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Why discrediting controversial academics such as Bj√∏rn Lomborg damages science

LomborgAlice Dreger’s new book, Galileo’s Middle Finger: Heretics, Activists, and the Search for Justice in Science, tells the stories of various academics whose work is perceived to be politically threatening to one group or another and then as a consequence experience vicious personal and professional attacks. In each of the cases, when Dreger explored the controversy, she found that the claims made to impeach the researchers ‚Äì such as that their research was fabricated or that they had engaged in academic misconduct ‚Äì did not stand up to scrutiny.

Instead, Dreger uncovered systematic campaigns to discredit individuals, and even attempts to end their careers. She explains the general dynamics employed by the self-appointed impeachers included: “blanketing the Web to make sure they set the terms of debate, reaching out to politically sympathetic reporters to get the story into the press, doling out fresh information and new characters at a steady pace to keep the story in the media.” For publicizing these cases, Dreger herself became the subject of such attacks.

Dreger’s book focuses on controversies related to sex. But if there is one issue that people seem to enjoy fighting over more than sex, it is the environment. Bj√∏rn Lomborg is not a character in Dreger’s book, but he very well could be.

Several weeks ago the University of Western Australia announced that it had received a $4 million grant from Canberra to establish a Copenhagen Consensus Center on its campus with Lomborg at the helm. The “consensus center” describes itself as “a think tank that researches the smartest solutions for the world’s biggest problems by cost-benefit, advising policy-makers and philanthropists how to spend their money most effectively.” It was originally funded by the Danish government and more recently by private donations in Washington, DC. Lomborg’s use of economic cost-benefit analysis has long been the focus of intense criticism.

In Australia, the reaction to the UWA announcement was no less intense than a New South Wales bushfire. Christine Milne, Australian Greens leader and senator from Tasmania, tweeted: “Giving Bjorn Lomborg $4m from precious research budget is an insult to every climate scientist in Australia.” Tim Flannery, a scientist and former director of the Australian government’s Climate Commission, accused Lomborg and prime minister Tony Abbott’s government of an “ideological attempt at deceiving the Australian public.” Students at UWA joined in the outrage, demanding that the university immediately disassociate from Lomborg: “While Dr Lomborg doesn’t refute climate change itself, many students question why the Centre’s projects should be led by someone with a controversial track-record. Assessing how to achieve development goals is important, but why should Dr Lomborg be involved?”

Whatever you may think of Lomborg as an academic, as a media figure, as a political campaigner, the kerfuffle over his appointment at UWA provides us with a great opportunity to engage together in a discussion about academic intolerance and campaigns to “shout down” unwelcome or inconvenient voices.

Before proceeding, given the nature of such issues, let me take a quick moment to establish my own bona fides.

I have been on opposite sides of many issues from Lomborg, including the time when I first met him on a 2002 panel debate in Italy to 2009 when I took an opposing view from his on the subject of geoengineering. At the same time, I have found Lomborg’s work to be incredibly useful in the classroom. I had multiple generations of graduate students critique The Skeptical Environmentalist from start to finish and later generations replicate the Copenhagen Consensus methodology as the focus of another graduate seminar. I didn’t care whether students agreed with Lomborg’s conclusions or not but rather that they developed skills of critical thinking. Lomborg’s work helped mightily in challenging the students to think, partly because of some of his unpopular conclusions.

As well, in recent years I’ve experienced academic intolerance first hand. There was the ultimately successful social and mainstream media campaign to have me fired from Nate Silver’s ESPN website, FiveThirtyEight. More recently, a member of the US Congress opened an “investigation” of my research because he did not like the evidence that I had presented before the US Senate in 2013. So I know a bit about campaigns to impugn character and damage careers.

Politics can be nasty, and Australian politics can be particularly nasty (just ask Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard). As a famous American political aphorism goes, “politics ain’t bean-bag.” However, the fact that politics can be nasty should not give license to anyone, least of all scientists and researchers, to practice academic intolerance via shout-down campaigns.

Back in 2002, along with Steve Rayner, at Oxford University, I organized a panel at the American Association for the Advancement of Science on the controversy over Lomborg’s book, The Skeptical Environmentalist. Even then, as we wrote at the time, “It proved difficult to focus attention on the broader issues arising from the conflict because many refused to engage the larger issues, preferring instead to take one side or the other.”

How should academics and others researchers respond when individual researchers become symbols of larger political conflicts, such as those documented in the area of sex and gender by Alice Dreger, or in the case of Bjorn Lomborg?

Here I’ll offer three suggestions to stimulate some discussion:

1. Don’t seek to shut down debate and discussion. This means not seeking to prevent individuals from publishing their views or holding a job where they publish those views. It also means working to create a safe space for the open exchange of ideas, especially when there are social media or other shout down campaigns under way. As Voltaire did not say, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

In Lomborg’s case he and UWA are the recipients of what is called an “academic earmark” ‚Äì that is, direct government support to a university, typically outside the peer review process. I once tried (and failed) to get my own university to forbid such funds. Globally, such directed funding is fairly common, and sometimes justifiable. Academics should be careful in selectively opposing Lomborg’s earmark, rather than debating the issue of earmarking more generally ‚Äì sauce for the goose and all that.

