Facts are not negotiable

On April 25, I wrote a column for the Albuquerque Journal entitled “Climate Change is Based only on Fact.”  It was a direct refutation of factual errors in a column that had been published two days earlier called “Global Warming is Just Propaganda.”  The previous author, Lewis Green, had made a number of incorrect statements (as well as errors of logic) in support of his claim a that global warming is a conspiracy by left-wing activists.   I don’t understand why the Journal is willing to give space on their opinion page absurd conspiracy theories that are demonstrably false (for an ironclad demonstration, see Peter Sinclair’s video showing that high-profile conservatives accept the reality of global warming).  I also listed several irrefutable facts:

♦ Fact: Global warming is real.

♦ Fact: Global warming was successfully predicted by physicists.

♦ Fact: Scientists accept the reality of global warming.

♦ Fact: Climate and weather are not the same thing.

♦ Fact: Global warming is not a left-wing conspiracy.

Unsurprisingly, my list of facts led to a flurry of letters.  Of the six letters published on May 15, four disputed the facts, or argued that they don’t matter.   I respond to those letters here.

Larry Harrah wrote “Full Disclosure Applies to Both Sides.”  I realize that letter titles are not written by the author, but by the opinion page editor, so I don’t blame Mr. Harrah for the faux balance implying the existence of “both sides” of some scientific debate.  The debate over the reality of global warming really is over.  Of 47,000 members of the American Physical Society, only 206 objected to the APS statement: ‘The evidence is incontrovertible: Global warming is occurring.” Of those 206, only a handful have any expertise on climate science, and of those, none have published contrary evidence. Scientific debate is not about petitions and objections, it requires publications and data. By this definition, there is no debate.

Mr. Harrah wrote that my letter “…withheld some pertinent facts not supporting its thesis…”  These included:

  • Three recent reports that there has been no change in mean global temperature during the first decade of the 21st century.
  • Two periods of unusual warming and icecap melting in the fifth and sixth centuries and in the 11th and 12th centuries.

However, even of both of these statements where true, they would not constitute evidence against the facts I provided.  I do not know what reports Mr. Harrah is referring to or if they were published in the peer-reviewed scientific literature or not (and I welcome a comment from him with citations to published scientific research).  But regardless of what the reports say, here is a plot the actual temperature data:


Whatever the recent reports claim about no global mean temperature change during the first decade of this century, the data do not support it.  Much has been made about the anomalously high temperature during the super El Nino year of 1998 (when tropical Pacific surface temperatures were exceptionally warm, slowing the rate at which the ocean absorbs heat from the atmosphere).   Remarkably, the 2011 temperature, which nearly broke this record, was in a La Nina year with low sea surface temperature, when the oceans are soaking up much more heat.  But these relative fluctuations are a measure of interannual variability, not climate.  A better measure of climatological temperature is indicated by the red curve, which is a five-year running average.  This climatological temparature has continued to increase (even 5 years is too short to represent the true climate, which is customarily defined as a 30-year average, and requires at least 17 years according to recent research).

The other claim that there were two periods of unusual warming and icecap melting many years ago would not contradict any if the facts I cited, even if true, so I do not understand the relevance in this context.  It is worth noting that similar such claims have been made, that have turned out not to be true.  For example business advocate Raymond Keating—in testimony to House Small Business Committee (June 4, 1998)—said, “During the past 3,000 years, there have been five extended periods when it was distinctly warmer than today.”  It turns out that his testimony was quoting a Wall Street journal opinion piece that was based on politician/activist Arthur Robinson’s misrepresentation of actual published data (this is why I require that contrarian claims made in Puckerclust comments include citations to peer-reviewed scientific literature).

Mr. Harrah also exhibits a misunderstanding of the role of water vapor in human-caused global warming.  He is correct that water vapor is actually the dominant greenhouse gas, but he is incorrect that it is not of our making.  The increased amount of water vapor is because the air is warmer, which is directly attributable to human-generated pollution consisting of non-condensible heat-trapping gas like CO2.  The CO2 causes a little warming, which evaporates more water, which causes a lot more warming in a vicious cycle of amplification.

I absolutely agree with Mr. Harrah’s final remark: “Politicizing science can lead to meaningless or even bad choices where we squander our resources!”   I have always argued that facts trump politics.  That goes for both conservatives and liberals.

Joseph Yardumian writes, in “Climate Change Predates Your Car,” that our planet has undergone a number of climate cycles over the last 50,000 years.  Again, this is not evidence against human-caused global warming.  Humans cause forest fires with careless use of matches and vehicles with faulty catalytic converters and spark arrestors.  There is published evidence for forest fires in North America before it cars were invented, and before humans even occupied the continent.  It would be equally absurd to use that as evidence that we don’t have to be careful not to start them now.

Burke E. Nelson says, “Don’t Panic: We’ve Been Here Before.”  He asserts without evidence that civilizations advanced and people prospered during times of warming, but not so during time of cooling (this would seem to contradict the fact that the Enlightenment, the founding of our nation, and the beginning of the industrial revolution all took place during the Little Ice Age).

