Consumer Energy Report is now Energy Trends Insider -- Read More »

By Robert Rapier on Feb 23, 2012 with 34 responses

How To Kill The Global Warming Cause

First There Was Climategate, Now There’s Gleickgate

In 2009, shortly before the Copenhagen summit on climate change, a server at the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia in the U.K. was hacked. Numerous communications from climate scientists were released to the public, and the name “Climategate” was coined to describe the ensuing controversy. The controversy involved specific comments in some of the e-mails that climate change skeptics immediately seized upon as evidence that some climate scientists were not as objective as they should be, but even worse that dissenting views were being suppressed.

When the Climategate scandal first broke, I had a feeling that the implications were going to be a lot larger than many climate change advocates believed. In fact, I included it among my Top 10 Energy Stories of 2009, writing:

Then came Climategate, which gave the skeptics even more reason to be skeptical. A number of people have suggested to me that this story will just fade away, but I don’t think so. This is one that the skeptics can rally around for years to come. The number of Americans who believe that humans are causing climate change was already on the decline, and the injection of Climategate into the issue will make it that much harder to get any meaningful legislation passed.

Some people commented that the controversy would fade away in a few weeks, but I think in hindsight my assessment was correct. Skeptics had claimed for years that much of the climate change debate was ideological, and Climategate seemingly gave them concrete evidence that this was indeed the case. (I am not making judgments one way or the other; just trying provide the context for the incident and how I felt it would be used by skeptics).

2012: Gleickgate

Now comes a situation that is — in my opinion — much worse. Last week an anonymous person leaked several documents from the Heartland Institute to a number of prominent blogs that focus on climate change. The Heartland Institute (HI) is an organization that is skeptical that climate change is being caused by humans. They are viewed with contempt among many in the climate change community, who feel like HI is funding a disinformation campaign against climate change. The media seized on one of the documents that was leaked called Confidential Memo: 2012 Heartland Climate Strategy. (PDF warning, and the document may disappear soon as HI is threatening legal action against the site that is hosting it). The document seemed to validate what many had suspected about HI, containing gems such as:

We will also pursue additional support from the Charles G. Koch Foundation. They returned as a Heartland donor in 2011 with a contribution of $200,000.

Principals and teachers are heavily biased toward the alarmist perspective. To counter this we are considering launching an effort to develop alternative materials for K-12 classrooms. We are pursuing a proposal from Dr. David Wojick to produce a global warming curriculum for K-12 schools. Dr. Wojick is a consultant with the Office of Scientific and Technical Information at the U.S. Department of Energy in the area of information and communication science. His effort will focus on providing curriculum that shows that the topic of climate change is controversial and uncertain – two key points that are effective at dissuading teachers from teaching science.

At present we sponsor the NIPCC to undermine the official United Nation’s IPCC reports and paid a team of writers $388,000 in 2011 to work on a series of editions of Climate Change Reconsidered.

Then there is this juicy bit, which we will get into below.

Expanded climate communications

Heartland plays an important role in climate communications, especially through our in-house experts (e.g., Taylor) through his Forbes blog and related high profile outlets, our conferences, and through coordination with external networks (such as WUWT and other groups capable of rapidly mobilizing responses to new scientific findings, news stories, or unfavorable blog posts). Efforts at places such as Forbes are especially important now that they have begun to allow high-profile climate scientists (such as Gleick) to post warmist science essays that counter our own. This influential audience has usually been reliably anti-climate and it is important to keep opposing voices out. Efforts might also include cultivating more neutral voices with big audiences (such as Revkin at DotEarth/NYTimes, who has a well-known antipathy for some of the more extreme AGW communicators such as Romm, Trenberth, and Hansen) or Curry (who has become popular with our supporters). We have have also pledged to help raise around $90,000 in 2012 for Anthony Watts to help him create a new website to track temperature station data.

In that paragraph, WUWT would be Anthony Watts’ blog devoted to climate change skepticism, What’s Up With That?; Gleick would be Dr. Peter Gleick, a California scientist, environmental activist, lecturer on ethics and scientific integrity, and a vocal advocate of the need to combat climate change; Revkin would be Andy Revkin of the New York Times; Romm is Dr. Joe Romm; Trenberth is Dr. Kevin Trenberth; and Hansen is Dr. James Hansen.

So let’s summarize the juicy bits of the strategy document. It provides confirmation that oil companies are funding the climate change skeptics, an explicit declaration that the skeptics have an anti-science bias, and that their opposition is not rooted in science, and finally an explicit declaration that opposing voices must be suppressed. That couldn’t have been scripted any better had it been done by a pro-global warming activist who was just trying to make the opposition look really bad. Which, sadly, looks to be the case.

