Posts Tagged James Hansen

Heat: 2014 breaks global temperature records, 2015 could be hotter Gareth Renowden Jan 18

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Last year was the warmest year on record for the planet, analyses by NASA and NOAA show, and it’s possible that 2015 could be warmer still. 2014 was warmer than previous record holders 2005 and 2010, and comfortably ahead of 1998. 13 of the hottest 15 years on record have all occurred since 2000. Remarkably, 2014’s warmth was achieved without much assistance from an El Niño — which boosts global temperatures and is normally a factor in record setting years, as this graphic from Skeptical Science shows:

ENSO Temps static480

For more discussion of ENSO’s impact on temperatures, see Dana Nucitelli’s article at The Guardian, and Jim Hansen et al’s discussion here. Hansen warns that more warming could be on its way:

More warming is expected in coming years and decades as a result of Earth’s large energy imbalance, more energy coming in than going out, and with the help of even a mild El Niño 2015 may be significantly warmer than 2014.

The risk of further rapid rises in global temperatures could also be increased by early signs that the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) may be shifting to its positive phase, as the Peter Hannam at the SMH pointed out late last year:

“During a positive PDO phase, you’d expect temperatures to keep climbing again as they did in the 1980s and 1990s,” Dr (Shayne) McGregor (of UNSW) said, adding that as PDOs are measured by rolling 11-year averages, it will be a while before any shift becomes clear.

In New Zealand, NIWA reports that the nationwide average temperature for 2014 was 12.8°C, 0.2°C above the 1981–2010 annual average, but that June was tied for warmest in the long term record. The MetService blog provides a good overview of regional weather here.

For further analysis and discussion, there is a lot of good coverage and supporting information available on the web. Here’s my pick of some of the best.

News coverage: New York Times (above the fold on the front page, no less), BBC, Guardian, Stuff (taking the AP coverage). Time makes the obvious point: warming continues unabated, which should give the lie to climate crank nonsense about no recent warming1.

Background analysis: the Climate Council in Australia (who created the graphic at the top of this post), a superb Bloomberg graphic, Climate Nexus, Climate Central (one and two), and for my favourite visual reminder of how warming has progressed, here’s NASA’s animation of global warming from 1880 to 2014:


  1. …but I won’t be holding my breath…

The Climate Show #32: a Cook’s tour of the Aussie heat Gareth Renowden Jan 24

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At long last: John Cook from Skeptical Science rejoins the Climate Show team for the first show of 2013. He hooks up with Glenn and Gareth to review Australia’s big heatwave, and stays around to dig into the new Greenpeace report on dirty energy, discuss Obama’s inauguration speech and Boris Johnson’s climate blunder, the latest scary news on sea level rise and the implications for the future. Plus much much more…

Watch The Climate Show on our Youtube channel, subscribe to the podcast via iTunes, listen to us via Stitcher on your smartphone or listen direct/download from the link below the fold.

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The Climate Show

Story references


Australia bush fires and temperature records: For the first image used in the show and further background, see The Conversation.

Bushfires captured by satellite: NASA Earth Observatory

Global Warming Has Increased Monthly Heat Records Worldwide by a Factor of Five, Study Finds

If global warming continues, the study projects that the number of new monthly records will be 12 times as high in 30 years as it would be without climate change. “Now this doesn’t mean there will be 12 times more hot summers in Europe than today — it actually is worse,” Coumou points out. For the new records set in the 2040s will not just be hot by today’s standards. “To count as new records, they actually have to beat heat records set in the 2020s and 2030s, which will already be hotter than anything we have experienced to date,” explains Coumou. “And this is just the global average — in some continental regions, the increase in new records will be even greater.”

A new report commissioned by Greenpeace says the world could be locked into dangerous levels of global warming if 14 planned fossil fuel projects get the go ahead. The projects in the Point of No Return report include the expansion of Indonesian and Australian coal exports, a tripling of production from the Canadian tar sands and extensive offshore drilling in Brazilian waters.All in all, the 6,340 million tonnes of CO2 a year by 2020, more than the total output of the US.
RTCC news, full report pdf.

US media coverage of Climate Change in 2012 fell by 2%! This despite the devastating drought and Hurricane Sandy.

But if Obama has his way that’s all about to change: Youtube video here.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says his top hopes for 2013 are to reach a new agreement on climate change and to urgently end the increasingly deadly and divisive war in Syria.

Dispatch from London…. Shock! Horror! Boris says something really stupid! He says this week’s snow casts doubt on Climate science. Of course, as Leo Hickman points out in The Guardian he’s only trolling BUT it still matters because he could be Britain’s PM one day…

Jason Box’s Dark Snow Project. He is also going to be speaking at a Climate Desk Event in Washington next month. See also: SkS and HT.

Sea level rise: a sequence of stories…

Natural Relationship Between Carbon Dioxide Concentrations and Sea Level Documented

The researchers found that the natural relationship displays a strong rise in sea level for CO2 increase from 180 to 400 parts per million, peaking at CO2 levels close to present-day values, with sea level at 24 +7/-15 metres above the present, at 68 per cent confidence limits.