Dr. Nelson (who says he has a “Ph.D. in science”) reminds us that what is now New Mexico was covered by an inland sea.  What he fails to mention is that this was 100 million years ago, long before the Laramide orogeny (mountain-building event) that created the Rockies, and when North America occupied a different part of the globe (a bit closer to the tropics and much further east).  I suspect that Dr. Nelson would not want our pollution to return the Earth to the conditions of the Cretaceous, which were more amenable to habitation by dinosaurs and ferns than to people, livestock, and edible fruits and vegetables.  Fortunately, the earth hasn’t been continuously warming at the current rate since then, or it would be much hotter than the sun!

Dr. Nelson rightly points out the “warm Coke effect.”  As a little bit of CO2 pollution warms up the oceans, as it is now doing, the water exsolves (releases) more CO2 into the air, causing another dangerous cycle of reinforcement: another reason that a little bit of human-caused warming ends up doing a lot more damage than naively expected.

Dr. Nelson also sites Fred Singer and William Happer, both of whom are associated with political pressure organizations like the Heartland Institute and the George C. Marshall Institute, and have become better known for their activism than their science.   Fred Singer and the Heartland Institute (which distributed the book cited by Dr. Nelson) are also known for publishing fabricated climate data.  More recently, the Heartland Institute has been under fire for erecting billboards making nasty personal attacks against the scientific community.

Likewise, Prof. Happer has pushed hard to politicize the science (as indicated by the quotes cited by Dr. Nelson, in which he resorts to name-calling and comparing the mainstream scientific community to a “a cult”).  Prof. Happer has apparently abandoned publishing his disagreements in the scientific literature in favor of conservative online media like The American Thinker.

Finally, virtually any logical thinker understands why it is ludicrous to argue that CO2 cannot be harmful because it comprises less than one half of one percent our atmosphere.  Unless we argue that this concentration of other substances can be safely ignored, this idea is flat out silly.  Should we ignore this amount of:

  • fecal coliform bacteria in our drinking water?
  • drugs in our bloodstream?
  • asbestos fibers in the air we breathe?
  • members of the American Physical Society who dispute the incontrovertible evidence?

I suspect Dr. Nelson would say no.

William E. Keller, in “So-Called Facts Bear Closer Inspection,” challenges the facts that I listed.   Surprisingly, Dr. Keller appeals to the post-modern idea that there is no real objective reality.  In his attempt to refute my statement that climatological temperature continues to increase, he says, “it depends on who’s thermometer you are using.”  But reality is not dependent on the means of measurement.  Either it is getting warmer, or it’s not.  In a bizarre crossing-over of conservative suspicion of mainstream science with liberal muddled thinking, Dr. Keller seems to adopt Deepak Chopra’s idea that “there is no objective reality ‘out there’ that is independent of the observer.”

Furthermore Dr. Keller claims that we only know the temperature over land, and that “what is happening over the other 70 percent [of the Earth’s surface] is not clear.”  What is remarkable is that someone who is so opinionated about a subject would be unaware of the massive amount of data, both direct measurements and remote sensing, on sea surface temperatures (which by the way, are also increasing).

Dr. Keller also claims that NASA satellites show that temperatures in the lower troposphere have remained quite constant for the last 25 years, but fails to cite any peer reviewed literature.  On the contrary, a survey of publications in scientific journals reveal that there has been an increase (Skeptical Science has a nice summary).

Dr. Keller grasps at straws when he criticizes my mention of predictions in the 1950s because I don’t give temperature units.  It is customary when writing for an American audience in a U.S. newspaper to use degrees F (C is used outside the US).  If you don’t believe me, turn to the weather page and see if they give temperature units!  For the record, a good overview of this prediction is given by Gilbert Plass (1959) “Carbon Dioxide and Climate,” Scientific American, July, p. 41-47.  One can listen to an interview with the author here.

Dr. Keller speculates that I “might not have looked hard enough” to attract contrarians to my session at my annual climate session.  But I specifically invited them in a letter to the Heartland Institute.  Notably, my contact at Heartland suggested that I would need to pay for contrarians to attend (which is apparently how the sponsors of the Santa Fe conference were able to attract some of them).

Finally, Dr. Keller confuses stocks and flows, a common mistake among those who deny the facts.  He says that only 5.6% of the CO2 flux into the atmosphere comes from humans.  But if not all of this 5.6% (flow) is re-captured and sequestered by nature, the concentration (stock) will continue to increase, exactly as observed.  And according to the laws of physics, so will the temperature.

Posted in Climate denialism | 1 Comment

The Banned Heartland Institute Presentation

This is the material I wanted to present at the Third Santa Fe Conference on Global and Regional Climate Change.  But it was rejected by the conference organizer, Petr Chylek, a Heartland Institute Expert.  Then I offered to present it at the Heartland Institute’s 7th International Conference on Climate Change.   But I was told by Jim Lakely, Heartland’s Director of Communciations, that I would not be allowed to speak.  Clearly the Heartland Institute does not want this information to be presented.  So I have now posted it on SkS.  I am re-posting it here in its entirety.