2. Don’t use disagreement, or even someone being wrong about a claim, as the basis for suggesting that they be banished from the academic or civic sphere. If making a mistake, or multiple mistakes, in research or advocacy were indeed to be a disqualifier for further participation in civic debates, utter silence would be the result.

Writing in 2002 about a controversial paper published by Science, its editor Donald Kennedy, explained why it is important to air controversial claims out in the open: “That’s where it belongs, not in an alternative universe in which anonymity prevails, rumor leaks out, and facts stay inside. It goes without saying that we cannot publish papers with a guarantee that every result is right. We’re not that smart. That is why we are prepared for occasional disappointment when our internal judgments and our processes of external review turn out to be wrong, and a provocative result is not fully confirmed. What we ARE very sure of is that publication is the right option, even–and perhaps especially–when there is some controversy.”

3. Focus on debating claims and alternative course of action, not individuals. Recognize that competing claims and differing views on action reflect strengths of both science and democracies. We have nothing to fear from challenges to received wisdom or popular causes. Yet, it has become fashionable, particularly in debates about the climate and agricultural biotechnology, to label an opponent as “anti-science” or perhaps a “science denier.” These are readily appropriated terms used to signal that an individual holds view that are toxic, not even worth debating, and a signal that the individual should be shamed or ostracized. Such tactics span the political spectrum, and are used by the right and the left.

Our debates on important issues deserve better. There are legitimate questions to be raised about policies related to, say, energy policy and the regulation of GMOs. Often the highly political nature of the questions leads to them being mapped onto science as a proxy for debate over values. Rather than participate in that transfer of science into politics, we should eschew turning individuals into political symbols and seek to open up a broader discussion of our values, including those that are shared and those in conflict.

Ultimately, scientists and other experts face challenges in helping to move highly politicized issues toward resolution in broader society. That is because politics involves much more than evidence and expertise. Yet, perhaps paradoxically, we experts have considerable power to make democratic decision making more difficult, by exacerbating polarization and making science look like just another arena for political battles. We all share responsibility to elevate the quality of political debates.

We have choices in how we engage policy makers and each other. How we make those choices matters. As Alice Dreger concludes, “If you must criticize scholars whose work challenges yours, do so on the evidence, not by poisoning the land on which we all live.”

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Obama’s Legacy: 70 Percent of Americans Dissatisfied With Our Country’s Direction

obamaAnyone looking for signs that Barack Obama’s presidency is running out of gas got a glimmer of hope this week from his daily schedule.

He traveled to Florida Wednesday for a tour along the swampy Anhinga Trail in Everglades National Park to talk about “climate change” or, as it is called by his friends, “Global Warming.”

The last time I checked the top 10 issues the American people worry about most, climate change wasn’t one of them.

I guess Obama didn’t have anything on his schedule to occupy his day, so he flew down to Florida to grudgingly admit, “Yes, this winter was cold in some parts of the country.” But, he insisted, storms, droughts and “longer wildfire seasons” showed that global warming was still very real.

His schedule wasn’t jam-packed on Thursday, either, so he had time to welcome the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots to the White House for a photo-op.

Such is the life of a president without a serious agenda, whose administration will end in little more than 20 some months.

Meantime, the problems Americans worry about most — sluggish economic growth, job scarcity, and government debt — are now in the hands of the Republicans who run Congress.

And the word coming out of Capitol Hill lately is that the GOP’s newly-oiled legislative machinery is up and running once more, and the days of gridlock, for the most part, are over — at least for the time being.

The House and Senate have passed budget resolutions, and, wonder of wonders, they’ve been sent to a legislative conference between the two chambers to iron out their differences.

When Democrats ran the Senate, Harry Reid shelved every budget sent over from the GOP House, refusing to consider them. “We don’t need a budget,” he said.

So the government was essentially without a budget for several years, running on “continuing resolutions,” until the GOP “budget sequester” slowed down spending.

But Reid is out of power and Sen. Mitch McConnell is the Majority Leader. Moving legislation and passing annual budgets — such as they are — are back in vogue.

And that’s not all. Congress has passed the Medicare reimbursement bill, also known as the “doc fix,” that pays doctor bills for the elderly.

A human trafficking bill is now likely to be passed, and there appears to be progress on the long-stalled trade bill that Democrats have blocked for years under orders from labor union bosses.

The Trade Promotion Authority, known as “fast track,” is being moved through the Senate Finance Committee by Chairman Orrin Hatch. It carries a compromise provision that directs the administration to ensure that our trading partners “avoid manipulating exchange rates” through “cooperative mechanisms, enforceable rules, reporting, monitoring, transparency, or other means, as appropriate.”