Richard Alley lecture – final section on the Thwaites Glacier in West Antarctica.

Which leads us to the ultimate paradox: Sea level rise could lead to cooler, stormier planet, says Jim Hansen.

A catastrophic rise in sea level before the end of the century could have a hitherto unforeseen side effect. Melting icebergs might cool the seas around Greenland and Antarctica so much that the average surface temperature of the planet falls by a degree or two. This is according to unpublished work by climate scientist James Hansen of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City.

Plus: Gareth being gloomy.

And this from The Climate Desk: they report that a group of researchers and educators based at San Jose State University think climate science needs a superhero. And they have: Supermandia!


Scott A Mandia’s blog is here.


Sprinkling billions of tonnes of mineral dust across the oceans could quickly remove a vast quantities of climate-warming carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, according to a new study. The proposed “geoengineering” technique would also offset the acidification of the oceans and could be targeted at endangered coral reefs, but there’s a downside — it would require a mining effort on the same scale as the world’s coal industry and would alter the biology of the oceans.

Thin Film Solar Cells: New World Record for Solar Cell Efficiency

UK scientists bid to mimic plant energy creation

Researchers at the University of East Anglia (UEA) are embarking on an £800,000 project to replicate photosynthesis, the process by which plants convert sunlight into sugars to help them grow.

The process will be used to create hydrogen, which can be used as a zero-emission fuel for cars, or converted into green electricity.

It is hoped the method, which involves placing tiny solar panels on microbes to harness sunlight and drive the production of hydrogen, will be a more efficient way of converting the sun’s energy than currently exists.

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Thanks to our media partners: Idealog Sustain, Sciblogs, and Scoop .

Theme music: A Drop In The Ocean by The Bads.

Hansen’s letter on lignite Bryan Walker Apr 07

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At the suggestion of Slovenian colleagues, James Hansen has written to the President and members of the National Assembly of the Republic of Slovenia urging them to deny a state guarantee for a proposed European Investment Bank loan to fund a new lignite-fired power plant in their country.

He points out that they are considering a decision which will have significant effects, some irreversible, upon the world that today’s young people and future generations inherit. Such a strong statement, he says, however unlikely it may seem at first glance, is a clear conclusion of the most advanced climate science. That science he proceeds to summarise in his letter, and to describe in more detail in an attached paper The Case for Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change to Protect Young People and Nature.

The paper is well worth attention. No fewer than 17 co-authors, from a variety of universities and institutes around the world, participated in its preparation. The result is a valuable summation of the science and the implications for humanity in moving to carbon-free energies and energy efficiency. I don’t know whether many politicians actually sit down and read a coherent account of where climate science is at, but the paper serves extremely well for anyone, politician or not, who wants such an account.

’Humanity is now the dominant force driving changes of Earth’s atmospheric composition and thus future climate.’ Hansen’s blunt opening statement is explained in detail as the paper proceeds. I’ll touch only lightly on its contents, which are familiar enough to anyone who follows the issue. It’s worth noting the increasing urgency which the paper points to as the impacts of global warming become apparent. What was once thought to be a tolerable level of a few degrees of warming can now be seen as dangerous. Although global warming is currently less than 1ºC, significant impacts are already apparent. There has been a much larger than expected decrease in summer Arctic sea ice; the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets are shedding ice at several hundred cubic kilometres per year and accelerating; mountain glaciers around the world are receding rapidly; the hot dry sub-tropical climate belts have expanded; the abundance of reef-building corals is decreasing; more than half of all wild species are experiencing habitat and seasonal timing changes; mega-heatwaves have become more widespread.

There is a consequent need for a reassessment of what constitutes a dangerous level of warming and the paper points to Earth’s paleoclimate history as a guide. Powerful feedbacks of loss of albedo and rising CO2 emissions greatly amplified the effects of what would otherwise have been small changes in past climates; that is a warning for us of what the extremely rapid rise in emissions today may result in. Past records of sea level rise are particularly ominous in this respect.

The paper explains the conclusion that an atmospheric CO2 concentration of 350 ppm is the target which could stabilise climate near current temperatures. It’s an important conclusion, but also a troubling one in that we are already well past that mark and climbing. However the paper considers it is not impossible to return to 350 ppm this century through reforestation and increasing soil carbon. But emissions must start to be scaled back urgently as well.

Hansen et al also warn of the possible development of slow feedbacks, such as ice sheet disintegration, species extinction or the release of methane hydrates, if warming is allowed to continue. These slow feedbacks can become tipping points where further and possibly rapid changes become inevitable because they develop their own momentum and the dynamics of the process takes over.

The paper runs through the likely impacts of global warming — sea level rise, continuing into successive centuries possibly to very high levels; shifting climate zones, already apparent in isotherms moving poleward at a typical rate of the order of 100 km/decade in the past three decades; threats to species survival; loss of coral reefs; climate extremes; a variety of threats to human health.

