Climate Change Denial is Not an Opinion but a Political Position Now

by Duane Nichols on July 8, 2018

To Deny Climate Change as a Political Position is Dihonest and Immoral

Essay by S. Tom Bond, Retired Chemist & Resident Farmer, Lewis County, WV

Once the earth was flat, it was obvious to everyone. And if you got to the edge you could fall off. Then some people began to take longer trips and no one ever found the edge of the earth. In time thoughtful types began to think more about this. When long sea voyages were undertaken, it became more of a problem. Why didn’t the ocean pour off the edge? Why does the hull of a ship begin to disappear as it sails away, more and more sinks out of sight until it is all gone? Finally deep thinkers realized the earth was a very large sphere. Common folk clung to the old idea for a long time, but eventually everyone came to understand.

Since the first campfires were employed to keep people warm, the fuel has produced copious amounts of gaseous waste which could be ignored, because it was transparent, colorless, odorless, tasteless, and ascended into the atmosphere so could be ignored. A couple of centuries ago steam engines began to do physical work with much the same result. The relatively small amount of ash was recognized and dealt with, but the volume of exhaust gas wasn’t even recognized, with the possible exception of a few who thought about the function of smoke stacks.

When fuel began to be used to generate electricity, and be used other processes, such as large scale making cement and steel, some engineers (thoughtful people) who understood the chemistry began to realize that 12 tons of carbon produced 44 tons of carbon dioxide! Carbon dioxide is produced by many non-human sources, but for 10,000 years has remained near 278 parts per million, but since the start of the industrial revolution that has gone up to over 400 parts per million, an increase of 44 percent. Some 80 ppm of this change has occurred in the last 60 years. That amounts to 230 billion (nine zeros) tons since the beginning of the industrial revolution. Thoughtful people, scientists, can calculate this quantity from the gasses trapped in ice cores. Such data is available for the last 800,000 years. Furthermore, carbon dioxide is soluble and 57 per cent of it has gone into the ocean. Scientists can calculate what fraction comes from fossil fuels by isotopes, too.

Although the idea of earth temperature and CO2 content of the atmosphere can be traced back into John Tyndall in the 1860’s, it was Svante Arrhenius, a Swedish Scientist, who first to spent time relating earth temperatures to carbon dioxide quantitatively. His first publication on the matter was published in 1896. So scientists (thoughtful, educationally prepared people) have been working on the connection for over 150 years. The understanding of greenhouse gas got its next boost in 1938 when Guy Callendar put together world temperatures and found a significant increase over the 19th century to that time. When he checked CO2, it had also risen by 10 percent in 100 years.

More serious research began after WWII. By the end of the 1950’s Gilbert Plass and others began to warn the U. S. government. Submarines operating in the Arctic Circle at the time took accurate readings of the thickness of the ice sheets above them. When the Pentagon released the data nearly 40 years later, it revealed a startling melting of the ice, on average a 40% thinning of 1.3m since 1953!

Very careful measurements of CO2 in the atmosphere began in the 1960’s, and showed an increase in only 2 year’s time. A separate climate science began in the 1980’s. It was approached from many angles. Now hardly a week goes by without a major study being published.

For those who can’t stomach the theoretical, there is plenty of direct evidence:
1. All-time high temperature records are right now being set all over the world

2. Sea level rise is affecting many people now

3. Big changes are occurring near the poles, also here and here.

4. Ocean circulation is critical for distribution of heat and climate, especially along the Eastern seaboard of the United States and Europe. It is being altered.

5. Permafrost, the constantly frozen area in the far north, is being altered. Methane gas is being freed; roads and houses are being destroyed and insects are becoming more abundant.

6. Dramatic effects on agriculture include fires, droughts, extra rain in the northeast due to movement of the jet stream, north migration of suitable areas for crops and even a move of the line between the dry West of the United States and the more humid area toward the east. The effect on California agriculture is particularly important.

Even more dramatic changes have occurred in the Middle East and Africa.

If you have your head up, and look around, you can’t miss the climate change and the havoc it is bringing. If your wealth depends on continuing the old ways, like fossil fuels businesses and farmers who are not well situated for what is coming, it is easier to understand the psychological basis for denial. But it is coming, and for society in general it is time to get busy and prepare! Politics can’t stop it.

