday Afternoon Thoughts

The ugliness continues: Now a donor and Fellow and of the Heartland Institute, Ross Kaminsky, also accuses Peter Gleick of faking the memo, on absolutely no evidence whatsoever except the document's apparent time zone, and that Gleick hasn't been "preening and dancing in glee" on his blog and Twitter. [Actually, Gleick tweeted yesterday afternoon.]

Of course, if Gleick were writing about this the HI would accuse him of reacting based on a claimed-to-be fake memo.

Isn't Kaminsky's article libelous? Or just super-sleazy?

The Heartland Institute's behavior in this has not been very...inspiring. They have clung to the thread of claimed fakery as a way to try to seize the high ground, writing, "Those persons who posted these documents and wrote about them before we had a chance to comment on their authenticity should be ashamed of their deeds, and their bad behavior should be taken into account when judging their credibility now and in the future." But as others have noted, such as Andrew Revkin, they were very quick to condemn scientists after Climategate I. They are pushing the fakery hard as a way, apparently, to draw attention from the other documents.

Just as hypocritical was Anthony Watts complaining of Desmogblog's attempt to "demonize skeptics." Of course they are! So is he -- I'm not sure who's better at it, him or them. Talk about the pot calling the kettle a blackbody.

America has really adopted the talk radio schtick they've been hearing for the last 25. The climate issue has devolved into the taunting between fans of rival teams, full of Pete's from Albany who never played beyond junior varsity, but who all know exactly how to score from the 40-yard line with 2 minutes left on the clock.

Then there's the "funding for sceptics is literally microscopic compared to the massive swill trough available for the consensus" argument. It's not a question of funding consensus views versus 'skeptic' views -- it's funding science versus non-science. OK?

You have to love the open letter written to the Heartland Institute by seven of the victims of the Climategate hack. That was very clever on someone's part. There is clearly a concerted effort by a core group to fight back hard.

A study by John Christy finds no decline in snowfall in the Sierra Nevada mountains in the last 130 years.

Finally, why are US taxpayers spending $850,000 to study how climate change will affect prairie dogs in Boulder, Colorado?? Knowing that answer is really worth that much? When I lived in Boulder they were studying how to get rid of prairie dogs by sucking them out of their holes with large vacuum cleaners. (Really)

Is Accusing People Fair?

Is it really fair to be accusing people of faking the HI memo without strong evidence? I don't think so, but that's started -- the target is Peter Gleick:

RogerPielkeJr: @mtobis @PeterGleick What fuel? I emailed him to ask, seemed like the best course of action, no? Still awaiting his reply.
Original Tweet: http://twitter.com/RogerPielkeJr/statuses/170564031998992385

This seems based on nothing except that he's in the Pacific time zone, and vague comparisons about what's written and about writing style.

By the way, my position going forward is that I'm going to assume this memo is fake until proven otherwise. It's just too fishy. 

Why Thinkprogress Didn't Host the IRS document

Brad Johnson of Thinkprogress tells me "the reason we didn't post the IRS doc was that it's too large for our upload tool." (At 2.7 MB it's by far the largest document.) He adds, "Nothing exciting there."

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Small Observations

A little strange: Brendan DeMelle at Desmogblog posted 9 alleged Heartland Institute documents on his original post, but Richard Littlemore, who posted just one minute later, only posted 8, leaving out the Word document "Minutes of January 17 meeting". And Brad Johnson at Thinkprogress left out the IRS document.

Jim Lakely at the Heartland Institute tells me they are "100 percent" sure the climate strategy memo is fake.

Claim that the Metadata Changed the Day of the Leak

Here is a comment from yesterday, by "Grypo," that's worth highlighting:
I used a pdfinfo script to analyse the memos. The info I got is that all the meta data dates changed on the day of the leak in the Pacific time zone (-8 GMT). This is likely where our thief resides. This is also where the “fake” was created on 2/13. The other docs, with the exception of the IRS form were in the central time zone (-6 GMT). The IRS form was -4 GMT. This has been corroborated by a commenter at Lucia’s. Based on this, and I’m not sure if I’ve covered every base, the strategy memo is a fake.