The only effective response to the dangers posed by warming is for the world to move expeditiously to carbon-free energies and energy efficiency, leaving most of the remaining fossil fuels in the ground. This transition, the paper considers, will not occur until a price is put on carbon. Fossil fuels are cheap only because they are subsidised and do not pay their costs to society.

One of the world’s leading climate scientists, supported by a distinguished group of colleagues from a number of disciplines, takes the trouble to write to the members of the Slovenian National Assembly over one coal-fired power plant, and to include a carefully prepared paper tailored to their understanding.  One hopes the Assembly members will recognise that the attention they have received is a measure of the concern that the authors feel that the world is heading for major disaster.  One also hopes they will read the paper closely. I did, and I find it difficult to see how anyone could doubt the overwhelming weight of scientific evidence it canvasses that we are at a time when it is imperative that we begin a substantial and steadily continuing reduction in our emission of greenhouse gases and that we acknowledge that most remaining fossil fuel reserves must stay in the ground.

Some social scientists point out that the scientific evidence alone is not what convinces people. I have some difficulty appreciating this because I found some years ago that the science was quite enough to convince me. They in return would no doubt say that I was socially pre-conditioned to conviction. But whatever the merits of such arguments it surely remains important that the stark reality of the scientific picture be continually brought to public attention and that we are made to understand that the scientists themselves are deeply alarmed by what they discover. That’s the touchstone against which all our responses should be measured, whatever social factors may also come into play. Hansen and his colleagues perform a public service of high importance.

Kiwiblog kobblers Gareth Renowden Mar 22

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New Zealand’s leading right wing blogger, National Party spinmeister and opinion poll guru David Farrar, this morning allowed himself the luxury of a rant about the New Zealand Herald‘s coverage of a new paper on sea level during the late Pliocene. In a post teasingly titled “Alarmist bullshit“, he manages to demonstrate his rudimentary grasp of the facts, misunderstands the real story behind the new research, and ends up shooting himself in the foot. Here’s David in full flow:

Anyone who thinks public policy today should be based on a forecast of what the climate might be in 5,000 years is nuts. Look at how the world has changed in just 100 years let alone hundreds or thousands. Hell in 1,000 years we may be living on Mars.

The Herald should be ashamed for saying that the projected increase could ’dramatically transform’ our coastal boundaries. A change over 1,000 years+ is not dramatic. It’s like saying the separation of Gondwana was dramatic.

20 metres is a lot of sea level rise. Here’s what 20 metres would mean for my nearest city, poor old quake-plagued Christchurch, courtesy of the Firetree sea level rise calculator. The central business district is under water, the new shoreline well to the west. At a rough guess, I’d say 80% of the city is flooded, and Banks Peninsula is an island once more.

I think that can be reasonably described as a dramatic transformation of the South Island coastline, even if it does take 1,000 years to happen. DPF might like to note that coping with two metres per century sea level rise is nobody’s picnic. But his misunderstanding runs deeper…

His first mistake is in his opening paragraph:

Some people doubt temperatures are rising at all, But I do think there is a warming trend, of which greenhouse gas emissions are at least partially responsible. However even the IPCC say that the maximum rise in sea levels by 2100 is 59 cm. This is a 2007 projection. Since then some media have quoted extreme claims beyond that, but I prefer to put credence on the IPCC projections. The IPCC process is far from perfect, but they tend to produce reasonably sane figures.

The IPCC’s Fourth Report does not say that the maximum sea level rise by 2100 is 59cm. It says that the maximum modelled sea level rise is 59 cm, specifically “excluding future rapid dynamical changes in ice flow”. The “extreme claims” in “some media” since then reflect the advancement of our understanding of those dynamical ice sheet flows — the rapid increase in ice mass loss from the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets in particular, the subject of the paper that prompted the Herald story. The IPCC’s fifth report is due out towards the end of next year, and it is certain — based on the recent literature — that the AR4 numbers will be revised upwards.

Isaac Davison’s Herald story is actually a good account of the new paper1, and it’s obvious that he’s taken the time and trouble to speak to Victoria University’s Tim Naish, one of the authors. He quotes Naish as saying it was “well-established that oceans would rise one metre this century”. Perhaps DPF didn’t read that far…

However, both the Herald and Farrar fail to make the key point that this study illustrates so well. If current carbon dioxide levels commit the planet to a further 2ºC warming and 20 metres of sea level rise (however long it takes to get there), then prudent public policy means that we have to reduce the amount of CO2 below today’s levels to avoid visiting catastrophic sea level rise on future generations. This is essentially the point that Jim Hansen has been making, and why adopted the number they did.

Put simply — in terms DPF can understand — the import of this new study is to confirm that New Zealand government policy on carbon emissions is ludicrously out of touch with the state of our understanding of the planet’s climate system. Sadly, NZ is not alone in this. Global policy settings are just as far out of line with reality, and the international community shows little appetite for addressing the real scale of the problem. By aiming only for what they deem politically possible, they commit the world to disaster.