A couple of days ago, as evidence mounted that he was the person who leaked the documents, Peter Gleick came forward and admitted to doing so. Apparently he had pretended to be a member of HI’s board, and sent an e-mail requesting the documents. In a brief note at Huffington Post, he offered up an apology that was rather ironic on many levels:

I only note that the scientific understanding of the reality and risks of climate change is strong, compelling, and increasingly disturbing, and a rational public debate is desperately needed. My judgment was blinded by my frustration with the ongoing efforts — often anonymous, well-funded, and coordinated — to attack climate science and scientists and prevent this debate, and by the lack of transparency of the organizations involved. Nevertheless I deeply regret my own actions in this case. I offer my personal apologies to all those affected.

Now if that was the end of the story, I wouldn’t consider it that big of a deal. Here we have a climate scientist masquerading as an undercover agent in order to unmask the inner workings of an organization that he believes is helping to destroy the earth. It certainly looks bad, because it helps reaffirm the views of global warming skeptics that much of the angst over global warming is being driven by ideology. On the other hand Gleick’s defenders argue that he is a hero, and that he was simply engaging in the same dirty tactics as “the enemy.”

And Now For the Rest of the Story

But that isn’t the end of the story. Other than the Climate Strategy document that I excerpted from above, the documents themselves are really not that surprising. They reveal that an organization that does not believe in manmade climate change is funding people who believe the same thing. I would guess if we peeked inside the files of climate change advocacy organizations, we would find — surprise! — that they were funding people who believe in the urgency of climate change and are working to educate people on that topic. No, the really juicy bits came from the strategy document, and this is what the media seized upon. For instance, DeSmogBlog initially released the documents, and the strategy document was where they found all of the juicy bits:

Heartland Institute Exposed: Internal Documents Unmask Heart of Climate Denial Machine

The problem is that a bit of skepticism should have been in order. I mean, who writes like that? Phrases like “dissuading teachers from teaching science” or “keep opposing voices out” might be how you would imagine your evil enemies may talk, but in reality it reads like it came from a comic book caricature. It’s like a Creationist’s vision of how evolutionists think, or vice-versa.

Alas, Megan McArdle at The Atlantic — a person who strongly believes in human-caused global warming — has laid out the case that the strategy document is forged (and HI insists that this is the case):

Leaked Docs From Heartland Institute Cause a Stir—but Is One a Fake?

A few of the points she raises in that article:

1. All of the documents are high-quality PDFs generated from original electronic files . . . except for the “Climate Strategy” memo. (Hereinafter, “the memo”). That appears to have been printed out and scanned, though it may also have been faxed.

Either way, why? After they wrote up their Top Secret Here’s All the Bad Stuff We’re Gonna Do This Year memo, did the author hand it to his secretary and say “Now scan this in for the Board”? Or did he fax it across the hall to his buddy?

This seems a strange and ponderous way to go about it–especially since the other documents illustrate that the Heartland Institute has fully mastered the Print to PDF command.

It is, however, exactly what I would do if I were trying to make sure that the document had no potentially incriminating metadata in the pdf.

2. The date on the memo file is different from the other documents. And indeed, when you look at the information on the PDFs that Heartland acknowledges, almost all of them were created by printing to PDF on January 16th, the day before Heartland’s board meeting. There is a Board Directory that was created on the 25th of January, also by printing to PDF. And then there is the memo, which was created via an Epson scanner at 3:41 PM on February 13th.

That seems to be just about 24 hours before this broke on the climate blogs. The timing seems odd, and somewhat suspicious. The fact that this document, and it alone, was scanned rather than printed to PDF or emailed as a word document, is even more so.

Others have determined that the document was created in the Pacific Time Zone. That is, coincidentally, where Peter Gleick lives and works, but not where HI is located. And then this point:

5. The worldview is different. In my experience, climate skeptics see themselves as a beleaguered minority fighting for truth and justice against the powerful, and nearly monolithic, forces of the establishment. They are David, to the climate scientists’ Goliaths. This is basically what the authenticated documents sound like.

The memo, by contrast, uses more negative language about the efforts it’s describing, while trying to sound like they think it’s positive. It’s like the opposition political manifestos found in novels written by stolid ideologues; they can never quite bear (or lack the imagination) to let the villains have a good argument. Switch the names, and the memo could have been a page ripped out of State of Fear or Atlas Shrugged.

Basically, it reads like it was written from the secret villain lair in a Batman comic. By an intern.

McArdle goes on to note that the strategy document erroneously says that the Charles G. Koch Foundation had donated $200,000 toward HI’s climate change goals, when in fact they only donated $25,000, and it was for health care work. Thus, the person who forged the document made a mistake, but one that was sure to prove explosive with climate change advocates. Here was a smoking gun that showed Big Oil (the Koch brothers) was funding climate change disinformation.

