21 expert climate scientists refute Monckton’s House testimony

On May 6, 2010, Christopher Monckton, Viscount of Brenchley, was invited by the Republican members of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming to present testimony that contradicted over 100 years of established chemistry, physics, and climatology. Monckton, a non-scientist who has a long history of making erroneous claims, was seated as and equal beside four scientists with PhDs in their respective climate-related fields.

Earlier this month, a group of climate scientists submitted a detailed rebuttal of Monckton’s testimony to the House. Continue reading

Three new studies illustrate significant risks and complications with geoengineering climate (corrected)

Correction: Figure 3 below was originally Figure 3 from the Cao/Caldeira paper instead of the correct Figure 1 from the paper. This has been fixed.

In 1992, the National Academy of Sciences defined “geoengineering” as the “large-scale engineering of our environment in order to combat or counteract the effects of changes in atmospheric chemistry.” The most significant changes in atmospheric chemistry today are the emissions of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere by human activities, especially but not limited to carbon dioxide (CO2). In recent years, climate scientists have begun to investigate whether or not geoengineering is practical as a means to give humanity the time it needs to adapt to climate disruption or, as some would prefer, a means to controlling the environment such that no changes in energy consumption patterns are even necessary. Continue reading

Final CRU email review considers, overwhelmingly rejects critics’ accusations of misconduct

As a result of the unauthorized publication of nearly 1100 private emails from the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) in November, 2009, five separate inquiries were empaneled to look into whether or not the CRU researchers had committed research misconduct, broke Freedom of Information laws, or inappropriately biased the results of the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) published in 2007. All four of the other reviews, two by Pennsylvania State University, one by the UK Parliament House of Commons Science and Technology Committee, and one by Lord Oxburgh of the Royal Society, concluded that the CRU scientists had not engaged in either scientific misconduct or the manipulation of the peer review process, although one inquiry found that the scientists hadn’t been as open with their data and methodologies as they should have been.

The last of the five reviews, the Independent Climate Change Email Review (ICCER), published its findings on July 7, 2010. In general terms, the ICCER found that the CRU scientists’ “rigor and honesty” were not in doubt and that there was no “evidence of behavior that might undermine the conclusions of the IPCC assessments.” However, the ICCER found that there was a “consistent pattern of failing to display the proper degree of openness” with respect to sharing data. These broad conclusions largely agree with the conclusions of all four of the other inquiries. Continue reading

Climate disruption denier Monckton responds to detailed scientific rebuttal with attempted intimidation (updated)

Christopher Monckton, Viscount of Brenchley, is a climate disruption denier in multiple ways. He’s denied that climate change is happening. He’s denied that human beings are causing the (unchanging) climate to change by pinning the cause on the Sun. He’s denied that global polar ice extent is declining. He’s repeatedly misrepresented published papers and hasn’t retracted his statements even after some authors pointed out that he was misusing their work. He’s also hit one of my personal buttons by misunderstanding and cheapening the real history of the Nazis by labeling peaceful, if rowdy, protesters as “Hitler Youth.” And we cannot forget that Monckton wanted to quarantine AIDS victims in the late 1980s, believes that President Obama probably isn’t a U.S. citizen, alleges that NASA crashed their own carbon dioxide-monitoring satellite, and claims to be developing a drug that will cure not only his Grave’s Disease and multiple sclerosis, but HIV, influenza, and the common cold too. Monckton also maintains that he’s a member of the UK House of Lords even though Parliament stripped most of the hereditary peers of their membership in 1999 and the House of Lords says that Monckton has never been a member (he’s now been reduced to saying that Parliament’s legislation was itself illegal).

Over the last few years, I’ve been repeatedly tempted to check every single one of Monckton’s references and see just how bad his understanding of climate science really is. But Monckton makes liberal use of the “proof by intimidation” fallacy whereby he presents so much information in a form that’s so hard to understand that it’s impossible to refute without taking days, weeks, or months to fact-check his claims. Life is too short to fact-check every single claim Monckton has made, so I decided to leave this particular task to others.

And thankfully, a number of others have done so. Continue reading

WordsDay: Merchants of Doubt

What do the following things all have in common: tobacco safety and the dangers of secondhand smoke, the Strategic Defense Initiative, acid rain, the ozone hole, global warming, and the recent attacks on Rachel Carson (author of Silent Spring)? According to the new book by science historians Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway, Merchants of Doubt, they were all manipulated by a very small group of once well respected scientists whose radical free-market and anti-communist ideologies corrupted them to the point of attacking scientists, scientific organizations, and ultimately the process of science itself.