The bill is opposed by arch-protectionists, but it’s likely to clear the Senate with strong GOP support. The vote is uncertain in the House where many GOP lawmakers are reluctant to give the president any more authority than he already has.

But Obama may be taking a page out of Bill Clinton’s economic policy book when he won passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement in his first term.

Critics predicted that NAFTA would kill jobs, but by the end of Clinton’s second term, the economy was soaring and unemployment had fallen to 4 percent.

Whatever happens in the upcoming debate, the fact that the measure is heading for a vote is a major advance for free trade and for getting the long-stalled machinery of Congress up and running again.

It remains to be seen just how far Republicans will be able to advance this legislative period in whatever is left of Obama’s presidency.

The most ambitious promise in the GOP’s agenda is broad-based tax reform to simplify the tax code, cleanse it of corporate welfare and apply the additional revenue to lowering the tax rates for businesses and individuals.

And they mean to bring it up for a vote before the 2016 elections as a sign of their determination to strengthen the U.S. economy, put people back to work and raise incomes.

Bills to do just that are now being shaped in the House Ways and Means Committee, chaired by Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, and the Senate Finance Committee, headed by Hatch.

Obama, and his party, remain stubbornly anti-tax cut, even though the three most successful tax cut agendas since the 1960s were signed into law by two Democratic presidents or enacted with the help of Democratic leaders.

President John F. Kennedy ran on a platform of across-the-board tax cuts, even for those in the highest income brackets — saying “a rising tide lifts all boats.”

Liberal critics said it would explode the deficit, but it led to a budget surplus by the end of that decade.

President Reagan cut tax rates across the board, the economy soared out a severe recession in two years, and he won re-election by carrying 49 states.

He enacted tax reform in his second term, cutting tax rates further, this time with the support of two Democrats: Rep. Richard Gephardt of Missouri and Sen. Bill Bradley of New Jersey.

President Clinton signed a GOP capital gains tax cut in his second term that fueled a sharp rise in job creation and business investment.

Obama’s tenure has been one unending rant in favor of higher taxes, which is why Gallup said last week that only 28 percent of Americans were satisfied with the country’s direction.

He “has served through the longest stretch of low satisfaction of any of the past four two-term presidents,” the polling firm said.

That will be his legacy.

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Eco-echo Chamber Amplifies “Corrupt Skeptics” Myth

merchants movieIn Merchants of Smear, a September 2014 Heartland Institute Policy Brief by investigative journalist Russell Cook, the origin of the idea skeptical scientists have been paid by industry to lie about climate change is finally revealed.

Cook demonstrates the strategy to “reposition global warming as theory rather than fact” originated from instructions to public relations professionals working with an industry coalition responding to former Vice President Al Gore’s climate activism. Contrary to popular opinion, it was “not a top-down directive ordering scientists to fabricate doubt,” Cook says.

‘Easy-to-Remember’ Reporting Points

Cook explains the mainstream media’s approach to reporting climate change can be boiled down to “Three Easy-to-Remember Points” that are in fact not true:

  1. An overwhelming consensus exists in the scientific community in support of the hypothesis of dangerous manmade global warming.
  2. Skeptical scientists are paid by the hydrocarbon fuel sector to create false evidence and arguments opposing the findings of the vast majority of their peers.
  3. Because of the first two points, “journalists should not give equal time to skeptic scientists.” 

Reporters who allow global warming skeptics to present their case are condemned as industry shills and labeled foolish for thinking anything good comes from giving credence to people many journalists believe to be dishonest and self-interested. 

Memo’s Misused

Cook begins his investigation by describing how in early 1991, U.S. coal company associations created the Information Council on the Environment (ICE), a public relations campaign established to compensate for the news media’s blind acceptance of Gore’s global warming sensationalism. ICE intended to counter-argue the debate was not at all settled, and in one of its memos, laid out several PR strategies. Three of those strategies are: 

  1. “Reposition global warming as theory (not fact).” Cook explains the intention was to demonstrate “the theory of man-caused global warming is not established fact since it has basic scientific faults, and the warming might be a result of natural variability.”
  2. “Target print and radio media for maximum effectiveness.”
  3. “Use a spokesman from the scientific community.” 

None of this is in any way unusual. Communications firms use such strategies every day in support of their clients’ interests. Many PR practitioners are agnostic about the actual truth of the claims they are promoting and, at times, support messaging they know to be questionable or even wrong. In this case, however, the primary message being promoted by ICE (the first bullet point above) was and still is correct.

Later in 1991, ICE memos, including the one with the above instructions for PR professionals, were apparently leaked to environmental activists and quickly ended up in the hands of environmental reporters. The phrase “reposition global warming as theory” was reported by some in the media as being part of ICE’s strategy, although at times it was referenced without attribution.

