Thursday, January 07, 2016

A Few Links to Dispel Conservative Myths Part Ten: Ted Cruz and Climate Change

"In Florida, up to $69 billion in coastal property not at risk today will likely be at risk of inundation at high tide by 2030. By 2050, the value of at-risk property below local high tide levels will increase to about $152 billion. In addition, the value of coastal property that will be below mean sea level will range from an estimated $5.6 billion to $14.8 billion by 2030 and between $14.8 billion and $23.3 billion by 2050. Higher seas will lead to more widespread destruction from storms. The report predicts storm-related losses attributed to climate change could increase by $1.3 billion a year by 2030 and by $4 billion a year by 2050."

Those are the conclusions of a report by the Risky Business Project, as reported by Ron Hurtibise of the Sun-Sentinel. Does anybody disagree? Well, the same article reports that, "Dr. Leonard Berry, former director of the Center for Environmental Studies at Florida Atlantic University, called the projections "reasonable and logical."" Furthermore, property insurers are encouraging, "a national effort to educate insurance consumers, public policymakers and stakeholder groups on measures to mitigate and adapt to evolving risks that may be related to climate change." A consulting company is helping advising coastal residents on, "building sea walls or barriers around homes and installing reversible pumps into drainage systems." And several south Florida counties have formed a coalition to engineer mitigation and adaptation strategies to deal with rising waters.

Great, so everyone's agreed that we have a problem we need to address quickly: the planet is warming, sea ice is declining, glaciers are shrinking and thus oceans are rising. Right? Wrong. "The summer of 2013 has come and gone, and John Kerry was not just a little bit — he was wildly, extraordinarily, entirely wrong. Had the [2014] Antarctic expedition in the picture next to it not believed the global warming alarmists, had they actually looked to the science and the evidence … they wouldn’t have been looked down and been surprised when they got stuck in ice."

The above is a quote from Texas Republican Senator and Presidential candidate Ted Cruz, in a attempt to dismiss Secretary of State John Kerry's 2009 remarks on disappearing arctic ice, by conflating it with antarctic ice. (The two polar regions are actually impacted by climate change in very different ways.)

It's well-known that American conservatives refuse to recognize that anthropogenic pollution, in the form of CO2 and methane released into the environment, is causing the planet to warm and the oceans to rise and acidify. This is a problem, because it means we cannot agree on curbing that pollution. But in theory the reality-based community and conservatives could come together and at least agree that the planet is warming and the oceans are rising, even if we can't agree that pollution is the root cause. In that eventuality, we could at least work together to keep property on the gulf coast from being flooded by Atlantic waters, and mitigate some of the other problems caused by climate change. But that will never happen as long as Ted Cruz has anything to say about it.

Last month in Paris,
200 leading nations unanimously agreed to embrace a plan that would leave most of the world’s fossil fuels unburned, thereby limiting global warming "to well below 2°C [3.6°F] above preindustrial levels." But Senator Cruz is having none of that, and has promised to withdraw the US from the agreement is he's elected President. According to Cruz, the international agreement was disingenuous: "These are ideologues, they don’t focus on the facts, they won’t address the facts, and what they’re interested [in] instead is more and more government power." I hear this meme a lot from right-wing friends: climate change is a myth created to further a secret Stalinist one-world government conspiracy.

But Cruz doesn't stop there. He's held congressional hearings and gone on at extraordinary length in public regarding facts he claims disprove the scientific consensus on climate change. And in each and every case, he's completely, utterly wrong.

Part Ten: Ted Cruz and Climate Change

: "The scientific evidence doesn’t support global warming. For the last 18 years, the satellite data — we have satellites that monitor the atmosphere — the satellites that actually measure the temperature showed no significant warming whatsoever." - Ted Cruz, 3/24/15
Fact: The scientific evidence unambiguously shows warming. This is the position of every single professional scientific society and every single National Academy of Sciences on the planet. Here is a partial list. Average temperatures have climbed 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit (0.8 degree Celsius) around the world since 1880, much of this in recent decades. The 2000s were warmer than the 1990s, and the 2010s so far have been warmer than the 2000s. 2014 was the warmest year on record.