The only other option would be if the create dates were faked, highly, highly unlikely or, the sender from HI didn’t have the doc, and someone from the west coast scanned it , emailed to her to send to the leaker. This, to me, doesn’t seem likely either. Logically, I have to go with HI’s story.

The Timeline of HIgate

I'm stumped as to how to prove the provenance of the claimed fake memo with the information that is publically available, and I haven't seen anything that is completely convincing (including Megan McCardle's textual analysis, which has insights, but, as she notes, is not definitive), so I thought I'd put up a timeline in case anyone sees any connections I've missed. I'll update this based on corrections, clarifications, or new information in the comments. All times in Eastern Standard Time, with noted qualifications.

2/14/12 (Tuesday)

12:13 pm (time zone?) - leaker's email to Desmogblog, etc (per Keith Kloor)
2:13 (time zone?) - Desmogblog's first post (14:13)
3:03 pm - Brad Johnson's first tweet on the subject
3:10 pm - Brad Johnson't first blog post at ThinkProgress Green
3:58 pm - Brendan DeMelle's tweet (1:58 pm PST?)
10:30 pm EST - Suzanne Goldenberg article in The Guardian

2/15/2012 (Wednesday)

1:07 pm - Anthony Watts first writes about the Heartland Leak, confirming he was to receive funding from the Heartland Institute (post not timestamped, but first comment was at 10:07 am PST)

6:03 am Sydney, Australia time(?) - Sydney Morning Herald publishes an article where Robert Carter "did not deny he was being paid by The Heartland Institute, but would not confirm the amount, or if the think tank expected anything in return for its money."

2:30 pm - Heartland Institute reaction (time based on Anthony Watts update on this post)

Header from Leaker's Email

I don't have much new information, except the header of the email the leaker sent to Desmogblog, Thinkprogress, etc., after it was forwarded to Keith Kloor. The date and time are from the original email, not that forwarded to Keith.
From: Heartland Insider <heartlandinsider@gmail.com>
Date: Tue, Feb 14, 2012 at 12:13 PM
Subject: Files from Heartland Institute
I think Gmail hides IP addresses.... I suppose it's just a coincidence that this email was sent 13 minutes after the hour and Desmogblog's first post on the subject was also 13 minutes after the hour.... Not sure of the time zones involved.

Keith Kloor gave an excerpt of the email here.
Dear Friends (15 of you):

In the interest of transparency, I think you should see these files from the Heartland Institute. Look especially at the 2012 fundraising and budget documents, the information about donors, and compare to the 2010 990 tax form. But other things might also interest or intrigue you. This is all I have. And this email account will be removed after I send.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Desmogblog Had Leaked Docs For Only an Hour

I guess I'm behind on this, because this afternoon Politico reported that Desmogblog received the documents yesterday (2/14) and "The blog posted them about an hour later without contacting the Heartland Institute for confirmation."


So they received them after the suspicious memo was scanned (according to its metadata). Which doesn't prove its not fake, but at least the timeline isn't inconsistent. 

Date of Leaker's Email Offers No Clue

Keith Kloor was forwarded a copy of the leaker's email, yesterday, which he quotes from here:


Keith says it was sent yesterday (Feb 14th), which is after the creation date for the "2012 Climate Strategy" memo of "2/13/2012 12:41:52 PM." So, indeed, it's possible the document was first scanned at (or by) the Heartland Institute on 2/13, as per its document properties, and then emailed to the leaker either Monday afternoon or Tuesday morning, who then quickly sent it around.

So no clues there. Except, if this is the scenario, I'm surprised at how little time Desmogblog or Thinkprogress Green spent in analyzing and discussing the documents.

By the way, Thinkprogress is not hosting the IRS document. Legal concerns, maybe?