Except that wasn’t the case.

On this subject, McArdle writes “Unless there’s an explanation I’m missing, that seems to clinch it–why would health care donations show up in their climate strategy report? Unless of course, it was written by someone who doesn’t know anything about facts of the donation, but does know that the Kochs make great copy.”

McArdle wrote more in a follow-up to her original article (which I encourage readers to check out):

Peter Gleick Confesses to Obtaining Heartland Documents Under False Pretenses

In the document she cites some comments by Steven Mosher — who figured out early on that Gleick was likely the person who leaked the documents — as evidence that Gleick himself authored the forged document. They include the writing style (usage of particular phrases like “anti-climate” and overuse/misuse of commas and parentheses like I am doing here) and the fact that the document originated on the West Coast. Important to note that while Gleick confessed to leaking the documents and the fact that he impersonated someone else, he has not confessed to forging the strategy document (nor has he flatly denied it). I suspect this is going to be like the Anthony Weiner confession, which amounted to days of denial and obfuscation, but finally an admission as the evidence piled up against him.

But here is where McArdle really nails it:

Gleick has done enormous damage to his cause and his own reputation, and it’s no good to say that people shouldn’t be focusing on it. If his judgement is this bad, how is his judgement on matters of science? For that matter, what about the judgement of all the others in the movement who apparently see nothing worth dwelling on in his actions?

When skeptics complain that global warming activists are apparently willing to go to any lengths–including lying–to advance their worldview, I’d say one of the movement’s top priorities should be not proving them right. And if one rogue member of the community does something crazy that provides such proof, I’d say it is crucial that the other members of the community say “Oh, how horrible, this is so far beyond the pale that I cannot imagine how this ever could have happened!” and not, “Well, he’s apologized and I really think it’s pretty crude and opportunistic to make a fuss about something that’s so unimportant in the grand scheme of things.”

After you have convinced people that you fervently believe your cause to be more important than telling the truth, you’ve lost the power to convince them of anything else.

That is the issue in a nutshell, and something Gleick’s defenders don’t seem to get. They have grossly underestimated the damage this does, and they are compounding it by making excuses for him.

Conclusion: Scientists Should Know Better

Here is how I think the rest of this plays out. Gleick’s defenders will continue to defend him, albeit in diminishing numbers. Those who defend him to the end simply reinforce the views of climate skeptics that — as McArdle stated — the cause is more important than the truth. This will embolden the skeptics as never before, by simply reinforcing their views of how climate change advocates operate. They don’t have to speculate that climate science is driven by an agenda, because they will feel they have solid evidence that this is indeed the case. Further, if Gleick confesses to the forgery as I believe he ultimately will, the defenders are going to have even more egg on their faces. And yet some will continue to defend, suggesting that HI’s tactics are so horrible that the end justifies the means. Except in this case, your chances of achieving “the end” have been made much more difficult by Gleick’s actions.

To conclude, I have stated many times that I think this debate is unnecessarily nasty and personal. People on both sides believe their cause is just, and that if the other side wins the public relations war it will be a disaster. Both sides view the other side with contempt, and throw derogatory labels around. But what always bothered me the most about the whole debate was that as someone who was trained as a scientist, you never say that the science is settled. The science may be compelling, but contrary views should not be shouted down.

If this was the way science worked, we would still all believe that ulcers were caused by stress. Dr. Barry Marshall was ridiculed for his unconventional idea that ulcers were caused by a certain strain of bacteria (after all, the science was settled), but he persevered, proved his case, and eventually won a Nobel Prize for his work. So the moral of this story is that the science is never settled, and agendas should not be allowed to get in the way of science. Scientists, of all people, should know this.


Additional Reading

From Megan McArdle

Leaked Docs From Heartland Institute Cause a Stir—but Is One a Fake?

Heartland Memo Looking Faker by the Minute (follow-up by Megan McArdle where she summarizes the evidence of forgery)

Peter Gleick Confesses to Obtaining Heartland Documents Under False Pretenses

The Most Surprising Heartland Fact: Not the Leaks, but the Leaker

From DeSmogBlog

Heartland Institute Exposed: Internal Documents Unmask Heart of Climate Denial Machine (this was the one that started it all)

It’s a bird; it’s a hockey stick; it’s a faked document!