Misinformation Begins with Gelbspan

Cook explains it was not until late 1995, when former Boston Globe reporter and editor Ross Gelbspan started publicizing the instructions from ICE, that it began to gain significant traction in the press. During his December 15, 1995, National Public Radio interview, Gelbspan quoted the phrase from the ICE memo, implying skeptical scientists Robert Balling, Pat Michaels, and Sherwood Idso were being used as tools of this “disinformation campaign.” 

At the same time, Cook tells us, Gelbspan had an article on global warming published as the cover story for Harper’s magazine. In this article, Cook recounts, Gelbspan “recites dollar amounts the skeptic scientists allegedly received from ‘coal and oil interests’ and then offers a highly dismissive but evidence-free assessment: ‘The skeptics assert flatly that their science is untainted by funding. Nevertheless, in this persistent and well-funded campaign of denial they have become interchangeable ornaments on the hood of a high-powered engine of disinformation.’ … [T]his guilt-by-association narrative is all Gelbspan offers as proof of an arrangement between industry officials and skeptic climate scientists, where money was paid under a directive to fabricate false climate assessments.” 

In Gelbspan’s 1997 book The Heat Is On, he repeated the charge skeptical scientists are being used as part of a PR “repositioning” campaign, although this time he accused S. Fred Singer of being one of industry’s tools instead of Idso.This misinformation was immediately amplified by book reviews in theBoston Globe and The New York Times. According to Cook’s research, it was through these influential publications the myth effectively created by Gelbspan appears as fact”across the Internet, on Websites for supporters of human-caused global warming alarmism, nature and science pages, political news media pages, motor vehicle hobbyist pages with general topic discussions, and Google’s scans of books discussing lawsuit issues.”

Cook concludes virtually no one repeating Gelbspan’s claims reveals the true context in which the repositioning phrase was used. Consequently, the fiction that skeptical scientists were paid as part of a PR campaign to lie about the global warming continues to distort the climate change debate to this day.

Tom Harris is executive director of the Ottawa, Canada-based International Climate Science Coalition.

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Indian ex-climate chief denied permission to attend summit after sexual harassment complaint

pachauriAn Indian court on Thursday refused Rajendra Pachauri permission to attend an international water conference after the leading global voice on climate change was accused of sexual harassment by a female colleague.

Pachauri, 74, quit as chair of the United Nations panel of climate scientists in February after a 29-year-old researcher at his Delhi-based think tank made the accusation against him. Pachauri has denied the allegation.

The Indian scientist, who has been granted protection from arrest, had asked the Delhi High Court for permission to travel to Greece to attend the Global Water Summit on April 27-28.

The summit’s website had listed Pachauri as the keynote speaker at the opening of the conference.

“You (Pachauri) should have approached well within the time, as you have (had) information of the event since June 2014,” said Justice S. P. Garg, dismissing Pachauri’s request.

Indian police are investigating the complaint by the researcher at The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), who said Pachauri harassed her since 2013 by email, Whatsapp and text messaging, despite her requests that he stop.

Pachauri’s lawyers had previously said his computer and mobile phone were hacked and that vested interests were maligning him because of his stance on global warming.

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New Report Details The Staggering Corruption Of Science Behind NY’s Fracking Ban

protestNew York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo shocked the media last year by declaring that hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, was too dangerous for the Empire State. He based his decision on a 184-page report that relied on misinformation peddled by researchers with ties to environmental activists, according to a new report.

“[T]he Cuomo administration’s report relies on highly questionable sources, including research papers with strong ties to the fringe activists who helped hasten the ban in New York,” according to a new report by the oil industry-backed group Energy In Depth (EID).

“Yet these same sources were misrepresented as purveyors and curators of ‘bona fide’ science by Cuomo officials,” EID reports.

In December 2014, Dr. Howard Zucker, acting New York health commissioner, released his long-delayed report on fracking, which predictably came to the conclusion that the well-stimulation method was not proven to be safe. Zucker famously said, “Would I let my child play in a field nearby? My answer is no.” (Zucker forgot to mention he was unmarried and had no children.)

But EID notes that Zucker’s 184-page report has some serious flaws. For starters, the research the Cuomo administration relied upon included “reports that were financed and produced almost entirely by professional opposition groups.”

For example, the “Global Community Monitor” (GCM), a paper that was touted by Zucker, was authored by researchers with explicit ties to environmental groups. Not only that, all three peer-reviewers of the study “failed to disclose their personal opposition to shale development,” according to EID.

One peer-reviewer, Sandra Steingraber, literally co-founded the group New Yorkers Against Fracking.

Steingraber says (with a straight face) she’s unbiased when it comes to fracking, but she was recently caught on a phone conference with Maryland anti-fracking activists saying “we have to create the narrative [laughs] for the data.”

“You’ve got a lot of science, but now you have to take it like a Gladiator and go into the political arena with it,” Steingraber told activists in audio obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation.

“We can’t hold back when we’re accused by industry of not being objective because we’re being advocates,” she said. “Those two things are actually not opposed to each another.”

