Letter from Ben Santer in Support of Tom Karl, Climate Scientist Under Attack by Lamar Smith

Posted by Brad Johnson Thu, 19 Nov 2015 02:15:00 GMT

Message from Ben Santer: Here is a message of support I sent to Tom Karl on November 17, 2015. I remain deeply concerned by the unwarranted Congressional scrutiny that the 2015 Karl et al. Science paper continues to receive.

I have no concerns about public distribution of this letter.

Dr. Thomas R. Karl
Director, National Center for Environmental Information
Veach-Baley Federal Building
151 Patton Avenue
Asheville, NC 28801-5001

Dear Tom,

I just wanted to express my gratitude and scientific appreciation for the critical research you and your NCEI colleagues have performed over the last several decades. You have been pioneers in many different areas: in producing observational estimates of global-scale changes in land and ocean surface temperatures, in identifying non-climatic artifacts in temperature measurements, in developing rigorous scientific methods of adjusting for such artifacts, and in accounting for the incomplete, time-varying coverage of observations.

NCEI has made its surface temperature data sets freely and openly available to the entire climate science community, thus enabling important research on the nature and causes of climate change, climate variability, and climate model evaluation. NCEI staff have clearly and thoroughly documented each surface temperature data set that NCEI has released – in scientific publications, in presentations to policymakers and professional societies, and in extensive online material. No scientific organization has done a more thorough or transparent job in developing and analyzing observations of 20th and early 21st century changes in Earth’s climate.

I am deeply concerned that NCEI’s science is now being subjected to Congressional scrutiny and criticism. Such scrutiny and criticism is not warranted. The leadership of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology should understand that science is dynamic rather than static. All observational temperature data sets have evolved in important ways over time, in tandem with improvements in the ability to identify and adjust for inhomogeneities introduced by changing measurement systems, changing measurement practices, and changes in the spatial coverage of measurements. This is true not only for surface temperature data sets, but also for measurements of the heat content of the world’s oceans, and for satellite-based estimates of temperature change in Earth’s lower and upper atmosphere. Evolution of observational temperature data sets is a normal, on-going scientific process. It is not evidence of non-scientific behavior.

If our country is to take informed decisions on how to address problems arising from human perturbations to the climate system, we need access to the best-available scientific information on how Earth’s climate has actually changed. NCEI provides such critically important information to the scientific community, policymakers, and the public. You and your NCEI colleagues deserve our sincere thanks and our continued support.

With best regards,

Ben Santer

Distinguished Member of Scientific Staff, Lawrence Livermore National Lab
Member, U.S. National Academy of Sciences

A Brief List of Keystone XL Supporters

Posted by Brad Johnson Fri, 06 Nov 2015 17:51:00 GMT

After a protracted political battle pitting the climate movement against the power players of Washington DC, TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL tar-sands pipeline has been rejected by President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry.

Below is a brief and far from exhaustive list of political insiders who supported the Keystone XL tar-sands pipeline or predicted its approval at some point between 2011 and today:

Actual climate scientists were near-unanimous in their opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline, based on a serious analysis of the pipeline’s potential climate impact. Ralph Keeling, James Hanson, Ken Caldeira, Peter Gleick, James McCarthy, Michael Oppenheimer, Michael Mann, Steve Running, Richard Somerville, Jason Box, George Woodwell, and many others supported calls for civil disobedience against the pipeline. Hansen and Jason Box were themselves arrested.

On Senate Floor, Sen. Whitehouse Calls for RICO Investigation of 'Climate Denial Machine'

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 20 Oct 2015 23:52:00 GMT

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat of Rhode Island, called for a civil RICO investigation of ExxonMobil and the “climate denial machine” on the floor of the U.S. Senate Tuesday afternoon. Whitehouse, who speaks on climate change every week that the Senate is in session, had raised the possibility of such an investigation in a speech in May that compared the fossil-fuel industry’s campaign of deception to that of the tobacco industry.

With new investigations by InsideClimate News and the Los Angeles Times about ExxonMobil’s history of knowing climate deception, and rising calls from the public led by Climate Hawks Vote for civil or criminal action by the Department of Justice, Whitehouse again took the floor.

Whitehouse took on his critics, mocking the “histrionics on the far right” and describing the Wall Street Journal editorial page as the”Troll-in-Chief for the fossil-fuel industry.”

