Thursday, February 16, 2017

Republicans Attacking Health and Environmental Protection, Endangering All Americans

As should come as no surprise to anyone who has been paying attention for the last decade or two, the Republican Party and Republican House and Republican Senate and Republican White House are moving rapidly to remove all public human health and environmental protections.

Even the ones that Republicans once supported.

The new U.S. Secretary of State is Rex Tillerson, CEO of ExxonMobil and with close, perhaps illegal, ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin. He has already begun working to remove requirements for oil companies to report dealings with foreign countries, making it even easier for multinationals like ExxonMobil to engage in backroom deals and corruption. Rather than deal with the usual array of important foreign issues that have bedeviled previous State Department heads, Tillerson has shown an inclination to focus solely on issues that provide benefits to the oil and related industries. He plans to block American innovation to deal with climate change, allow the Russians to exploit oil reserves in the melting Arctic, and allow China to become the world leader in renewable energy innovation.

The new U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services is Tom Price, a Republican operative and congressman from Georgia who openly opposes women's health rights, Planned Parenthood, the Affordable Care Act (aka, Obamacare), and has anti-vaccine tendencies. He also opposed FDA authority to evaluate the health risks of smoking. Essentially, he is against all the protections he is now in charge of implementing.

The nominee for the new U.S. Secretary of Energy is Texas Governor Rick Perry, whose famous "Oops" moment was when he forgot the third cabinet department he wanted to eliminate. That department was the Department of Energy, the department he has been chosen now to run. A department that Perry falsely believed was all about promoting the oil industry in his home state (the department, in fact, is focused on our nuclear energy program).

The nominee to become the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is Scott Pruitt, Attorney General for the fossil fuel-dependent state of Oklahoma. Like fellow Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe, Pruitt has dishonestly claimed climate change is a "hoax," and has spent the last several years suing the EPA to block health and safety rules. He still has open law suits against the very Agency he has been chosen to lead.

Meanwhile, Republicans in Congress have introduced bills to eliminate existing air pollution controls, allow polluters to block public release of pollution records, and repeal many environmental laws, including most recently a bill to repeal the Endangered Species Act. They also have set public land and environmental values to $0 (zero), thus making ANY proposed industrial destruction of public lands a "cost-benefit" simply by being proposed. Other bills to remove public health and environmental protections are in the works.

Republicans in Congress have proposed a bill to eliminate the EPA entirely.

All this is in just a few weeks. Remember, this is the same Republican party who barely worked in the last Congress, refused to debate anything of substance for two entire years while taking the most vacation days in history. Now they are taking advantage of having control of every branch of government to attempt to destroy decades of environmental and human health progress. This includes programs that Republicans once fought hard to put into place.

The fact that the White House is now populated with the most corrupt, inept, and puerile cast of incompetents who fabricate new lies in every breath gives Republicans in Congress the distractions they need to eliminate public safety. While the media are focused on how treasonous the administration has been in its secret dealings with puppetmaster Putin, Congress is quietly chopping apart public protections and selling off the United States to private corporations (who just happen to be Republican campaign contributors).

Republicans hope the public won't notice. Which is why the public must notice. And notice bigly.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

How Climate Deniers Saturate Facebook with Fake News

Last week this page talked about how climate denier lobbyists control the message and manipulate public opinion. One of the ways was to take over Facebook pages so that they can promote falsehoods and block accurate science. This post discusses one of the more egregious examples of a page that promotes fake news related to climate.

Facebook allows anyone to set up a Group, and there are many climate change related groups that are worth visiting (see list at bottom of this post for examples). But there are other groups purporting to be about climate change that are really veiled ideological pages to promote lobbyist talking points. These denial-promoting pages can even have a large membership and high activity. There is a reason for that.

I won't promote the page here by naming it but there is one group in particular so embarrassingly denialistic it's hard to imagine why the administrators aren't more adept at hiding that fact. This particular group page provides a good example of what to watch for when judging the veracity of the owners and information.

The administrators are all blatant deniers: Before joining any page on Facebook, or immediately after joining if that is required to view the page, check out the administrators. Go to the Members tab and then the Admins subtab. Look at the Admins' background and watch what they post on the group page. See how they comment on other people's posts. For the exemplar page, the half dozen administrators are all vehement deniers. None is a scientist. One alludes to being a construction worker, part-time disk jockey, and wannabe pool shark. Another admits to being a right wing British political operative. Another is a self-avowed denier of science and possible paid lobbyist, routinely promoting the most ignorant and obvious falsehoods on his own webpage for dummies. Another is a retired guy who posts random anti-climate science gibberish just to antagonize people. At least one Admin has used multiple sock puppets (fake accounts) to engage in personal attacks against those they don't like.

The administrators believe in a global conspiracy of scientists: The Admins routinely dismiss the IPCC, NASA, NOAA, all the world's National Academies of Sciences, all the world's major scientific organizations, virtually every climate scientist on the planet, 100+ years of unequivocal published science, millions of empirical data points, and the well-known basic physics of the greenhouse effect as some sort of "hoax" perpetrated on the global populace. Oddly, the only people who seem to have noticed this "hoax" are fossil fuel and libertarian lobbyists and their spokespeople, plus a bunch of ideological and political hacks who can't seem to understand even the most basic science.

The administrators rely on lobbyist and conspiracy blogs as their sources of "science": While dismissing scientific organizations as "biased" and "fraudulent" and "incompetent" (somehow they can be incompetent and yet simultaneously carry out the world's most intricate fraud ever imagined), the administrators routinely rely on random blogs by non-scientists as the ultimate sources of information. I've seen the Alex Jones InfoWars (a demented conspiracy nutjob blog) cited as a source by Admins. I've seen the Admins cite a satire blog. I've seen them cite the usual round up of lobbyist-fed denier blogs, all of whom have been shown to get it wrong (on purpose) every single time. Yes, Every. Single. Time. So if the Administrators of the page are getting their information from debunked sources and posting many times debunked talking points, then clearly the page is not going to be reliable. Worse, the Admins and their preferred ideological commenters don't seem to ever read their own sources. Every single time they've cited a non-lobbyist source, their own source proves the Admins wrong. Again. Every. Single. Time.

The administrators selectively abuse the posters and commenters: Despite creating the rules of the group professing that "rudeness, threats, excessive profanity, personal insults, or any inflammatory comments" will not be tolerated, the Admins themselves are the ones who routinely engage in profound rudeness, repeated threats, common profanity, egregious personal insults, and constant inflammatory comments. Furthermore, these are directed solely at pro-science, honest, knowledgeable commenters while anti-science, dishonest, and ignorant commenters are encouraged to join the Admins in personally attacking those they dislike. Comments explaining why these latter are wrong, no matter how gently presented, are chastised and commenters berated while the most vehement and vitriolic personal attacks by deniers are met with "I see nothing wrong with how he is treating you."