I suppose we can forgive DPF for not keeping up with the state of research in this field — he is, after all, a political animal first and foremost, and one not averse to feeding the ravening denialist hordes that haunt his blog’s comments — but you might expect someone who expects to be taken seriously when discussing public policy to be a little more humble when commenting out of his area of expertise.

  1. Miller, K.G., Browning, J.V, Kulpecz, A., Naish, T.R., Kominz, M., Rosenthal, Y., Cramer, B.S., Peltier, R., Sosdian, S., Wright, J.D., (in press). The high tide of the Pliocene: Implications of a 25-20 m eustatic peak for Antarctic glaciation. Geology, here

On Lignite: Elder not better Bryan Walker May 19

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Since Don Elder thinks it inappropriate for the visiting James Hansen to comment on the morality of the proposed lignite development in Southland, let me, a fellow New Zealander, say that I find the morality of the development indefensible and all the special pleading offered by Elder doesn’t alter the case.

There is evidence that emissions of greenhouse gases from human activity are already causing hardship to some poorer populations of the world. There is little doubt that they will deliver today’s young and their children a world under pressure from immense and adverse changes which few of us would wish on them. That’s the basis of Hansen’s forthright comments on the morality of continuing to burn fossil fuels. If you want a more eloquent statement than he is accustomed to make have a look at what Norwegian novelist Jostein Gaarder said at a panel he shared with Hansen at the 2010 PEN World Voices Festival. I quoted him at some length in this post, but the essence of his speech was in these words:

’You shall love your neighbour as you love yourself. This must obviously include your neighbour generation. It has to include absolutely everyone who will live on the earth after us. The human family doesn’t inhabit earth simultaneously. People have lived here before us, some are living now and some will live after us. But those who come after us are also our fellow human beings…We have no right to hand over a planet earth that is less worth than the planet that we ourselves have had the good fortune to live on.’

If the South Island lignite remains in the ground it will not add to the dangerous level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. But, pleads Elder — and he no doubt represents a large section of opinion including, one presumes, Minister Gerry Brownlee — if we don’t use it to manufacture urea and diesel we will have to obtain the products from elsewhere in the world, and because they have to be transported here they may in fact carry a larger carbon footprint than if we manufactured them in Southland.  He provides no evidence that the lignite processes will in fact be less polluting in total than the imported materials are. He also assumes that environmentally gentler alternatives to the fertiliser and fuel will not be desired in the future as the country wakes up to the reality of human-cause climate change.

The kind of arguments Elder is putting forward can be pursued to the point where all the fossil fuels in the world are exploited, and at every point along the way similar casuistries will make it seem only sensible and reasonable that we should all be doing what we are doing and that it is even in the interests of the environment. I once wrote to the Minister of Energy and Climate Change in the previous government asking how the mining and export of coal could be justified in the light of the commitment to mitigate climate change. The answer was that the countries to which it is exported are responsible for the emissions, not us.  I was not surprised by the answer, but it still strikes me as washing our hands of the consequences of our coal mining, and fits the scenario of a world which carries on digging every last bit of fossil fuel from the earth and burning it, with seemingly reasonable explanations to hand all along the disastrous way.

The world can’t stop burning fossil fuels overnight. But it can start to wind them down. The development of Southland lignite is not necessary to bridge any interim as we move to a low carbon economy. Nor is coal mining for export for that matter. They are simply undertaken to make money. The human cost is ignored or denied. I think that can fairly be described as morally reprehensible.

Supporting Jim: Saunders, Oram and Salinger on tour Gareth Renowden May 06

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With James Hansen arriving in New Zealand next week to tour much (but not all) of the country talking climate action and coal, three NZ-based climate experts have announced a regional speaking tour designed to complement Hansen’s efforts. Climate scientist Jim Salinger will be joined by Professor Caroline Saunders from Lincoln University (well-known for her work on the carbon footprinting of agricultural exports) and business commentator Rod Oram to present a session on “Maintaining farm productivity and profits in an uncertain climate”. They’ll explain:

…the nature of climate change, its impacts on New Zealanders’ health, properties, infrastructure, environment and rural industries. They will bring the latest information on climate change science and how it affects rural industries in regional New Zealand.

They’ll be visiting Wanganui, Hawera, New Plymouth, Stratford, Gisborne, Napier and Hastings in May, with visits to Northland, Bay of Plenty/Waikato, Nelson/Marlborough, South Canterbury and Westland planned for July/August. Sounds like a very worthwhile session for anyone with an interest in agriculture, climate and New Zealand’s future. Schedule below the fold…

16th May

  • Wanganui District Council 10 am — 12 noon, Council Chambers War Memorial Hall Concert Chamber
  • South Taranaki District Council 2 — 4 pm, Hawera
  • New Plymouth District Council 7 — 9 pm, Council Chambers

17th May

  • Taranaki Regional Council, Stratford, 11 — 11.30 am then lunch

23rd May

  • Gisborne District Council 10 am — 12 noon, Lawson Field Theatre

24th May

  • Hawkes Bay Regional Council, Napier 10.30 am – 12.30 pm, Ballroom War
    Memorial, Centre Marine Parade
  • Hastings District Council, Hastings 1.30 — 3.30 pm Hastings DC Council
    Chambers, Hastings

More about the talk (from the press release):

Dr Jim Salinger will speak on the latest information on climate change
science and its impacts on farming and communities in the New Zealand and
local context.