The senator concluded with a call for a civil RICO investigation of the “climate denial scheme,” from the fossil-fuel giants like ExxonMobil and the Koch brothers to the organizations they back, like the Wall Street Journal and the Manhattan Institute.

This was Senator Whitehouse 115th “Time to Wake Up” climate speech.

Whatever the motivation of the Wall Street Journal and other right-wing climate denial outfits, it is clearly long past time for the climate denial scheme to come in from the talk shows and the blogosphere, and have to face the kind of truth-testing audience that a civil RICO investigation could provide. It’s time to let the facts take their place, and let climate denial face that “greatest legal engine ever invented for the discovery of truth.”

With his speech, Whitehouse joined the growing ranks calling for a DOJ investigation of the fossil-fuel industry, which now include Merchants of Doubt author Naomi Oreskes, Representatives Ted Lieu and Mark DeSaulnier of California, and Democratic presidential candidates Martin O’Malley and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

The Climate Hawks Vote petition, which unlike Sen. Whitehouse’s call includes language open to criminal investigation of ExxonMobil’s activities, can be found here.

Transcript:

Congressional Climate Hawks to DOJ: Investigate Exxon's "Immoral" And "Sustained Deception Campaign" On Climate

Posted by Brad Johnson Fri, 16 Oct 2015 15:37:00 GMT


Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.)
On Thursday, two Democratic members of Congress have called for the Department of Justice to investigate the legality of ExxonMobil’s “sustained deception campaign disputing climate science.” In a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Representatives Ted Lieu and Mark DeSaulnier of California “request the DOJ investigate whether ExxonMobil violated RICO, consumer protection, truth in advertising, public health, shareholder protection or other laws.”

The request, motivated by independent journalistic investigations by Inside Climate News and the Los Angeles Times, compared Exxon’s deliberate “campaign to deceive the American people about the known risks of fossil fuels” to the tobacco industry’s actions “to deceive the American people about the known risks of tobacco.” The tobacco industry was the subject of a successful RICO lawsuit.

The apparent tactics employed by Exxon are reminiscent of the actions employed by big tobacco companies to deceive the American people about the known risks of tobacco. In this case, Exxon scientists knew about fossil fuels causing global warming and Exxon took internal actions based on its knowledge of climate change. Yet Exxon funded and publicly engaged in a campaign to deceive the American people about the known risks of fossil fuels in causing climate change. If these allegations against Exxon are true, then Exxon’s actions were immoral. We request the DOJ to investigate whether ExxonMobil’s actions were also illegal.

The representatives’ letter follows a public call for such an investigation made by the members of Climate Hawks Vote in September of this year.

Also on Thursday, climate activist Bill McKibben held a one-man protest against Exxon, getting arrested at an ExxonMobil gas station in Vermont in order to raise public knowledge of the news stories.

Download the DOJ letter or view the full text below.

Hillary Clinton Announces Opposition to Keystone XL Tar-Sands Pipeline

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 22 Sep 2015 20:31:00 GMT

Speaking at a town-hall event in Iowa, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton announced her opposition to the approval of the Keystone XL tar-sands pipeline.

“I oppose it because I don’t think it’s in the best interest of what we need to do to combat climate change,” Clinton told the crowd.

This marks a dramatic turnaround for the Democratic frontrunner.

During Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State, her department recommended the pipeline be approved. Clinton let contractors for the pipeline’s owner, the Candian company TransCanada, control the approval process. A single State Department staffer assigned in the Bush administration to oversee the contractors remained in that position until October 2010. Public hearings on the State Department’s draft approval for the pipeline were run by a TransCanada contractor. As public outcry against the pipeline grew, TransCanada hired former staffers for Hillary Clinton to lobby on its behalf.

In March 2012, her husband and former president Bill Clinton announced his support of the pipeline’s construction, saying, “I think we should embrace it.”

Later that month, President Obama fast-tracked the southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline, celebrating his administration’s record of “drilling all over the place.”

From reporter Samantha-Jo Roth:
.@HillaryClinton – “I oppose Keystone XL pipeline” #IAcaucus

Hillary Clinton in Iowa

It Could Be Worse: Thoughts on Obama's Clean Power Plan

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 08 Sep 2015 18:47:00 GMT

KatrinaOriginally published at The Jacobin.