Climate change is debated in letters to the editor of hometown newspapers all over the world.   In the Las Cruces, New Mexico, Sun-News, one reader recently cited “a 1996 paper by Kiegwin (sic) in Science which showed that, despite the present having a CO2concentration of 388 PPM, the present temperature is cooler than the average of the last 3,000 years, and that it was considerably warmer than today during the Medieval Warm Period, the Roman Warm Period, and the Holocene climate Optimum.”    A few months later another reader asserted that “Keigwin, Science, 1996, shows present temperatures aren’t much different from the 3,000 year mean.”

Did the Keigwin paper really say that?  And how is it that two non-scientists from a mid-sized New Mexico city would be so confident that a scientific paper published a decade-and-a-half earlier supports their belief that the world was warmer during Medieval times?

First, let’s review Keigwin (1996).   The title “The Little Ice Age and Medieval Warm Period in the Sargasso Sea” might provide the first clue that it isn’t about global temperatures, but about one location on Earth:  the Sargasso Sea.  What Keigwin did was to use oxygen isotope measurements in plankton skeletons from sediment cores as a proxy to reconstruct the sea surface temperature (SST) of the past 3000 years.   The cores were collected in 1990, and were divided into 50- to 100-year segments.  In the absence of mixing or bioturbation from below, the mid-point of the most recent 50-year thick sample, whose value would represent the most recent paleotemperature, would be 1965.  In a perfect world, the bottom of the segment would date to 1940.  However, sediments in the real world are never completely undisturbed.  It is very likely that the most recent segment contained shells from the early 1900s or even from the previous century.  That means the last paleotemperature is really an average that probably includes values from before automobiles and light bulbs were invented.

Keigwin published a graph, as Figure 4b (K4B), of his best estimate of the resulting time series.

He also included several years of modern instrumental measurements at hydrographic station “S” in Bermuda, starting in 1954.  The modern year-to-year temperatures fluctuate significantly, but the mean is well above the 23°C average of the entire proxy record.

It is unlikely that the Las Cruces letter-writers ever read this paper, or they would have known it wasn’t about global temperatures.  It is highly cited in the contrarian literature as evidence against human-caused global warming, and turns up in many blogs and editorials without reference to the Sargasso Sea.  How did this happen?

The misuse appears to have started in the late 1990s, when Arthur P. Robinson of the Oregon Institute for Science and Medicine (OISM) started the so-called “Oregon Petition” to collect signatures of people opposed to the Kyoto Protocol.  With his son Zachary and two associates from the conservative George C. Marshall pressure group (Sallie Baliunas and Willie Soon), he self-published a paper called “Environmental Effects of Increased Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide” designed to look like a peer-reviewed article from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (US).  It was mailed out with the petition to many thousands of engineers, dentists, veterinarians, and even some scientists.  In January, 1998 it appeared in a periodical published by the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS), a political advocacy organization with a stated mission to “fight socialized medicine and to fight the government takeover of medicine.”  The executive director of AAPS is also member of Robinson’s OISM.    In it was their Figure 2, a modified version of Keigwin’s K4B.

Robinson and coauthors made several changes in representation and labeling.  First they inverted the axes so time runs from left to right, but they were unaware that when paleoclimate data are plotted “years before present”  means “years before 1950” so their data is shifted by about 50 years.   Second, they removed the data from hydrographic station “S” which showed that recent temperatures are above the long-term average.  Third, they neglected to label it as being a record for the Sargasso Sea.  Fourth, they called it a global temperature in the text, saying, “For the past 300 years, global temperatures have been gradually recovering. As shown in figure 2, they are still a little below the average for the past 3,000 years.”

This paper became the basis for statements in two influential Wall Street Journal opinion pieces.  The first, in 1997, was by Robinson and his son Zachary, called “Science Has Spoken:  Global Warming Is a Myth.”  They stated,

During the past 3,000 years, there have been five extended periods when it was distinctly warmer than today. One of the two coldest periods, known as the Little Ice Age, occurred 300 years ago. Atmospheric temperatures have been rising from that low for the past 300 years, but remain below the 3,000-year average.

The second editorial, with son Noah, was called “Global Warming is 300-Year-Old News.”  In that one, they stated that “Earth temperatures are now near the 3,000-year average and clearly not unusual.”  Their Oregon Petition figure was re-drafted with different temperature units, but the time scale was still wrong, and the current thermometer measurements were still missing.  Despite the misrepresentation in the text as “Earth temperatures” the graph this time was labeled “Temperature of the Sargasso Sea from 1000 BC to 1975 AD.”  The source of the year 1975 as the endpoint is unclear and did not come from Keigwin’s paper.

This Wall Street Journal version of the graph appears to have become the new “primary source” for those who argue that temperatures are actually lower now than they were in the past.  Award winning editorial cartoonist John Trever redrew it for an ironic dig at climate scientists who claim otherwise (including—with true irony—Lloyd Keigwin, the original author of the figure).

In 2004, I was asked by my management to review the original sources of these claims, and I wrote several messages to Arthur Robinson asking for some clarifications.   Because I was planning to write a report, I wanted to give him the courtesy of responding with any clarifications or corrections.  Among other questions, I included the following,

I’m wondering what is your basis for the statement, “During the past 3,000 years, there have been five extended periods when it was distinctly warmer than today.” (Robinson & Robinson, The Wall Street Journal (Dec. 4, 1997).  I’ve seen this quoted by others (often without attribution) but it looks like you were the first to say it.

