Climate Change B.S. Detector: Sorting Fact from Fiction

which makes more sense sml

By Stephen Leahy

Uxbridge Cosmos, Feb 2013

There is quite a bit of misinformation about climate science and climate change (global warming). This is the most important issue of our time but it can be a complex subject. Here are some tips to help sort fact from fiction based on my experience of writing about science and climate change for the past 15 years.

Tip #1: Consider the source

It’s important to know where the information is coming from. Are they an expert or someone with an impressive looking website but no climate science training? No one goes to an engineer if they want their appendix removed.

If someone says a group of retired NASA scientists claim there is no evidence carbon dioxide causes global warming, I check to see if they are climate scientists — they’re not. Then I go to the official NASA website and in a big headline it says: “97% of climate sciences agree” climate change is happening.  This is followed by a long list of well-regarded scientific societies from around the world who also agree.

Tip#2 Verify

A reader once sent me a link to a “science” article from Investor’s Business Daily that said increased activity of the sun was entirely responsible for the current warming according to the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, a well-known research centre in Germany. A quick check of the Max Planck Institute’s website revealed their actual conclusion: “Solar activity affects the climate but plays only a minor role in the current global warming.”

Tip#3 Brush up on some science

Our atmosphere traps and retains the suns heat which is called the greenhouse effect. Without this the Earth would be more like the moon: +100C in the day and -170C at night. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a greenhouse gas that helps keep the planet warm by retaining some of the sun’s heat.  John Tyndall proved this 150 years ago in 1861. In the last 100 years our burning of oil, gas and coal has added 40% more CO2 to the atmosphere. That extra CO2 has warmed the planet 0.8C globally and 1.5C to 2.0C in Canada so far.

Tip # 4: Follow the money

Ask this question who has the most to gain or lose? Climate scientist’s largely rely on getting research money from governments. Scientists are smart people who are good with numbers so if they just wanted to make money they’d be working on Bay St or Wall St.

On the other hand the oil, coal and gas companies represent by far the richest industry in human history. In 2010 their revenues were estimated to be $5 trillion, far more than Canada’s $1.7 trillion gross domestic product (GDP) that year. (A trillion is one thousand billion. A trillion seconds is nearly 32,000 years).

The five biggest oil companies made a record $137 billion in profits in 2011. Surprisingly Canada’s largely foreign-owned oil and gas industry still receives $1.3 billion a year in public subsidies despite many promises to end this taxpayer handout.abyess cartoon 2012Toon05

Some fossil fuel companies have been caught sowing confusion and doubt about climate change just like the tobacco companies did regarding the link between smoking and lung cancer. Fossil fuel interests fund organizations that look official or science-based and they publish reports, write opinion pieces or do media interviews stating that global warming is a hoax and there is no real need to burn less oil, gas or coal. One of these organizations is Canada’s Friends of Science and its related site ClimateChange101 that received funding from Calgary oil company Talisman Energy to put out false and long-debunked critiques of climate science.

Here’s two of the best sources I use to help me sort fact from fiction:

For climate science go to “Skeptical Science”, a volunteer community with clearly written, rock solid science-based answers on climate.

For everything else go to “DeSmogBlog – Clearing the PR Pollution that Clouds Climate Science” . There is now a Canadian version “DeSmogCanada”  that I will be contributing to.

No one really wants to think about climate change and what it means for our children’s future. It is too difficult, too painful to even consider. But avoiding or denying global warming and its dangers prevents us from taking action to minimize future impacts. Inaction and delay are truly terrifying. However taking action at the personal, family and community levels is liberating and empowering. We need to start a conversation about this.

Uxbridge’s Stephen Leahy is the 2012 co-winner of the Prince Albert/United Nations Global Prize for Climate Change reporting . He is the senior science and environment correspondent at IPS,  Inter Press Service News Agency, based in Rome. His work is also published in National Geographic, The Guardian (UK), New Scientist, Al Jazeera, Earth Island Journal and others.

Or Just Print This Cheat Sheet Will Help You Win Every Climate Argument (thanks to Mother Jones)climate-flowchart_FINAL2sml

Climate Inaction Is a Clear Failure of Democracy

Jersey shore Superstorm Sandy flood

Re-engineering our societies to prosper on green alternatives is only option

By Stephen Leahy

UXBRIDGE, Canada, Jan 4 2013 (IPS)

Around the world, 2012 was the year of extreme weather, when we unequivocally learned that the fossil fuel energy that powers our societies is destroying them. Accepting this reality is the biggest challenge of the brand new year.

Re-engineering our societies and lifestyles to prosper on green alternatives is the penultimate challenge of this decade.There is no more important task for all of us to engage in because climate change affects everything from food to water availability.

A number of scientific analyses have demonstrated we already have the technology to re-engineer our society to thrive on green alternative energy. The newest of these was published Wednesday in the prestigious journal Nature. It plainly states that politics is the real barrier, not technology nor cost. (It is far cheaper to act than not.)

Keeping global warming to less than two degrees C is mainly dependent on “when countries will begin to take serious action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions”, according to the study “Probabilistic cost estimates for climate change mitigation”.

Climate change has already pushed global temperatures up 0.8 degrees C, with significant consequences. No climate scientist thinks two degrees C will be “safe”. Many countries, especially least-developed countries and small island states, want the global target to be less than 1.5C of heating. Even then large portions of the Arctic and Antarctic will continue to melt raising sea levels, albeit at a slower rate.