Professor Caroline Saunders will speak on what all this means for
agricultural trade, greenhouse gas emissions and what practical and
cost-effective steps farmers can take in reducing their emissions whilst
improving their economic viability and business opportunities in a
changing world.

Rod Oram will talk on emissions trading and compare New Zealand’s climate
change targets with our trading partners’ targets, and what this means
for agricultural trade.

Defending the future: scientists take the stand Bryan Walker Jun 24

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Perhaps serving as defence witnesses will prove a new opportunity for climate scientists to make the clear public statement that the confused processes of the media often muddy.  In 2008 James Hansen famously defended the UK protestors, the Kingsnorth Six, who were charged with criminal damage when they climbed to the top of the smokestack at Kingsnorth coal-fired power station in Kent. His role was to provide expert opinion about the dangers of climate change and the part played by coal as the fossil fuel most responsible for increasing CO2 levels. He was an hour and a half on the stand, much of the time given to explaining the consequences of continuing to increase the CO2 in the atmosphere. The concluding paragraph of his written statement related his material to the trial:

Recognition of these basic facts by the defendants, realization that the facts were also known by the government, utility, and fossil fuel industry, and realization that the actions needed to protect life and property of the present and future generations were not being taken undoubtedly played a role in the decision of the defendants to act as they did.

The six were acquitted.

Now another climate scientist has given evidence for the defence in the trial of nine members of the Plane Stupid protest group facing breach of the peace charges for occupying Aberdeen airport and disrupting flights in March last year. They plead not guilty, on the grounds that their actions were justified as they assembled peacefully to prevent a greater crime to future generations through climate change. The vandalism charges they also faced have been dropped.

Alice Bows (pictured) from the Tyndall centre for climate change research is the climate scientist who has testified as an expert witness. Yesterday she said in court that the Scottish government’s climate change programme, which seeks to cut emissions by up to 40% by 2020 and 80% by 2050, was “welcome” but not enough. (Reports from Climate9 and the Guardian.)

’The UK Government’s Committee on Climate Change policy of 80% reduction in emissions by 2050 only gives us a 50:50 chance of avoiding dangerous climate change. You wouldn’t go to sleep in a house that had a 50:50 chance of burning down in the night, so we need even tougher targets. In fact we need a complete de-carbonisation of the economy in the next few decades. Because we need to tackle emissions right now, the actions of both governments and individuals are important.’

Bows added that the aviation industry was of particular concern.

“Condensation trails, or the white trails, are also causing climate warming. On a UK basis, air travel contributes 6% of carbon dioxide emissions. If you compare that to other sectors, it’s quite a significant contribution.’

There’s nothing new in what Bows, and Hansen before her, have to say.  But the theatre in which it is said means that it gains sustained public attention. The fact that scientists are willing to emerge from their world of research and speak in the defence of activists is also in itself a sign to the public of how important they hold their message to be.

In August 2008 Alice Bows and Kevin Andersen published a paper, Reframing the climate change challenge in light of post-2000 emission trends, in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society.  The abstract opened with these sentences:

The 2007 Bali conference heard repeated calls for reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions of 50 per cent by 2050 to avoid exceeding the 2°C threshold. While such endpoint targets dominate the policy agenda, they do not, in isolation, have a scientific basis and are likely to lead to dangerously misguided policies.

It’s a fair bet that Bows’ court appearance has achieved more public notice than the carefully argued paper in the Royal Society publication. Not that the paper didn’t therefore matter, but it’s also crucially important that such messages are heard loudly and clearly by the lay public. The action of the Dundee Nine has enabled that as a bonus.

Incidentally, the judge is noted in the Climate9 report as having referred to a BBC radio report of the study discussed in the recent Hot Topic post demonstrating that 98% of climate scientists agree that climate change is anthropogenic.

The Climate War Bryan Walker Jun 20

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The climate change rhetoric when Obama came to power was exciting. It sounded as if he would lead from the front and the US would soon have a federal cap-and-trade system. ’Delay is not longer an option. Denial is no longer an acceptable response.’  Certainly we have seen an end to denial from the White House. But we are still waiting for an end to delay, and increasingly it looks as if we’ll be waiting for a long time. Why?

Eric Pooley’s book The Climate War: True Believers, Power Brokers, and the Fight to Save the Earth sheds a good deal of light on why it is that America, in spite of all the scientific evidence that demonstrates the threatening reality of climate change, is still unable, and often unwilling, to mobilise itself to address the danger.