So what is Ted Cruz talking about? From Sean Illing of

"To appear interested in the facts, Cruz references satellite data showing "that there has been no significant warming whatsoever for 17 years." What he doesn’t say is that his claim is based on a single study, conducted at the University of Alabama at Huntsville, which has since been discredited because it failed to account for the fact that satellites drift in their orbits over time, an error known to distort temperature records. Conveniently, Cruz ignores the findings of NOAA and NASA and the global scientific community which show that the earth is, in fact, warming."

More information on the "global warming hiatus" myth here.

: Liberal politicians and scientists, "switched their theory to global warming" because an earlier global cooling theory never panned out. - Ted Cruz, of 12/9/15. The scientific community has repeatedly suggested, then retracted, various consensus views regarding climate change in order to further, "massive government control of the economy, the energy sector, and our lives." - Ted Cruz, 8/2/15.
Fact: Here we go with the conspiracy theory. In 2008, the American Meteorological Society published an article called The Myth of the 1970s Global Cooling Scientific Consensus. That title says it all, but here's a good summary of what really happened from

"(T)hough there were some in 1975 who believed cooling temperatures were on the horizon, climate science has improved dramatically since then... The certainty that our atmosphere is indeed warming stems from a series of rigorous observations and theoretical concepts that fit into computer models and an overall framework outlining the nature of Earth’s climate."

"By the late 1970s, research had established that the warming associated with greenhouse gases was dominant over the cooling effect of aerosols."

"And in fact, reviews of research from that era have shown that even around the time of Newsweek’s 1975 article (reporting concerns of global cooling), a warming climate was of more concern than a cooling one. A study published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society by climate scientists and a journalist in 2008 said there was no scientific consensus in the 1970s that the world was cooling."

"The survey of the peer-reviewed literature between 1965 and 1979 found only seven papers "indicating" global cooling compared with 44 papers indicating warming."

Now as it turns out, a number of other folks have already written articles debunking Ted Cruz's lies at length. The next five Cruz climate change myths all come from Dr. Peter Gleick of, in a deconstruction of Ted Cruz's remarks from a December 9, 2015 interview with National Public Radio.

: Cruz: As part of the global cooling consensus myth above, scientists claimed, "we were facing the threat of an incoming ice age."
Fact from Dr. Gleick, "there were a very small number of scientific papers discussing cooling, and even they did not talk about a coming "ice age." The few media stories about this have been repeatedly seized on by skeptics and deniers as evidence that scientists were wrong decades ago, and thus must still be wrong today."

Myth: Cruz: To cope with the challenges of climate change, scientists' "solution to this problem is that we needed massive government control of the economy, the energy sector and every aspect of our lives."
Fact from Dr. Gleick, "False: Cruz uses a false scientific claim to put forth a false political claim. Very few scientists offer opinions about specific policies to address climate change, but when they do – as is their right as citizens – their policy preferences are diverse."

Myth: Cruz: "The scientific evidence doesn’t support global warming."
NPR's Steve Inskeep: "I’ll just note that NASA analyzes that same data differently. But we can go on."
Cruz: "But no, they don’t.  You can go and look at the data."
Fact from Dr. Gleick
"Here are the data and NASA’s analysis clearly showing warming."
(This one is really strange. How can Cruz, who chairs the Senate Space, Science, and Competitiveness Subcommittee, claim that NASA's data doesn't show global warming? NASA's representatives have told Cruz point blank in hearings what their data shows.)

Myth: Cruz: "Climate change is the perfect pseudoscientific theory for a big government politician who wants more power. Why? Because it is a theory that can never be disproven."
Fact from Dr. Gleick, "False: This also shows a fundamental misunderstanding of science and the scientific method. Atmospheric and climatological science is well understood and produces hypotheses that are constantly tested, confirmed, refuted, and regularly revised. And as it improves, the concerns about global climate change have consistently strengthened, not declined. See, for example, the 40 years of reports on this issue from the US National Academy of Sciences."