Whistleblower Authenticates Heartland Documents

Heartland Demands DeSmogBlog Remove ”Climate Strategy” Document

Evaluation shows “Faked” Heartland Climate Strategy Memo is Authentic (they desperately want to believe the document is authentic; in my opinion they have a very low evidence threshold for declaring it to be authentic)

From Andy Revkin at the New York Times

Peter Gleick Admits to Deception in Obtaining Heartland Climate Files

More on Peter Gleick and the Heartland Files

Coverage at Watt’s Up with That

BREAKING: Gleick Confesses

And some defenses of Gleick

Hero Scientist responsible for Heartland Expose

Heartland and Hypocrisy; Gleick And The Real Climate Debate

  1. By Mike Haseler on February 23, 2012 at 6:27 am

    The difference between denial and scepticism, is that sceptics don’t want to kill global warming. If the evidence supports it, then fine, that’s what the evidence shows.

    The problem from the beginning has been that the evidence did not support the runaway global warming theory. It all relied on a bit of hypothetical feedback. The real science suggested around 1C for a doubling of CO2. In a sane world, we might be discussing whether 1C is a significant change and I might even agree that it is worth taking measures to reduce it.

    But this is not a sane world. This is a world, where real science of 1C is fraudulently puffed up to as much as 6C warming and then called “proven science”. And anyone who even questions whether the 83% of puffed up non-science has any evidence to support it, is hounded out of jobs, has vitriolic attacks and told in effect: “if you don’t keep silent you will end up in camps”.

    But it is even worse than that. I would guess the eco-capitalist warmists scamsters spend some $500million a year promoting global warming. Much of that money comes from big oil companies who have invested a huge stake in wind energy. The rest is people trying to develop the “carbon market” and academic researchers who promote GW because it helps secure grants. … and governments who “educate” the poor deluded public into believing them.

    The Heartland had around $5million. I struggle to think of any substantial organisation other than the Heartland. And yet who is it that is criticised as having the massively funded BIG-OIL backed PR campaign?

    If you asked the average person in the street before climategate, most would suppose (from all the warmist propaganda) that it was the other way around. In other words, that the ratio of warmist propaganda to sceptic was 1:100. The truth is closer to 100:1.

    And that means the reality to perceived reality is a ratio of 1:10,000

    Tell a lie big enough, often enough and people will believe you. That was their tactic!

  2. By Nichol on February 23, 2012 at 10:13 am

    So what is the proper strategy for scientists, against the PR machine of divisive disinformation machines like the Heartland Institute? Turn your face, and let them slap the other cheek? Will that convince everybody how trustworthy you  are? I’m not convinced.
    It is important to check the authenticity of that document .. but none of the arguments given here is even circumstantial proof that it was faked. If Gleick received it on paper, he’d have to scan it, obviously. Or if somebody that sent it to him wanted to remain anonymous .. is it strange if they sent him a scan, or a paper print-out? Nothing is inconsistent with his story. On the other hand, his only corroboration of the facts is from the other documents that Gleick received from HI by email. He himself says he found it convincing. But is that enough?
    He should have probably published the whole lot himself, with an explanation how he came by the documents. And asking for further investigations.

    • By Robert Rapier on February 23, 2012 at 12:09 pm

      It is important to check the authenticity of that document .. but none of the arguments given here is even circumstantial proof that it was faked.

      The list of arguments put forth by Megan McArdle is certainly circumstantial proof. What is missing in this whole debate is for the people who are defending Gleick to demand that he prove the document is authentic. Instead, they want HI to disprove it is authentic. How are they supposed to disprove a negative? No, the burden of proof here is on Gleick and his supporters. 

      As I said, I expect he will eventually step forward and admit that he wrote it. I don’t have an axe to grind here, and I didn’t even know who he was, but from what I have seen it certainly looks like either he wrote it himself (Occam’s Razor) or if you are more prone to conspiracy theories that someone elaborately set him up by making it look like he wrote it.

      • By Renewable Guy on February 24, 2012 at 10:49 pm

        Heartland has everything to loose in this. They can’t deny what they sent to Dr. Gleick through their own email. Having followed AGW debate for 6 years, the strategy paper is right in line with their behaviour. If heartland wants to go to court, it may force them to reveal more of themselves. Which is what they don’t really want to do.. I look forward to what other dirty laundry can be exposed in this process. I don’t see an admission coming form Dr. Gleick. He’s already bared his soul on the matter. I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see no charges brought by heartland because they are to vulnerable.

