Almost isn’t good enough.

When reporters and bloggers paraphrase science findings in the news, any misrepresentation, however slight, can turn into a “troll trap” and add fuel to conspiracy-threorist fires.

Case in point: The Verge ran a global warming impact piece last Thursday with a screaming headline reading “Global warming and sea ice loss made Hurricane Sandy worse, study says.”

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NOAA Satellite Suomi-NPP captured this image of Sandy on the east coast last October. (Courtesy: NASA)

The problem is that the cited study did not conclude that global warming made Sandy worse; it suggested a logic based on observations and science that would support such an idea.

You can read the uncorrected proof of a March 2013 Oceanography magazine article summarizing the study’s findings for yourself here, but let me review the particulars:

– The Ocenaography article does a good job describing how record-breaking de-icing of the arctic ocean this year allowed more cold air incursions farther south over North America.

– The arctic changes force more undulations in the jet stream, which allows “blocking highs” to suspend the westward movement of storm systems in the usual manner.

– Sandy was a storm that got re-routed towards the Atlantic coastline because of one of these unusual patterns.

All well and good, but the Oceanography article goes to great lengths to point out the following:

“Although a direct causal link has not been established between the atmospheric phenomena observed in late October and the record-breaking sea ice loss observed…all of the observations are consistent with such an interpretation.”

The Oceanography author goes on:

“…Perhaps the likelihood of greenhouse warming playing a significant role in Sandy’s evolution as an extratropical superstorm is at least as plausible as the idea that this storm was simply a freak of nature.”

With their brazen headline, Carl Franzen and the editors of The Verge decided to amp up the story with authoritarian certainty that was not present in the cited article.

Global warming deniers love this stuff: They feast on certainty, generalizations, and lapses of understanding that make it past editors – claiming each mis-statement or, in this case, overstatement, is proof of the vast eco-nazi conspiracy.

So let’s keep it tight out there, ok?

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Records fell last August in Arctic sea ice extent. (Courtesy: NOAA’s National Snow and Ice Data Center)

Stevie had it Right…

The great prophet Stevie Wonder said “When you believe in things that you don’t understand you suffer.  Superstition ain’t the way.”

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Stevie Wonder (Photo CC: Wikipedia Commons)

Oddly however, (with a guilty nod towards Stevie), I find my self questioning the alignment of the cosmos over the past few days:  Several mainstream news items dared to state that the most public findings of the science of global warming are not a matter of debate anymore (among those who study it).

Well I’ll be darned.

Some refreshingly crisp stories and informed analyses managed to get some attention, based on their Google-search numbers last week…

Here is the New York Times offering a deeper look into CO2 levels and the end of the last ice age.  Worthy of  a full read.

Here is a good discussion of the real story behind the often cited solar-variability “theory” for recent warming (i.e., blaming it on sunspots, solar activity, etc.) from our friends at the Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang last week. (Bottom line: Sunspots and quasi-decadal solar output changes add little to the surface temperature change signature.)

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Solar irradiance changes are dwarfed by manmade climate forcing. (cc:Wikipedia Commons)

And here’s a pleasantly frank discussion from the State of Kansas, that great bastion of (failed) evolution deniers who this time seem to be at wits end over all sorts of brazen bills and mandates.  In one case it seems they are trying to balance accepting grants for wind energy with the desire to ensure “debate” on global warming is amped up in schools.

Except, points out one University of Kansas teacher, Johannes J. Feddma, there is no debate:

“We’ve known for over a century about the greenhouse effect and how humans might change it. This is nothing new from a science perspective.”

One bill in the Kansas House would outlaw any activity that uses public money on “sustainability.”

You think we’re not in Kansas anymore?

Guess again.

We’ll keep hearing this nonsense until Stevie’s admonition is soundly addressed.

An Inconvenient Doofus

Ostrich-like journalists continue to use refuted arguments that global cooling was predicted by “many scientists.”  The latest comes from renowned denialist George F. Will.

In today’s Washington Post, Will continues his smug blah-blah-blah against Obama and others who, Will claims, have been fanning flames of various unfounded doomsday scenarios – global warming among them.

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(photo CC: Keith Allison)

While Will primarily is calling out the apocalyptic predictions of sequestration survivalists, he turns to his old itch, global warming, towards the end of his piece.

He resurrects six, count ’em, long-dead “the ice age is a comin'” sources – none of them primary and all of them excerpted out of context – in an attempt to show that science really isn’t worth paying attention to after all. But none of Will’s sources cite supporting science, they all come from the 1970’s, and all represented then an enticing feedbag of easy sensationalism for the general press.

By Will’s condescending account, today’s global warming child is crying wolf.  So why pay attention?

To be fair, global temperatures had been flat or on a modest decline for much of the period between 1945 and 1970; This was assessed to be the result of forcing by large aerosol pollution.  But the truth is that far more peer-reviewed research papers in the 1970s were published predicting global warming as a result of increased carbon dioxide than predicted global cooling.

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(image CC: skepticalscience.com)

Furthermore, and most importantly, the primary paper Will mentions that suggested cooling was later found to be flawed, and the primary author himself, Stephen Schneider, confirmed this: “CO2 warming dominates the surface temperature patterns soon after 1980.”

