Last March of the Global Warming Denialists

Analysis by Stephen Leahy

Mar 4 (IPS) – Colder than usual January temperatures in the United States have brought the climate change deniers out of hibernation, flooding websites, and opinion and letters pages about the “great global warming hoax”. They even organised their own conference on denial in New York City this week.

king-penguins-on-beach-pnas-sml.jpg

“Global warming is not a global crisis” declared the Heartland Institute, organiser of the “International Conference on Climate Change”. Heartland is a well-known right-wing lobby group which accepted more than half a million dollars from oil giant ExxonMobil between 1999 and 2005, according to Exxon documents disclosed by Greenpeace, and thousands of dollars more from the tobacco industry.

Not surprisingly, in a statement issued Tuesday, they insisted that all efforts “intended to reduce emissions of CO2 be abandoned forthwith”.

“Manmade global warming is a total hoax. It has no basis in fact,” shouted Rush Limbaugh, a U.S. conservative radio host, on his Feb. 27 show, which draws as many as 13 million listeners.

“Record snows and cold are being reported from all over the northern hemisphere this winter,” Limbaugh claimed.

There is more to the northern hemisphere than the U.S. and Canada. Yes, it has also been cold in China and the Middle East, but it has also been very warm in Britain and most of Europe. In early February, it was balmy 14 degrees C in Edinburgh, Scotland, which is the city’s normal average temperature in July. In Moscow, Russia, the most northern capital city in the world, the forecast this week is rainy and about 3 degrees C, instead of the normal snowy and -10 degrees C.

These temperatures prove nothing. It is just weather. However, climate is completely different than the daily variations in temperature in any one place. Climate is the total of all weather occurring over a period of years in a given place. A cold January means it is winter in the U.S., nothing more.

But Limbaugh went on to claim that NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies latest data shows that “global temperatures have dropped precipitously” in the last year, when in fact NASA reported that 2007 was the second warmest year on record.

Refuting this seemingly endless flow of erroneous information, not to mention outright lies, has become a no-win proposition. Most scientists no longer waste their time, feeling that giving any attention to these self-titled “global warming sceptics” simply encourages them and their sponsors — corporate interests in the fossil fuel industry, among others.

linfen-coalminer.jpgFar from fading away as the world struggles to come to grips with the reality of climate change, deniers in the U.S. are making their last stand. The Washington Post reported last month that a new group, backed by the coal industry and its utility allies, are waging a 35-million-dollar campaign to fuel opposition to U.S. legislation to slow climate change.

Despite the overwhelming scientific evidence that Earth is warming, and fast, even respected newspapers like the Wall Street Journal and Canada’s National Post continue to print opinion articles claiming an Ice Age or global cooling is imminent. Even though there is no science behind this, the “facts” are often distorted and comments from scientists willfully misrepresented, which are then cited on websites and blogs for months and even years.  For complete article see The Ostrich Brigades

update jan 09

Great blog by Aussie scientist on the endless denial claims: Spot the Recycled Denial series

and CARTOONS!! Cartoon guide to global warming denial II

33 thoughts on “Last March of the Global Warming Denialists

  1. Hi and thanks for sharing this. I am pretty much neutral at this point on man made global warming, or at least the extent of it. the article brings out a great point, and I particularly agree with the last paragraph.

    I am currently reading “the Republican War On Science” by Chris Mooney (same name, no relation). While I think he takes some arguments a bit far, I think his main point holds true. We need to be able to look at science objectively. Too often, and i am guilty, we only look for the reports that support our current views instead of being open minded enough to realize when we are wrong.

    I think people who believe this is a farce should think of what the repercussions will be if they are wrong. If they realize too late they could have done something about it, what consequences will be unavoidable?

    Let’s start doing what we can to prevent what good science says is possible.