The administrators harass knowledgeable commenters: In addition to outright abuse, the Admins use other means of harassing commenters. For example, comments are arbitrarily deleted. In one case, a comment and link was deleted by an Admin, claiming "you just linked the same thing twice. I have taken the liberty in deleting your oversight." The links, of course, were not the same, which anyone who had bothered to open them (or even just read the titles) would have seen. Given the constant repetition by anti-science commenters and lack of "taking the liberty" to correct their "oversights," the action was intended entirely as an attempt to intimidate the commenter and show that the Admin had ultimate power to do what he wanted. Admins in that group have arbitrarily and repeatedly removed commenters and posters who proved the Admins wrong, or merely provided accurate science. When the Admins can't handle accurate information (in part because it makes them look foolish and ignorant), then you know the page is actively dishonest.

There are more traits to watch out for when assessing the veracity of a given Facebook page. The key is to watch for sources used, the prevalence of propaganda, and the behavior of the Admins. That particular page was taken over by lobbyist-fed (and perhaps in one case, paid) propagandists, none of whom is a scientist (yet "just know 100 years of science is a lie"). Pro-science Admins were purged. Ideological followers were solicited, especially from the Rupert Murdoch-influenced heavy denier political and lobbying organizations in Australia and New Zealand, to artificially bump up the membership numbers. The actual number of commenters is low, usually the propagandist Admins and their selected ideological attack dogs, plus a few honest and informed people that are willing to put up with the harassment for a while before getting fed up and leaving.

Some of this bullying behavior by Admins is just mental insecurity, an effort to boost their apparently childlike egos. But much of it is intentional deceit to promote falsehoods, either through ideological blindness or intentional propagandizing. It's clear the most active Admins on the page are well loved by the fossil fuel and political lobbyists who count on the willful and unskeptical ignorance of amateur deniers to saturate the blogosphere with their false talking points.

Facebook and similar post-and-comment sites encourage conflict on purpose. Reacting and commenting keep the post "live" in the feed, and people on these pages (both anti- and pro-science) have an amygdala-led propensity to argue. This is why the Admins routinely break their own rules by engaging in abuse, posting multiple antagonistic statements to encourage dissent, and quickly saturating the feed with posts ranging from irrelevant sound bites to photos of their families or backyards whenever an accurate pro-science piece is posted. The goal is suppression of science, promotion of false talking points, and a rather pathetic assertion of the illusion of power.

Luckily, there are climate related Facebook pages that are worth visiting. Of course, each post must still be assessed using critical thinking, but these pages generally provide actual science and keeping out the trolls. Note that some are closed and you must request membership approval.

Climate Change Science

Climate Change Science, Mitigation & Adaptation

Climate Daily News

Indivisible - Climate Change Action

Climate Change: It's Personal

Okay, these are just a few. You can search "climate change" on Facebook and find many more pages, but definitely do some research before joining. Once you're there, poke around to evaluate the Admins, see what kind of people are posting, and take a look at the activity - is it respectful, focused on science, and informational...or is it a hotbed of insults, posts from WUWT and other lobbyist-fed denier sites?

All that said, Facebook is generally not the place you want to be getting informed about science. Its algorithms reward argument and conflict because that has a direct relationship to the profitability of the medium itself. As we saw during the last presidential election in the U.S., the prevalence of fake news on Facebook disinforms more than it informs. This intentional promulgation of disinformation has been fought by climate scientists for many years, so it isn't a shock to any scientist how lobbyists intentionally manipulate public opinion with dishonesty and falsehoods. It is every person's responsibility to become accurately informed before making choices. Facebook can play a role in that, but it shouldn't be the sole source of information. Read the science sites like NASA, NOAA, IPCC, etc. Do your homework.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

How Climate Deniers Control the Message

In lobbying, the goal is always to control the message and manipulate public opinion. Climate deniers work hard to control the anti-science message by using the same techniques and tactics used by the tobacco companies to steer public views. As technology has advanced, these lobbyists have adapted to the new media, including Facebook, which now seems to be the main source of (real or fake) news for many people.

Here are some ways the climate denial lobbying industry controls the climate message.

1) Continuously assert a grand conspiracy where the "mainstream media" (i.e., actual journalists) and "alarmists" (i.e., actual climate scientists) and "political people" (i.e., actual honest people) are part of a global, multigenerational conspiracy to promote some sort of "hoax." The goal is to erode public faith in the scientific and peer-review process. If people don't trust the scientists, people will be open to alternative views. Despite the ridiculousness of the conspiracy assertion, lobbyists know it works.

2) Discredit the communication process: This has to happen before the lobbyists can insert an alternative source of information, i.e., their manufactured false talking points. Since these talking points are immediately debunked by scientists and honest media outlets, lobbyists make sure to delegitimize any outlet that provides accurate science and/or debunks deniers' incorrect information. This is why denial lobbyists constantly attack the IPCC; the IPCC periodically puts out definitive reports summarizing the state-of-the-science, so they must be neutralized by the lobbyists. Ditto for why lobbyists constantly - and falsely - claim NASA, NOAA, and every other scientific organization have somehow falsified the data. They haven't, and lobbyists know this, but they must delegitimize all real scientific sources in order to make room for their non-scientific talking points.

3) Feed Falsehoods to the Blogosphere: There is a reason that denier lobbyists fund disinformation sites like CFACT's "Climate Depot" and "WattsUpWithThat," the climate equivalents of "Fox News." Lobbyists know that plenty of ideologues will gladly plagiarize whatever is fed them via these and other paid denier sites and post it without any kind of understanding on their own copy-cat blogs and Facebook pages. Within minutes or hours, any Google search will bring up dozens of these false and plagiarized blog posts. Since most people don't go beyond the first page of any Google search, all that appears to the public are the false talking points, not real science. This is also why the denier lobbying industry promotes every random non-science ideologue who claims to have exposed the grand conspiracy (see #1). Blogosphere saturation in itself is a goal. Lobbyists know that ideologues neither understand nor care that they don't understand. All these ideologues know is that the denier attacks, no matter how ridiculously false, support their preferred narrative. So they unskeptically repeat it.

