Friday, September 19, 2014

A Few Links to Dispel Conservative Myths Part Two: Climate Change

The more I've researched the fascinating world of myth and misunderstanding in which my right-wing friends live, the more I've realized that dispelling those myths is not something I can do in just a couple of blog posts. So here's Part Two in what is now a series on conservative misbeliefs and some sources of accurate information one can use to combat them. As I said in Part One, you shouldn't expect your conservative friends to believe the information in these links. But who knows, maybe a little genuine learning will seep through from time to time.

I've been reading Naomi Klein's new book, This Changes Everything, about the monumental tasks that are ahead of us if we want to keep man-made climate change under control and keep the earth habitable for the human race. Of course the first thing we have to do is to admit to ourselves the enormous scope of the problem and the danger if we don't act. So it's a good time to review and debunk myths about climate change.

Part Two. Climate Change Myths
Myth: There is no significant climate change. The earth's temperature has not increased and is not increasing. The oceans are not rising or acidifying.
Fact: I thought that everyone was at least agreed that the earth has warmed a bit since the start of the Industrial Revolution, even those who don't believe believe human activity is the principle cause. But an acquaintance of mine said even that is a myth. So let's begin at the beginning.
Average temperatures have climbed 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit (0.8 degree Celsius) around the world since 1880, much of this in recent decades. The rate of warming increased in the 1980s and 1990s. The 20th century's last two decades were the hottest in 400 years and possibly the warmest for several millennia.  Between 1870 and 2004, global average sea levels rose a total of 195 mm (7.7 in), and 1.46 mm (0.057 in) per year. From 1950 to 2009, measurements show an average annual rise in sea level of 1.7 ± 0.3 mm per year, with satellite data showing a rise of 3.3 ± 0.4 mm per year from 1993 to 2009. Arctic ice is rapidly disappearing, and the region may have its first completely ice-free summer by 2040 or earlier. The world's oceans have become 30% more acidic since the Industrial Revolution began more than two centuries ago, imperiling marine life.

Myth: There is ongoing debate among scientists as to whether climate change is caused by human activity, specifically, anthropogenic CO2 pollution. Or, as Joseph Bast of the conservative Heritage Institute has said, "The assertion that 97% of scientists believe that climate change is a man-made, urgent problem is a fiction."
Fact: Technically, Mr. Bast is right about that 97% number. It's actually more like 99.99%. Earlier this year, geochemist James Lawrence Powell in an ongoing project reviewing the literature on global warming, went through every scientific study published in a peer-review journal during the calendar year 2013. Of 10,885 total articles, a mere two (2) rejected anthropogenic global warming. Of 9,136 authors publishing between November, 2012 and December, 2013 exactly one (1) proposed a fundamentally different reason for temperature rise than anthropogenic CO2. Mr. Powell also notes:
"Very few of the most vocal global warming deniers, those who write op-eds and blogs and testify to congressional committees, have ever written a peer-reviewed article in which they say explicitly that anthropogenic global warming is false. Why? Because then they would have to provide the evidence and, evidently, they don’t have it."

Myth: A 2013 study found a majority of scientists skeptical of a global warming crisis, as reported in an opinion piece in Forbes magazine.
Fact: The Forbes article is a fraud. The survey in question was of engineers and physicists working on Canadian oil sands projects, not of climate scientists. The Forbes article took that fact that only 36% of those surveyed fell into the category, "most supportive of climate action" and twisted it into an expression of "skepticism" of a global warming "crisis." Ironically, what this survey actually found was that even among oil industry engineers, a group notoriously hostile toward climate science, a majority (58%) believe that humans are influencing the climate.

Myth: In a scandal now known as "Climategate," emails between British scientists that were stolen by hackers in 2009 proved a conspiracy to misrepresent climate data. Or, as Oklahoma Senator Jame Inhofe, author of the climate change denying book The Greatest Hoax said, "Then we pursued some of these fine scientists who said that the U.N. had rigged the science; then of course in ’09 when ClimateGate came, people realized the United Nations committee, the IPCC, had rigged the science on this thing."
Fact: Eight (8) formal governmental and academic committees investigated the allegations and found no evidence of fraud or scientific misconduct. From
"Claims that the e-mails are evidence of fraud or deceit, however, misrepresent what they actually say. A prime example is a 1999 email from (University of East Anglia climatologist Phil) Jones, who wrote: "I’ve just completed Mike’s Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (i.e., from 1981 onwards) and from 1961 for Keith’s to hide the decline." Skeptics claim the words "trick" and "decline" show Jones is using sneaky manipulations to mask a decline in global temperatures. But that’s not the case. Actual temperatures, as measured by scientific instruments such as thermometers, were rising at the time of the writing of this decade-old e-mail, and (as we’ve noted) have continued to rise since then. Jones was referring to the decline in temperatures implied by measurements of the width and density of tree rings. In recent decades, these measures indicate a dip, while more accurate instrument-measured temperatures continue to rise."