Robinson responded,

I note that the Sargaso (sic) Sea curve shows five earlier periods where the temperature was above the mean and therefore warmer than today. This is probably the source of the statement.

Significantly, business advocate Raymond Keating—in testimony to House Small Business Committee (June 4, 1998)—said, “During the past 3,000 years, there have been five extended periods when it was distinctly warmer than today.”

I proceeded to ask Robinson some more difficult questions,

I can see that your Figure 2 was taken directly from the 1996 Keigwin paper, but with the post-1954 instrumental “Station S” SST data removed.  Was there a reason you took the directly measured temperature off?  What method did you use to calculate the 23 C mean?  Did you derive it from the original Keigwin data or was that simply an estimate to the nearest degree?

You incorrectly represented the graph as global temperature.  You stated, “For the past 300 years, global temperatures have been gradually recovering (11). As shown in figure 2, they are still a little below the average for the past 3,000 years.”

I plan to include these observations in my final writeup.  If you care to respond, I would be happy to include your comments.

To which Robinson replied,

Regarding the world data. We clearly labeled this data location. Since virtually all other available dats (sic) from other locations (see Soon and Baliunas) is similar, providing this example was entirely ethical.

It is too bad your employers could not find an objective scientist for this task. I will not be providing any additional comments, since I am quite sure they would not be presented in their enirety (sic) to your employers, any more than will those I have already written. You are clearly devoted to lifting selected things from their context.

Do not waste your time with additional email. It will be shunted to the unopened file here.


For the record, I provided all his responses to my management in their entirety.

The most recent chapter of this story began when the periodical of the AAPS re-published an edited and colorized version of the paper in 2007 under a different author rotation (Baliunas was removed, and son Zachary was replaced by son Noah).  Perhaps because of my 2004 criticisms, an instrumental data point was added for year 2006, and the mean temperature was shifted.

The paper explained the source of the 2006 temperature thusly, “A value of 0.25 °C, which is the change in Sargasso Sea temperature between 1975 and 2006, has been added to the 1975 data in order to provide a 2006 temperature value.”

Unable to reproduce this temperature with the data I had, I wrote to Willie Soon in 2010 and asked for the source of the data.  He cordially responded and sent me the table, telling me,

…also about the most recent point at “2006”—sorry that I could not be more certain, but I am sure Noah has carefully included this updated SST series from station S that Dr. Keigwin sent me around July of 2007 (which as you can see from the file name was obtained by Dr. Ruth Curry of WHOI).

Graphing the Station S data with their data point for 2006 (blue) demonstrates that the 2006 is about a degree too low in Robinson et al. (2007).

If they had plotted the data they had, the way they said they did, it would have looked like this:

On Nov. 2, 2010, I presented this to a large audience at the Geological Society of America (GSA) meeting in Denver.  Always wanting to give others the benefit of the doubt, I wrote to Noah Robinson several times at his OISM address.  On Oct. 23, 2010 I wrote:

Willie & Noah,

Attached is a draft of a couple slides I plan to present, which strongly suggest that your team fabricated the 2006 data point to hide the increase in Sargasso Sea surface temperature.

You plotted your 2006 point too low by more than a degree C.  If this was an honest arithmetic mistake or silly drafting error, now would be the time to explain it and correct it.  If you let me know before my presentation, I will be happy to include your explanation.

Best regards,

Mark Boslough

I did not get a response.

The Heartland Institute, a fossil-fuel-funded political pressure group, reprinted a distorted version the latest OISM the graph in their advocacy report, “Nature, Not Human Activity, Rules the Climate” (S. Fred Singer, editor).  This was published for an organization called the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC), and was sent to American members of Congress and other policy makers.

In 2011, I submitted an abstract, coauthored by Lloyd Keigwin, to the Third Santa Fe Conference on Global and Regional Climate Change, so that we could present these findings.  According to the conference summary, it was “to focus on climate change and variability from observational and modeling perspectives.”  The chair of the conference, Petr Chylek is affiliated with one of the sponsors (Los Alamos National Laboratory) as well as the Heartland Institute (as a “Heartland Expert”).  With many speakers affiliated with the Heartland Institute (it turned out to be at least nine) it seemed like a good opportunity to provide feedback.  Unfortunately, Keigwin and I received a rejection letter from Chylek, who told us,

This Conference is not a suitable forum for type of presentations described in submitted abstract. We would accept a paper that spoke to the science, the measurements, the interpretation, but not simply an attempted refutation of someone else’s assertions (especially when made in unpublished reports and blog site).

This was a puzzling rejection given that the “unpublished report” was the NIPCC document released by the Heartland Institute, which is widely cited by the many Heartland-affiliated speakers invited by Chylek.

Nevertheless, I was able to have a conversation with Fred Singer, the editor of the NIPCC report, about the Sargasso Sea graph.  At first, he told me that I should take it up with Robinson, but ultimately he assured me that it would be corrected in the next edition of the NIPCC.  He also revealed that he had been the one who had sent Keigwin’s paper to Robinson in the first place, back in the ‘90s.