The "fake" Memo Definitely Looks Suspicious

Here is the metadata from the 9 alleged Heartland Institute documents Desmogblog put up yesterday. The first one is the one the Heartland Institute calls fake, and it clearly stands out from the rest by its creation data -- only two days ago -- and the fact that it's scanned.

Desmogblog's first post about these documents was yesterday (2/14) at 14:13. I'm not exactly sure what time zone that is, but this means -- if I'm downloading and interpreting this data correctly -- they posted this document within about 24 hours of it being created.

Does that seem likely? Maybe, but I would think they would have first done some vetting and checking and had discussions among themselves and maybe even a lawyer.

So I am really wondering if, indeed, this file is fake. And again, why was it scanned if the documents were leaked via email?

Why Is Desmog Blog's Document Scanned, Not Digital?

Is "Confidential Memo: 2012 Heartland Climate Strategy" a "total fake," as the Heartland Institute claims?

I don't know, but here's something curious. The document hosted by Desmog blog is clearly scanned, and indeed the document's metadata says the PDF Producer was "Epson scan" and it was Created on 2/13/2012 at 12:41:52 pm, as shown at the right.

But today Desmog blog wrote, "The Heartland Institute has confirmed in a prepared statement that it mistakenly emailed its board materials to an anonymous third party - confirming the source of the documents released here on the DeSmogBlog yesterday."

So if the document was emailed to the leaker, why did someone need to make a scanned copy to give it to Desmog blog? Why didn't they just give them the digital copy?

Note: The file location on the metadata is mine, not what came with the document.

But Maybe There Is Something to the Memo Claimed to Be Faked

OK, the Heartland Institute says the “Confidential Memo: 2012 Heartland Climate Strategy” is a "total fake," but Bob Carter has already not-denied to the Sydney Morning Herald that he was receiving money from the HI, though he won't confirm the amount....
Professor Carter did not deny he was being paid by The Heartland Institute, but would not confirm the amount, or if the think tank expected anything in return for its money.

''That suggestion is silly and offensive - a kindergarten level argument,'' Professor Carter told the Herald.

''Institutions or organisations simply pay for services rendered - in the same way that an architect is paid for their work, so are scientists,'' he said. ''What they may make any payment to me for, I'm not discussing with anybody outside of my family.''

Heartland Institute Cries "Fake"

The Heartland Institute says this memo is fake


Climate Depot: "ALERT: Key Heartland document touted by warmists is a FORGERY?! Developing... | Climate Depot"

Climate Depot says one of the Heartland documents is a forgery....


The Most Disturbing Phrase from Heartland

UPDATE 2/16 3:44 pm - This post is based on information from a document the Heartland Institute says is fake.

As Leo Hickman writes at the Guardian, perhaps the most disturbing piece of the Heartland leak is this phrase: "...key points that are effective at dissuading teachers from teaching science."

Right there you have the true goal of it all: Dissuading the teaching of science.

Deniergate is simply another chapter in the half a millenia-long war against knowledge that started against Copernicus. It never ends, not really.

From the memo:
Development of our "Global Warming Curriculum for K-12 Classrooms" project.
Principals and teachers are heavily biased toward the alarmist perspective. To counter this we are considering launching an effort to develop alternative materials for K-12 classrooms. We are pursuing a proposal from Dr. David Wojick to produce a global warming curriculum for K-12 schools. Dr. Wojick is a consultant with the Office of Scientific and Technical Information at thevU.S. Department of Energy in the area of information and communication science. His effort will focus on providing curriculum that shows that the topic of climate change is controversial and uncertain - two key points that are effective at dissuading teachers from teaching science. We tentatively plan to pay Dr. Wojick $100,000 for 20 modules in 2012, with funding pledged byvthe Anonymous Donor.

Too Many People Are For Sale

UPDATE 2/16 3:44 pm - This post is based on information from a document the Heartland Institute says is fake.