At the beginning of August, President Obama unveiled with great fanfare the “Clean Power Plan,” a “Landmark Action to Protect Public Health, Reduce Energy Bills for Households and Businesses, Create American Jobs, and Bring Clean Power to Communities across the Country.”

Stripping away the poll-tested language, the president was announcing — after epic delaysEPA regulations for carbon-dioxide pollution from existing power plants, finally fulfilling a 2000 George W. Bush campaign pledge. The proposed rule’s compliance period will begin in 2022.

From a policy perspective, the proposed rule is a perfect distillation of the Obama administration’s approach to governance: politically rational incrementalism that reinforces the existing power structures and is grossly insufficient given the scope of the problem.

The information necessary to understand the rule is impressively buried on the EPA website amid “fact sheets” that list out-of-context factoids and fail to cite references from the one-hundred-plus-page technical documents or ZIP files of modeling runs. The structure of the plan is complex (for example, states can choose to comply with “rate-based” pollution-intensity targets or “mass-based” total-pollution targets) and carefully designed to satisfy a wide range of stakeholders.

In Melting Alaska, President Obama Sounds Alarm on the 'Limitless Dumping of Carbon Pollution'

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 01 Sep 2015 15:02:00 GMT

Obama at GLACIER ConferenceSpeaking in Alaska at a conference on the Arctic, President Barack Obama spoke with force about the urgency of addressing climate change, acknowledging the failings of his own administration’s efforts. His speech, a far-reaching address on national and international climate policy, was given at the Conference on Global Leadership in the Arctic: Cooperation, Innovation, Engagement and Resilience (GLACIER) in Anchorage before various foreign ministers grappling with the geopolitical implications of an Arctic region on “the leading edge of climate change.”

In a marked departure from previous years of silence on the link between fossil-fuel use and climate disasters on American soil, Obama tied the deaths of and catastrophic injuries to the National Forest Service firefighters tackling the Twisp fire in Washington state to global warming caused by “unlimited dumping of carbon pollution.”

“It’s not enough just to talk the talk,” Obama concluded. “We’ve got to walk the walk. We’ve got work to do, and we’ve got to do it together.”

Obama’s speech came days after approving oil giant Shell’s application to commence exploration for oil in the melting Arctic Ocean.

Transcript:

President Obama's Weekly Address: Meeting the Global Threat of Climate Change

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 01 Sep 2015 03:32:00 GMT

In this week’s address, the President spoke about his upcoming trip to Alaska, during which he will view the effects of climate change firsthand. Alaskans are already living with the impact of climate change, with glaciers melting faster, and temperatures projected to rise between six and twelve degrees by the end of the century. In his address, the President spoke to ways in which we can address these challenges, including the transition away from fossil fuels to more renewable energy sources like wind and solar, an effort in which America is already leading. And he stressed that while our economy still has to rely on oil and gas during that transition, we should rely more on domestic production than importing from foreign counties who do not have the same environmental or safety standards as the United States. The President looked forward to his upcoming trip, and promised that while he is in office, America will lead the world to meet the threat of climate change before it’s too late.

Hi, everybody. This Monday, I’m heading to Alaska for a three-day tour of the state.

I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time. Not only because Alaska is one of the most beautiful places in a country that’s full of beautiful places – but because I’ll have several opportunities to meet with everyday Alaskans about what’s going on in their lives. I’ll travel throughout the state, meeting with Alaskans who live above the Arctic Circle, with Alaska natives, and with folks who earn their livelihoods through fishing and tourism. And I expect to learn a lot.

One thing I’ve learned so far is that a lot of these conversations begin with climate change. And that’s because Alaskans are already living with its effects. More frequent and extensive wildfires. Bigger storm surges as sea ice melts faster. Some of the swiftest shoreline erosion in the world – in some places, more than three feet a year.

Alaska’s glaciers are melting faster too, threatening tourism and adding to rising seas. And if we do nothing, Alaskan temperatures are projected to rise between six and twelve degrees by the end of the century, changing all sorts of industries forever.

This is all real. This is happening to our fellow Americans right now. In fact, Alaska’s governor recently told me that four villages are in “imminent danger” and have to be relocated. Already, rising sea levels are beginning to swallow one island community.