Myth: Cruz: "(I)n the name of global warming, you have politicians trying to impose trillions of dollars of cost on the world." I’m concerned about the single mom waiting tables right now, ... what the Washington elites are trying to do is double her energy bill."
Fact from Dr. Gleick, "False: there is no evidence that addressing the risks of climate change will cost more than paying the costs of unabated climate change. Indeed, the economic evidence is the opposite – "the benefits of strong early action on climate change outweigh the costs.""

Myth: "Almost any American would agree that the core function of NASA is to explore space... I am concerned that NASA in the current environment has lost its full focus on that core mission." - Ted Cruz, 3/12/15 in a Senate hearing with NASA.
Fact: I had a right-wing friend reiterate this one to me: the fact that NASA is talking about climate change means that it's been co-opted by the government-power conspiracy.

"Our core mission from the very beginning has been to investigate, explore space and the Earth environment, and to help us make this place a better place," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden told Cruz in the same hearing. Indeed, NASA has been working on climate science since its inception. From

"When NASA was first created by the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958, it was given the role of developing technology for “space observations,” but it wasn’t given a role in Earth science. The agency’s leaders embedded the technology effort in an Earth Observations program centered at the new Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, in the U.S.. It was an "Applications" program, in NASA-speak. Other agencies of the federal government were responsible for carrying out Earth science research: the Weather Bureau (now the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration or NOAA) and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). The Applications program signed cooperative agreements with these other agencies that obligated NASA to develop observational technology while NOAA and the USGS carried out the scientific research. The Nimbus series of experimental weather satellites and the Landsat series of land resources satellites were the result of the Applications program."

Myth: "It is really freezing in D.C.," "I have to admit I was surprised. Al Gore told us this wouldn't happen!" - Ted Cruz 2/10/14
Fact: Cruz likes to suggest that cold weather must mean that Al Gore has been wrong and/or lying about climate change. OK, let's review:
* Weather is not indicative of long-term global trends.
* Al Gore never suggested it would stop getting cold during the winter. Furthermore, scientists have been unanimous that Al Gore has accurately conveyed the science of climate change.
* 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.

The next five Cruz climate change myths all come from Emily Atkin of, in a deconstruction of Ted Cruz's remarks from a December 7, 2015 Senate hearing.

Myth: Cruz: "I would note that the history with markedly more CO2 pre-dated the industrial revolution."
Fact from Emily Atkin, "(Cruz suggests) CO2 isn’t bad, because we’ve had more CO2 in our atmosphere then we have right now. The last time CO2 was this high, humans didn’t exist, and the planet was a terrifying place. The world’s seas were up to 100 feet higher than they are today, and the global average surface temperature was up to 11°F warmer than it is now."

Myth: Cruz: "Here are the inconvenient facts about the polar ice caps. The Arctic is not ice free. This year’s minimum sea ice extent was well above the record low observed in 2011. In the Antarctic, a recent study… indicates that the ice is not only not decreasing, but is in fact increasing in mass, directly contrary to what the global warming alarmists had told us would be happening." 
Fact from Emily Atkin, "Sea ice in the Arctic and land ice in the Antarctic have been dramatically decreasing for decades. Cruz said that minimum sea ice extent in the Arctic "was well above the record low observed in 2011." First, Cruz just directly admitted the lowest-ever-recorded minimum sea ice extent in the Arctic was just four years ago. Second, Cruz doesn’t mention that Arctic ice as a whole has been decreasing for decades. As for Antarctic ice, Cruz is right when he says sea ice is growing. But Antarctic land ice — glaciers, ice sheets, and ice masses that have accumulated over thousands of years — is decreasing at dramatic rates. And that’s arguably much more important than sea ice, considering Antarctica’s sea ice completely melts every year (one of the many differences from the Arctic, where sea ice is never supposed to melt completely)."