Myth: Global warming has "paused." "The global average atmospheric temperature has not significantly increased for the past 17 years, a "pause" not predicted by the computer climate models."  - Ronald Bailey,
Fact: From Mark Strauss of
"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, near-surface warming of the atmosphere has continued. The 2000s were warmer than the 1990s, and the 2010s so far have been warmer than the 2000s." 2014 is on track to be the warmest year on record.

Myth: The relationship between CO2 pollution and global warming alleged by scientists is not valid if the level of CO2 in the atmosphere continues to increase yet global warming slows down.
Fact: There are many natural reasons why short-term climate change may occur exclusive of human activity. The fact that concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere has continued to rise in recent years while global warming has slowed is explained by the warming and cooling cycles in the heat sinks deep in the Atlantic and Southern oceans. A study from Ocean University of China demonstrates that (from Scientific American),
"about half of the warming in the last 30 years of the 20th century was due to global warming, while the other half was from the heat cycle in the Atlantic that kept heat near the ocean's surface." "Based on previous trends, the current "cooling" cycle is likely about halfway over." "Rapid warming is expected to resume again in about a decade, though exact predictions are difficult to make."

Myth: Arctic sea ice is expanding, an indication that scientists may be wrong about global warming.
Fact: From Tim Radford of the Climate Network for the Guardian:
"German researchers have established the height of the Greenland and Antarctic ice caps with greater precision than ever before. The new maps they have produced show that the ice is melting at an unprecedented rate."
The source of the myth is the fact that summer ice coverage of the Arctic sea was greater in 2014 than 2012. Phil Plate of explains:
"In 2012, a mix of unusual causes created conditions where the minimum reached a record low, far below normal. The next year, in 2013, the ice didn’t reach quite so low a minimum extent, and this year looks very much the same as 2013. But saying the ice is “recovering” is, to put it delicately, what comes out the south end of a north-facing bull. You can’t compare two years with a record low the year before that was due to unusual circumstances; you have to look at the average over time."
A 2013 study found that Arctic ice has melted over the last 30 years at a rate of 8% per decade.

Myth: Recent cold weather in North America indicates that climate change models predicting global warming are wrong. Senator Inhofe (again, sigh), "Now they’re trying to say this cold thing we’re going through now is just a bump in the climate. That isn’t true at all. It is a hoax."
Fact: As the world gets warmer, parts of North America, Europe and Asia could see more frequent and stronger visits of cold air. Studies indicate that this is the result of shrinking ice in the seas off Russia. As the ice melts, it creates large pockets of very cold air, which can precipitate a large-scale cyclone, known as a "polar vortex," that circles either of the planet's geographical poles.

Myth: The most prominent scientific body studying global warming, the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), has dramatically overstated the danger to mankind from climate change, as it demonstrated by the fact that its past predictions have not proven true. A recent study by Professor Matthew England demonstrates that the planet hasn't warmed as the IPCC predicted.
Fact: In the more than twenty years that the IPCC has been making predictions of future climate change, it has been proven extremely accurate. Critics of the IPCC have used fraudulent data. Furthermore, England's study found only that IPCC climate models had not been geared to account for the current two decade-long period of strong trade winds in the Pacific, and thus the temperature on the earth's surface is 0.2C less than some climate models thought it would be. England has made clear that his study in no way indicates that global warming has paused or stopped.

Myth: "You know, the elimination of essentially every automobile would be offset by one volcano exploding." - Wisconsin Public Service Commissioner Mike Huebsch, appointed by Republican Governor Scott Walker
Fact: "Human activities generate about 35 gigatons of greenhouse gases per year, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, while all the world's volcanoes combined spew something in the range of 0.13 to 0.44 gigatons per year. That means the human influence on the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is 80 to 270 times greater than that of volcanoes." - Kate Sheppard, Mother Jones

Myth: Al Gore was wrong. His documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, is a fraud.
Fact: The 2006 movie An Inconvenient Truth is widely credited for raising international public awareness of climate change and for energizing the environmental movement. The Associated Press contacted 19 climate scientists who had seen the movie. All said that Gore accurately conveyed the science, with few errors.

Myth: The Vikings settled the land west of Iceland and called it Greenland because it was green and pleasant at the time, but it later turned much colder. This tends to contradict the idea that the polar regions have long been warming.
Fact: According to the Icelandic sagas, Erik the Red named it Greenland in an attempt to lure settlers in search of land and the promise of a better life. The Greenland ice sheet is at least 400,000 years old, and is currently melting due to global warming.

Final note. For more myths and more reality on climate change, visit

Next time: Myths about the economy? Myths about the growth of government? There's oh so much more to cover.

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