Merchants of Doubt focuses on seven different areas that are presented roughly how they’ve occurred chronologically, starting with the safety of tobacco in the 1950s, proceeding through nuclear war and the misguided defense of SDI, the opposition to regulation of both acid rain and CFCs, and finishing up with the recent attacks on global warming and attempts at historical revisionism with respect to Rachel Carson and the regulation of DDT. But through all of these areas, the main cast of characters barely changes, the methods used to attack scientific conclusions remain remarkably consistent, and the goals of the attacks become clearer and clearer. Continue reading

PSU investigation clears Michael Mann of final research misconduct charge

When the CRU emails were published, Pennsylvania State University (PSU) received many emails and letters accusing paleoclimate researcher Dr. Michael Mann of various types of research misconduct. PSU assembled the various informal accusations into a set of four allegations and began an internal investigation into Mann’s activities. Three of the four allegations were dismissed by the preliminary inquiry on February 3, but the inquiry concluded that the existing panel lacked the expertise to make a judgment on the last allegation and empaneled a faculty investigation. That investigation released its conclusions yesterday, finding unanimously that:

Dr. Michael Mann did not engage in, nor did he participate in, directly or indirectly, any actions that seriously deviated from accepted practices within the academic community for proposing, conducting, or reporting research, or other scholarly activities.

Continue reading

Climate scientists still besieged

S&R interviewed Martin Vermeer, first author of a recent Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences paper on sea level rise, about how much context the published CRU emails contained. In addition to answering questions about the emails’ context, Vermeer pointed out that some of the context “bears the mark of a scientific community under a politically-motivated siege.” Gavin Schmidt, climate researcher at the Goddard Institute for Space Sciences, agreed with Vermeer when asked. As a result, S&R examined interviews conducted with climate scientists and critics for evidence that climate scientists and climate research were besieged at present. Not surprisingly, there was a great deal of evidence that climate scientists remain besieged today. Evidence includes false claims made against scientists for work done on the IPCC Third Assessment Report, erroneous and/or unsupported claims made against several scientists involved in the writing of the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report, and unreasonable claims of bias against the CRU email inquiries performed to date. Continue reading

Industry vs. scientists – who profits from climate disruption?

“Follow the money – it’s all about the research grants.”

This and similar accusations are commonly made against anyone who advocates on behalf science-based climate policies at all levels, all they way from national academies of science down through professional scientific societies, universities, research groups, and even down to individual scientists. S&R decided to follow the money to see who profits the most from climate disruption, the fossil fuel-related industries or the global climate science community. Note: Many of the numbers below are so large that there’s not a common style convention for writing them. For this post, trillions of dollars will be indicated like this: $1464 billion.

Fossil fuel-related industries are more than just the organizations that extract the crude oil, coal, and natural gas from the ground. There’s also the groups that transport the fuels via ship, train, and pipeline. Then there are the refiners who turn the crude oil or natural gas into unleaded, diesel, plastic, and fertilizer feedstock. And there’s the utilities that keep the lights on by burning natural gas and coal. All of these industries make a great deal of money because carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are not priced or regulated, and they all risk losing a great deal of money should that change. Continue reading

Climategate accusations shrivel under the glare of multiple investigations

For the second time in two weeks, an investigation has found that there was neither a conspiracy to deceive the public nor any scientific misconduct present in the scientific research of the scientists of the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia (UEA). These scientists were at the center of the controversy created by the Climategate email theft.

The House of Commons Science and Technology Committee tasked itself with investigating what the MPs considered critical points, namely whether the scientific work of the CRU scientists was transparent and open, whether CRU had committed scientific misconduct, and whether the CRU committed any breaches of the UK’s Freedom of Information (FOI) law. In order to address each of these key concerns, the Committee collected a significant number of statements as evidence and looked into the various specific accusations made in those statements.

What the Committee found was that there were a few problems and a widespread disregard for FOI in the wider University culture, CRU’s research was reasonably transparent and free of obvious scientific malpractice. Continue reading

Gravity-measuring satellites and GPS confirm Greenland ice melting, affecting more of Greenland Ice Sheet

Over the last decade or so, scientists have tracked a significant loss of ice from the Greenland Ice Sheet (GIS). While some of that loss has been as a direct result of surface melting, most of it presently appears to be a result of warmer ocean waters melting the ice tongues that stretch out into fjords. Essentially, the warmer water melts the bottom of the glacier and makes it more likely to break up, and as the ice tongue breaks up, the glacier behind the tongue starts to move faster, dumping yet more ice into the ocean.