Delay in making the shift to non-fossil fuel energy sources will be very costly. Waiting until 2020 to curb global emissions will cost twice as much compared with peaking emissions by 2015, the Nature analysis shows.

Serious action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions means 65 percent of current coal power plants will have to be shut down in the next decade or two, a previous Nature study reported by IPS shows.

Continue reading

10 Years in the Amazon: The Forest Vanishes Before Your Eyes

Amazon Forest 2000 - The state of Rondônia in western Brazil

The state of Rondônia in western Brazil — once home to 208,000 square kilometers of forest (about 51.4 million acres), an area slightly smaller than the state of Kansas — has become one of the most deforested parts of the Amazon. In the past three decades, clearing and degradation of the state’s forests have been rapid: 4,200 square kilometers cleared by 1978; 30,000 by 1988; and 53,300 by 1998. By 2003, an estimated 67,764 square kilometers of rainforest—an area larger than the state of West Virginia—had been cleared. Source: Amazon Deforestation – NASA

See also: Amazon Drought Accelerating Climate Change   The REAL Amazon-gate: On the Brink of Collapse Reveals Million $ Study

Amazon Forest 2010 - The state of Rondônia in western Brazil

‘Snow Bomb’ Collapses 100s of Homes in S. Korea – Satellite Pix

More than 1 metre (three feet) last weekend – 50 cm more coming

The heaviest snowfall in more than a century on South Korea’s east coast is causing widespread chaos. Hundreds of houses have collapsed under the weight of the snow. One newspaper described it as a snow bomb. The South Korean government has deployed 12,000 soldiers to rescue stranded residents.

Warmer than normal ocean temperatures are being blamed. This is similar to the warmer Arctic ocean temps in late Dec that contributed to the big snows and cold in North America, UK and parts of Europe.

[Update: Great sat pix from NASA showing the entire eastern half of Korea covered in snow. See also pix of Southern USA blanketed in more record-breaking snow last week]

NASA reports: “The heavy snowfall arrived on the heels of South Korea’s coolest January since the 1960s. The unusual cold might have been driven at least partly by the Arctic Oscillation (AO). A negative phase of the AO lowered temperatures in other parts of the Northern Hemisphere in January 2011.”

See also:

Arctic Defrost Dumping Snow on U.S. and Europe

The Great Groundhog’s Day Blizzard – Worst Winter Storm in 60 Years

Arctic Sea Ice Record – New Satellite Image

Cyclone Bingiza Hits Madagascar, Now Mozambique with Serious Flooding Pix

Bingiza off north east coast of Madagascar

Landfall Feb 14 Valentine’s Day

[Update 17 Feb:  Cyclone Bingiza to Worsen Mozambique, Madagascar Floods, UN Says see here for South African flooding NASA sat pix]

This is a big Cat 3 cyclone expected to affect 100,000’s of people. Sustained wind speeds of 160 kilometres per hour with gusts of up to 220 kilometres per hour, have been reported

NASA’s Terra satellite captured this image of Bingiza at 10:00 a.m. local time on Feb. 13, 2011. In the image, Bingiza’s eye approaches northern Madagascar, and a spiral arm grazes Antananarivo.

Related

Will Super Cyclone Yasi be Australia’s Katrina? Landfall Wed as Cat 5 Storm

The Yin and Yang of Climate Extremes We Will See More of

Hurricane Madness – 3 Hurricanes Spinning At One Time PIX


Arctic Sea Ice Record – New Satellite Image

Temperatures of +21C above normal in Dec/Jan in the eastern Arctic. Parts of Hudson Bay remain unfrozen

This NASA image shows average Arctic sea ice concentration for January 2011. Blue indicates open water; white indicates high sea ice concentrations; and turquoise indicates loosely packed sea ice. The yellow line shows the average sea ice extent for January from 1979 through 2000.

The U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) has reported that Arctic sea ice was at its lowest extent ever recorded for January (since satellite records began).

I’ve written about why this is happening and the consequences several times in recent weeks — Stephen

Arctic Defrost Dumping Snow on U.S. and Europe

Arctic Melt Down Is Bringing Harder Winters and Permanently Altering Weather Patterns

East Coast Blizzard and Europe’s Snowmaggddon Reveal Fingerprints of Climate Change

Watch the Earth Begin to Burn. 1884-2010 Global Temperatures — NASA Animation


Global Temperature Anomalies averaged from 2000 to 2004

NASA has made a this striking animation that shows a 130-year history of how global temperatures have become warmer in most parts of the world. The polar regions are warming fastest and quickest as is clearly shown. Here’s the temperature scale and more detailed explanation from NASA follows. — Stephen


Global Temperature Anomalies averaged from 1920 to 1924.

Source: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio

Five-Year Average Global Temperature Anomalies from 1880 to 2010

This analysis concerns only temperature anomalies, not absolute temperature. Temperature anomalies are computed relative to the base period 1951-1980. The reason to work with anomalies, rather than absolute temperature is that absolute temperature varies markedly in short distances, while monthly or annual temperature anomalies are representative of a much larger region. Indeed, we have shown (Hansen and Lebedeff, 1987) that temperature anomalies are strongly correlated out to distances of the order of 1000 km

This color-coded map displays a progression of changing global surface temperatures anomalies from 1880 through 2010. The final frame represents global temperature anomalies averaged from 2006 to 2010.