John Kasich Tells Pope: Climate Change Is 'Some Theory That's Not Proven'

Posted by Brad Johnson Mon, 10 Aug 2015 16:26:00 GMT

On Meet the Press this Sunday, Republican presidential candidate Gov. John Kasich (R-Ohio) rejected the science of fossil-fueled global warming. Kasich told host Chuck Todd that manmade climate change is “some theory that’s not proven”, in response to a question about Pope Francis, who recently authored the influential climate encyclical, Laudato Si’.

CHUCK TODD: You brought up the environment. [Pope Francis] is somebody who believes that climate change is manmade and that man needs to do something about it. Do you agree with him?

GOVERNOR JOHN KASICH: Well, I think that man absolutely affects the environment. But as to whether, you know, what the impact is, the overall impact, I think that’s a legitimate debate. But what I do think is, you know, in my state of Ohio, you know, we preciously take care of Lake Erie. We’ve reduced emissions by 30% over the last ten years. We believe in alternative energy. So of course we have to be sensitive to it. But we don’t want to destroy people’s jobs based on some theory that’s not proven.

Todd did not correct Kasich, moving on to a question about conservative activist Erick Erickson.

The National Journal’s Clare Foran published an attempt by the Kasich campaign to deny Kasich’s climate denial: “The governor has long believed climate change is real and we need to so something about it. The debate over exact percentages of why it is happening is less important than what can be done about it. We know it is real, we know man has an impact, and we know we need to do something.”

In reality, the carbon-dioxide greenhouse effect is a physical fact known since the 1800s. The only scientifically plausible systematic explanation for the rapid and continuing warming of the planetary climate since 1950 is industrial greenhouse pollution. The world’s national scientific societies and the world’s practicing climate scientists are in overwhelming agreement about this fact.

At Koch Retreat, Pollution Billionaires Cheer Ted Cruz's Climate Conspiracy Theories

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 05 Aug 2015 15:56:00 GMT

Ted CruzTo resounding applause, Texas Senator Ted Cruz told the attendees of an exclusive Koch brothers retreat that man-made global warming is a scientific conspiracy. Under questioning by Politico’s Mike Allen, Cruz claimed that “power-greedy politicians” have colluded with climate scientists for decades in attempts to impose “massive government control of the economy.”

From the National Review:

Allen asked Cruz if he is concerned by a Boston Globe story published on Saturday that suggests Republicans will pay a price in 2016 for their skepticism about climate change. Cruz’s response? “Not remotely.” He went on to recall the 1970s panic over global cooling and a coming ice age. “The solution they proposed was massive government control of the economy, the energy sector, and our lives. Then the data disproved it,” he said. ”Then it became global warming. Interestingly enough, the solution was identical: massive government control over the economy, the energy sector, and our lives. Then the data didn’t support it, so they entered theory number three, climate change. Now, to any power-greedy politician, this is the perfect theory, it can never, ever, ever, be disproven, if it gets hotter, if it gets colder, if it gets wetter, if it gets drier.” The climate issue is in the news once again with the administration set to unveil sweeping new regulations on carbon emissions from power plants. President Obama earlier in the day released a video that warns of “hotter summers, rising sea levels, and extreme weather events.” Asked whether the president is exaggerating, Cruz said, ”You know, there’s a different word than exaggerating.”

Time’s Philip Elliott reports:

“If you look at satellite data for the last 18 years, there’s been zero recorded warming,” Cruz said in California’s Orange County. “The satellite says it ain’t happening.”

Instead, Cruz said, government researchers are reverse engineering data sets to falsify changes in the climate. “They’re cooking the books. They’re actually adjusting the numbers,” Cruz said. “Enron used to do their books the same way.”

Cruz said scientists four decades ago were studying “global cooling, a global ice age was coming,” and they were as wrong as those who now say the earth is warming.

“Senator, you’re not saying global warming isn’t real?” interrupted his interviewer, Politico’s Mike Allen.

“I’m saying that data and facts don’t support it,” Cruz said to applause from 450 donors to the political network organized by billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch.

Charles and David Koch are the world’s wealthiest carbon-industry titans, with a combined petrochemical fortune of greater than $100 billion. The identity of other attendees at the retreat were kept secret, with the agreement of the reporters in attendance.

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