There has been a significant amount of study of the GIS, and multiple independent lines of evidence have shown that Greenland’s glaciers are thinning and thus losing mass. These include satellite radar altimetry, the GRACE gravity mapping satellites, and both airborne and satellite laser altimetry. Now a peer-reviewed paper published in March shows that another analysis of GRACE and new GPS data has found that mass loss has spread from the warmer southeast coast to the comparably cooler northwest coast, significantly increasing the amount of Greenland coastline affected by mass loss. Continue reading

Experts say alleged PSU cover up of Mann misconduct "extremely unlikely"

On February 3, an official Pennsylvania State University (PSU) administration inquiry into four allegations of research misconduct against Dr. Michael Mann found that three of the four allegations were without merit. The fourth allegation was referred to a investigation committee because the administrators concluded that PSU faculty were more qualified to rule on the fourth allegation than were the administrators.

Shortly thereafter, PSU started being accused of risking its reputation by “whitewashing” the inquiry with a cover up designed to protect Dr. Mann. The accusations came in form of press releases from think tanks, blog posts from media pundits, as well as some traditional media outlets. A typical example was the Fox News report that Republican Represntative Darrell Issa had called for freezing all federal grants to PSU and Mann until PSU “settled all the charges” against Mann, suggesting that perhaps money was the reason that PSU was allegedly covering up Mann’s supposed research misconduct.

S&R decided to investigate the “whitewash” claims to determine if they had any substance. Here’s what we discovered. Continue reading

Three of four misconduct allegations against Michael Mann found to be without merit (updated)

Update: I’ve added a few more examples of spin and accusations of bias against PSU as well as some good reporting examples that were not posted as of last night.

After the CRU emails were released in November, 2009, there was widespread accusations of misconduct against most of the scientists mentioned in the emails. Today, the Penn State University (PSU) inquiry committee investigating accusations made against Dr. Michael Mann publicly released its findings. The committee found that, with respect to the most serious three accusations out of four, “there exists no credible evidence” that Mann had committed research misconduct. The inquiry committee empaneled an investigation committee to look into the last accusation – that Mann had “seriously deviated from accepted practices within the academic community” – because they could make a determination about this and because

Only with such a review will the academic community and other interested parties likely feel that Penn State has discharged its responsibility on this matter.

Continue reading

Climate disruption will likely be worse due to insufficient soil nitrogen

When you plant a garden, you need good dirt, seeds, water, and some kind of fertilizer, whether it be manure, compost, mulch, or granules you buy from your local nursery. Anyone who’s gardened for more than a few years knows that it’s good to fertilize your garden every so often because, eventually, the garden plants stop growing as well as they used to. This happens because the plants slowly consume nutrients in the soil that need to be replaced by some form of fertilizer. The same basic thing happens with cultivated crops regardless of whether they’re grown in fields or greenhouses – eventually, the soil nutrients are depleted and need to be replenished.

Unlike gardens and crops, wild plants lack human caretakers providing fertilizer. Wild plants have to scrounge for their soil nutrients wherever and however they can get them, and it is often the case that soil nutrients, especially nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, limit how fast forests, grasslands, etc. can grow. A paper in the journal Geophysical Research Letters shows that the availability of soil nutrients will probably limit how much human-emitted carbon dioxide (CO2) plants can absorb. This limit will prevent plants from absorbing as much CO2 as climate scientists have modeled, and so global warming will likely be worse than current projections. Continue reading

Oh Noes!!11! Glacirs not meltin. Mak IPCC bad!

In case you haven’t heard, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is dead, done in by the nefarious failure to check a single reference in a 3000 page report. Or rather, that’s what climate disruption deniers want you to think. Here’s what’s really going on.

Back in 2007, Working Group 2 (WG2) of the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) put together a large list of what climate disruption was likely to impact around the world. One of the impacts was reduced availability of fresh water due to rapidly melting glaciers around the world, and especially in the Himalayas. One of the specific claims was that all Himalayan glaciers could melt by 2035, an amazingly and likely unrealistically fast rate of melting. After an Indian government minister questioned this claim, scientists looked into it and found that the date was incorrect and that internal procedures for vetting references weren’t followed in this particular case. As as result, the IPCC has issued a formal statement of apology for the error.