EID notes that environmental activists with the Health and Environmental Funders Network (HEFN) and the Sustainable Markets Foundation (SMF) had financial ties to the GCM paper to the tune of $3.7 million. These groups also had financial ties to left-wing media outlets “including InsideClimate News, Grist and National Public Radio” and exceeding $2.2 million.

“This research and media coverage directly benefited campaign organizations that have received in excess of $16 million from the HEFN and SMF to build the political case for banning shale development in New York,” EID found in its report.

Fracking involves injecting water, sand and some chemicals deep into underground shale formations to release vast reserves of oil and natural gas. Activists have been trying to tie fracking to groundwater contamination and poor air quality for years — so far unsuccessfully.

The Obama administration has recently unveiled regulations aimed at regulating fracking on federal lands along with new wastewater rules for fracking wells. Obama has also proposed a plan to regulate methane emissions from fracking.

The administration has not come out against fracking, as key cabinet officials have expressed their support for the well-stimulation process. Some conservatives, however, believe that while Obama’s rhetoric on fracking is favorable, his regulatory actions against the industry tell a different story.

“The Obama administration’s hydraulic fracturing rule is a solution in search of a problem,” said Tom Pyle, president of the Institute for Energy Research. “States are already regulating hydraulic fracturing on public lands and have done so successfully for years without federal interference.”

“The federal government has no business interfering with states’ rights to regulate energy development,” Pyle said.

Here is EID’s report:

EID New York Fracking Ban

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Obama Puts Heat On India Over Climate Commitments

lifestyleContrary to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent observation that India was under “no pressure” for climate commitments, a US envoy said on Monday that India is being “closely watched” for its contribution to climate change. US envoy Richard Verma said the country was being “closely watched” for its intended contribution towards the global response to climate change. “I don’t think it’s an understatement to say the world is watching very closely what India will do,” he said. —The Times of India, 20 April 2015

The developed world would have to “walk the talk” on climate change and provide a green climate fund to the developing world, Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar has said, ahead of a crucial UN meet on the issue in Paris later this year. “Prime Minster (Narendra Modi) has put up an ambitious target of generating 175,000 megawatts of renewable energy. That is a huge contribution of India, because it will save 350 million tonnes of carbon emissions each year and would require 150 billion of investment. So the developed world would also have to put their best foot forward,” he said. —Press Trust of India, 20 April 2015 

Ahead of the UN climate talks in Paris later this year, the US today said there is no divide between developed and developing nations on the issue of climate change and emphasised the need to work together to confront challenges of global warming. US Ambassador to India Richard R Verma said: “I think we are moving out and we need to move out of early 1990s world, which was divided into two camps. We are not in two camps anymore.” —The Indian Tribune, 21 April 2015

President Obama said, “Today, there is no greater threat to our planet than climate change.” I say “incredibly” because that just isn’t true ‚Äì and if President Obama really believes it is, then it is time to panic. Given the state of the world and the urgent problems facing us that directly affect our prospects for peace and prosperity, global warming shouldn’t even be in the top five on the list of problems our president should be worrying about. President Obama is living in a world of denial. He uses global warming as a distraction to dodge the real problems we face and avoid critiques of his performance. –Ed Rogers, The Washington Post, 20 April 2015

This is Earth Day’s 45th anniversary and it’s also ‚Äì according to Earth Day Network’s somewhat optimistic website ‚Äì “the year in which world leaders finally pass a binding climate treaty” and “the year in which citizens and organizations divest from fossil fuels and put their money into renewable energy solutions.” To which there is only one sensible answer and it consists of three words: Ain’t. Gonna. Happen. There will be no “binding climate treaty” at the UN climate summit in Paris this year because there has been no ‘global warming’ for 220 months. As the Global Warming Policy Forum’s Benny Peiser notes, this “temperature pause” will lead to a “policy pause.” –James Delingpole, Breitbart News, 22 April 2015

Anyone interested in climate change will have noticed the numerous headlines proclaiming March 2015 to be the warmest month ever and the first three months of 2015 to have broken the record for the warmest start to any year on record. This year has undoubtedly started off warm, but the claim that it is unprecedented and an obvious example of global warming can only be justified by ignoring contradictory evidence, as many journalists and scientists did. –David Whitehouse, Global Warming Policy Forum, 21 April 2015

Preliminary forecasts from universities in the UK and the US all point to the Atlantic having below average storm activity this year, with some forecasts suggesting there could be near-record breaking low activity. These early forecasts suggest tropical storm and hurricane activity will be around half of the long-term average and if they are true, 2015 could be the quietest hurricane season for over 30 years. –Chris Burton, The Weather Network, 20 April 2015

Former U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer Nigel Lawson tells the Wall Street Journals’s Simon Constable that climate change has become something of a “new religion” to such an extent that debating it is seen as blasphemy. He also sees an international treaty on carbon emissions as a “stupid thing. —The Wall Street Journal, 23 April 2015

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Global warming more modest than IPCC’s worst-case scenarios

earth sunA study published this week in the peer-reviewed journal ‘Scientific Reports’ revealed that global warming is not progressing at the rate suggested by the worst-case computer models released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The study, which was led by Patrick T. Brown of Duke University, examined 1,000 years of temperature records that showed global warming was not progressing as fast as it would even under the most severe emissions scenarios as outlined by the IPCC.

