A few months after the devastation of Superstorm Sandy, Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) rejected the scientific fact of anthropogenic global warming. He made remarks rejecting the linkage between human activity and changes in weather at a Heritage Foundation “Conversations with Conversatives” event on January 22, 2013. Questioned by Heritage’s Rob Bluey, Massie said he took “offense” at President Obama’s remarks on climate change in the 2013 State of the Union address.
I was disappointed to see him blame the droughts on human activity and then to say that we’re denying the evidence of scientists. As someone with a science-type background, I took offense at that. I would challenge him to show us the linkage, the undeniable linkage, between the droughts and the change in weather, and human activity.
“Now, it’s true that no single event makes a trend,” Obama said in his address. “But the fact is the twelve hottest years on record have all come in the last fifteen. Heat waves, droughts, wildfires, floods — all are now more frequent and more intense. We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence. Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science — and act before it’s too late.”
Obama’s words were scientifically well-founded. In August 2010, the World Meteorological Organization issued a statement on the “unprecedented sequence of extreme weather events” that “matches Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) projections of more frequent and more intense extreme weather events due to global warming.” Climate scientists have concluded that “[m]any lines of evidence — statistical analysis of observed data, climate modelling and physical reasoning — strongly indicate that some types of extreme event, most notably heatwaves and precipitation extremes, will greatly increase in a warming climate and have already done so.”
Massie’s “science-type background” refers to his undergraduate degree in electrical engineering and master’s degree in mechanical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change has a helpful FAQ on climate science which provides answers to Rep. Massie’s questions, such as, “Are extreme events, like heat waves, droughts or floods, expected to change as the Earth’s climate changes?” The answer: “Yes.”According to the Program of Atmosphere, Oceans, and Climate in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences at MIT, which studies the “substantial human interference of the climate system”:
- “Over the past 200 years or so, humans have altered the chemical composition of the atmosphere and oceans.”
- “There’s clear evidence that greenhouse gases have been increasing by very large amounts since preindustrial times, and the vast majority of these increases are due to human activity.”
- “Current concerns about future climate change are driven in large part by the observational evidence that several long-lived greenhouse gases are increasing at significant rates.”
- “Climate models suggest that both global mean precipitation and the intensity of precipitation extremes will increase in a warmer climate.”
- “The total amount and distribution of water in the atmosphere is very sensitive to temperature such that global warming is expected to lead to substantial changes in all aspects of the water cycle.”
- “Anthropogenic factors are likely responsible for long-term trends in tropical Atlantic warmth and tropical cyclone activity.”
Massie is a freshman member of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. He has received $87451 in campaign contributions from the energy industry, including $34,451 from the oil and gas industry, of which $12,000 is from Koch Industries.
Rep. Bill Posey (R-Fla.) rejects the scientific fact of anthropogenic global warming. In a December 2011 interview uncovered by Hill Heat, Posey told conservative activist Victoria Jackson that climate change has nothing to do with human activity:
If we’ve had at least three ice ages, and some people, some scientists say five, you cannot have five seamless ice ages. You must warm up between, you know, to have them. The earth has had tornadoes, hurricanes, volcanic eruptions tectonic plate shifts, meteor strikes, asteroid strikes, for millions of years, and it’s not going to stop just because we’re here now. When you think back twenty years ago, the worry was global freezing. “We’re going to freeze again. We’re going to have another ice age.”
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. Paleoclimatologists have identified at least five major ice ages in the past 2.5 billion years of Earth’s history. We are currently in an interglacial period within the Quarternary or Pleistoscene ice age, defined by the permanent Antarctic ice sheet which formed 2.58 million years ago. There have been eight cycles of glaciation and retreat in the past 740,000 years. Levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere due to industrial pollution are at levels not seen in the past 740,000 years, and likely not seen at any point during the current ice age. WIthout global policy to end the combustion of fossil fuels, concentrations are expected to double from current levels within decades.
Posey, elected to Congress in 2008, is a member of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology. He has received $33,700 from the energy sector including $19,900 in lifetime political contributions from the oil and gas industry. His district includes the NASA Kennedy Space Center, Eastern Florida State College, and the Florida Institute of Technology.