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Jeffery Mervis August 25, 2018 at 7:38 am

White House science nominee ducks chance to refute climate skeptic at Senate confirmation hearing

By Jeffrey Mervis, Science Magazine, August 23, 2018

Kelvin Droegemeier got exactly one hardball question at today’s Senate hearing on his nomination to be director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). It came from Senator Ted Cruz (R–TX), who believes the planet is not warming and that climate change has been fabricated by those “who want to expand government control over the economy.”

“Are you familiar with the empirical data from satellite measurements that show no statistically significant warming over the past 18 years?” Cruz asked. And Droegemeier, a professor of meteorology at The University of Oklahoma in Norman and an expert on severe storm prediction, chose to sidestep the question.

“I’m familiar with some of those studies,” he replied. “But I don’t study climate.”

Conventional wisdom says Droegemeier’s decision not to offer any substantive response may be a good strategy for winning confirmation. But some climate scientists are disappointed Droegemeier didn’t defend the vast body of science that contradicts Cruz’s position on climate change. They also worry that his tepid answer signals that Droegemeier has decided to remain mum on an issue that pits most of the scientific community against President Donald Trump and his administration.

“It’s only one political data point, but it’s unfortunate,” says meteorologist David Titley, who rebutted an identical claim by Cruz when he testified at a December 2015 hearing Cruz chaired on “promoting open inquiry” on the topic. “Only time will tell how Kelvin will be on climate change,” says Titley, a professor at Pennsylvania State University in State College and the director of the Center for Solutions to Weather and Climate Risk there.

Cruz’s question to Droegemeier relates to the controversy surrounding a 2015 Science paper by U.S. government scientists that refutes claims of a “pause” in global warming for a 16-year period beginning in 1998. Climate contrarians say atmospheric data from satellites back up their position.

“Cruz was trying to imply that there is no warming,” says Andy Dressler, a climate scientist at Texas A&M University in College Station. “That’s not true, of course.”

Titley says Cruz has “cherry-picked” the data by starting with 1998, when global temperatures were at a peak following a powerful El Niño season, and by suggesting those satellite measures are the only indicators of global warming. “The satellite data can be hard to interpret,” he acknowledges. “But the running trend from 30 to 40 years of satellite data is clear, and along with all the other indicators, the evidence [for warming temperatures] is overwhelming.”

At the same time, Titley says he would understand if Droegemeier chose to “not pick a fight with Cruz” by giving a bland nonanswer. “The purpose of a confirmation hearing is to say as little as is humanly possible and still get confirmed,” he says. “And that’s what Kelvin did.”

Dressler says no one should be surprised at how Droegemeier handled the question. “This administration was never going to pick someone like John Holdren [former President Barack Obama’s head of OSTP and science adviser] to be the president’s science adviser. They want someone who is going to toe the line” on climate policy. (Holdren, now at Harvard University, was and still is outspoken about the need for the U.S. government to take action to address climate change.)

As it happens, Holdren had addressed the same issue of a supposed “hiatus” in 2014 testimony before the House of Representatives science committee, whose chairman, Representative Lamar Smith (R–TX), sides with Cruz on the issue. Here’s some of what Holdren said—and what Dressler and Titley would have liked to hear from Droegemeier.

“A number of climate change contrarians have been propagating the claim that there has been no global warming since 1998. This is not correct,” Holdren said at the 17 September 2014 hearing. “The 2000s were warmer than the 1990s, and the 2010s so far have been warmer than the 2000s.”

“Although the rate of increase in the globally and annually averaged temperature of the atmosphere near the surface has slowed since around 2000 compared to the rate of increase over the preceding three decades,” Holdren continued, “near-surface warming of the atmosphere has indeed continued. During the recent period in which the rate of increase of the average surface air temperature has slowed, moreover, other indicators of a warming planet … have been proceeding at or above the rates that characterized the preceding decades.”

Droegemeier also fielded questions about climate change from Democratic senators. But they asked what he thought were the most pressing problems researchers need to address, not whether Droegemeier thought climate change was real.

Members from both parties said they thought Droegemeier was the right man for the job. His fellow Oklahoman, Senator James Inhofe (R–OK), another climate contrarian, called Droegemeier “famous and fun” and asserted: “There is no one who is better qualified for this job.”

The committee chairman, Senator John Thune (R–SD), said the panel could act on the nomination as early as next week. Judging from today’s hearing, the vote to send his nomination to the full Senate could be unanimous.



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