4) Taking over the "New Media": As suggested above, denier lobbyists have been quick to maximize the power of the "new media," like blogs and Facebook. Unlike traditional journalistic outlets who vetting for truthfulness prior to publication or broadcast, the new media tends to "post now, vet later" as a means of beating the competition to the punch, no matter how false that punch is. Lobbyists love this. They know they can saturate the media with falsehoods and by the time the falseness of those falsehoods is provided in response, the falsehood is ingrained in ideological minds. [Think: A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.] No amount of correct information will ever change the mind of someone who has latched on to the original falsehood because it would mean acknowledging being hoodwinked. People don't like feeling they were played for fools, so to avoid that feeling they simply ignore anything that proves them foolish. It's called willful ignorance, and it's rampant on social media. Again, lobbyists love this. They don't mind manipulating people; it's their business.

5) Taking over Facebook pages: The newest variation on the above is the intentional commandeering of climate-related Facebook pages. This began with ideologues and amateur trolls spewing nonsense and insults all over comment threads, expanded into lobbyist-paid trolls intentionally disrupting these comment threads and posting propaganda, and now includes climate deniers taking over administrative control of the pages themselves. One Facebook page purports to offer a "friendly discussion environment" but is owned and administered by blatantly biased deniers who routinely break their own rules of decorum, allowing denier attacks on scientists while berating anyone who provides accurate science or rebuts their grossly inaccurate propaganda. As "Admins" they cannot be blocked, yet routinely throw anyone debunking them off the page, no matter how polite that rebuttal. In this way they 1) control the message (i.e., intentionally promote denial while intentionally deleting accurate science) and 2) stroking their own fragile egos and mental insecurities.

6) Repetition and KISS: Lobbyists know that too much information gets overwhelming and isn't processed. Keep It Simple, Stupid (KISS) is the watchword of lobbyists. The shorter the soundbite, the more persuasive the message. This is especially true in these days of constant stimulation via instant electronic media. So provide a sound bite (e.g., "Emails!" "Hoax!!!") and repeat it over and over and over and over and over. And then over again. When caught in a lie, repeat the lie even more emphatically. This past election shows how doubling down on falsehoods, a form of gaslighting, means honest people are constantly on the defensive while others repeat known falsehoods as if they are true. Over time the public assumes the falsehood must somehow be true (after all, I keep hearing it, right?). This technique has been used by climate denial lobbyists for a long time, just as it was used by the tobacco denial lobbyists and acid rain denial lobbyists and ozone hole denial lobbyists (who, not surprisingly, are often the very same lobbyists). This is what lobbyists do.

This past election reveals something else of concern. Now that the extreme right wing zealots are in political power, the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and general bigots all feel empowered to act out their bigotry more publicly. To them, it's now okay to show their racism freely. Climate deniers find themselves in a similar position of power. Besides clamping down on climate communications by science agencies, the new administration has put several climate deniers in cabinet positions. From these perches they will work hard to "control the message" of denial via abuse of their political positions. This was done before in the Reagan and George W. Bush administrations, both times backfiring on them. Despite their efforts to suppress it, the science doesn't change because political people lie to the public and abuse the public trust. No matter how much climate denier lobbyists in the administration try to ignore the science, the science doesn't go away.

So climate denier lobbyists will continue to try to control the message even as the science becomes more and more unequivocal. The climate is warming and humans are the dominant cause of that warming. That fact is still fact and will remain fact no matter how much lobbyists and political hacks deny it.

It's up to all of us to make sure the facts of climate aren't lost in the intentional denial machine's attempt to suppress that message.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

EPA Dealing with Censorship, Hostile Takeover by New Administration

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) woke up this week to a barrage of restrictions that a former Administrator under George H.W. Bush called "going down a very dark road." All Agency communications have been shut down and must now go through political review by the new administration. That includes all "public-facing documents" such as "news releases, fact sheets, news feeds, and social media content." The administration has also put a freeze on any new work, on contract approvals, on grant awards, and on new hiring. Essentially, the Agency is in lockdown. Similar actions have been taken to restrict all other federal agencies.

The first casualty was the Department of Interior twitter feed, which had retweeted a photo showing the extremely small crowds at Trump's 2016 inauguration versus President Obama's first inauguration in 2008. Many news media reported that Trump was embarrassed by the low turnout and thus closed down the twitter feed, as well as all other twitter feeds from federal facilities. This ban on tweeting did not, of course, extend to his own unsecured twitter account, which he used to fabricate lies about the crowd size that were proven false by actual facts (in contrast to the "alternative facts" [aka, blatant lies] pushed by Trump).

Temporary freezes on agency outreach have happened before, mainly as a way for the new administration to get its team in place and figure out what the EPA is doing. But former EPA administrators confirm that the current censorship and bans far exceed practices under past administrations, either Republican or Democratic.

But the new administration has stated clearly its intent is to restrict agency science and roll back regulations that protect human health and the environment, deal with man-made climate change, and even improve gas mileage standards. The head of the transition team was Myron Ebell, head of the anti-science, anti-regulation libertarian consulting organization, the Competitive Enterprise Institute. Trump's pick to run the EPA is Scott Pruitt, the Oklahoma Attorney General who has been the fossil fuel industry's ally, issuing multiple lawsuits to block health protections that would require corporate accountability. He also apparently lied to Senators during his confirmation hearings. Rex Tillerson, the former CEO of ExxonMobil and a key funder/promoter of climate change denial and a close ally of Russia's Vladimir Putin, is the pick for Secretary of State.

All of these signal a return to the early days of past Republican administrations who used their political power to censor scientific information and destroy the EPA. Ronald Reagan, for example, had hired Anne Gorsuch, another pro-fossil fuel/mining attorney general, as EPA administrator. She was forced out after intentionally trying to subvert science. Likewise, George W. Bush put fossil fuel lobbyist Philip Cooney in charge of his Council on Environmental Quality. Cooney was caught intentionally editing scientific documents to downplay the severity of man-made climate change. He too was forced to leave the administration, immediately taking a position at ExxonMobil.

So Americans have a valid reason for concern. The incoming administration has been vocally hostile to the EPA since the beginning of the campaign. They have nominated people who have histories of being aggressively anti-EPA and anti-science. Their first acts were to restrict public communication and outreach. They have already signaled rollbacks of congressionally-mandated health and safety rules, while promoting the interests of fossil fuel corporations (many of whom are now part of the administration).

Scientists must push back against such politically motivated anti-science. A few agencies who have had their twitter feeds blocked have apparently set up "Alt-feeds" to continue serving the public. Given the huge success of the Women's Marches on the day after the inauguration (that far exceeded inauguration crowds, despite Trump's blatant lies to the contrary), a group of scientists are planning a Scientists March on Washington.