Roger Pielke Jr, the political scientist recently hired by Nate Silver’s new FiveThirtyEight “data journalism” venture, has a long record of harsh criticisms of the climate science community, impugning the motives, ethics, and honesty of climate scientists and communicators. Here is a small sampling of such remarks.
John Holdren’s Epic Fail: To accuse an academic of holding views that lie outside the scientific mainstream is the sort of delegitimizing talk that is of course common on blogs in the climate wars. But it is rare for political appointee in any capacity — the president’s science advisor no less — to accuse an individual academic of holding views are are not simply wrong, but in fact scientifically illegitimate. . . In a nutshell, Holdren’s response is sloppy and reflects extremely poorly on him. [3/1/14]
When the White House publishes an error-strewn 6-pg attack on you, should you feel (a) flattered, (b) intimidated, (c) happy to have tenure? [3/1/14]
Climate activists warn that the inhabitants of poor countries are especially vulnerable to the future climate changes that our greenhouse gas emissions will cause. Why then, do they simultaneously promote the green imperialism that helps lock in the poverty that makes these countries so vulnerable? [Financial Times, 2/26/14]
Of course, there are scientists willing to go beyond what can be supported empirically to make claims at odds with the overwhelming scientific consensus on this subject—e.g., [Michael] Mann, [Jennifer] Francis, [Jeff] Masters are always good for inscrutable and unsupportable quotes. [11/11/13]
The IPCC implied that increasing temperatures were causing increasing disaster losses. And the scientific literature just doesn’t support that. [NPR, 9/24/13]
Will be interesting to see if anyone on the side of climate action will care that Obama’s plan begins w/ false claims about disaster trends [6/25/13]
Misleading public claims. An over-hyped press release. A paper which neglects to include materially relevant and contradictory information central to its core argument. All in all, just a normal day in climate science! [4/10/13]
Fixing the Marcott Mess in Climate Science: [H]ere I document the gross misrepresentation of the findings of a recent scientific paper via press release which appears to skirt awfully close to crossing the line into research misconduct, as defined by the NRC. The paper I refer to is by Marcott et al. 2013, published recently in Science. . . . Does the public misrepresentation amount to scientific misconduct? I’m not sure, but it is far too close to that line for comfort. Saying so typically leads to a torrent of angry ad hominem and defensive attacks, and evokes little in the way of actual concern for the integrity of this highly politicized area of science. . . . There are a few bad eggs, with the Real Climate mafia being among them, who are exploiting climate science for personal and political gain. Makes the whole effort look bad. [3/31/13]
Unfortunately, as is so often a case when leaders in the climate science community find themselves before an audience of policy makers, on extreme events they go rogue, saying all sorts of things with little or no scientific basis. . . . [AMS President J. Marshall] Shepherd seems a great guy, and he has a fantastic demeanor on Twitter. But I’m sorry, this is horsemeat. . . . As President of the AMS Shepherd does not have the luxury of using that platform to share his personal opinions on climate science that may diverge from that of the community which he represents, much less stretch or misrepresent broader findings. . . . In formal settings such as the briefing yesterday where experts meet politicians, I fully expect Democrats and Republicans to cherrypick experts convenient to the arguments they wish to see made. That is politics as usual. Leading scientific institutions play that same game with some considerable risk to their credibility. [2/15/13]
Extreme Misrepresentation: USGCRP and the Case of Floods: Questions should (but probably won’t) be asked about how a major scientific assessment has apparently became captured as a tool of advocacy via misrepresentation of the scientific literature—a phenomena that occurs repeatedly in the area of extreme events. . . . Given the strength of the science on this subject, the USGCRP must have gone to some effort to mischaracterize it by 180 degrees. . . . [G]iven the problematic and well-documented treatment of extremes in earlier IPCC and US government reports, I’d think that the science community would have its act together by now and stop playing such games. So while many advocates in science and the media shout “Alarm” and celebrate its depiction of extremes, another question we should be asking is, how is it that it got things so wrong? [1/15/13]
How does a draft of the most authoritative US climate assessment get floods 100% wrong, contrary to IPCC and sci lt? [1/15/13]
In fact, today’s climate models suggest that future changes in extremes that cause the most damage won’t be detectable in the statistics of weather (or damage) for many decades.