So once again I find myself calling out Mr. Will for cherry picking dated and refuted sources, for offering no supporting citations in science, and for generally mocking that which he has not had the courage to learn about.

Mr. Will repeatedly shows no interest in the facts in his global-warming-scam op-ed pieces, and should be ignored until further notice.

How inconvenient.

New Material For Mark Twain

Missouri House Bill 1227 would equalize evolution and  intelligent design in schools.   Where is Samuel Clemens when you need him?

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A few knuckleheads of the Show Me State’s general assembly have introduced the bill, which mirrors other boneheaded laws passed in Louisiana and Tennessee.

Evolution, the expansively demonstrated foundational theory woven into the fabric of every branch of biological science, just doesn’t sit well with a certain segment of lawmakers even today.

Listen to some of the definitional clauses in the bill:

     “9) “Scientific theory”, an inferred explanation of incompletely understood phenomena about the physical universe based on limited knowledge, whose components are data, logic, and faith-based philosophy.”

[Seriously. Theories taught in the state would now include biblical “philosophies” if this thing passes.]

  “(3)(b) If scientific theory concerning biological origin is taught in a course of study, biological evolution and biological intelligent design shall be taught.”

…and this one, under a long definition of “Biological Intelligent Design:”

 “Naturalistic mechanisms do not provide a means for making life from simple molecules or making sufficient new genetic material to cause ascent from microscopic organisms to large life forms.”

We can only sit and watch the Missouri state house go through its machinations on this bill. Perhaps more rational arguments from opponents will result in the bill’s demise in a sort of survival-of-the-fittest legislation experiment.

If it passes, however, we can delight in the wit of that oft quoted Missourian and river boat pilot pictured above, and hope that school children in the state are onto the whole mess, as Mr. Twain himself claimed to be:

    “I never let schooling interfere with my education.”

Make the knuckleheads shovel their own walks…

fenway_park_snowOn the eve of the first major northeastern winter storm of the season (10 PM EST Forecast: 7+Inches in Yankee Stadium; maybe 2 feet in Fenway) I can imagine the warming denial warriors hunched over keyboards, ready to hit the blogosphere with another round of “Liar! Liar! Pants on fire!” posts.

I’m talking about predictable counterpoints by deniers that inevitably follow trite, lazy quotes from non-climatologists who tenuously link any specific weather event with global warming.98fwbgus

As Boston digs itself out of the blizzard on Saturday, someone will be sure to say “Big storms like this are surely a sign of things to come,” or some such generalization, and the statement will come unqualified, incomplete, and probably out of context.

And it will spread like salt from a dump truck on I-95.

Hacks who pretend to have an understanding of climate will spew: “Doesn’t the (Mayor, governor, local TV celebrity) read the history books?  Has he forgoten the story of the Blizzard of 1888?  There was no global warming then!”

Blizzard_1888_01Well-intended, but verbally and scientifically challenged spokespersons for the climate science community spring from all corners when nature takes a swipe at us. The denial crowd relishes an open mike at such occasions, and short, loose quips become to them more evidence that anthropogenic global warming “activists” are trying to scare us all with lies and distortions.

(And, regrettably,  despite the veracity of the “Loaded Dice” analogy, widely attributed to James Hansen, it remains dangerous for a communicator to put forward any casual connection between warming and a specific event: We have to learn to do a better job at this.)

My advice?

Put a zipper on it, Governor.  Shut your pie hole, Madame Mayor.

Ask a well-informed source about the storm and leave the speculation to those who have really studied and understand regional impacts of global warming.

Let’s not give the knuckleheads any bogus victories.

Make them shovel their own walks.

What Forbes doesn’t understand.

image001In a snarky “gotcha” style commentary today, Forbes Magazine blogger for energy and environment (and Heartland Institute stooge) James Taylor makes an entire column out of an admittedly lazy (and probably inaccurate) conclusion buried in a summary statement of the new, draft report of the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP).

No, the facile statement in the report implying that there is statistical evidence that floods are more common now under a warmer planet is not going to hold up under review.

Mr. Taylor (no relation to Sweet Baby James), however,  is content to giggle and taunt (making a bizarre comparison — a real stretch — between the climate scientists and the con men in the movie “The Sting”), but doesn’t offer us any insight as to whether the remaining 100-plus pages of the report have fazed him at all.

He found his “lie” and blames it on a biased executive committee and Democrats in the White House.

Why put any intellectual energy into truly examining the remainder of the report’s valid and demonstrable claims?

To do so might threaten his worldview, and force him to lie awake at night wondering if he, and his Heartland cronies, might actually be missing something in the science.

Pity.

Free [George F.] Willy!

Now, I know the Fox News experts have no intent ever to better understand the phenomenon of anthropogenic global warming, but I would expect that some of the world’s truly accomplished journalists would at least try to get it right once in a while.