Meanwhile, the EPA and other agencies have internal scientific integrity document:

The EPA's 14-page scientific integrity document, enacted during the Obama administration, describes how scientific studies were to be conducted and reviewed in the agency. It said scientific studies should eventually be communicated to the public, the media and Congress "uncompromised by political or other interference."

All of us, the public and scientists alike, need to be vigilant to make sure the new administration does not try to remove scientific integrity from the science agencies, as, unfortunately, has been the case in prior Republican administrations.  

[Photo source: Union of Concerned Scientists]

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Answers to Questions - 2016 Warmest Year on Record

NASA and NOAA issued a joint press release on January 18, 2017 confirming what climate watchers had expected - 2016 was the warmest year on record globally. "Earth’s 2016 surface temperatures were the warmest since modern recordkeeping began in 1880," said the press release. The announcement was carried by most major news outlets, including a full front page article in the New York Times. Questions arise as soon as any such announcement is made, so this post is focused on answering those questions.

1) Is it really the warmest year on record? Yes. The two reporting agencies - NASA and NOAA - analyzed their data sets independently and reached the same conclusion. Other worldwide climate research agencies have all reported (or will soon report) the same conclusion - 2016 was the warmest year on record, i.e., since the late 19th century.

2) When was the last record-setting year? 2015, which surpassed the previous record-setter 2014. That means 2016 is the third straight year breaking the record for warmest year. That is highly unusual, if not unprecedented. In fact:

"Results from the world’s top monitoring agencies vary slightly, but NASA, NOAA, the Japan Meteorological Agency, and the U.K.’s Met Office all agree: 2016 was unprecedented. The heat was experienced differently around the world, but most regions were unusually warm to downright scorching for much of the year."

3) But climate is a trend, not a single year. Does breaking the record matter? Yes. As NASA/NOAA note: "The 2016 temperatures continue a long-term warming trend." NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) further notes:

“2016 is remarkably the third record year in a row in this series,” said GISS Director Gavin Schmidt. “We don’t expect record years every year, but the ongoing long-term warming trend is clear.”

4) Did it break the record by a lot? Yes. NASA notes:

"The planet’s average surface temperature has risen about 2.0 degrees Fahrenheit (1.1 degrees Celsius) since the late 19th century, a change driven largely by increased carbon dioxide and other human-made emissions into the atmosphere."

Scientists widely agree an increase of 1.5 degrees Celsius is highly significant and a major global problem. We're almost there already, and because of the levels of CO2 already emitted, we are virtually guaranteed to pass that threshold much sooner than originally expected.

5) We had a strong El Nino during part of 2016. Was this the reason for the record? No. While warming in the early part of 2016 was enhanced by the strong El Nino, the El Nino had largely dissipated mid-year. Gavin Schmidt, director of GISS, notes that 2016 would have broken the record even without the El Nino.

"El NiƱo was a factor this year, but both 2015 & 2016 would have been records even without it. Estimate of effect 0.05°C & 0.12°C."

6) Okay, three straight years is unusual. Will 2017 set a record for the fourth year in a row? We won't know until later how this year will trend, but it seems unlikely it will set yet another new record. While each year is subject to short-term variation, it is the long-term trends that matter. The long-term trend clearly shows we are warming the climate system.

7) What does it mean if we don't set a new record? This was discussed earlier here.

8) The climate is getting warmer. So what? Virtually all climate scientists agree that the continuing warming trend is highly significant. We are already seeing its effects: melting of the Arctic sea ice, Greenland land ice, and glaciers; sea level rise; ocean acidification; changes in migratory patterns; economic dynamics; national security; human habitats; human and ecological health; and every aspect of human existence.

The trend is clear. The cause is clear. The need for action is clear.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Climate Change: What Everyone Needs to Know by Joseph Romm

A tremendously valuable book that everyone interested in climate change should read. And we all should be interested in climate change.

Written by a former assistant secretary of energy, with a PhD in physics and decades of science communication expertise, the book, subtitled "What Everyone Needs to Know," covers major facets of climate change in seven major sections. Each section is broken into the questions that most people ask.

For example, section 1 is on Climate Science Basics. It includes questions like: "What is the greenhouse effect and how does it warm the Earth?" and "Why are scientists so certain the climate system is warming?" These and other questions (like Where does most of the human-caused warming go?) become the focal point for detailed answers explaining the state-of-the-science.

This same format is used for each of the other sections encompassing: Extreme Weather and Climate Change; Projected Climate Impacts; Avoiding the Worst Impacts; Climate Politics and Policies; The Role of Clean Energy; and Climate Change and You.

The coverage of impacts and policy options in addition to the science makes this book highly useful. Is nuclear power part of the answer? How about "carbon capture and storage?" Bioenergy? Electric cars? Hydrogen cars? What contributions, impacts, and solutions are there in the agricultural and livestock sector? How about transportation?

The last section - Climate Change and You - helps bring the ramifications of climate change back home. What impacts, now and in the future, can your family expect? What can you do as individuals to reduce your carbon footprint? How might this affect your investment decisions?

And "Do we still have time to preserve a livable climate?"

The table of contents lists each of the questions (roughly 12 to 20+ per section) so that readers can go directly to the discussion of the questions most important to them. This makes the book an excellent future resource as well as a comprehensive survey of the science and the options for dealing with that science.

As might be expected, the book is dense with factual information. This is both a blessing (well documented facts abound) and a burden (it is not a quick read). My recommendation is that everyone who wants to know about climate change (or who professes to "know" in Facebook comments) reads this book thoroughly, then keep a copy on your desk for reference. The questions likely any question that may be asked by friends, family, or on online forums.

Read it, and keep it handy.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

New Study Confirms Climate is Warming, Pause Never Happened

"Warming of the climate system is unequivocal." This was the conclusion of the most recent IPCC 5th Assessment Report (AR5). Also, human activity has been "the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century." There has been no pause.

The climate is warming and we are the dominant cause, primarily through activities such as the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation that emit huge amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere and oceans. The data are clear on this conclusion.

So why do politicians (universally, Republican politicians) claim the climate has not warmed? The facts prove them wrong. Unequivocally. Undeniably. The year 2016 just set the new record for warmest year, surpassing the previous record year of 2015 (which surpassed the previous record year of 2014). All of the hottest years have been recent years (aka, since the date lobbyists like to claim started a period of "no warming"). How someone can argue the climate isn't warming when we keep setting climate heat records is a big question, one whose answer is obvious.