This claim is false, even under Pielke’s terms. Pielke defines “extremes that cause the most damage” as “floods, droughts, hurricanes and tornadoes,” excluding “heat waves and intense precipitation,” because “these phenomena are not significant drivers of disaster costs.” (That exclusion is made without a supporting reference.)In fact, climate models, checked against observations, have already detected changes in the most damaging extremes in the statistics of weather, even under Pielke’s carefully chosen terms:
- Anthropogenic greenhouse gas contribution to flood risk in England and Wales in autumn 2000, Pall et al, Nature 2011
- Atlantic hurricanes and natural variability in 2005, Trenberth and Shea, Geophysical Research Letters 2006
- Global warming increases flood risk in mountainous areas, Allamano, Claps, and Laio, Geophysical Research Letters, 2009
- Increasing drought under global warming in observations and models, Dai, Nature Climate Change 2012
Given a sensible policy toward risk, that uncertainty should increase our concern about the continued pollution of our weather system, not decrease it.
Nate Silver’s new ESPN venture has hired political scientist and blogger Roger Pielke Jr. as one of its first contributing writers, Silver announced Friday. Pielke Jr., a fellow at the University of Colorado’s CIRES program, is known primarily for defending climate deniers like Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and attacking climate scientists and environmental advocates in the public sphere. Pielke Jr. is the son of climate scientist Roger Pielke Sr., one of the handful of contributing climatologists who question the scientific consensus of the threat of anthropogenic warming. Silver’s embrace of Pielke Jr. is surprising, as Pielke’s record of misusing statistics and misinterpreting scientific information goes against Silver’s record of data-based analysis and reporting.In 2009, prominent climate scientist Stephen Schneider harshly criticized Pielke Jr. for engaging in “sleazy” semantic games to mislead the public.
I can’t figure him out, except that one consistent pattern emerges-he is a self-aggrandizer who sets up straw men, knocks them down, and takes credit for being the honest broker to explain the mess-and in fact usually adds little new social science to his analysis.
Oceans PAC, the climate-focused political action committee Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) launched last year, is gearing up for the 2014 midterms. Whitehouse is the most aggressive U.S. Senator on climate policy: he has been giving weekly “Time To Wake Up” speeches on climate change since the landfall of Superstorm Sandy, is one of the founders of the Senate Climate Action Task Force and led the #Up4Climate talkathon last week.The PAC supports “candidates who support oceans and environmental issues”, Whitehouse explains:
Welcome to the OCEANS PAC website. I created the OCEANS PAC because candidates who support oceans and environmental issues need our support. Indeed, the other side is funded by big polluters who don’t hesitate to put millions of dollars behind their lies. As I’ve said many times – I’m tired of bringing a knife to a gun fight. The OCEANS PAC is one way we can fight back.
And fight we must, because climate change is not a problem that will go away. Climate change is not a problem that can wait. But climate change is a problem that can be solved. We can and we must leave a healthy environment, which includes healthy oceans, to our children and grandchildren. The public is ready for action; unfortunately, the missing piece is Congress. Congress is sleepwalking through history. It is time for Congress to hear the alarms, roll up our sleeves, and do what needs to be done. It is time to wake up. But for Congress to wake up, it needs more members who will support ocean and environmental issues – OCEANS PAC will support those candidates.
This is certainly not something I can do alone. There are high stakes involved and I need your help. I hope you will accompany me on this new journey, and that I can count on your enthusiastic support as we go forward.
The PAC’s supported candidates include the four members of the Rhode Island congressional delegation; Correy Westbrook, candidate for Florida’s 8th Congressional District against incumbent Bill Posey; Rep. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), candidate for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Carl Levin; and incumbent senators Chris Coons (Del.), Ed Markey (Mass.), Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.), Al Franken (Minn.), Mary Landrieu (La.), Mark Pryor (Ark.), Brian Schatz (Hawaii), and Tom Udall (N.M.).