The author is an accomplished journalist who has spent hundreds of hours over the past three years interviewing some of the players in America’s painfully slow progress towards climate change legislation.  The result is an illuminating story of battles in an ongoing war which is far from conclusion. It’s told painstakingly but with a narrative verve that carries the reader along irresistibly through its mass of detailed accounts. It’s compelling reading, from which I’ll mention just a few examples.

The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) is the climate change group to which Pooley devotes most of his attention. A large organisation which has been at work for over 40 years, the EDF has long argued for a cap and trade system to tackle CO2 emissions. Its president, Fred Krupp, is focused on partnership with business to bring about political action on climate change and was influential in the formation of the US Climate Action Partnership (USCAP) in 2007, initially a group of ten companies and four environmental groups. Among them was Jim Rogers, CEO of Duke Energy. In typically detailed fashion Pooley recreates the drama of meetings at which were hammered out the conditions on which Rogers felt he could join the Call for Action USCAP planned to issue. It hinged on whether allowance was made for initial free distribution of allowances to utilities like Duke, a sticking point for Rogers.

USCAP may have been looked at askance by many Green groups, but Roger’s involvement didn’t go down well with his colleagues at the Edison Electric Institute either. He was chairman at the time and several CEOs called for him to step down. At the Heartland Institute denier’s convention in 2008 Steven Milloy bitterly expressed his dismay that CEOs would endorse a mandatory cap. ’What do you do when the people who represent business and free enterprise have switched sides on you?’

As the Waxman-Hartley bill was developing, the question of emission allowances being free or auctioned remained vexed. Krupp was willing to give way to the companies, maintaining that it didn’t matter. The only thing that mattered was how many allowances were distributed in a given year and how quickly the number was ratcheted down. The declining cap would see to it that coal use declined.

After his close coverage of the tortuous development of the bill, Pooley concludes:

’Of course Waxman-Markey was full of flaws, compromises, and reluctant nods to political reality.  But the bill got right a lot more than it got wrong.  By giving carbon allowances to electric distribution companies and requiring them to pass the value on to customers, it used the cap and trade mechanism to address to genuine cost imbalances between regions of the US — making the system fairer and helping the very heartland people who most wanted to see the whole thing wither and die.’

Pooley recognises that the intransigence of the Republicans meant that the bill reflected negotiations only between the left and right wings of the Democratic party, not between the left and right wings of America. ’Like a wounded animal, the GOP’s only reflex was to lash out. Anything Obama was for, they would be against.’  It’s a sad commentary on a party which has too often allowed itself to be informed on global warming by the organised denial movement which Pooley also takes into his purview.

Al Gore features frequently in the book. His Alliance for Climate Protection organization aimed to spend $100 million a year for three years on advertising campaigns. In July 2008 his Repower America speech challenged the nation to commit to clean energy within ten years. After the elections he sought to orchestrate a large, loud chorus of voices calling on the president-elect and the new Congress to go big and go quickly on the energy front. Some wanted an energy bill first and to leave cap-and-trade for later. Gore disagreed. ’If we’re going to have a fight on climate, let’s have a big fight.’

James Hansen enters the picture from time to time.  He met with Rogers over a meal. Pooley records each man’s feeling as they left the restaurant. Rogers felt positive: I’m not a confrontational guy, and neither is he. Hansen felt disappointed: This man has a reputation for being green, but he doesn’t really know what it means. His priority is making money.

Pooley records at best mixed messages from the White House. On a good day Larry Summers told USCAP leaders that the stimulus bill needed to be complemented with a cap-and-trade mechanism. ’It’s like two blades of a scissors…We need both of them.’  But when it came to the Waxman-Markey bill, chief of staff Rahm Emanuel and senior adviser David Axelrod wanted to stick to the clean energy message and leave climate policy to Waxman. Pooley tells of the committed greens in the White House being defeated time and again by those in the political and economic teams who consider voters don’t care about climate action enough for the president to fight for it. The president who we expected to lead on the issue remains strangely constrained.

Obama went to Copenhagen having failed to move a climate bill. Pooley credits him with an honest, even heroic, attempt there to break the deadlock by bringing the major developing nations to the climate table. His speech offered welcome straight talk on the science, though little on the necessary action to address it. But the possibility of a triumph at Copenhagen had already been ruled out by his decision at home not to mount an education campaign on climate science and clean energy jobs to counter the sceptics, and the failure to put a top-level aide in charge of the international climate issue.

Pooley ends with questions:

’Alexis de Tocqueville long ago said that in the US, events ‘can move from the impossible to the inevitable without ever stopping at the probable.’  Was that still true?  How bad did things need to get before the moment came?  Would the prospect of a clean energy economy, and the jobs it would bring, mobilize enough people to make a difference?  Or would some sort of monstrous, galvanic weather event — epic heat and drought, Katrina on steroids — be needed to shake America fully awake?’