In a final attempt to get my feedback directly to the Heartland Institute before writing this guest post, I offered in April, 2012 to give a presentation at their annual meeting in Chicago in May.   My offer was rejected by Heartland’s Director of Communications, Jim Lakely, who told me in no uncertain terms, “you will not be getting an invitation to speak.”

I look forward to their response to this article.

Posted in Climate denialism | 2 Comments

Why I won’t be speaking at the Heartland conference

by Mark Boslough

“…you will not be getting an invitation to speak.”
–Jim Lakely, The Heartland Institute,  April, 2012, responding to my offer to speak at his “conference.”

“Thanks, again, for the invitation…  Are there any opportunities for comp registration and/or travel cost reimbursements…?”
–Jim Lakely, The Heartland Institute, July, 2011, responding to my invitation to have someone from Heartland give a presentation at my AGU session.

Here’s Lakely’s full reply to my offer last month:

From: Jim Lakely
Sent: Tuesday, April 24, 2012 10:49 AM
To: Boslough, Mark B
Subject: RE: Former NASA Scientists, Astronauts to Attend Heartland Institute Climate Conference


We’ve invited more than two dozen scientists who are on “your side” of the debate. Considering your treatment in the press of Dr. Harrison Schmitt – who will be presenting at the conference – you will not be getting an invitation to speak.

If you’d like to attend on your own time and dime, you can register here.

Jim Lakely
Director of Communications
The Heartland Institute
One South Wacker Drive #2740
Chicago, IL 60606
office: 312.377.4000
cell: 312.731.9364

Here are Lakely’s replies to my AGU invitation last summer.  Needless to say, I didn’t get any abstracts from any of them.

Subject: RE: An invitation to present at AGU
Date: Thu, 21 Jul 2011 17:06:11 -0500
From: Jim Lakely
To: Boslough


Thanks for the additional information. Two of the scientists we’ve run this by immediately reacted by saying PDF is unnecessary and inappropriate in this field, so I doubt that any or many of the candidates we put forward would be interested in pursuing that line of analysis. Another scientist said he might send an abstract on modelled vs. observed temperatures.

The deadline for abstracts of August 4 may be too soon for most candidates, and at least one scientist on our short list says he’ll be out of the country when the meeting takes place. But we’ll put out the word and see what we get.

Are there any opportunities for comp registration and/or travel cost reimbursements for scientists whose employers may not be willing or able to cover those expenses?

Jim Lakely
Communications Director
The Heartland Institute
19 S. LaSalle St., Suite 903
Chicago, IL 60603
office: 312.377.4000
cell: 312.731.9364

From: Boslough
Sent: Tue 7/19/2011 8:35 PM
To: Jim Lakely
Subject: Re: An invitation to present at AGU

Great, thanks!

I hope one or more of them will choose to submit an abstract this year. As in past years our session is focused primarily on research to quantify the uncertainty in climate sensitivity as well as other climate-related parameters. Climate-related uncertainty is traditionally presented as an error bar (as in the 1979 Charney report and IPCC reports) but it is more common nowadays to express it in terms of a probability density function or cumulative density function. Density functions are much more useful for probabilistic risk assessment than the simplistic comparison of high-vs-low “best estimate” climate sensitivities that I’ve seen from the researchers you list (which are useless for planning and the practical applications that drive national security-related work). I’m always skeptical of researchers who don’t explicitly quantify uncertainties related to risk, because they are ignoring or avoiding the most important and practical part of the problem (and giving the appearance that they are denying the possibility that their best estimate could be wrong).

If Lindzen et al. have finally progressed to the stage of producing PDFs I’d love to be able to cite them if they have plans to publish. So far I’ve seen only very rudimentary estimates from them, where best estimates are proposed but without any attempt to calculate the associated density functions. Those you cite really should come to AGU if they have recently started doing serious work along these lines, so they can get on the UQ community’s radar screen and join the discussion. It would be nice if we could all agree that there is an overlapping continuum of estimates, and not “two sides”.

Please let them know that the abstract deadline is Aug. 4. Please send them the link to the session info: http://sites.agu.org/fallmeeting/scientific-program/session-search/328 and the link to the abstract submission page: http://agu-fm11.abstractcentral.com/.



Subject: An invitation to present at AGU
Date: Mon, 18 Jul 2011 16:29:31 -0500
From: Jim Lakely
To: Boslough


Thanks, again, for the invitation. I believe there are several respected scientists in the field who would welcome the opportunity to speak at this event – as there are multiple and independent lines evidence arguing that the net sensitivity to carbon dioxide may be overestimated in calculations of future climate.

I think it would be good for there to be several speakers from this perspective, such as Lindzen and Spencer, who approach the subject from theoretical and observational perspectives, view, and more empirical types like Christy and Balling. In addition, it would be very interesting to provide some balance for Oreskes. I think Pat Michaels would do well for that. Another literature analyst is Craig Idso, who has done some remarkable work.