        • By Ed on February 25, 2012 at 3:06 pm

          In a criminal proceeding regarding the crimes which Peter Gleick has acknowledged publicly and the potential additional crime involved in forging the “fake” document, the content of the real documents is not material. The facts that they are real and that they are privileged and that they were obtained fraudulently are material. The content of the “fake” document is material, to the extent that it can be demonstrated that the content includes factual errors which were introduced maliciously. However, the mere existence of the “fake” document is prima facie evidence of forgery. The challenge, in that case, is establishing the identity of the forger.Heartland would potentially be more exposed in civil proceedings, which it may or may not choose to pursue. It appears more likely that civil suits might be pursued by the members of the HI board of directors, HI employees and HI donors, who have already been exposed by Gleick’s actions to date and may have been “damaged” as a result.I suspect that Peter Gleick, having already publicly acknowledged theft by fraud regarding the HI board documents might well merely plead guilty to whatever charges are brought against him regarding those documents, rather than face additional public ridicule and potential further damage to his career. It remains to be seen what will transpire regarding the “fake” document, since Gleick has so far denied committing the forgery. However, if the FBI determines that he is the forger, he might well seek a jury trial on that charge, since it would involve substantial additional potential penalties.

  3. By Phil on February 23, 2012 at 10:24 am

    Of course, another hypothesis may be that the Strategy Document was available in paper format only to avoid uncontolled dissemination and scanned only as needed, eg for transmission to the claimed Board member.

    I’m not saying that is the case but it also fits the facts as presented.

    Climate Change deniers have yet to answer the central question: how can humans put back into the atmosphere over ~300 years all the carbon nature has spent >300 MILLION years locking away into the rocks WITHOUT perturbing our atmospheric system?

    • By Jeff on February 23, 2012 at 12:36 pm

      “Climate Change deniers have yet to answer the central question: how can
      humans put back into the atmosphere over ~300 years all the carbon
      nature has spent >300 MILLION years locking away into the rocks
      WITHOUT perturbing our atmospheric system?”

      This reflects ignorance (either purposeful or unintentional) of the arguments made by climate skeptics

  4. By TerryS on February 23, 2012 at 10:46 am

    … a server at the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia in the U.K. was hacked

    This has yet to be determined. The emails may well have been leaked by somebody inside the UEA

    Last week an anonymous person leaked several documents from the Heartland Institute

    The documents were not “leaked” they were obtained by social engineering which in this context is a form of hacking.

  5. By Marcus on February 23, 2012 at 12:19 pm

    I think the title of this post is just right, emphasis on “cause”.  Gleick’s actions do nothing to change the evidence of whether global climate is changing due to human actions, but it certainly does do damage to the cause of those advocating for society to do something about it. 

    If we are to do something about global climate change, it has to be coordinated on a world-wide scale, and we’ve seen how hard that is already.  And to have that massive coordination work, everyone must be on board, and trust that we are doing the right thing.  Trust is huge, probably the most important aspect, because what advocates of this global coordination are doing is asking the general public to trust them.  The general pubic has no way of determining the accuracy of scientific data, analysis, or results.  Therefore, more so than the AGW skeptics, it is imperative that the scientific community act with the utmost integrity to gain trust of the general public.

    Even though I would assume that the vast majority of scientists, on the order of 99.9999% do act with the utmost integrity, Gleick smeared them all with this stupid act.  It’s really just dumbfounding what he thought he would accomplish.

    To implement such a huge, world-wide scale solution to global climate change first requires slow and steady, step-by-step building of a case that is irrefutable, and nearly in parallel, a slow and steady, step-by-step case that the proposed solution (e.g., carbon tax, cap and trade, etc.) would solve the problem.  I think the recent tactics (not just Gleick, but others that feel they need to “take it to” the other side) employed by those advocating for action on climate change suggest they think they can short cut this process, as in, “If we just show that the other side is evil, everyone will jump on board!”  And the result is a entrenchment of beliefs and no progress made convincing the general public that it is an imperative issue that needs solving immediately.

  6. By Justin on February 23, 2012 at 12:33 pm

    Hi Robert – It might be a simple/lazy request, but I trust you as a reasonable person. Can you quickly list the truthful scientific evidence both sides use to present their case. It’s hard to sometimes sift through the evidence that is useful and that which made up or exaggerated. Thanks for any help.

    • By Robert Rapier on February 23, 2012 at 1:13 pm

      Can you quickly list the truthful scientific evidence both sides use to present their case. It’s hard to sometimes sift through the evidence that is useful and that which made up or exaggerated.

      Ah, if it were only that simple. There are a couple of reasons that I don’t wage war on either side of this debate. One is that the issue is so personal and nasty, but the other is that this issue is complex. If it were not, there would be no room for controversy. 

      I lay out a number of things in the book; both the science behind global warming as well as the arguments skeptics make. I showed the chapter to a friend of mine who is an advocate of addressing climate change, and he said “But those skeptic arguments aren’t valid!” And I said “That’s not my point. Whether valid or not, these are the arguments that are made. My purpose in this chapter was not to support or debunk the arguments, but rather to explain them.”