The study showed that “natural variability in surface temperatures, caused by interactions between the ocean and atmosphere, and other natural factors, can account for observed changes in the recent rates of warming from decade to decade.”

Using the term climate “wiggles,” the researchers note they could slow or speed the rate of warming from decade to decade, and either heighten or cancel out the effects of greenhouse gas emissions, which are believed to cause global warming. If not properly explained and accounted for, these wiggles may alter the dependability of climate models and lead to an “over-interpretation of short-term temperature trends.

“By comparing our model against theirs, we found that climate models largely get the ‘big picture’ right but seem to underestimate the magnitude of natural decade-to-decade climate wiggles,” Brown said. “Our model shows these wiggles can be big enough that they could have accounted for a reasonable portion of the accelerated warming we experienced from 1975 to 2000, as well as the reduced rate in warming that occurred from 2002 to 2013.”

Brown, a doctoral student in climatology at Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment, said, “Statistically, it’s pretty unlikely that an 11-year hiatus in warming, like the one we saw at the start of this century, would occur if the underlying human-caused warming was progressing at a rate as fast as the most severe IPCC projections. Hiatus periods of 11 years or longer are more likely to occur under a middle-of-the-road scenario.”

Brown also noted that haitus periods of 11 years or longer, like the one we are currently experiencing, are more likely to happen under a “middle-of-the-road scenario” and not under the IPCC’s cataclysmic global warming narrative. Unlike climate models used by the IPCC, Brown’s research used observable data.

Eugene C. Cordero of San Jose State University and Steven A. Mauget of the USDA Agricultural Research Service in Lubbock, Texas, co-authored the new study with Brown and Li. Funding came from the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, both of which are branches of the U.S. government.

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A Challenge From Climate Change Regulations

power linesAs President Obama prepares to unveil his climate change regulations on coal-fired power plants, the nation’s electric utilities are preparing to transform the system that keeps the lights on in America. But some companies fear that in the process, the lights may go out.

This summer, the Environmental Protection Agency is expected to release a final set of rules aimed at forcing electric power companies — the nation’s largest source of greenhouse gas emissions — to cut them 30 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. The Obama administration has consistently used 2005 as a baseline year for cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

The ambitious rules hope to remake the nation’s electricity system by closing hundreds of heavily polluting coal plants while rapidly expanding the use of natural gas plants, wind and solar power. Officials at electric utilities say that as they make that transition — taking the nation’s largest but dirtiest source of electricity offline and replacing it with a mix of cleaner power sources — they may face power failures.

“If the proposed rule stands the way it is, there will be blackouts,” said Nick Akins, the chief executive of American Electric Power, an electric utility that supplies power in 11 Midwestern states.

This week, the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, a utility industry group, issued a report concluding that, as written, the proposed climate change rules could pose “a significant reliability challenge” to the nation’s power supply.

The challenge facing utilities is steep: As they close coal plants that light millions of homes, they will need to quickly build new sources of electricity. Much of that will come from new power plants fueled by natural gas, which produces half the carbon pollution of coal. But they will also build vast new wind and solar farms. Turbines built on windswept plains and solar panels built in sunny deserts will need new power lines to connect them to the grid, but siting, permitting and building such lines can take up to a decade. In some parts of the country, electric utilities may choose to build new nuclear plants. Nuclear power produces no carbon pollution, but creates many controversies about storing nuclear waste. Companies also plan to invest in energy-efficient technology to help move and store the new power on the grid.

In the long run, Mr. Akins and officials from other electric utilities say that they do expect to meet the requirements of the regulation by 2030. The hard part, they say, will be maintaining reliable power during the transition. In particular, they note that the E.P.A.’s draft proposal requires states to start demonstrating significant emissions cuts as early as 2020.

“This is going to be a major transition of the electricity system. All these things can be done, but not in that time range,” said Gerry Cauley, president of the North American Electric Reliability Corporation.

States and coal companies are already challenging the rules in federal court, and if they are successful, the Obama regulations, as written, could fall apart. But that would not remove the legal requirement for the E.P.A. to regulate greenhouse gases, even under a future president.

Across the country, the burden will be unequally spread, with states that depend most heavily on coal-fired power facing the biggest lift. Today, coal-fired power accounts for about 40 percent of the nation’s electricity over all, but for some states, coal supplies much of the power, while others use very little. In Kentucky, for example, 92 percent of electricity comes from coal. Coal powers 83 percent of Missouri’s needs and 67 percent of Ohio’s. But the West Coast states, which rely heavily on hydroelectric power and other low-carbon sources, get less than 10 percent of their power from coal.