This is really not a discussion about existence or denial. It is literally a matter of degree, and I believe that many scientists (including those mentioned above) deserve to be heard – and that there should be much more open discussion about the sensitivity arguments and the nature of scientific consensus. I am sure that such a panel would enhance the dialog on climate change.

I offer you this notion rather than asking Harrison Schmitt to be the sole speaker on one side of this issue. He would probably be the first to say that he is not the best person to accept this invitation as he has not published in this or related fields.

I do not know the AGU policy on invited speakers, but I would hope you can be of some assistance to encourage participation.

Many thanks for helping to open the discussion on this important issue. I believe our recent experience at Heartland shows the importance of open communication on climate change.


Jim Lakely
Communications Director
The Heartland Institute
19 S. LaSalle St., Suite 903
Chicago, IL 60603
office: 312.377.4000
cell: 312.731.9364

Posted in Climate denialism | 3 Comments

Changing seasons

Reprinted from the HuffingPost

SANTA FE, NM – Local skiers were festive but disappointed on closing day, a full week earlier than originally planned.  As temperatures in the state capital approached 80 degrees on the first day of April, rivulets of water cascaded into the ski area parking lots. Large patches of bare ground were exposed along with bare skin of skiers and snowboarders who occupied Totamoff’s deck to enjoy the sun and beer.

“When I first came to Santa Fe, it always snowed by Halloween and the ski area always opened by the end of November,” observed Michael Wigley, a local skiing legend.  “Now we are lucky if we have decent snow before Christmas.

Earliest closing day yet

Scientists and meteorologists have voiced growing concerns that the winter season is disappearing across much of the northern hemisphere.  Dr. Jeff Masters put it bluntly on his blog, “Mother Nature has fast-forwarded past spring and gone straight to summer over the Midwest.”

Now a group of scientists who see this trend as unstoppable have proposed changing the way we define seasons.  Mark Boslough, a New Mexico physicist, explained, “We have chosen to define seasons in a very arbitrary way.  Seasons are an artifact of human creation and it’s time for an update.”  Boslough pointed out that astronomy went through a similar controversial redefinition in 2006, when the International Astronomical Union redefined the meaning of the word “planet” and removed Pluto from the list.

He and some of his colleagues are calling for an Intergovernmental Panel on Season Reform charged with renaming the seasons to reflect changes that are shortening ski seasons, and adjusting the calendar appropriately.  The last time this happened was when the Gregorian Calendar was adopted in 1582 to correct for a drift in seasons due to a phenomenon that scientists call “precession”.  The fix was to add a leap year every four years.  But now, according to some scientists, there is a “leap year drift” which caused this year’s spring to start on the earliest date since 1896.  As one scientist put it, “March 31 is the new April 1.”


Occupying Totemoff's

Season reform campaigners openly acknowledge that such changes will not be without controversy.  They have argued that seasons were never defined properly in the first place.  According to some scientists, seasons are controlled by the tilt of the Earth’s axis, which exposes the hemispheres to different amounts sunlight at different times of the year.

While the axis-tilt theory represents the consensus among many scientists, not everyone agrees. “Campaigners… state or imply that there is a scientific consensus on all of these things, when in fact there is none,” according to the Viscount Monckton of Brenchley. Monckton debated Boslough at a recent climate conference in Santa Fe.  Others dispute the claim that this is a particularly warm spring, pointing out that last night’s low in Santa Fe was only 38 degrees.  “The average high in Santa Fe in January is 43 degrees, so it’s actually getting colder this spring,” remarked one skeptic.

There is general agreement among season reformers that the vernal equinox should be the midpoint of spring, not the first day as currently defined.  If this change is made, spring would always start on February 2nd, regardless of whether or not the groundhog sees his shadow.

Areas of disagreement center on the names of the seasons themselves.  Many scientists want to adopt the old Latin names to make a clean break from the current system and avoid confusion. Some want the names to better reflect the warming climate (one suggested that winter be renamed “wimper”).  Others have suggested getting rid of the name “winter” altogether and going directly from autumn to spring, while re-naming the two warm seasons “first summer” and “second summer” to compensate.

But the naming of the seasons was not a topic of conversation at the ski resort. Wigley summed up the debate succinctly, “January, February, Arbitrary… I don’t give a damn what they call the months or seasons. I just want to ski.”

See related stories in the Huffington Post.

Boslough debates Monckton in Santa Fe

Posted in Climate denialism | 3 Comments

St. Valentine’s Day for Chicago Fake Tank

Al Capone was Chicago’s most notorious gangster.  He was ultimately convicted of tax fraud, but that wasn’t his worst crime.

Chicago is famous for its mob history. In the early ‘10’s, goons from the Market Street Gang would beat up newsstand owners who refused to sell the right newspapers.   Their battle to control the day’s media allowed gang members to influence politicians and journalists.  They evolved into the powerful North Side Gang during the prohibition era by exploiting government corruption and engaging in illicit money-laundering activities.

They did whatever it took until the famous Valentine’s Day Massacre on Feb. 14, 1929, when some prominent members were gunned down.  This event led to the downfall of Chicago mobsters, including Capone.