In any case, climate deniers desperately need the "pause" talking point, no matter how unsupportable the notion. In 2015, a scientific study was published that put the rest the false idea of a pause. Led by NOAA scientist Thomas Karl (and co-authored by nine other scientists), the study showed that any slowing was an artifact of changes in measurement methods and not a reflection of actually decreases in the rate of warming.

Republican lawmakers reacted to the Karl study by attacking the authors. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) and House Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX) and other similarly fossil fuel-dependent politicians began harassment campaigns against the scientists involved, supported with talking points written by fossil fuel and libertarian lobbying groups/campaign contributors.

And now a new scientific study by a completely independent group of scientists has confirmed what the earlier study had effectively demonstrated - there was no pause, and the earlier scientists were correct in their analysis. The new study just published in Science Advances by UC-Berkeley researcher Zeke Hausfather confirms that the Karl analysis was correct. Further, Hausfather and his co-authors demonstrate that other researchers should reassess their own data sets accordingly.

Which gets us back to the pause that was not a pause. This talking point was invented by the denier lobbying industry through several steps of cherry picking. First, they chose 1998 as the starting date because it was a year of a huge spike in temperatures due to the strongest El Nino event in recent history. That artificially high spike was, not surprisingly, followed by "normal" high temperatures that appeared less because of the selected starting point. Shifting the start date one year forward or back eliminated the faux pause effect. Second, they use only a single satellite data set, the only one that gave them a trend that they could misuse to show their preferred narrative. The fact that the data set and investigators are highly adjusted and uncertain (and, arguably, irrelevant) may also explain the sometimes questionable choices made in its interpretation. Third, they choose to ignore all the surface level temperature data sets that inconveniently for them refute their conclusions. 

In addition, there is the fact that there are long-term trends, and there are short-term variations in those trends. We had several years of events that tend to slow warming (e.g., La Nina) with fewer events that increase warming. In the last few years we've seen more "speed up" events (El Nino), which has helped the records set in 2014, 2015, and 2016 spike even warmer (i.e., they would have have been warmer even without the El Nino, but the El Nino pushed the spikes even higher, just as they did in the 1998 event that deniers like to cherry pick to start their "it hasn't warmed" falsehood.

So there was no pause. The newest data confirm what we already new. The climate system is warming. Unequivocally. Undeniably. As John Abraham notes in his Guardian article:

Finally, and for those who read my posts regularly, I am sounding like a broken record. Global warming is happening, it never stopped, it never paused, and the models have gotten it right.
As he notes, and has been offered repeatedly on this page, humans are warming the climate. As with all other previous problems identified, it's time to take responsibility and do something about it.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

How to Assess Climate Change Through Critical Thinking

To quote Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum in their book, Unscientific America, “[t]he problem with the internet is obvious to anyone who has ever used it; There’s tons of information available, but much of it is crap.” The same is true of Facebook, where pages can be set up on various topics, including Climate Change, and saturated (and administered) by people with no science training and/or who intentionally suppress science and promote denial of that science.

So how does the average person determine what is reliable information on the internet, and what is "crap?" The answer is through critical thinking.

That may sound all elitist and difficult to some, but it really isn't. We use critical thinking every day. When we are sick we call on doctors, not plumbers. When our bathtub is leaking, we call on plumbers, not doctors. Raise your hand if you would ask a trained surgeon to perform the much needed tumor surgery rather than see if your local bartender could cut you open before happy hour gets rolling.

So critical thinking is what we all do dozens of times a day as we decide between running out into traffic or waiting for the walk like at the intersection...or whether to drive our kids to school rather than handing them over to some random stranger who knocks on your front door. We think critically all the time. And yet, when it comes to assessing science we often stop thinking critically. So here is a reminder of how to assess whether what you are reading is science or anti-science.

Is it Science?

Science is both a body of knowledge and a process. Scientists observe what is happening, suggest a possible reason for it based on physical, biological, mathematical, and statistical knowledge, then test that possible reason (which we call a hypothesis) to see if it's true. We then keep testing to try to falsify it, that is, try to prove it wrong. Most scientific studies deal with small, measurable points, science is the sum total of all the relevant studies; any one study is not enough. Eventually you have enough information to call it a theory. Gravity, evolution, and man-made climate change are all called theories; they represent as close as science gets to proven fact.

Does the information come from a science source?

As the opening line to this post notes, you can find tons of information on the internet. But as we saw this past year, there is a lot of fake news and conspiracy junk out there in addition to accurate information. So how do you tell which is which?

For climate change, there are many scientific organizations that study the climate. These alphabet soup of organizations include NASA, NOAA, JMA, WMO, NSIDC, IPCC, UK Met Office, and others. Click on the names for links to their climate-related sites. There are also climate research organizations associated with universities. These are all legitimate scientific sources.

If you have to dismiss all of these scientific organizations to reach your opinion, then you are by definition denying the science. If you have to believe that all of these organizations, and all of the climate scientists around the world, and all of the hundred thousand published research papers, and physics, are all somehow part of a global, multigenerational conspiracy to defraud the people, then you are, again, a denier by definition.

So if you deny all the above scientific organizations there are a lot of un-scientific web sites out there that pretend to be science. Many of these are run by lobbyists (e.g.., Climate Depot, run by a libertarian political lobbyist, CFACT), or supported by lobbyists (e.g., JoannaNova, WUWT, both of whom have received funding and otherwise substantial support by lobbying organizations like the Heartland Institute), or are actually paid by lobbyists to write Op-Eds and other blog posts that intentionally misrepresent the science.

How do you know it's a science source?

In short, follow the credentials. More on that below in "Is the person an expert?"

Is the source accurate?

I wouldn't tell a brain surgeon what the brain looks like or how to do the surgery he has been trained to do. Most of us know how to do whatever we have been trained to do and have practiced through a career in that field, whether it be brain surgery, plumbing, librarian, beekeeping, accounting, or nuclear physics. We rely every day on experts in their fields, just as we expect others to call on us for whatever our particular expertise is. So if you aren't an expert in the field, you either accept the scientific expertise of those who are trained or you become an expert yourself. Note that becoming an expert doesn't mean "googling the internet" for an afternoon, it means going to graduate school and working in the field.

Non-experts, however, can learn the basic principles so they have a greater understanding of the science, thus allowing them to better employ critical thinking to assess the veracity of the source.

Is the person an expert?

The scientific organizations listed above (NASA, NOAA, etc.) only post information from their in-house experts. Other experts are professors at universities. You can determine if someone is an expert by following their credentials.