They seem to me open questions.  After following through the labyrinthine processes the author describes by which anything happens, if it happens, in the American political system and recognising the blinkered self-interest and sometimes sheer malevolence that seems to motivate many of the players, I found it hard to credit that America is on the verge of significant progress.  But I took what comfort I could from Pooley’s final brief paragraph where he imagines that the campaigners refused to be paralysed by the questions posed, ’splashed some cold water on their faces, ran their fingers through their hair, threw back their shoulders and marched toward the sound of the guns’.

[Buy at Fishpond (NZ),, Book Depository (UK)]

Conference in Bolivia: who pays the price of change? Bryan Walker Apr 21

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“We are very worried because we have no water. Half the people of this community have already left. Those who remain are struggling with the lack of water.’

Those are the words of a villager in a small Bolivian village called Khapi which is suffering from the effects of retreating glaciers in the Andes.  A BBC news report explains how it is for the villagers. Over the past 10 or 15 years, changing weather patterns have led to irregular water flows – the streams become torrents or dwindle to just trickles. “Our crops are dry now, our animals are dying; we want to cry.”

There are only 40 families in the village, but they’re ready to take their case to international forums. One of their leaders is Alivio Aruquipa (pictured):

“For the past two decades, we, the people from the Andean regions have been suffering because of the greenhouse emissions from the developed countries. If they don’t stop our glaciers will disappear soon. We want those countries to compensate us for all the damage they have done to nature…

“We don’t know how to calculate the compensation because we are not professionals, we are simply farmers. But we would like assistance, and then to receive some money and, with that money, to build dykes to store the water, improve the water canals.”

Hot Topic carried a post last November on the necessity of adaptation in Bolivia, following an Oxfam report.  The BBC news item is another example of the increasing body of evidence which bears out predictions of likely impacts of climate change. It will be discounted by some as anecdotal but there comes a point where the sheer volume of converging stories means they deserve credence.

The call for compensation is a just one, and rightly part of the price we should pay to assist poorer people already suffering the effects of human-caused climate change. In some respects it is in lieu of the price we ought to have put on carbon some years back. It’s a call which the Bolivian government is pushing. They would like to see an international environmental court where compensation claims can be made.

Bolivia is right now hosting its own international conference on climate change, the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth. It’s attended by a mixture of NGOs and government representatives, and in some respects it’s an attempt to recover the ground Bolivia considered was lost at Copenhagen when the Accord was put together by a small group of larger countries. Pablo Solon, Bolivia’s UN ambassador, who has been prominent in the organising of the conference says:

’The only way to get climate negotiations back on track, not just for Bolivia or other countries, but for all of life, biodiversity, our Mother Earth, is to put civil society back into the process. The only thing that can save mankind from a [climate] tragedy is the exercise of global democracy.’

Robert Eshelman describes the conference in the Huffington Post:

“…participants [include] Bill McKibben, NASA scientist Jim Hansen, Martin Khor, G77 + China negotiator Lumumba Di Aping, and Vandana Shiva. Throughout the conference, seventeen working groups will convene to discuss issues ranging from deforestation and climate migrants to the rights of indigenous peoples and developing technologies for poor and low-lying nations to adapt to the impacts of climate change.”

He sees divergence from the kind of path the US is wanting to follow:

’While the U.S. will use the Major Economies Forum and the Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas to spotlight how small group and bilateral discussions among leading economies, rather than the 192-nation U.N. process, is the best way forward on climate negotiations, participants at the Bolivian conference argue that the conversation about, and the process for, developing strategies to address climate change needs to be expanded, not narrowed, bringing more voices into the debate around climate change.’

Hopefully this needn’t indicate stalemate, but both paths can be pursued. If they’re not there is real danger of the poorest nations suffering the injustice of neglect.

Carterist ’science’: Bob’s self-plagiarism, misrepresentation and misquotations Gareth Renowden Mar 11

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homer.jpgThe crank web is all atwitter with the news that Bob Carter’s been censored by Australia’s public broadcaster, the ABC. But an exclusive Hot Topic investigation reveals that the supposed “censorship” looks a lot more like prudent quality control. Carter’s submission plagiarises his own writings, misquotes and misrepresents James Hansen, and joins the recent baseless attacks on the NZ temperature record.

When the ABC’s Unleashed site turned down Carter’s offering — supposedly a reply or counterbalance to their recent five part series on climate denial by Clive Hamilton — it was quickly picked up by his frequent publisher, Aussie website QuadrantOnline. Titled Lysenkoism and James Hansen – Is Hansenism more dangerous than Lysenkoism?, it’s a crude attack on Hansen, currently visiting Australia. But it’s not only crude, it’s unoriginal.

Carter opens his ABC/Quadrant piece with an account of Hansen’s 1988 testimony to Congress:

On June 23, 1988, a young and previously unknown NASA computer modeller, James Hansen, appeared before a United States Congressional hearing on climate change. On that occasion, Dr. Hansen used a graph to convince his listeners that late 20th century warming was taking place at an accelerated rate, which, it being a scorching summer’s day in Washington, a glance out of the window appeared to confirm.