I guess now we really know why Fred Singer "Remains a Global Warming Skeptic," huh?

We all knew some of deniers were making money, but who knew it was this much?? From a January 2012 memo from the Heartland Institute:
Our current budget includes funding for high-profile individuals who regularly and publicly counter the alarmist AGW message. At the moment, this funding goes primarily to Craig Idso ($11,600 per month), Fred Singer ($5,000 per month, plus expenses), Robert Carter ($1,667 per month), and a number of other individuals, but we will consider expanding it, if funding can be found.
$139,200 a year for Craig Idso! $60,000 a year for Fred Singer, plus expenses!

It's really time for the editors everywhere who publish op-eds, like the WSJ and The Australian, to start disclosing funding sources. Completely. Always. Every time. For any op-eds, anywhere, of whatever view. Too many people are for sale.

UPDATE: Not to mention Joseph Bast, the President of the Heartland Institute, who made $145,135 in 2010.

Tit for Tat?

UPDATE 2/16 3:44 pm - This post is partly based on information from a document the Heartland Institute says is fake.


Anthony Watt$ say$ he needed $90,000...to make $ome graph$.
"for funding a special project having to do with presenting some new NOAA surface data in a public friendly graphical form, something NOAA themselves is not doing, but should be. I approached them in the fall of 2011 asking for help, on this project not the other way around."
Sure he did. $ure.

Update: Watt$ $ay$ only $44K ha$ been pledged $o far. Apparently time$ are tight even for denier$.

More Whoppers from Fred Singer

Kaustabh at Paleowave catches Fred Singer in yet another fabrication: a claim that proxies show no warming since 1940. Kaustabh debunks this nicely with a long list of just a few of the proxy studies that do show warming -- and notes that his very own PhD research on marine sediments show a large 20th-century warming signal.

The UT student newspaper covered the talk here. It's well-balanced (not on the noncontrarian-contrarian scale, but, properly, on the science-nonscience scale), and includes this from a UT faculty member:
However, Charles Jackson, a research scientist for the Institute of Geophysics and part of the UT faculty at the Jackson school of Geosciences, says that much of the evidence Singer refers to is less of an alternative opinion and more bad science.

“ A lot of these points that are being made [by climate change skeptics] aren’t even of interest to science because they don’t hold much merit,” said Jackson, who attended a Singer lecture with colleagues on campus two years ago. “It was clear to us he didn’t understand how climate records are made and when these things were pointed out to him he just changed the topic.”

Contrary to Singer’s view, Jackson said that the planet is warming and that the rate of effects like sea ice melting and sea level rising are consistent with CO2 being the causative agent.

“We know the rate of effects of the greenhouse gasses, so if we didn’t see a warming we would be wondering why, “ said Jackson. “...It would be astonishing not to see it."
Of course, this is hardly the first time Singer has presented fictional science (see here, here, and here, and expand outward), but it should be the last.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

"Nothing, I Guess."

From Wikipedia:
Heinrich Hertz did not realize the practical importance of his
 experiments. He stated that,

"It's of no use whatsoever[...] this is just an experiment that proves Maestro Maxwell was right -- we just have these mysterious electromagnetic waves that we cannot see with the naked eye. But they are there."

Asked about the ramifications of his discoveries, Hertz replied,

"Nothing, I guess."
Hertz died at age 36.

Nice Presentation of Rising Carbon Dioxide Levels

Here is a great piece of data presentation of the Keeling Curve, via the blog Paleowave. I've taken the liberty of making it a larger (and expandable) size, which loses some resolution, but not much.

How NOT to Report on Climate Change

"Valentine's Day destroyed by climate change?"


Climate change and chocolate

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Quotable Krauss

Science Friday interviewed Lawrence Krauss last month, and he always has interesting things to say, such as:
"I would argue that the real story of the universe is far more interesting than any myths or fairy tales that people wrote thousands of years before they even knew the Earth went around the sun."
"I think the great wonder of science is that our faith is shakeable, not unshakeable."
He has a great way of riffing on science and expanding his thoughts to the largest questions. The whole podcast is definitely worth listening to.