James M. Taylor (right) and pal attending the Heartland Institute Fake Tank's 27th anniversary benefit dinner in Chicago. October 13, 2011.

A modern mob in Chicago—the Heartland Institute—was recently outed by whistleblower Peter Gleick, who tricked them into sending secret documents by assuming a false identity (a questionable tactic that has also been employed by conservative journalists such as Andrew Breitbart and James O’Keefe).   Such sneakiness appears to be an acceptable journalistic practice for right-wing activists and is rarely if ever criticized by conservatives.   By contrast, Gleick was heavily censured for his behavior by his own colleagues and supporters.   It is clear which side has a double standard.

Nevertheless, Gleick exposed the Heartland institute for what it is: a manufacturer of fake science and fake educational materials.  From its tax returns, it also appears to have gotten itself a fake 501(c)(3) tax status, resulting in a very real tax deductions (so the rest of us can take up the slack).  In keeping with the naming convention for scandals, one might call Gleick’s revelations “Fakegate”.  Indeed, Heartland preemptively bought the fakegate.com domain name in an apparent attempt at damage control.

Like the Market Street Gang, the Heartland Institute has been involved in its own war to control the media.   They don’t use Tommy guns, but politicians, journalists, and even some scientists are intimidated by them. Last year the president of Heartland–Joseph Bast–derided me for exposing his organization’s anti-science activities, fabrication of climate data, and defamation campaigns against scientists.  Unlike the old Chicago gangs, they don’t kill people.  But they do engage in character assassination.

Heartland’s thugs specialize in smearing scientists on their well-funded website and in the comments sections of newspapers.  James M. Taylor is the editor of a Heartland publication, and it is his job to make up fake stuff about scientists.  Last year, he was caught falsifying biographical information – claiming, for example, that Ph.D. scientists don’t actually have the degree they list on their resume.

Taylor’s long hit list includes high-profile researchers like Prof. Michael Mann of Penn State, whose hockey-stick-shaped temperature graph convincingly showed that global warming is historically unprecedented.   Heartland didn’t like his science, so they attempted to destroy his career.  And now, of course, Peter Gleick is Heartland’s public enemy number one.

In the old-style Chicago racketeering days, those who kept their mouths shut weren’t subjected to such assaults.  But those who spoke out were fair game.  The old racketeers burned down stores of shopkeepers who tried to stand up to them.  The modern anti-science mob torches reputations, which is the most valuable asset a scientist can own.

After Bast’s screed was published in the Santa Fe New Mexican, the Heartland Institute bragged on its website, “The paper used the headline we put on the piece and ran it – word for word – as Bast wrote it.  As a former op-ed editor for two newspapers, I can attest that such things are rarely done.  Opinion-page staff don’t like being told what to do by outsiders…” Bast is a powerful man.

Feb. 14 may have marked the beginning of the end for Bast and the Heartland Institute, just as it did for Capone in 1929.   That was the morning Gleick revealed Heartland’s tax forms, lists of donors, and the Board of Directors (including Harrison Schmitt, who withdrew from his controversial appointment to New Mexico’s energy and natural resources post last year).

The group’s political activities outlined in the leaked “fakegate” documents strongly suggest that Heartland’s donors may owe back taxes, just like Capone did.  Heartland also pays generous stipends to a few scientists and weathercasters who are willing to deny the reality of global warming and generate fake research.  Fred Singer, the president of SEPP (another fake science political advocacy group) confirmed to me in February that he gets the $5000/month from the Institute, just as the leaked documents say.

Singer, who was in Albuquerque to speak to the fossil-fuel advocacy group, Energy Makes America Great, Inc. ($10 at the door), also spoke to a small science group where the audience was a bit more skeptical.  UNM Prof. David Gutzler, who does climate research, observed afterward, “…those temperature curves shown by Singer – mostly unlabelled, and all unanalyzed by him – are rising; that’s why global warming is considered to be ‘unequivocal’ by the community that actually does analyze the data.”

The documents also revealed that one of Heartland’s secret projects is to develop a fake science curriculum for school children, using methods that are effective at dissuading teachers from teaching any science at all.   Science teachers who teach factual climate science are next on Heartland’s hit list.

Scientists have long known that the Heartland Institute is a fake science organization.  Now we have the documentation to prove it.   It’s not a think tank.  It’s a fake tank.  Thanks for the Valentine, Heartland!

Posted in Climate denialism | 6 Comments

Fred Singer reacts to Deniergate

Earlier this week DeSmogBlog announced the release of confidential documents from the Heartland Institute, the industry-funded political pressure group based in Chicago.  As pointed out by Puckerclust last year, one of the Heartland Institute’s activities is smearing and vilifying honest scientists who are engaged in climate research.  Heartland has the habit of making things up about people and trying to destroy reputations by publishing falsehoods about people’s credentials.

Heartland is now claiming that one of the leaked documents, a “strategy memo” is a fake. Among the information in the supposedly faked memo:

“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.”

If the memo is fake, it stands to reason that it would contain factually incorrect information.  Such detailed quantitative data should be easy to verify.

As it turns out, Fred Singer gave a presentation at the University of New Mexico last night, where I was able to ask him about it.