In California, which has already enacted an ambitious state-level cap-and-trade law to reduce carbon pollution, on top of another state law requiring generation of renewable electricity, utilities anticipate that meeting the federal regulation will simply be a continuation of business as usual.

“California is already on track to achieve the reductions in the rule,” said Melissa Lavinson, vice president for federal affairs at Pacific Gas and Electric. “The way we’re moving forward under the California law, we’ve reduced emissions, increased renewables, and we haven’t had a problem with reliability.”

E.P.A. officials say they are aware of the concerns about reliability, particularly in the coal-dependent Midwest.

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Study reveals, Global warming not progressing as fast as depicted in worst-case models

satellite weatherA new study has revealed that global warming is progressing at a moderate rate than the scenarios depicted in the worst-case models outlined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

A new study based on 1,000 years of temperature records suggests global warming is not progressing as fast as it would under the most severe emissions scenarios outlined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The study led by Duke University showed that natural variability in surface temperatures, caused by interactions between the ocean and atmosphere, and other natural factors, can account for observed changes in the recent rates of warming from decade to decade.

The researchers say these “climate wiggles” could slow or speed the rate of warming from decade to decade, and accentuate or offset the effects of increases in greenhouse gas concentrations. If not properly explained and accounted for, they may skew the reliability of climate models and lead to over-interpretation of short-term temperature trends.

The research used empirical data, rather than the more commonly used climate models, to estimate decade-to-decade variability.

Patrick T. Brown, a doctoral student in climatology at Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment said that Statistically, it’s pretty unlikely that an 11-year hiatus in warming, like the one it was seen at the start of this century, would occur if the underlying human-caused warming was progressing at a rate as fast as the most severe IPCC projections.

Hiatus periods of 11 years or longer are more likely to occur under a middle-of-the-road scenario, he further added.

The study is published in the peer-reviewed journal Scientific Reports.

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Stop ‘global warming’ hysteria

BorderPresident Barack Obama celebrated Earth Day at the entrance of Florida’s Everglades National Park.

“Climate change is threatening this treasure and the communities that depend on it, which includes almost all of South Florida. And if we don’t act, there may not be an Everglades as we know it,” Obama said. “Climate change can no longer be denied… And action can no longer be delayed.”

Sunday, in advance of his trip. the president said because of global warming “rising sea levels are putting a national treasure, and an economic engine for the South Florida tourism industry, at risk,”

Chaos throughout the Middle East and problems along our southern border are putting this country at risk. Meanwhile, despite political hyperbole, global warming hypothesis loses credibility by the day.

The federal government spends $22 billion a year fighting global warming, which is twice what it spends on border security. That’s $41,856 each minute. Accounting for the costs global warming regulations impose on businesses, Forbes columnist Larry Bell estimated the annual cost of global warming policies at $1.754 trillion each year – three times the size of the federal budget deficit.

Obama and other global warming alarmists want the country to spend even more.

We must ask ourselves what crisis they hope to solve. NASA reports the world has warmed .36 degrees over the past 35 years. Most of that warming occurred between 1979 and 1998. Since 1998, global temperatures have gradually cooled.

Eight years ago, Al Gore told us global warming had reach such a critical stage we could expect the North Polar ice cap to be gone by 2014. It is still there, and NASA satellite data show the ice cap has grown by as much as 63 percent in recent years.

A Forbes article by James Taylor blew the lid off a widely cited paper claiming a 97 percent “scientific consensus” about a human-caused global warming crisis.

Newsmax reminded us this week about a series of leaked emails in which global warming scientists candidly discussed their skepticism about the hypothesis.

“The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty we can’t,” said an email from Kevin Trenberth, part of the Climate Analysis Section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research and a lead author of the “Scientific Assessment of Climate Change” report for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

We could go on ad infinitum with data and common sense observations that call into question the need for our country to continue hemorrhaging money on global warming – or “climate change,” when temperatures drop. The fact is, even if proved true, the chances our trillions will alter the weather are practically nil.

The Daily Caller News Foundation used the EPA’s carbon footprint calculator to determine the environmental cost of Obama’s trip to the Everglades. The entourage of planes and cars emitted 90 tons of carbon dioxide, creating the same carbon footprint as 17.2 cars driven over the course of a year.

It’s the same as burning 88,000 pounds of coal or 190 barrels of crude.

We would never suggest the president avoid travel to help save the planet. We only ask that he, Al Gore and other’s who warn about global warming stop demanding the rest of us pay for a problem no one has proved. Let’s feed hungry children, improve education and defend our country before tilting at windmills.

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Debate on the Merits, Anyone?

no free speechMarching under the banner of “transparency,” there is a growing movement in the U.S. to limit truly free speech. The movement claims to be attacking “dark money,” but the reality is that its adherents want to shut up its ideological opponents. Independent expressions of support or opposition for candidates or political issues are marginalized by irrelevant questions about funding sources. Honest research and well-formulated arguments are denounced as “biased” or “untrustworthy” because of who the donors are rather than based on the merits of the arguments presented.