      In a nutshell (and I emphasize that it is much more complex than this), on one side we understand the greenhouse effect and why rising carbon dioxide levels should cause a warming trend. Many studies have been published that corroborate this trend (and many have disputed the studies).

      On the other side, people argue that because carbon dioxide is responsible for a very small part of the greenhouse effect relative to water vapor, it can’t possibly make that much impact. Or, that this is all based on modeling, and many of the models have not accurately predicted climatic changes thus far. 

      But if you really want to understand the arguments in detail, be prepared for a lot of reading. I have read quite a bit, and still feel like I have only scratched the surface.


  7. By Thomas on February 23, 2012 at 1:15 pm

    Very nice post. The underlying problem is that a very small number of political activists have got into climate science and have become high-profile simply by shouting loudly (I won’t mention names).  This has backfired for them spectacularly badly, leading to a surge in skepticism about the whole field.  What I don’t understand is why the 99+% of good climate scientists don’t speak out and dump these people before they can do such damage.

  8. By perry1961 on February 23, 2012 at 1:31 pm

    I’m a believer and a skeptic. Global Warming is a fact, but I’m skeptical that it’s a bad thing. There’s ample scientific evidence that widespread rice farming in Asia, combined with deforestation in Europe, contributed to the end of the Little Ice Age(1250-1850). There’s every reason to believe that had the Little Ice Age run its course, we would have slipped into another glacial period, with ice sheets covering much of the Northern Hemisphere by now.  The Holocene, or The Age of Man, is an interglacial period that’s a bit long in the tooth. When it does end, the earth will only support a small fraction of the current population. It’s a doomsday scenario that can only be topped by Armageddon. Thankfully, scientists agree that it won’t happen as long as we’re pumping huge amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. If we scrubbed all the CO2 from the air that we put there in the last 200 years, crop harvests would decline by 30% or more. Try feeding the earth under those conditions. So yeah, I believe global warming is real….and thank God for it.

  9. By Raindog on February 23, 2012 at 1:56 pm

    The climate is definitely warming and it has really taken off in the last 30 years.  Over the same time period, human carbon emissions have also greatly increased as have atmospheric levels of CO2.  It is not possible to explain the warming of the last 30 years with any known natural causes.    It is only possible to explain the global temperature rise of the last 30 years by including the warming that should be caused by adding greenhouse gases such as CO2 and to a lesser extent methane and other gases that humans are putting into the atmosphere.

    Most agree that adding CO2 to the atmosphere will cause a temperature increase.  What is less certain is climate sensitivity.  A doubling of CO2 in the atmosphere without any feedback should cause a 1C temperature increase.  That increase in temperature will cause feedback in the climate, but how much feedback is not agreed upon. One simple feedback mechanism is the albedo effect.  Snow and ice reflect most visible light back into space because they are white. Once snow and ice melts and are then dark ocean or land, most of the heat from the sun is absorbed by the earth.  That should lead to additional warming. Another feedback mechanism is that CO2 has retrograde solubility so the warmer the oceans and other bodies of water are the less CO2 they can hold in solution. As oceans warm they will become saturated with CO2 and then start to expel CO2 into the atmosphere which could lead to further warming. There are other feedback mechanisms.  This is where most of the real scientific debate lies – in the various types of feedback that might occur. Some see a doubling of CO2 leading to 1C of warming while others think it will lead to 3 or 4C warming.

  10. By mac on February 23, 2012 at 2:50 pm
  11. By mac on February 23, 2012 at 3:11 pm


    I’m sure you are already aware that the Linde Group purchased Choren, since your company was once  invested in Choren.  Off topic.  This text did not copy into the prior e-mail.for some reason.

    • By Robert Rapier on February 23, 2012 at 4:06 pm

      I’m sure you are already aware that the Linde Group purchased Choren, since your company was once  invested in Choren.

      Yes, I knew. I think they can make a reasonable go of it. As I said before, the technology kinks would ultimately be worked out; the only question was of money and timing. This sale gives them more of both.

  12. By Benny BND Cole on February 23, 2012 at 3:41 pm

    Nice post by RR, a rare voice of sanity in all things energy and even climate science. 
    For some reason, the Peak Oilers and the Climateers (pro or con) seem to have their identities vested in the arguments. 
    This happens in economics too.  Some people rant about a “gold standard” with a religious fervor. 
    In the real world, the picture is often muddy.  Oil prices may go up—-but supplies may be adequate for generations. Not a catastrophe, but not great either.
    The earth was warmer 1000 years ago. That fact sticks in my craw before I get too worked up, either way. 
    Indeed, Ice Ages have been the norm for the last 400,000 years.  That is an interesting scenario. 