My question:

“You may be aware that in the news in the last couple days there’s a story that some documents were leaked allegedly from the Heartland Institute. And one of those says that you get $5000 a month from them.  Is that true?”

Fred’s answer:

“I read the story this morning on the internet.  My understanding is that someone–we don’t know who–impersonating himself as a board member of the Heartland Institute called them and pursuaded a secretary to mail him these documents.  That’s a criminal act…  Maybe if they find him he may go to jail.  But I want to answer your question.  The answer is yes.  …I don’t ask them.  They give money not to me.  Not to me, I get nothing.  But to the Science and Environmental Policy Project.   And what do we do with this money?  Well we in turn hire students whose job it is to review current papers in the literature and these are reviewed and get published in the NIPCC reports. So its a simple transaction.  We don’t gain anything from it, except satisfaction.”

It seemed notable to me that he didn’t deny the specificity of the amount he is paid, only where it goes.  To clarify, I approached him after his presentation and I brought up the supposedly faked memo again:

“I looked at the memo because somebody sent it to me.  And it said they pay you $5000 a month.”

Again, Fred told me where the money goes, but did not contradict the $5000 a month claim:

“I haven’t seen it.  And I hire students.  And we advertise for students.  I’ve now got a group of them visiting and reviewing papers.   I can’t review all these papers.  I don’t get any money.”

Of course, this doesn’t prove anything.  But it strongly suggests that the information in the confidential strategy memo is true.  If somebody was going to fake a document in an attempt to smear the Heartland Institute, why wouldn’t they include fabricated information to exaggerate Heartland’s misdeeds?  And if they already had the funding numbers that Fred Singer doesn’t deny, why didn’t they just release the original source of the information?




Posted in Climate denialism | 9 Comments

The Scientist’s Chantey

About 20 years ago, one of my jobs was to be a science advisor to elementary school teachers in Crownpoint, NM.  I developed teaching materials to get kids interested in science.  I created all sorts of classroom demos.  I photocopied M.C. Escher tesselation elements to teach the basic concepts of molecules and symmetry.  Kindergartners colored them and assembled them into designs tacked to the bulletin board.  Older kids created their own from scratch.  I floated cans of soda in a tub of water to teach about density, buoyancy, and Archimedes principle.  You can teach a lot of science with very inexpensive and simple hands-on demonstrations that kids love.  I especially wanted teachers to understand this, so they could continue doing this when I was no longer around to help.

The science advisor program was intended to do more than provide instruction about basic scientific concepts.  The primary purpose was to teach the scientific method, so that students and teachers would have the intellectual tools to continue on the path of evidence-based objective learning in their everyday lives.   We had an outline of the basic components of the scientific method, which is a branching algorithm:  define a problem, make observations, ask questions, generate a hypothesis, perform tests or experiments, analyze the data, and come to a conclusion.  The method is cyclic, and is never complete, because scientific conclusions always lead to the definition of new problems.

But I was teaching elementary school teachers and children, not college or graduate students.  So I took this algorithm and turned it into a song.  I wanted to make the point that science is a method, not an advanced degree.   Anyone who employs this method is a scientist, including elementary school kids.   So I had the teachers and kids sing this song, and they got it!  After two decades, I searched the bowels of my computer file system and was able to find it.  Here it is, for what it’s worth.

The Scientist’s Chantey

by Mark Boslough,

Sung to the tune of A Pirate’s Life for Me, from Pirates of the Caribbean

What do we do when we find something new and we don’t know how it could be?
Do we shake our head and go to be with an unsolved mystery?
Chorus:  OH NO!  We want to know!  Good scientists are we!

What do we want to learn about?  Is the first thing that we ask.
Once we decide what we need to find out we get on with the rest of the task.
Chorus:  Yo Ho!  We want to know!  Good scientists are we!

We look, we listen, we feel, we smell, to gather information.
We carefully use all five of our senses and powers of observation.
Chorus:  Yo Ho!  We want to know!  Good scientists are we!

The question we must always ask: Is our information right?
How do things happen?  What do they cause?  Is there an answer in sight?
Chorus:  Yo Ho!  We want to know!  Good scientists are we!

To find the answer we make a guess.  The best that we know how.
It could be right or it could be wrong.  But it’s good enough for now!
Chorus:  Yo Ho!  We want to know!  Good scientists are we!

To check our guess we think up a way to put it to the test.
If our guess was wrong it was still a success if it leads to a better guess.
Chorus:  Yo Ho!  We want to know!  Good scientists are we!

When our guesses are right most every time and we think we understand.
It’s time to debate and evaluate and arrive at a master plan.
Chorus:  Yo Ho!  We want to know!  Good scientists are we!

When we are sure the plan is right and there is no more confusion,
The mystery’s been solved by scientists who’ve come to their conclusion.
Chorus:  Yo Ho!  We want to know!  Good scientists are we!

If our answer leads to something new and we don’t know how it could be,
Do we shake our head and go to bed with an unsolved mystery????
Chorus:  OH NO!  We want to know!  Good scientists are we!  


Escher Tesselation

Posted in Climate denialism | Leave a comment