Myth: Cruz: "The summer of 2013 has come and gone, and John Kerry was not just a little bit — he was wildly, extraordinarily, entirely wrong. Had the [2014] Antarctic expedition in the picture next to it not believed the global warming alarmists, had they actually looked to the science and the evidence … they wouldn’t have been looked down and been surprised when they got stuck in ice."
Fact from Emily Atkin, (Cruz suggests) "A bunch of scientists got stuck in Antarctic ice last year, so John Kerry was wrong about Arctic ice melt. John Kerry said Arctic ice would be gone in 2013. But here are a bunch of scientists, in 2014, frozen in Antarctic ice.

This is a laughably false comparison. The Arctic and the Antarctic are literally polar opposites, and each is impacted by global warming in fundamentally different ways. From LiveScience: "Strong circumpolar winds may be compacting and thickening the Antarctic ice. But the Arctic ice is much more vulnerable to ocean warming, and summer storms only speedup the thaw."

Cruz was, however, right about one thing — Kerry was wrong in 2009. Arctic ice is not gone. But Kerry’s statement didn’t represent the mainstream opinion of climate scientists at the time. The mainstream opinion of climate scientists was, and still is, that summers in the Arctic could be ice-free by 2050 if global warming remains at its current level or worsens. That prediction is playing out now — This year’s maximum Arctic sea ice extent was the lowest on record, and the total extent of Arctic sea ice has gradually and dramatically decreased over the last several decades."

Myth: Cruz: "In the year 1615, if you asked 97% of scientists at the time, would’ve said categorically that the sun rotates around the earth."
Fact from Emily Atkin, "This is ostensibly why Cruz disagrees with the fact that multiple peer-reviewed studies show 97 percent of climate scientists agreeing that humans cause global warming: because in 1615, scientists thought the sun rotated around the Earth.
Today, scientists use the scientific method. This is really great, because the scientific method requires people to back up their evidence using empirical data — they can’t apply their own personal biases to it. To have success using the scientific method, a person with a completely different worldview will be able to replicate what you have found. The scientific method means looking outside yourself to find empirical truth.

In 1615, by contrast, scientists didn’t use the scientific method. Scientists were philosophers and ideologues, smart white men who sat in armchairs thinking about what made sense to them. After they thought about it for awhile, they’d say things, and then people would believe them or they wouldn’t.

So in other words, Ted Cruz is essentially saying that the scientific method is no more reliable than a bunch of white dudes sitting in armchairs yelling about how they believe the world works." 

Myth: "On the global warming alarmists, anyone who actually points to the evidence that disproves their apocalyptical [sic] claims, they don’t engage in reasoned debate. What do they do? They scream, “You’re a denier.” They brand you a heretic. You know, it is, today the global warming alarmists are the equivalent of the flat-Earthers. You know, it used to be, it is accepted scientific wisdom the Earth is flat, and this heretic named Galileo was branded a denier." - Ted Cruz, 3/24/15
Fact: This is sort of a repeat of the myth above, I just like to note that although Cruz loves to talk about Galileo, he doesn't seem to know much about him or the time in which he lived. From "Galileo’s struggle against the Catholic Church had nothing to do with debate over the shape of the planet. In fact, he was persecuted for supporting the idea of a Copernican system, which posited that the sun was the center of the universe and the Earth revolved around it. At the time of this struggle with the church, in the early 17th century, it had long been accepted that the planet is in fact round. Explorer Ferdinand Magellan’s crew completed the first circumnavigation of the globe in 1522 — 42 years before Galileo was born."

How to summarize Senator Cruz on the subject of climate change? In November, the Associated Press asked a group of climate and biological scientists to score each of the presidential candidates on their scientific knowledge. On a scale of 0 to 100, Cruz scored six, the lowest of any candidate.

"This individual understands less about science (and climate change) than the average kindergartner," Pennsylvania State University meteorology professor Michael Mann told the AP. "That sort of ignorance would be dangerous in a doorman, let alone a president."