  2. Accuracy is extremely important here. When you say that Rush Limbaugh is misquoting Hansen’s GISS, that is simply not true. Obviously you are using published material for the year Jan-Dec. 2007, while Rush was using the current year Feb, 2007-Jan 2008. The large change in Hansen’s Data Jan-Jan was very large 0.75 degrees, so changing out the highest anomaly for the lowest obviously is going to change the average. Simply stated Rush is not lying, and neither is Hansen, but since both are using different infor for January, it makes the data points look very differently.

    Another thing that is agitating about your argument, is that it relies on conspiracy theories to disprove an scientific disagreement. In Science, facts should stand on their own, and it should not make a whit of difference who is funding whom. The argument could also be made that since most climatologists are funded by the government they need to keep up the shock factor to insure their future funding, or that since they work for the IPCC, which is part of the UN, and they are proposing a Global Tax on Energy, that its merely a hoax to fund a World Government. Both sides can play the funding game, so why even bother going there?

    The Skeptics are laying their case out for future Global Cooling. Next year, whoever wins the White House, the President is going to be a Global Warming Believer. If the Skeptics are wrong, and the trend resumes then, the Global Warming crowd wins, and you get to impoverish the middle class and put up over priced and marginal alternatives. If us Skeptics are right, then we get to put this nasty myth that would destroy our wealth and prosperity to bed.

    No harm in waiting a few years, to make absolutely certain that Global Warming is real, now is there?

  3. Youth action on Global Warming: Massachusetts Power Shift conference at Boston University

    Hi,

    I am writing to you because I ran into your environmental blog and was wondering if you would be interested in telling your readers about an upcoming youth action event called Massachusetts Power Shift (MAPS).
    MAPS is a three-day global warming and climate change conference to be held at Boston University from April 11-14th. Saturday and Sunday will consist of discussion panels from a variety of topics ranging from alternative fuels to carbon caps. On that Monday, students will lobby their senators to pass the Massachusetts Global Warming Solutions Act.
    Passing the GWSA, inclusive of a 20% cut in emissions by 2020, will be a milestone for Massachusetts environmental policy.
    Please consider spreading the word! Just let me know if you will post an entry about it so I can send you more information and web banners/fliers. Our website is http://www.masspowershift.org/
    Thank you for you time.

    Cheers,
    Vicky
    Media & Marketing Volunteer
    Massachusetts Power Shift Planning Committee

  4. I’m not sorry, but I just had to drop in ONE more:

    Famed Hurricane Forecaster William Gray Predicts Global Cooling in 10 Years Expert states ocean cycles will have a more profound effect on climate than CO2;

    http://www.businessandmedia.org/articles/2008/20080304113132.aspx

    isn’t it funny how the same people that complain “The government screws everything up”…are the Very SAME people that complain: “The government NEEDS to fix this!” ???

    RED is IN

  5. phillip, sorry to hear about cold Sydney but that’s just weather not climate. And extremes are exactly what is expected with climate change. Bill Gray knows hurricanes but is lost on climate change sadly and has done no research – he’s just offering an opinion…

  6. Johnnyb – accuracy is indeed important but we are only talking about one month’s difference — ie Rush leaves out Jan 07 data – a very, very warm Jan. That looks like cherry picking data and besides one month means nothing in climate terms.

    IPCC doesn’t pay scientists they volunteer. And every decision is made by consensus. That means every country has a veto…not likely to achieve world govt or global carbon tax that way are they? And we do need a global carbon tax now because the IPCC dramatically under estimates the real risks of climate change many scienitsts’ have told me off the record.

    We don’t have time to waste, I wish we did.

  7. Vicky, it seems as though your conference presupposes that humans are changing the climate. Stephen hasn’t said whether climate change is anthropogenic. Stephen?

  8. Hughvic – it is clear that humans have changed the climate – we are transforming the Earth – don’t forget that most of the planet was once forest until humans cleared them for agriculture and timber. And we’ve pumped billions of tons of fossil carbon into the atmosphere year after year — yes climate change is mainly anthropogenic.