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I am talking about George F. Will, and his latest bungled attempt to prove he is smarter than everyone else in January 25th’s Washington Post [“Recipe for a Conservative Revival”].  Mr. Will pretends to be talking about ill-founded ideals and challenges mentioned by President Obama in his inauguration address, but skids dangerously into science, cherry-picking facts about forest fires and global warming that once again (Will has a habit of doing this) fail to tell the whole story – a very different story.

What’s up, George? Are you a propagandist masquerading as a fact-bound journalist?

My issue is that despite his clearly conservative viewpoint, Will is generally respected, so his transgressions are not questioned by a large reading base that may (even secretly) admit the Fox-folks are off their rockers.

Let’s look at two items in his missive and decode them:

1. Will doubts Obama’s assertions of climate change impacts:

“He says that “the threat of climate change” is apparent in “raging fires,” “crippling drought” and “more powerful storms.”  Are fires raging now more than ever? (There were third fewer wildfires in 2012 than in 2006.)”

Colorado Springs wildfire

Yes, George, there WERE a third fewer fires in 2012 than in 2006.  2006 was a record-breaking year with 96 thousand individual fires torching 9.87 million acres – a real outlier – but a quick look at some real statistics show that since the 1990s, the number of acres burnt per fire has been extraordinarily high compared with the last half of the 20th century.

Global warming doesn’t mean each year gets hotter and hotter or that the fires grow in number from the past year.

Rather than allow real science to speak, Will cuts the debate at its knees so as not to have to acknowledge the possibility that warming really can affect us.  This is a tired, impoverished play at journalistic authoritarianism:  “Listen to me! I am a writer, and I know the politicians are lying to you!”

2. Will says temperature data shows warming isn’t really happening, so we can ignore Obama anyway:

“Obama’s vow to adjust Earth’s thermostat followed the report that 2012 was the hottest year on record in the contiguous 48 states. But the Wall Street Journal’s Holman Jenkins … has noted that although 2012 was 2.13 degrees Fahrenheit hotter than 2011, “2008, in the contiguous U.S., was two degrees cooler than 2006.”

(I should note that Mr. Jenkins, of the Wall Street Journal editorial board, is not trained in atmospheric physics, meteorology, or radiative transfer.)

Will continues, noting that other years of the new millennium were not as hot as 1998 (Correct again, George! 1998 was a screamer of an El Nino year and stands out as a strong outlier in the 1990s) and concludes with this idiotic tag:

“Such is the rigor of many who preen as devotees of science that they declared the 2012 temperatures in the contiguous states (1.58 percent of the Earth’s surface) proof of catastrophic global warming”.

There you go again, George.

By casually putting words into the mouths of climate scientists Will helps his conservative adherents keep their heads firmly planted in the sand.

He ignores the real story which is that global temperatures confirm the recent decades of warming – not just the temperatures of those steamy lower-48 states of the US of A.

Will seems convinced that the fallacy of warming is allowing Obama and the American liberal thought police to take us down the road towards hell and stupidity – though George doesn’t tell us which is worse.

Let’s offer to liberate him.

I am calling on real climate scientists to visit Mr. Will in DC before the baseball season begins (he gets rather occupied then…) and help him escape the bonds of convenient adherence to his comfortable position as know-it-all.

FREE WILLy!

Warming Denial: Deceit 101 at the Washington Times

It’s simple.

Just take a sentence — a fragment, even — out of context from a scientific report and shout it from the pulpit to the choir of the faithful.

Today’s editorial in the Washington Times (“Global warming takes a vacation”) offers a conspicuous and bold example.  In it, the Times quotes – quite out of context – NASA’s James Hansen:  “The 5-year mean global temperature has been flat for a decade, which we interpret as a combination of natural variability and a slowdown in the growth rate of the net climate forcing.”  The WT then proceeds to castrate the real story with this not-quite-false but blatantly incomplete extrapolation:

“Mr. Hansen has just acknowledged more than the lack of warming. His words confirm nature, not mankind, played the decisive role in directing global temperatures over the past 10 years.”

The WT then proceeds with the usual chorus of anecdotal pap (“Southern England is covered in snow. Los Angeles has been shivering…”), and piles on the liberal conspiracy charges.

Yet, a read of the real paper cited indicates Hansen said that, despite more frequent La Ninas  (large-scale cooling of the equatorial West Pacific), the globally averaged temperature in the past decade had not gone down. (Skeptical Science.com offers a taut video on this.)

The difference between what would have been short-term cooling and what is the tail of the hottest decade on record is almost certainly man’s increasing injection of greenhouse gases, most notably carbon dioxide.

Think about it: take away the natural cooling induced by La Ninas and we’d see a more continuous rise.  The other forcing functions on surface temperatures (including increased CO2 and other greenhouse gases) continue to do their work.

2008-2012 temp visuals

(Click image for video of recent-year temperature anomalies.)

And the current decade is the hottest ever recorded. As were the 2000s.  As were the 1990s. As were the 1980s…

Yet the Washington Times decided not to tell the real story behind the article and the press releases by NASA and NOAA about 2012. 

Instead they decided to arouse the deniers who choose not to let the full explanation of  global warming signatures into their closed minds.  The distortion — the deceit — is pornographic.

And it’s simple.

Class dismissed.