But back in 2005, in a talk to the Melbourne Rotary Club titled Global Warming Hysteria and the Deadly Disease of Hansenism (and in a paper available on his web site since), he had this to say about Hansen’s testimony:

Why Hansenism? Because James Hansen was the NASA-employed scientist who started the climate alarmism hare running on June 23, 1988, when he appeared before a United States Congressional hearing on climate change. On that occasion, Dr Hansen used a misleading graph to convince his listeners that [words cut here] warming was taking place at an accelerated rate (which, it being a scorching summer’s day in Washington, a glance out of the window appeared to confirm). [My emboldening of identical words.]

Strikingly similar, I think you’ll agree. The next two paragraphs share strong similarities with his 2005 paper, although he attributes a quote from Hansen somewhat differently: Here’s the Quadrant/ABC piece:

Fifteen years later, in the Scientific American in March, 2004, Hansen came to write that “Emphasis on extreme scenarios may have been appropriate at one time, when the public and decision-makers were relatively unaware of the global warming issue. Now, however, the need is for demonstrably objective climate forcing scenarios consistent with what is realistic”.

This conversion to honesty came too late, however, for in the intervening years thousands of other climate scientists had meanwhile climbed onto the Hansenist funding gravy-train.

Once again, here’s Carter’s original version:

Much later (20032), Hansen came to write “Emphasis on extreme scenarios may have been appropriate at one time, when the public and decision-makers were relatively unaware of the global warming issue. Now, however, the need is for demonstrably objective climate …. scenarios consistent with what is realistic”. But this astonishing conversion to honesty came too late, for in the intervening years thousands of other climate scientists had meanwhile climbed onto the Hansenist funding gravy-train.

Carter’s use of this quote is intended to show that Hansen had been dishonest. What else can a “conversion to honesty” be taken to mean? But the dishonesty is entirely Carter’s, and the many other climate deniers (Patrick Michaels prominent among them) who have ripped Hansen’s words from their context. Firstly, the quote is not accurate, the relevant sentences as published are:

Emphasis on extreme scenarios may have been appropriate at one time, when the public and decision-makers were relatively unaware of the global warming issue, and energy sources such as “synfuels,” shale oil and tar sands were receiving strong consideration. Now, however, the need is for demonstrably objective climate forcing scenarios consistent with what is realistic under current conditions. Scenarios that accurately fit recent and near-future observations have the best chance of bringing all of the important players into the discussion, and they also are what is needed for the purpose of providing policy-makers the most effective and efficient options to stop global warming. [Missing words emboldened]

Secondly, as in so many things, context is all important. Hansen is discussing the details of the forcing scenarios put together by the IPCC for use in climate model runs. The standard scenarios assume no actions to reduce emissions. Hansen is arguing that to be useful for policy makers, scenarios that include emissions reductions need to be developed, to provide an idea of what might happen if action were taken. No change of mind, no admission of dishonesty — just a call for policy-relevant emissions trajectories and forcing scenarios. Misquotation and misrepresentation in the same breath — nice one, Bob. [Interesting too to note that the AR5 modelling will be based on new, more realistic scenarios that will include emissions reductions]

Let’s move on to the next par in the Bob’s samizdat article:

Currently, global warming alarmism is fuelled by an estimated worldwide expenditure on related research and greenhouse bureaucracy of more than US$10 billion annually. Scientists and bureaucrats being only too human, the power of such sums of money to corrupt not only the politics of greenhouse, but even the scientific process itself, should not be underestimated.

That’s a lot of money. What did he tell the Rotarians five years ago?

Currently, global warming alarmism is fuelled by an estimated worldwide expenditure on related research and greenhouse bureaucracy of US$3-4 billion annually. Scientists and bureaucrats being only too human, the power of such sums of money to corrupt not only the politics of greenhouse, but even the scientific process itself, must not be underestimated.

Crikey Moses, that’s some climate inflation! Not a Hansenist gravy train, but a Carterist scary ghost train.

The sections on “Lysenkoism” in the two pieces are also more or less identical, but in the more recent article, Bob moves on to deliver his wisdom on the state of climate science and policy advice in Australia, and can’t resist a dig at the NZ temperature record:

And, across the Tasman, NIWAgate is developing apace, as the N.Z. National Institute of Water & Atmosphere battles to provide a parliamentary accounting for its historic temperature archive, which may yet prove to include the ’dog ate my homework’ excuse for the apparent absence of some records.

Bob’s clearly channelling Treadgold and Wishart, and just as clearly out of touch (or perhaps that should be unwilling to be in touch) with reality.
So what are the basic tenets of Carterist science, as revealed by the writings of the great communicator himself? Bob describes them perfectly in his Rotary Club talk:

HansenistCarterist climate hysteria is driven by relentless, ideological, pseudo-scientific drivel, most of which issues from greenright wing political activists and their supporters, and is then promulgated by compliant media commentators who are innocent of knowledge of true scientific method. Opportunistically, and sadly, some scientists, too, contribute to the HansenistCarterist alarmism.

Quite right Bob. I share your sorrow, if not your shame.

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