Chemtrails, Enemies, and the Climate Debate

Here's an interesting thought from Ken Caldiera (Stanford) on the Google geoengineering list. It's in response to Alan Robock (Rutgers), who wrote about his discussion with some protesters who believe "chemtrails" are a secret spraying program. (Debunk here.) Robock's discussion was posted to YouTube, and he got an inflammatory email from a viewer -- also posted on the thread.

Caldiera's comment is applicable to the larger climate debate and its stand-in as a proxy for other issues, as Mike Hulme writes.
"I think it is not helpful to think of them as "enemies". I see these people as victims of past government lies and, in many cases, their own mental instability.

"These people have been living under a government that has started secret wars, has secretly kidnapped and tortured people, and so on. They have lived under a government that has lied to them repeatedly.

"These people have no technical background to distinguish ordinary jet contrails from paranoiac visions of massive government conspiracies. They see jet trails becoming more numerous over the decades and are too innumerate to associate this increase with increase in jet travel.

"They have been taught that they cannot trust government statements, they certainly don't trust scientists, and now they are left with no source that they can trust (other than their like-minded fellow conspiracy theorists.)

"I prefer to see these ChemTrails folks as victims, both of past government lies and, in many cases I suspect, of some degree of mental illness. So, let's not look at them as "enemies", but as people who need help."

GM Crop Totals, With an Obligatory Link to Climate Science

You never need an excuse to post a good chart, and the Guardian has one on the area of GM crops in 2011, in hectares. (1 ha = 10,000 m2 = 2.47 acres.) About 50% of all GM crops are now grown in developing countries -- 15 years ago GM crops only composed 1.7 million hectares worldwide.

Are GM crops a problem? I've never been able to find a problem from eating them, though I'm not convinced they're not, in part, a strategy of Big Biotech to corner the market. They may not be a containable as the industry promised, but their use is now inevitable, though some activists continue to fight them. Americans don't seem to have a clue either way.

The ISAAA (who are supreme cheerleaders for biotech crops, so skepticism is warranted) says biotech crops saved 1.7 billion kg of CO2 in 2010 due to decreased use of fossil fuels, equivalent to 800,000 cars. That sounds impressive, but it's only 1.7 million metric tons of CO2 in a world that now emits about 29,000 Mt CO2 every year from fossil fuel consumption -- so it's only 0.007%.

Like (it seems) every science issue that intersects with politics, the GM food/crop debate has devolved into hard positions on both sides and, without devoting your life to it, it's difficult to know who to believe. But, thanks in part to the corruption of our government, it's clear the industry has gotten what they want and will no doubt continue to do so....

Via Technology Review.

[Speaking of corruption, is the US now the most corrupt government in history, relative to its power and influence? The Soviet Union may have rivaled it, but they're gone....]

Sunday, February 12, 2012


If the world were merely seductive, that would be easy. If it were merely challenging, that would be no problem. But I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.” 

-- E.B. White

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Great TED Talk on China

Speaking of China, here's a great TED talk by Martin Jacques on the subject about how China is going to be changing the world in the next few decades. Full of ideas that will make you think. From 20100.

(Be sure to see the ship at 20:39.) One picture in particular struck me -- it's of the Wuhan Railway Station for high-speed rail. Does it look like it's even in the same galaxy as the United States?

Friday, February 10, 2012

Americans Know America is in Decline

A Gallup poll finds that Americans view China, rather than their own country, as the world's leading economic power today, by 53% to 33% margin -- the same as last year's result. Gallup also finds Americans also generally believe China will be the leading economic power in 20 years.

In 2000, Americans overwhelmingly believed the U.S. was the leading economic power.... Then George W. Hoover became President. Though he did what those who purchased him wanted, his complete absence on today's issues indicates even he might have a sense of shame.