  13. By tennie davis on February 23, 2012 at 4:46 pm

    Allow me to make a prediction.Sometime in the far far distant future after many ice ages and warm periods the sun will expand. That will be global warming I CAN believe in.Until then the small amount of extra CO2 (plant food) will benefit mankind.Of course this will cause much angst amongst the faithful followers of the AGW religion because the massive human die-off will not occur to satiat their doomer fantasies.

  14. By ben on February 23, 2012 at 5:08 pm

    Unsurprising, all of this.  Ideology has a way of fogging the lens.  Sitting in nearly 70 dgree weather at Princeton U., today, I’m more inclined to find weather lovely than as any omen of a global meltdown.  Ah, but I’m reminded of an observation attributable to the late Rep. Jack Kemp (R-NY) who was keen on citing that the average temperature in Buffalo, NY is 58 degrees, yet, he stood by the logic of owning a heavy wool coat!  Yes, averaging over time does have a way of putting things into perspective. 
    It’s a bias against calculating the implications of the whole cycle that invites a thumb on the scale of objectivity.  I think we instinctively subscribe to the logic (and merit) of why the Statue of Justice wears a bindfold.  One would hope that those advocating with understandable passion their opinions about global warming, will take into account that new evidence is still being collected even as the jury has yet to hear the full case.  As difficult as it is for the well-intentioned defenders of Mother Earth to keep an open mind, the integrity metric involved here is much too important to otherwise invite expedience by those who would rather win than get it right.   
    Glad we have folks like RR and our blog readers to say “not so quick!”

  15. By toyotabedzrock on February 24, 2012 at 2:29 pm

    The reason no one will dwell on his actions is because they are not a headline chasing journalists who write what they are thinking.
    Further they would be sympathetic because they know the pressure big oil has placed on them and how it is designed to break down and grind the scientists into silence and insanity. 
    And you are only helping them!

    • By armchair261 on February 24, 2012 at 6:58 pm

      “…. the pressure big oil has placed on them…”
      I would hardly conclude that the Kochs speak for Big Oil. Koch is one oil company out of thousands. GM has donated to Heartland. Shall we also conclude that Porsche, Tesla, and Mazda are fighting climate change science too? 
      I don’t doubt that some companies in the oil industry have contributed to Heartland, but I’m just as certain that many don’t, and that some who did no longer do. Heartland’s own 2012 fundraising document doesn’t read like a roll call of oil companies. There are lots of industries and individuals. 

  16. By mac on February 24, 2012 at 8:18 pm


    Oil; has never filed a false report or tried to influence a journalist or bribed a foreign official or lobbied in Congress.

    Glad to hear that…..  (laughter in background)

    The BP oil spill in the Gulf was not really caused by the oil company ?,

    Perhaps, it was actually caused by the solar industry (ha, ha, ha),  because some of the monitoring equipment  for the well was run by solar cells that failed. 


    Spin. spin, spin……and spin.again………….

  17. By Ed Reid on February 25, 2012 at 9:23 am

    I believe that much of the confused argument on this subject results from sloppy thinking.The broad subject includes at least three distinct issues: GW; AGW; and CAGW. The conflation of these issues often causes the parties to argue past each other, producing far more heat than light. In addition, I believe the argument would benefit both from asserting what we KNOW with confidence and explaining what we THINK we know with a degree of humility.We KNOW, from the historical and paleoclimatic records that the climate has changed in the past, going through periods of both global warming and global cooling.Many THINK that human activity has played a role in the current global warming phase. That would make this global warming excursion different from all previous global warming excursions, if for no other reason because of the anthropogenic influence.Some THINK, based on the outputs of a number of climate models, that a continuation and/or increase in anthropogenic GHGs will result in a catastrophic increase in global average temperature.Interestingly, there appears to be no agreement within the scientific community regarding the percentage reduction in global annual GHG emissions which would be required to stabilize the climate, or the maximum tolerable atmospheric concentration of the various GHGs. Therefore, in the absence of both a goal and a plan to achieve that goal, we are left with a “wish”. We KNOW that the DATA used to establish the FACT of the current GW is flawed, both by virtue of the questionable quality of the instrument installations and the gaps in the measurement grid. These flaws require that the DATA be adjusted, homogenized, infilled, etc. to create what is referred to as the temperature record. However, as the result of these manipulations, the DATA become unDATA.We also KNOW that the GCMs are flawed, because the numerous models produce differing projections of the future climate; and, because they have demonstrated limited and variable skill, both in reconstructing the instrumented past and in projecting the now-historical future since their development.It is little wonder, then, that many are skeptical; and, that they are resistant to making multi-trillion dollar investments to completely revise the global energy economy based essentially on data that aren’t and models that don’t. 