Michael Mann, for example, has a PhD in physics from Yale University (in addition to 3 Master's degrees and a Bachelor of Arts). He is director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University, has worked for many years as a climatologist, and published hundreds of scientific papers. Another expert is James Hansen, who also has a PhD, decades of experience in the field, and hundreds of publications. This is the norm for climate scientists. For legitimate experts you can usually find their credentials online, either at the agency they work for or their university.

In contrast, someone like Ivar Giaever is not an expert in climate science. Giaever was an accomplished scientist in his field - tunneling in superconductors - which has no relevance at all to climate science. He has done no work in the field, has no publications in the field, and in fact admitted to "googling the internet" for a few hours before declaring he was a "skeptic." But even he is an outlier because the vast majority of anti-science sources are not scientists at all. Most are lobbyists or paid front groups or political ideologues with no knowledge of climate science. Again, track back to their credentials, or lack thereof.

But maybe some random person on the internet is right? 

This is a common refrain: "Sure, he has been proven wrong every single time in the past, but maybe he is right this time! You should evaluate the information, not the source!"

The problem with this refrain is that these unreliable sources are always wrong. Every single time. Their information has already been proven false many times. They simply repeat the same talking points over and over and over. Despite what many political ideologues believe, falsehoods don't suddenly become true because you've repeated it enough times. They are still false. Some sources will always - every time - print falsehoods. This is their job; to misrepresent, mislead, and, sometimes, outright lie. Lobbyists have a network of collusion that includes bloggers, media outlets, and paid spokespeople. Their job is to "manufacture doubt," just as the tobacco companies did for decades to suppress the science of smoking causing cancer.

There is no reason for honest people to waste time with sources who have established themselves as either intentionally dishonest or grossly ignorant. There are plenty of legitimate sources out there, and we do ourselves a disservice to hope that someday one of these constantly unreliable sites will stumble upon something accurate. Just ignore them and move on.

But what about blogs?

For most of us the science sources can be overly technical and hard to understand. That's true, though some, like NASA, have attempted to provide pages that get the basic information across without getting bogged down in technical language. Still, most people are going to get their climate science information from blogs or Facebook.

It's important to remember that blogs are not science, though they may help communicate the science to non-scientists. Some blogs are always reliable sources of information while others are always unreliable; how to tell one from the other was described here. Reliable blogs (including those from the scientific agencies as well as some news sites) will generally link back to the actual scientific study or studies being discussed. Don't stop with the blog; always go back to the original study. Be aware that the headline often doesn't reflect the actual content of the article (headlines are written by marketing people trying to be provocative in order to stimulate "hits") and the article often doesn't quite get the science right (again, because more provocative means more hits means more revenue for the author and any advertisers). Read the original paper, or at least the abstract if that is all that is available.

Lobbyist blogs and their front groups (and the unaffiliated but ideological blogs that plagiarize and saturate the blogosphere with the information fed through lobbyists and front groups) will often link back to another front blog rather than the original study. The reason is because these front blogs will "reinterpret" the study results, often drawing conclusions that are exactly opposite of the actual study conclusions. This is done by cherry picking pieces of the study or statements from the study report and then interpreting those pieces as if they were stand-alone. Thus, a paper that unequivocally states the humans are causing climate change might have one sentence of the uncertainties section cherry picked and used to claim the paper says humans have no part in climate change. Yes, lobbyist blogs and their plagiarists do that, and they do it all the time. This is why nothing on those blogs can be trusted. [When someone lies all the time, you can't assume that maybe this one time they accidentally said something true.]

I want to emphasize this point. Legitimate blogs will link to the scientific source and/or published papers. If the blog links to a lobbyist site or one of their front groups (e.g., WUWT, Climate Depot) then you can be assured that the blog is intentionally steering you to the "reinterpretation" of the study, not the actual study conclusions.

The above tips should be employed to ensure you think critically about the sources of information on which you rely. A blog by a comedian/satirist/radio talk show host three steps removed from an actual study they misrepresented is never going to be a reliable source. An Op-Ed in a business blog written by a lawyer paid by a tobacco and fossil fuel lobbying organization with a history of promoting falsehoods is never going to be a reliable source.

Legitimate sources like NASA, NOAA, IPCC, etc. are always going to be reliable. Stick to reliable sources. And ask yourself, do you have to dismiss 100+ years of published science and/or believe in a global, multigenerational conspiracy of the world's climate scientists for more than a decade? If you have to do this to believe something written on a blog, then the blog is not going to be reliable. In fact, the blog is promoting the denial of science.

Here are more ways to critically assess the validity of information you read on the internet.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Record Sea Ice Losses at BOTH Poles: This is What it Means

We've just hit the winter solstice - the first day of winter. And that means sea ice extent in the Arctic is going through its annual period of increase, which generally reaches a maximum around February before beginning its annual melting. And we are seeing an increase. But that increase is setting a record that we wish we weren't seeing because so far it's a record low.

Last year (that is, around February of 2016) we recorded the lowest Arctic sea ice extent in history. This year so far we're seeing that record low being broken. Now it's still early in the growth season so it might recover. Or it might not. Clearly the dropping sea ice extent in the Arctic continues the trend we've been seeing for decades. The ice is melting more than usual in the summer and its not growing back as much in the winter.

[See larger here]

As bad as that is - and it is very bad indeed - we're seeing an even worse result right now in the Antarctic. Because the Antarctic is at the southern pole, the area is now going into summer. As of early December Antarctic sea ice extent was the lowest on record.

It is highly unusual to see record low sea ice extents at both poles at the same time. Of course, these early indicators could reverse as the seasons (freezing in Arctic, melting in Antarctic) continue over the next two or three months, but the overall trends are not giving us much hope for correction.

To make matters worse, the Arctic is seeing its warmest temperatures for this time of year ever. And not just a little warmer; temperatures are heating up to unbelievable levels that have climate scientists startled - at least 20 degrees Celsius warmer than normal. Temperatures have actually been above the freezing point. This is causing melting during a part of the year where the ice should be freezing.

Part of the reason in the Arctic is because this past year set a record low total ice extent for the year (a combination of the record low maximum and near-record low minimum). With warmer waters in the summer and early fall the ice growth never got a good start in the late fall and now winter. If the low ice extent maximum trend continues it creates a vicious cycle of conditions that will lead to acceleration of the downward spiral we've been witnessing for years.