Americans know that trends like these are degrading our society.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Some (Health) Charts To Make You Think

Now here are a few charts that will make you think....

Chart: Share of under-65 population with employer-sponsored health insurance, 2000-2010

Chart: Rates of employer-sponsored health insurance by household income fifth,  population under age 65; 2000 and 2010

As Seinfeld said in The Bizarro Jerry, "The whole system is breaking down!"

RealClimate: 2011 Updates to model-data comparisons

Gavin has an excellent round-up of last year's climate results and their comparison to model predictions. Definitely worth reading:


Tuesday, February 07, 2012

A Little More Ice Up Top

PIOMAS results for January find that Arctic sea ice volume is actually larger than a year ago, which would be a deviation from the trend....

Doonesbury Strip on Climate Deniers

"We stock thousands of facts for home use."


Monday, February 06, 2012

What Is the Texas Drought Telling Us?

So the other day I guessed that the cost of the Texas drought was ~ $5 billion for 2011 (though I didn't add up the cost of the fires.) And I wondered if droughts might be the most expensive natural disasters in the disaster spectrum. But John Fleck has been wondering about the opposite -- whether even this drought is a relative blip in the larger forces the buffet an economy.

He presents this graph of the Texas coincidence economic index. It's a combination of four different metrics:
  1. nonfarm payroll employment
  2. average hours worked in manufacturing
  3. the unemployment rate
  4. wage and salary disbursements deflated by the consumer price index (U.S. city average)
Texas state coincident economic indexand finds that Texas looks pretty good by this measure.

You can't even see the effects of the drought there -- though the fact that it excludes nonfarm payrolls might matter a little. The Texas GDP is $1.207 T (2010), and $5 B (if that's accurate) would be 0.4% -- a setback to an economy, but certainly not a shock.

After noting that only about a thousand people in Texas are currently needing water to be trucked in, and only about 10,000 have less then a 180-day supply, John concludes:
For people like me who spend our time running around with our hair on fire trying to warn the public of America’s looming water shortages, Texas seems to me like an incredibly important case study about what happens when shortage finally arrives. So what’s it telling us?

Minerals and Fossils Explained 2012

You might find this interesting -- an upcoming series of online discussions of geology papers:

Minerals and Fossils Explained 2012

You have to sign up beforehand.... I'm not really sure what level it will be, though. I just finished writing an article about deep Earth geophysics (it will be out next month), which was a subject I didn't know alot about going in. But I found there has been a great deal of really interesting science going on in that field, so now I'm ready to learn more geology. This is the best part about being a science writer -- getting to take crash courses in a different field every month -- sometimes every day -- and getting to talk to the people doing today's research. It suits me perfectly.

Someone Please Call Doug Chapman

Via Bill Chameides (whose blog The Green Grok is worth reading) I found this remarkable letter in the Wall Street Journal, from December 24th of last year. Remarkable because, while it complains that much of the science behind global warming is not scientifically proven, it then puts forth complete scientific nonsense:
Bjorn Lomborg's suggestion that we look for adaptive steps to deal with environmental changes is common sense, whether or not man's activities cause these observed changes ("Global Warming and Adaptability," op-ed, Dec. 12). The real problem is the science, or lack of quality science, regardless of which side of the debate about the cause we find ourselves. This is because the warming problem drives us to find solutions to a cause that is not yet scientifically proven.

Carbon in the form of CO2 is one of the heaviest molecules found in our atmosphere in such large quantities, though not the heaviest. It makes sense that molecules containing carbon (CO2 at about 390 parts per million or 0.039%) would absorb more heat then oxygen (21%) or nitrogen (78%), for example, since both are lighter than CO2. This fundamental idea gives rise to the hypothesis that carbon increases will cause an increase in our planet's average temperature by absorbing more heat from the sun....