  18. By Russ Finley on February 25, 2012 at 1:07 pm

    Another great post.

    RR Said:

    “If this was the way science worked, we would still all believe that ulcers were caused by stress.

    A little off topic but there was and still is a strong statistical correlation between stress and ulcers. That is why stress was assumed to cause them. But the hard part of statistical correlations is teasing out cause and effect.Turns out that stress facilitates the development of ulcers because it weakens the  immune system of the stomach, allowing the bacteria to get a foot hold. From Wikipedia:

    “80 percent of individuals infected with the bacterium are asymptomatic and it has been postulated that it may play an important role in the natural stomach ecology.”

    I once developed a stomach ulcer after working long hours (occasionally all night)  for two years to get the engineering done for the 777 airliner. The lack of sleep caused headaches, remedied by washing acacetylsalicylic acid (aspirin) down with lots of coffee.  I also required a root canal and the removal of a basil cell carcinoma at the end of those two years. Lesson learned; the human body has its limits and extreme chronic stress weakens the immune system. This same correlation is thought to explain why people low on their societal totem pole have more health problems (see The Status Syndrome).

  19. By Russ Finley on February 25, 2012 at 2:42 pm

    IMHO, a thinking person should roll their eyes at the foibles of any one
    individual, regardless of which side of the fence that individual comes

    McArdle paraphrase:

    “Oh, how horrible, this is so far beyond the pale that I cannot imagine how this ever could have happened!”

    There is no way to control the behavior of billions of people, especially in the age of the internet. Every cause (left and right wing) runs a gauntlet. There will always be individuals who have the potential to do any given cause  harm.

    Everything is a matter of degree. When a cause has significant numbers of individuals, including high-profile individuals, or even entire organizations,  disseminating misinformation, you have an entirely different situation.

    That is a sign of a cause that is getting desperate from a lack of viable evidence or inversely, from increasing evidence against it, or simply the sign that a cause never had much evidence to support it, period.

    We can all think of examples of such causes, not that rational thought or evidence has much impact (statistically speaking) on what we humans choose to believe.

  20. By Moiety on February 27, 2012 at 1:04 pm

    My biggest problem with this is Gleick leaves himself open to so much. 

    What he has said is below

    I could focus on his admission of guilt but the worst part
    is quoted

    I will not comment on the substance or implications
    of the materials; others have and are doing so… (Glecik, 2012)

    He is a scientist who is not willing to defend his own data?
    Come on, that is a cop out.
    Science is a field that demands such activity and is instilled from an early
    stage of one’s professional career. It is ingrained in getting a Masters or
    PhD. Lack of rigorous data analysis is how we ended up with Jan Hendrik Schön.
    Since Gleick has decided to excuse himself from the debate and since he is key
    to this data, how can we rigorously analyse it?

  21. By MBaylor on February 27, 2012 at 4:52 pm

    A well-written opinion on the Gleick affair. As a rational, educated person I cannot bring myself to believe that .04% of the atmosphere is responsible for ambient temperatures. I also am not frightened of a measly 2-5°F change in temperature over the course of decades when I experience a minimum of 75°F in temperature change at my home over the course of a single year. I remain sceptical in light of these indisputable facts. Only one side of this debate is demanding drastic changes to the lives of every single human being. Unless and/or until that side presents indisputable evidence of its theory’s absolute affirmation I will always be sceptical. Learning that the AGU’s expert on scientific ethics committed fraud, forgery and other crimes is simply amusing confirmation that noble cause corruption is alive and well in science. Anyone who places absolute, unquestioning faith in scientists has never heard of the US Eugenics movement, which was based upon and heartily supported by every major science group and university in the country. Don’t believe it? Look it up, beginning with Carnegie and Harvard. Having blind faith in science is dangerous. 

    • By mbaylor on February 27, 2012 at 4:56 pm

      Apologies for the lack of formatting. I wasn’t aware that this platform requires double enters to make a new paragraph.

      • By Robert Rapier on February 27, 2012 at 5:08 pm

        Apologies for the lack of formatting. I wasn’t aware that this platform requires double enters to make a new paragraph.

        We just updated the software a week ago, and are still working out the bugs.

  22. By Rate Crimes on February 29, 2012 at 8:28 pm

    The AGW debate itself is a red herring being deployed successfully.  The only strategy that BAU requires to maintain its privilege is delay. If there is any possibility that mankind is dangerously altering the biosphere, then behavior should be altered; if only as an experiment.

  23. By Observer on March 3, 2012 at 1:12 am


    Just pointing out that there is a more recent Pew center survey + analysis. It conveys mostly the same message as 2009, though the last two years have seen a slight reversal.

Register or log in now to save your comments and get priority moderation!