Total Polar Sea Ice Extent:

The reasons for the low ice extent in Antarctica are harder to explain. It may be related to weakening of westerly winds that generally insulate the Antarctic from the effects of global warming. Or it might be related to the ozone layer. Or just dumb luck. Unlike the Arctic, the Antarctic is harder to define. One thing is clear, however, and that is that the Antarctic should be the last place we would see the effects of climate change. The fact that we are seeing them (e.g., destruction of west Antarctic ice shelf and more rapid movement of glaciers in the east Antarctic) suggests we may have reached a tipping point. The ramifications of any sudden melting of land-based Antarctic ice (along with melting of Greenland) will be dramatic, to put it mildly.

The ramifications of Arctic melting are already being experienced - great warming, more melting, national defense issues, rising sea levels (from land-based melting), dramatic changes in weather patterns and jet streams, and much more.

We'll have to watch what happens over the next few months - melting in the Antarctic and freezing in the Arctic - to see if these record lows continue. If you're not sure how to read the graphs, check out this quick primer. For the basics on how the Arctic and Antarctic are different, read here.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

The Madhouse Effect by Michael Mann and Tom Toles

This is a book every American should read, and read now. The Madhouse Effect: How Climate Change Denial is Threatening Our Planet, Destroying Our Politics, and Driving Us Crazy sports a "Global Warming Meets Edvard Munch" cover, but that shouldn't be taken as a lack of seriousness. The book's authors - award-winning climate scientist Michael Mann and Pulitzer Prize-winning political cartoonist Tom Toles - have attempted to bring both climate science and climate denial to the forefront. Using Toles's creative genius and Mann's scientific depth, and more than a smidgen of subtle humor, the two have succeeded masterfully.

This short book is a quick read and written in a style that is accessible to everyone. In short, it's the book I planned to write but never got around to. The eight chapters are easy to breeze through, but when you reach the end you realize you've learned a lot more than you anticipated.

It begins with a chapter on how science works, a topic that it appears most of the public hasn't yet grasped. It's also an introduction of sorts to how lobbyists and hired guns intentionally distort the science (but more on that later). Mann and Toles note that science is unique in that it is "self-correcting" by its very nature. Scientists publish their research, and other scientists challenge it. If someone got something wrong, the process is designed to find that out and correct the misconception. The chapter also clarifies the idea of skepticism. Scientists are inherently skeptical; it's what makes us tick. But most of the people who claim to be skeptical when they deny the science aren't skeptical at all.

The second chapter provides some of the basics of climate science. The first paragraph puts it all in context:

"The basics of climate science are actually very simple and always have been. Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere traps heat, and we are adding more CO2 to the atmosphere. The rest is details."

They then go on to explain in general terms the "Physics and Chemistry 101" of climate change, plus some of the effects such as more extremes, rising sea levels, warmer atmosphere, ocean acidification, and melting ice. The chapter ends with a discussion of tipping points, an area of both great uncertainty and grave ramification.

Chapter 3 is perhaps the most important chapter: "Why Should I give a Damn?" In it they discuss the effects of climate change on national security, food production, water supplies, energy resources, land use, human health, and ecosystem disruptions. If none of that concerns you, how about the massive negative effect on the economy resulting from not doing anything? In short, you better give a damn because this is your life being impacted, and your children's and grandchildren's lives.

The next three chapters address the actions of climate deniers. Chapter 4 outlines the six stages of denial; Chapter 5 the war on climate science (here are those lobbyists and hired gun men mentioned earlier); Chapter 6 on the hypocrisy of climate denial. These are important chapters for anyone who believes Fox News and the conspiracy/white supremacy blog Breitbart are somehow "science" while NOAA, NASA, IPCC, and WMO are "in it for the money."

Chapter 7 hits on geoengineering, the idea that somehow we can find some technological fix. In short, it's akin to trying to find ways of keeping a bathtub from overflowing by throwing in toasters or blasting the rising water with a propane torch in an effort to evaporate it. These ideas are likely to 1) not work, and 2) have unintended consequences. Of course, the alternative is to turn off the tap and pull the plug. Duh.

The book ends on a more hopeful tone, as Chapter 8 delves into a path forward. What may come as a surprise to many folks is that we've already been working to reduce carbon emissions and shift from fossil fuels to renewable sources of energy. The world, through the leadership of the Obama administration, has taken significant steps toward righting the ship. More needs to occur.

Throughout the book are the cartoons of Tom Toles. Toles has an exceptional knack for taking the key points and boiling them down into an easily understood comic drawing. The cartoons heighten the value of the book tremendously. And don't miss the teeny toons in the bottom right corner of every cartoon; they too exquisitely capture the important moments.

This book is especially important given that the apparent incoming administration (this review was published on 12/15/16, a month or so after the 2016 election) has said it will make Rex Tillerson, CEO of ExxonMobil and a long-time funder of climate denial front groups, as the next Secretary of State.

So read this book. It reads fast. It provides excellent information. And it is necessary for all Americans to understand what we are up against.

More book reviews (click and scroll down)

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Who is Scott Pruitt?

Scott Pruitt is apparently the new administration's choice to become Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the EPA. In short, this choice epitomizes the old warning of "the fox guarding the hen house."

Sound a little hyperbolic? In reality, it underestimates the problem.

Pruitt is the Attorney General for the oil and gas dependent state of Oklahoma. He is currently suing the EPA. Yes, the very same EPA he is slated to lead. Pruitt prides himself on suing the EPA "every chance he gets." He has sued EPA to eliminate standards for reducing smog pollution. He has sued EPA to remove protections against mercury pollution. He has sued EPA to remove protections against toxic arsenic pollution. He has sued EPA to block protections against acid gases and other pollutants from power plants. He has sued EPA to block air quality standards in national parks and wilderness areas.

Until he is sworn in, assuming that happens, Pruitt will be continuing his campaign to block EPA from implementing clean air, clean water, and climate change regulations that Congress has authorized it to implement.

Republicans hate mentioning that part. But it is Congress that has passed laws that require EPA to develop regulations to accomplish what Congress told EPA to implement in those laws. Furthermore, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered EPA to follow through on laying out regulations because it was too slow in doing so. Yes, the Congress and Supreme Court ordered EPA to protect human and environmental health, but Republicans blame EPA for doing the job they were required to do.

Pruitt has led the suite of Republican states fighting EPA health and safety regulations, in particular ones that his fossil fuel lobbyists tell him they don't like. If Pruitt is confirmed, he will try to dismantle these health and safety efforts from the inside.