  9. Until you can either (a) tell me what the weather will be in St. Paul this time next week, or (b) show me the causal nexus between industrialization and global warming, I’ll assume, for the time being, that you are indulging in metaphysical speculation.

  10. hughvic – you’re missing the difference between weather and climate. read this again: ‘However, climate is completely different than the daily variations in temperature in any one place. Climate is the total of all weather occurring over a period of years in a given place. A cold January means it is winter in the U.S., nothing more.’

    the causal nexus is CO2 emissions, billions of tonnes, annually. That traps more heat from the sun. Planet warms up. Physics not metaphysics at work here.

  11. Thank you for the serious response to a serious challenge. I was aware of the difference between weather and climate but am glad to have been the cause of a restatement of that important distinction. My point was, of course, that if next week’s weather entails so many variables as to outstrip our predictive prowess, how likely is it that we should find true causal relationship between human activity of, say, 300 years ago—or 30 or 5 years ago—and actual global climate change?

    But you answered the nexus question and I appreciate that. So there’s the bone of contention in the AGW debate: CO2. Very well.

  12. In reading through the Heartland Institute speakers lists and their write ups I found 18 names with a solid science backgrounds, who’s thoughts seem to deserve attention. I include them below in the hope that you folks could share information about these speakers background & speeches.

    Often it seems useless, but still considering the wallop these people carry, their arguments should be listened to and addressed. Science has a long history of allowing egos to interfere with understanding (take Bill Gray for example).

    Both sides have too often had it wrong – with the truth lying between, and always being vastly more complex than either side wants to admit to.

    Any information that anyone can share would be appreciated
    …………………………………………………………………..

    Scott Armstrong, PhD
    speech – Strengths and Weaknesses of Climate Models

    Robert C. Balling Jr., PhD
    speech – The Increase in Global Temperature: What it Does and Does Not Tell Us

    David J. Bellamy, OBE., PhD
    speech – The Natural Causes of Climate Change

    Joseph D’Aleo
    speech – Solar Irradiance and Oceans are the True Drivers of Climate Change

    David H. Douglass, PhD
    speech – Observations Regarding Climate Model Predictions

    Stanley B. Goldenberg
    speech – The Mythical Link between Hurricanes and Global Warming

    Vince Gray, PhD.
    speech – The International Agenda on Climate Change

    Craig D. Idso, PhD
    speech – CO2 Science’s Medieval Warm Period Project: 2008 Update

    Zbigniew Jaworowski, PhD, D.Sc.
    speech – Ice Core Records and the Reconstruction of Atmospheric CO2 Levels

    Madhav Khandekar, PhD
    speech – Global Warming & Extreme Weather: No Discernible Link

    David Legates, PhD
    speech – Global Warming and the Hydrologic Cycle

    Craig Loehle, PhD
    speech – Detection of a 1,500-year Periodicity in a Multiproxy Climate Reconstruction

    Ross McKitrick, PhD
    speech – Quantifying Influence of Anthropogenic Surface Processes on Gridded Global Climate Data

    Fred Michel, PhD
    speech – The Great Arctic Meltdown

    Ferenc Miskolczi
    speech – Physics of the Planetary Greenhouse Effect

    Tim Patterson, PhD
    speech – Cosmoclimatological Forcing as a Possible Driver of Cyclic Holocene Climate and Marine Productivity in the Northeast Pacific

    Ronald J. Rychlak, J.D.
    speech – Understanding Visual Exhibits in the Global Warming Debate*

    George H. Taylor
    speech – Long-Term Variability in Temperature and Precipitation

    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

  13. SL,
    What’s interesting about the recent Heartland con is that John Heilprin the AP reporter who covered it, wrote that 500 people attended it, with 100 scientists also attending. But did he have the facts right? Other sources said there were 5 scientists there with backgrounds in climatology, and certainly not 100. And the 500 people attending, who were they? I feel that AP reporter just took the PR handout from the Heartland people and used it in his story. Poor sloppy reporting, AP man! Then again, maybe I am wrong. Please check.