One doesn’t need to look further than the tragic case of Harvard-Smithsonian astrophysicist Dr. Willie Soon to see how calls for transparency can unjustly harm others and deter future quality research. Soon was recently smeared by the New York Times and organizations like Greenpeace for his allegedly biased scientific research into the theory of catastrophic man-caused climate change.

The Times and others attacked Soon because he did not openly and immediately disclose that he received funding for his research from organizations that have a financial interest in the energy sector. It didn’t matter that Soon’s research was of the highest quality, that Smithsonian received much of the funding itself, or that numerous organizations and individuals who support the theory of manmade climate change also receive funding from parties who have financial interests in the climate debate.

Another attack last week on the Smithsonian was launched last week by MoveOn.org, the activist group founded in the wake of the Clinton impeachment scandals. Activists want to see David Koch ‚Äì the philanthropist ‚Äì removed from the boards of the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of Natural History and the American Museum of Natural History for being a “denier” of climate change. Koch has donated tens of millions of dollars to these museums for research and exhibits.

Regardless of what you may believe about global warming, it’s undeniable that these attacks and related calls for “transparency” are simply tools used by one side of the debate in an attempt to silence the other.

Rather than debate those who disagree with them, these progressive activists have learned it is far easier to bully, to retaliate, and to destroy. But to blackball people effectively, they need to know donor names so they can isolate and disrupt funding networks. You can only get so far with smears of the messenger and innuendo about disclosed funders. That’s why this transparently intolerant movement has transitioned from ad hominem attacks and boycotts to enlisting the coercive power of the state.

For a while, the campaign operated below the radar, using the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to conduct inquisitions against Tea Party and conservative groups about their funding sources and affiliations in the course of applying for tax exempt status. Around the same time, Wisconsin prosecutors quietly launched secret “John Doe” investigations exclusively targeting subpoenas and surveillance to legions of center-right political groups and interests who were aligned with the policies of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

But then, far from being shamed by public revelations about Lois Lerner’s coordination of the IRS campaign against conservative nonprofits, the aggressive transparency movement targeting the center-right upped the ante.

Like the opening shot of a starter pistol, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) deployed his official letterhead during the summer of 2013 to demand that dozens of conservative think tanks confess that they had supported the American Legislative Exchange Council’s “Stand Your Ground” laws.

In late 2013, the Center for Media & Democracy and ProgressNow repackaged public form 990 information into lazily crafted so-called expos√©s to launch ad hominem assaults on private donors and successful advocates of conservative causes, labeling center-right public interest groups “stink tanks.”

By the summer of 2014, Arshad Hasan, executive director of ProgressNow, was openly declaring, “The next step for us is to take down this network of [conservative non-profit] institutions that are state-based in each and every one of our states.”

Supporters of this manifestly totalitarian transparency movement insist the public has the right to know who is financially responsible for various social, cultural, and political movements, because if they don’t know, greedy corporations, manipulative religious zealots, or some other allegedly biased group of people will use their deep pockets and political connections to push oppressive policies regular working Janes and Joes don’t actually want. Transparency, they say, is the only way to hold people accountable.

In reality, as the escalation of ad hominem into coercive state action demonstrates, this campaign is really nothing more than an attempt to silence political opponents. Fear of political or social retribution is used to prevent particular causes from being funded. That’s why legal protections for private civic engagement are necessary to ensure that individuals feel safe donating and advocating for causes they believe in without worrying about being personally attacked as a result. Towards that end, the Heartland Institute recently published a Policy Study, titled “In Defense of Private Civic Engagement: Why the Assault on ‘Dark Money’ Threatens Free Speech‚Äìand How to Stop the Assault.”  

The study advocates several methods for protecting the right to private civic engagement, but the passage of two pieces of model legislation are particularly important to protect the First Amendment rights of Americans on all sides of the political spectrum.

The first proposed law is called the “Free Speech Privacy Act,” and it would act as a “federalism shield” for free speech, “prohibiting the enforcement [by the states] of any law directly or indirectly conditioning the exercise of the rights of free speech and association on the disclosure of the identity of a person or entity who fears a reasonable probability of social, political, or economic retaliation from such disclosure.”

The second important reform proposal is the “Publius Confidentiality Act.” Publius would empower individuals by allowing them to register for an official pseudonym that could be used in political and cultural debates of all sorts, thereby forcing opponents to focus attacks on ideas rather than on individuals, their families, or their businesses.

Increasing privacy protections for individuals is an essential part of ensuring the marketplace of ideas is free from coercive fear tactics designed to silence honest debate. Without these protections, politics will continue to devolve into a political war of all against all, rather than focusing on whose ideas are more likely to improve the nation and promote liberty.

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