Prof. Lomborg makes the statement, Do we "help the developing world by making drastic carbon cuts?" By saying that, he seems to be suggesting that humans are the cause of global warming. He might contact Prof. Henrik Svensmark, who is nearby at the Danish National Space Institute in Copenhagen, for other causes of climate changes.

Dr. Svensmark has observed that sun spots help to control cloud cover on the earth and in this way more or less energy from the sun is absorbed into our atmosphere, causing warming and cooling cycles. This mechanism has little to do with the carbon changes in our atmosphere, and it is not man-made, nor can it be controllable by man....

Doug Chapman
North Tustin, Calif.
Where to start??? I suspect most readers here know, but for the sake of completeness:

(1) The absorption properties of CO2 have nothing to do with its weight, but with its molecular properties. (Water is lighter than N2, O2, and CO2, and it strongly absorbs infrared light. Same for CH4.)

(2) CO2 doesn't absorb heat from the Sun, but from the Earth's surface.

(3) Svenmark's hypothesis isn't that sunspots directly control the Earth's cloud cover, but that their influence on the Sun's magnetic field affects the Earth's incoming flux of cosmic rays that, in turn, influence aerosol production and hence cloud formation.

(4) Svensmark's hypothesis is completely unproven. In fact, here is what the scientists behind the recent CLOUD experiment at CERN wrote in their July 29, 2011 press briefing notes:
This result leaves open the possibility that cosmic rays could also influence climate. However, it is premature to conclude that cosmic rays have a significant influence on climate until the additional nucleating vapours have been identified, their ion enhancement measured, and the ultimate effects on clouds have been confirmed.
Anyway, you just can't trust the WSJ when it comes to climate. Or, clearly, Doug Chapman of North Tustin, California.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Learning to Say Hectopascal

"We will often lapse into using mb as units of pressure, because the unit sounds comfortable to atmospheric scientists. For calculations, though, it is important to convert millibars to pascals. This is easy, because 1 mb = 100 Pa. Hence, we should all learn to say 'hectopascal' in place of 'millibar.' It may take some time."

-- Raymond T. Pierrehumbert, Principles of Planetary Climate, p. 85
There is actually a lot of humor in this book (in the dry sense). But I wouldn't buy it for the humor if you're not also very interested in the science.

Has The Current La Nina Peaked?

The current La Nina isn't looking very impressive, and might already be withering. Here are the 30-day and 90-day averages of the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) -- the SOI is based on the pressure differences between Tahiti and Darwin, Australia, and is a proxy for ENSOs (though perhaps not as good a proxy as the MEI -- Multivariate ENSO Index).

If so it would have peaked at about the same point as previous La Ninas, except for the really strong one of 2010-2011:

And already sea-level rise seems to be picking back up again:

So the days of having to explain to people that ENSOs cause fluctuations in sea-level and surface warming may be coming to an end -- though there is still the PDO and NAO to consider. It's always something, isn't it?

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Cost of the Texas Drought

Texas temperature and precipitation for summer, including 2011How much has the drought cost Texas?

OK, of course no one really knows how much of the drought in Texas is due to climate change. John Nielsen-Gammon, the Texas state climatologist, has thought an awful lot about it  lot about it, and he has his suspicions.

That said, the annual harvest numbers (via Early Warning) for several major crops in Texas have been released. The major drought there has had a big impact -- cotton and corn production are both down 55%, and likewise for some others.

What does this amount to in dollars? About $4 billion, I think (with the proviso that I don't know much about these kind of calculations).

I put a spreadsheet here with links to my sources. That seems in the ballpark -- this article puts numbers in this range for filings of crop insurance indemnities for Texas and other nearby states.  This says $5.2 billion, and that didn't even include the entire harvest. And surely ranchers and others have lost a lot too. Plus the fires: about 4 million acres, almost 3,000 homes, and almost 3,000 other structures.

It seems that the cost of droughts could easily be greater than the annual cost of all hurricanes. I wonder how they all add-up and average-out over the long-term.