Pruitt has received several hundreds of thousands of dollars from the fossil fuel industry. He was caught sending letters to President Obama under his own name that were actually written by gas industry lawyers. He has fought to eliminate EPA oversight completely, arguing that fossil fuel dependent states like his have a right to destroy the environment, human health, and the climate system just because they make money doing so.

Not surprisingly, Pruitt is a climate denier. He routinely repeats the same old non-science lobbyist talking points fed to him by fossil fuel and libertarian lobbying organizations in Washington. He has outright lied about how EPA has attempted to implement the Congressional mandates given it. He has defended the right of corporations and other Republicans to lie about the state of climate science. And now he'll be in charge of the Agency that both he and the incoming administration have promised to dismantle.

This is your health and safety they are putting at risk.

The professed goals of Pruitt and the administration are to eliminate any regulations that require fossil fuel and other companies to limit their pollution. To eliminate all safeguards against massive CO2 emissions into the atmosphere and oceans. To eliminate all innovation and advances in our future energy needs.

This is the person the incoming administration has chosen to lead the EPA, the Agency he has vowed to destroy. Now he'll have a chance to destroy all health and human safety protections for all of us from the inside.

Oh, and it gets worse.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

The Incoming Administration is Even Worse Than Expected for Climate Science

Prior to the recent U.S. election this page noted "the last gasp of climate denial groups." It seems denial lobbyists are now guarding the hen house. The shocking election result brings with it expectations of climate denial, deceit, and defunding of science organizations. And it likely will get even worse.

To begin with, the person selected to head the EPA transition is Myron Ebell, chief anti-science lobbyist at the Competitive Enterprise Institute. Similar anti-science lobbyists are in charge of transition for the Departments of Energy and Interior. Likely EPA administrators have been narrowed down to fossil fuel state politicians intent on gutting EPA health and safety regulations. Many senior EPA staff have suggested they won't remain in an agency led by anti-science lobbyists.

The new administration has already indicated it will abuse its political power to suppress science and push conspiracy theories. The climate science budget at NASA (and likely NOAA) is expected to be slashed. As with all Republican administrations and Congresses, their choice is always to cut funding of science research so that research can't continue to demonstrate the dishonesty of science denial.

With Republicans controlling both houses of the legislative branch, the entire executive branch, and likely to stack the judicial branch for decades to come, Americans are faced with an anti-American plutocracy in charge of the country.

All of this, of course, will hurt all Americans, including those people who voted for the Republican ticket because, well, not because they are racist or bigoted, they say, but because, well, because, um, something about the high cost of health care.

Health care costs will immediately go up as the new administration cuts out competition and throws at least 15 million people off insurance rolls.

So much for that. Congratulations, America, you got played.

Because of the ignorance of voters across the world (think Brexit, the 2016 U.S. election, and the upcoming French elections), we are now faced with significant regression of humanity. Scientists will be required to continue research with even more limited budgets, face accentuated anti-science lobbyist power, and deal with a populace that seems incapable of connecting actions with consequences. Just ask all those Republican voters now complaining that Republicans will kill their health insurance, take away their medicare, and destroy social security.

Somehow scientists have to find a way to reach out to the public. That job just got a lot harder.

Meanwhile, the climate continues to warm (2016 will set a new heat record for the third year in a row) and humans continue to be the dominant cause of that warming.

To quote Neil deGrasse Tyson, "The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe it."

In other words, the science is the science. Your choice to deny the science doesn't change the science.

Time to get to work.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Effect of the U.S. Election Result on Climate Change

A disaster for the planet? Or will we keep building on the progress? No one knows for sure.

There is no doubt that the surprise election result will bring many questions about what happens to global to combat climate change. The fact that Myron Ebell from the anti-science lobbyist Competitive Enterprise Institute is heading up the EPA transition team signals a disdain for science.

Beyond that, everyone is guessing.

Here's a quick run down on people trying to analyze the situation. Click the links to read the full articles.

There's no way around it: Donald Trump is going to be a disaster for the planet - Vox

Trump picks top climate skeptic to lead EPA transition - Scientific American

Climate change: Nations will push ahead with plans despite Trump - BBC

Change ahead: Shifts on immigration, health, climate, and taxes - New York Times

Donald Trump's victory could mean disaster for the planet - TIME

All is not lost on climate change - Slate

The global danger's of Trump's climate denial - National Geographic

In Trump, the U.S. puts a climate denier in its highest office and all climate change action in limbo - Inside Climate News

While the results of the election on climate are uncertain, the fact that humans are heating up our climate system is unequivocal. The year 2014 set a new heat record, which was broken by 2015 and will be broken again by 2016. According to the World Meteorological Organization, the five hottest years have all been since 2011. The trend will continue upward.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

The Basics of Climate Change Science - The Series

This page started a series of posts on the basics of climate change science and why we know that human activity is causing the climate to warm. To make the information easier to find, this current post creates a running summary and links to all the other posts. Whenever new articles are written they will be added to this central access point. Click on the titles for the full articles.

1. So is it "Global Warming" or "Climate Change?": A guide to some basic terms used by climate change scientists, including clarification of terms that scientists and the public use in different ways.

2. What is the Greenhouse Effect and What Does it Have to Do with Global Warming?: The Earth is kept warm by the natural greenhouse effect. This post describes the basic scientific principles and the history of their discovery, beginning with William Herschel in 1800.

3. So What are Greenhouse Gases and What are NOT Greenhouse Gases?: Most of the warming of the greenhouse effect is caused by a few gases that occur in very small amounts in the atmosphere. The strongest greenhouse gases are water vapor, CO2, methane, and ozone, with CO2 being the main driver of warming.

4. CO2 and Other Radiative Forcings of Global Warming: Impacts on the warming of the climate include forcings and feedbacks. This post explains the basic principles and the main drivers of global warming.

5. Carbon Dioxide (CO2): The Smoking Gun of Climate Change: CO2 is the main driver of  global warming. This post introduces the relationship between CO2 and temperature, and sets the stage for future posts on why we know the CO2 we've added to the climate system is causing our current unprecedented spike in warming.

As noted, this is a continuing series so more posts will be linked as they are written. Feel free to bookmark this post and return periodically to catch any updates you may have missed.

For those interested in more detailed discussions of climate science, follow the links provided in the posts above. For those who like even more details, review the latest IPCC Assessment Report Number 5 (AR5), whose four volumes provide thousands of pages on the science. Start with the Synthesis Report to get a detailed overview, then move to the Physical Science Basis report to dig deeper on the science. The other two reports deal with Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability and Mitigation of Climate Change, important for examining ways we can deal with the unequivocal science.