  14. peterm – some and perhaps many of the scientists you list do acknowledge the reality of climate change. Some dispute certain aspects – affects on hurricanes for example. Some offered theories and opinions well outside their area of expertise. I’d wager all of their theories have been addressed by others. You can look at realclimate.org and elsewhere to see.

    Dissenters are welcome in science…and they have played an important role for the past 25 years as scientists refined their understanding of climate change.

    With thousands of scientists around the world in agreement it simply makes common sense to do what we can to avoid serious harm from screwing up the climate. And if these guys were wrong…what’s the harm? I have fire insurance, don’t you?

  15. hughvic – predicting local weather is difficult. However predicting it will be cold in Jan in most of Canada is easy. Climate projections (not predictions) are global or regional scales where each tiny variable – like my opening my front door – has less influence.

    Don’t forget that CC is already here with measurable rise in global temps, sea level etc

    If you see smoke, should you not yell “FIRE”?

  16. depends on how much smoke, and in what context. If you’re in a roadhouse here in Georgia and you yell “FIRE” upon seeing smoke trailing from Joe Bill’s cigarette, prepare to get stomped. If we meet up with my friend Lars in Reykjavik—I for the fishing and you for the core samples—and Lars tells us that the sea there has risen, and I attribute the rise to the curse of a witch in Nova Scotia notorious for her hatred of Iceland, and you attribute the rise to the oil-guzzling Chinese and Indians, we’d each better make our respective stories stick, ’cause Lars is a Show-Me kinda fellow.

    AGW could be as serious as a heart attack and as demonstrable as the stripes on a zebra, but that wouldn’t change the phenomenological fact that there has been one helluva lot of tall talk, brow-beating (“Ostrich Brigades”, indeed), fear-mongering, career opportunism, profiteering, wildcat forecasting and just downright ANTI-scholarly misbehavior that has invited in the general public a Pagan festival of magical thinking.

  17. nothing magical about carbon emissions trapping extra heat from the sun… just plain physics at work.

    AGW is serious and dangerous as virtually all scientists will agree. If you are sick you and ask enough doctors you will find one or two that will say nothing is wrong but does that make it so?

  18. How do the carbon emissions cause such extreme climatic volatility, and why does the volatility come to be called “warming”, when it seems so chaotic across the board?

  19. Carbon traps additional heat energy from the sun – all that extra energy in a complex system results in volatility.

    The proper term is climate change not global warming for that reason. Warming is just one of the results of CC

  20. I very much appreciate your responsiveness in teaching me about the science, Stephen, as my bailiwick is social science and consequently I come at this from the far side of the Quad. Why do the gases not dissipate enough not to cause radical disruption or volatility? It seems as though they would have to be concentrated to have such effects. How in Sam Hill could that happen?

  21. The collapse of a portion of the wilkins ice shelf earlier in March……..can this collapse in size affect the depth of sea, climate changes, etc or does the whole entire wilkins shelf have to collapse to do so? Scientists say what happened this month has no immediate effect on the elements. Is that true? One would think a chunk of ice three times the size of Manhattan might have immediate effects on something? I know nothing about all of this, other than the fact I gave up my Ford Expedition to take the bus to see clients and let me tell you, I sure hope my great-great grandchildren appreciate my contribution to save their quality of life. BECAUSE the BUS is no fun!

  22. Hughvic, happy to help. Nothing really disappears. CO2 and other global warming gases are eventually absorbed by oceans and plants but it takes a long time — thousands of years in some cases. The problem is the volume of fossil fuel emissions rapid and huge — enough to increase CO2 concentrations 120 ppm — 45 per cent higher than in the past million years.

  23. Jamiann, Ice shelves like Wilkins are already floating in the ocean so there is no sea level rise when they break off. It is a sign of warming — mainly of the southern Ocean currents in this case.

    Buses, trains are great in Europe. Why are they so crappy in America? We have to demand better.

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