And if this were about any other topic except climate disruption, that would be the end of it. Continue reading

Heartland distorts AMS climate survey results, paper

The Heartland Institute, an organization known to have pushed a pro-tobacco, “smoking is safe” agenda in the 1990s on behalf of Phillip Morris and that now pushes climate disruption denial, released a short “news” article on February 1 titled “Meteorologists Reject U.N.’s Global Warming Claims.” The article distorts the survey it purports to be reporting on and ignores the associated Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society (BAMS) paper’s conclusions in favor of Heartland’s political position. Continue reading

It's Climategate 2.0! (…not)

In December, the Goddard Institute for Space Sciences (GISS) published over 200 pages of internal emails as required by a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request by the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI). The emails involved how the GISS handled responding to a number of requests for information, data, and code from Steve McIntyre, founder of the climate disruption-denier website ClimateAudit.org. Clearly there was no metaphorical “smoking gun” in the emails, because the CEI didn’t crow about a likely Climategate 2.0 following the emails’ release.

However, today it appeared that Judicial Watch and number of large climate denier blogs didn’t get the memo. Continue reading

UN Secretariat knew COP15 wouldn't hit 450ppm CO2, 2°C target

The pledged cuts to carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases (GHGs) won’t be enough to hit the targeted 450 ppm of CO2 thought to be necessary to keep the Earth’s mean temperature from rising more than 2 °C. This isn’t news to anyone who’s followed climate closely for a few months. What’s news, however, is that the UN knew this as well and yet they’re still saying that 2 °C is possible. Earlier today an early draft of an internal UN analysis of GHG cuts leaked, and the document shows that the UN Secretariat knew in advance of the Copenhagen meeting that the cuts wouldn’t be enough.

According to the 2009WEO [World Energy Outlook], global emissions in 2020 are projected to be about 5 Gt for the reference scenario. According to the 450 ppm scenario, global emissions peak around 2015 at the level of 43.7 Gt and remain broadly stable at that level before starting to decline in 2020.

The UN Secretariat’s “reference scenario” puts the global emissions peak at or above 550 ppm, occurring after 2020, and at least 3 °C. Continue reading

What Monckton's AFP event would have looked like if real Nazis had invaded instead of nonviolent climate activists

Last week, Lord Christopher Monckton accused a group of young climate activists who invaded an Americans for Prosperity (AFP) event where he was speaking of being “Hitler Youth” three times – twice caught on video (see these two posts from last week) and then at least twice on the Science and Public Policy Institute blog here and here (and he denied making the claim at an Associated Press event over the weekend). Clearly Monckton believes that the activists are behaving as the Nazis would.

Monckton is wrong. Temporarily taking over a meeting, chanting, and disturbing the organizers and invited speaker (Monckton) is not what the Nazis would have done. As someone who studied the history of Nazism and fascism in college, allow me to describe what would have happened during the meeting had it been invaded by the Nazis. Just a warning – I’m not going to go into gory detail, but I’m not going to sugar coat this either, so some of what I describe below is unpleasant. Continue reading

Two new studies point to significant ice melt-driven sea level rise this century

laseralticesheet-smIn 2007, the Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) refused to stake a firm position on how fast and how high sea levels would rise. The IPCC claimed that, while there was widespread agreement on sea level rise due to thermal expansion of seawater, scientists did not yet know enough about how the ice sheets on Greenland and Antarctica would respond to climate disruption. The science has advanced considerably since 2007 and the majority of the new results (for example, this paper, this paper, and this consensus statement from earlier this year) have confirmed that the IPCC estimates were too low.

Two recent studies measuring different changes on the Greenland and Antarctic ice shelves have added more evidence that sea levels are going to rise higher and faster than the IPCC estimates. One used highly accurate measurements of the changes in ice sheet thickness to estimate how much ice was exiting the ice caps on Greenland and Antarctica via glaciers dumping ice into the ocean. The other used the GRACE gravity measurement satellites to estimate the total amount of mass being lost from Antarctica. Both found significant losses in ice, but GRACE found something more significant – a loss of ice mass from the East Antarctic Ice Sheet, a mass of ice that was previously believed to be stable or even adding ice mass. Continue reading