Landrieu and Pryor are notable for their opposition to climate legislation. In 2011, Landrieu and Pryor voted for the Jim Inhofe Energy Tax Prevention Act, which would have prohibited the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency from promulgating any regulation concerning, taking action relating to, or taking into consideration the emission of a greenhouse gas to address climate change. At the time, Landrieu and Pryor were supported by the Koch Industries PAC. Now, Koch’s political wing is running a “barrage” of ads against the senators.
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.)
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.)
Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.)
Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.)
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.)
Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.)
The White House has issued a veto threat against legislation from the Republican-led House of Representatives that would nullify proposed carbon pollution standards for future power plants. The Electricity Security and Affordability Act (H.R. 3826), introduced by Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.), is up for consideration on the House floor this week.
“H.R. 3826 would nullify proposed carbon pollution standards for future power plants, and arbitrarily restrict the available technologies that could be considered for any new standards,” argued the White House statement. “Finally, the bill could delay indefinitely reductions in carbon pollution from existing power plants by prohibiting forthcoming rules from taking effect until Congress passes legislation setting the effective date of the rules.”
The bill has 94 co-sponsors, including seven Democrats (John Barrow, William Enyart, Jim Matheson, Collin Peterson, Nick Rahall, Terri Sewell, and Mike McIntyre).
Full text of statement:
In a blistering floor speech Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) doubled down on his criticism of the petrochemical billionaire Koch brothers, who he described last week as “un-American.” Reid’s comments last week focused on the advertisements against the Affordable Care Act produced by the Kochs’ political group, Americans for Prosperity, which fact-checkers have described as “missing context,” “misleading,” and “loose with facts.”
“This discussion – this fight – isn’t just about health care or even about a few hundred million dollars in disingenuous ads,” Reid said today. “This is about two very wealthy individuals who intend to buy their very own Congress – a Congress beholden to their money and bound to enact their radical philosophy.”
Reid’s remarks touched upon climate change and environmental policy:
We may never know how much money the Koch brothers are spending to rig the system for themselves. But we do know their investments have already paid off. In November of 2010, the petroleum industry walked right through the door the Supreme Court had opened, and spent hundreds of millions of dollars to elect a Republican majority to the House of Representatives. That Republican majority has effectively shut down any hope of passing legislation to limit the pollution that causes climate change. And that Republican majority is, in fact, working to gut the most important safeguards that keep cancer-causing toxins out of the air we breathe and the water we drink. Without those safeguards, the Koch brothers would pass on the higher healthcare costs to middle class Americans while padding their own pocketbooks. . . .
Their extreme vision for America means giving giant corporations the unfettered right to dump toxins into our rivers and streams, on our mountains and in our valleys, and to give them even more tax breaks while they destroy our environment.
Americans for Prosperity has also recently launched a television ad attacking Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska), falsely claiming that Begich supports a carbon tax.
Charles and David Koch control Koch Industries, a petrochemical, industrial, and financial conglomerate that is the second-largest private company in the United States. They have an estimated combined net worth of over $100 billion, making David Koch the richest man in New York City and Charles the richest man in Kansas. They are the third and fourth richest billionaires in the United States.
Transcript of Reid’s speech:
398 youth activists were arrested Sunday in front of the White House, after staging a “die-in” protest against the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. The protesters marched from the Georgetown University site of President Barack Obama’s 2013 climate speech to the street in front of Secretary of State John Kerry’s house before arriving at the White House. Kerry is slated to make a decision on on whether the pipeline — which will unlock access to Canadian tar sands and have a carbon footprint equivalent to fifty new coal-fired power plants — is in the national interest. President Obama is responsible for the final determination.
“We are trying to escalate as much as we can,” Michael Greenberg, a Columbia University sophomore who helped organize Sunday’s protest, told the National Journal’s Ben Geman. “We are not playing softball with the president any more.”
“Young people are tired of watching a president who ran on the promise of ‘ending the tyranny of oil’ keep caving to the fossil fuel industry,” wrote Jamie Henn, Communications Director for 350 Action, at MSNBC.com
“An entire movement has thrown itself into in this Keystone fight, from local frontline groups to big national green organizations,” said 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben. “But this weekend shows the power and bravery of some of the most crucial elements: young people, and activists who understand the centrality of environmental justice.”