Category Archives: atmosphere

In the front lines of the “climate wars”

Here’s another book to look out for – The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines. It will be published at the beginning of March .

The author, Michael Mann,  has been a central figure in the “climate wars.” His research into paleoclimate has been a particular target for climate sceptics/contrarians/deniers. And despite their claims that his work was discredited it has in fact been supported and replicated by other climate scientists. It also received endorsement from the The National Research Council of the US National Academies. (See and download Surface Temperature Reconstructions for the Last 2,000 Years (2006) )

Publisher’s description of book

This is how the publisher describes the book:

“In its 2001 report on global climate, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change of the United Nations prominently featured the “Hockey Stick,” a chart showing global temperature data over the past one thousand years. The Hockey Stick demonstrated that temperature had risen with the increase in industrialization and use of fossil fuels. The inescapable conclusion was that worldwide human activity since the industrial age had raised CO2 levels, trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and warming the planet.

“The Hockey Stick became a central icon in the “climate wars,” and well-funded science deniers immediately attacked the chart and the scientists responsible for it. Yet the controversy has had little to do with the depicted temperature rise and much more with the perceived threat the graph posed to those who oppose governmental regulation and other restraints to protect our environment and planet. Michael E. Mann, lead author of the original paper in which the Hockey Stick first appeared, shares the real story of the science and politics behind this controversy. He introduces key figures in the oil and energy industries, and the media front groups who do their bidding in sometimes slick, bare-knuckled ways to cast doubt on the science. Mann concludes with an account of the “Climategate” scandal, the 2009 hacking of climate scientists’ emails. Throughout, Mann reveals the role of science deniers, abetted by an uninformed media, in once again diverting attention away from one of the central scientific and policy issues of our time.”

McCarthyist attacks on science

Henry Waxman, Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives, former chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee said this of Michael Mann:

“As one of the nation’s leading climate researchers, no one has felt the brunt of the attacks from politicians and the fossil fuel industry more than Michael Mann. This is his personal account from the center of the maelstrom, documenting the lies and distortions about his work and his heroic efforts to stand up for scientific truth.”

Mann has certainly been one of the most high profile victim of the current McCarthyist attacks on climate science and scientists. This still continues. But he is not the only target. This has become such a problem that A Legal Defense Fund for Climate Scientists has been set up. You can find out more about the fund at its new web site and its recent press release –  Climate Science Legal Defense Fund Gets New Backing. As the press release says:

“The fund is designed to help scientists like Professor Michael Mann cope with the legal fees that stack up in fighting attempts by climate-skeptic groups to gain access to private emails and other correspondence through lawsuits and Freedom of Information Act requests at their public universities.”

The fund will also:

“Educate researchers about their legal rights and responsibilities on issues surrounding their work;

Serve as a clearinghouse for information related to legal actions taken against scientists; and

Recruit and assist lawyers representing these scientists.”

Another important  book to look forward to.

Who is funding the climate change denial groups?

Have a look at Hot Topic’s Puppets on a string: US think tank funds NZ sceptics. A nice little exposure of how some of the local climate change denier groups get finance. We need more of these sorts of investigations.

Which brings me to the Guardian’s article Climate scientists back call for sceptic think-tank to reveal backers. Who funds the Global Warming Policy Foundation, a London-based climate sceptic think-tank chaired by the former Conservative chancellor Lord Lawson? Many have been asking this. The group has been very active, and quite effective, in high publicity campaigns aimed at discrediting climate science and scientists. In particular it has attacked any real or perceived attempt by institutes to restrict availability of data.

Good on them, you might say. And who could disagree with Lawson’s 2010 statement:

“Proper scientists, scientists of integrity, they reveal, and voluntarily they wish to reveal, all their data and all their methods; they do not need a Freedom of Information Act request to force it out of them.”

And he added:

“Integrity means you show everything, absolutely.”

But he sings a different tune when asked who is funding his organisation. He just refuses to reveal the identity of his big donors. Understandably many accuse him of double standards. (I have experienced exactly the same hypocrisy from local denier groups when I have asked for copies of their data and methodology.) And so far he has had the state bodies on his side – a Freedom Of Information (FOI) request to the Charity Commission for it to make public a bank statement it holds revealing the name of the educational charity’s seed donor, who gave £50,000 when it launched in 2009, has been denied.

This Friday that decision is being appealed on the grounds that the public interest will be served by ending the secrecy around the financing of Lawson’s charity. Brendan Montague, the director of an organisation called the Request Initiative, a “community interest company that makes Freedom of Information Act requests on behalf of charities, NGOs and non-profits”, is heading the appeal. He said:

“Lord Lawson’s thinktank, which has been bankrolled by shadowy funders, is lobbying government for a change in climate policy that would affect the lives of millions of people. The privacy of wealth has so far been valued above public accountability, even by our own civic institutions. The democratic principle of transparency is breached when a former chancellor can sit in the House of Lords influencing government policy on matters as important as climate change while accepting funding for his thinktank from secret supporters.”

This appeal has won support from climate scientists around the world who have often been the target of FOI requests. Some would say they have been harrased by such requests.

There is also an on-line petition (see Tell Climate Sceptic Think Tank to Disclose Funding). It declares: “a registered charity should not be hiding who is behind it, especially when its main aim is to change public opinion. Support the scientists’ request and insist that the public learn what is actually going on.”

Reminds me of a few sayings – What’s source for the goose is sauce for the gander. And people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

I’ll keep an eye open for the judge’s ruling.

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Our fingerprints are all over it!

Skeptical Science has just posted A Comprehensive Review of the Causes of Global Warming. The review’s conclusion are well illustrated by this figure which attributes the inputs from human and natural causes over the last 50 years.

Net human and natural percent contributions to the observed global surface warming over the past 50-65 years according to Tett et al. 2000 (T00, dark blue), Meehl et al. 2004 (M04, red), Stone et al. 2007 (S07, green), Lean and Rind 2008 (LR08, purple), Huber and Knutti 2011 (HK11, light blue), and Gillett et al. 2012 (G12, orange).

The different colours show the different studies reviewed. These used different and independent methods and Skeptical Science concludes they “provide multiple lines of evidence that humans are the dominant cause of global warming over the past century, and especially over the past 50 to 65 years.”

These studies considered different human and natural causes:

  • Human greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions,
  • Solar activity,
  • Volcanic activity,
  • Human aerosol emissions,
  • The El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO).

GHG and human aerosol (primarily sulphur dioxide, SO2)  are the two largest human influences, and solar and volcanic activity and ENSO are the dominant natural influences on global temperature. The figure below illustrates the breakdown of their contributions in these studies.

Percent contributions of various effects to the observed global surface warming over the past 100-150 years according to Tett et al. 2000 (T00, dark blue), Meehl et al. 2004 (M04, red), Stone et al. 2007 (S07, green), Lean and Rind 2008 (LR08, purple), Stott et al. 2010 (S10, gray), and Huber and Knutti 2011 (HR11, light blue).

Clearly, human inputs have provided the largest effect on global temperature over recent years. Greenhouse gas emission have had a positive effect and aerosol emissions a negative, partly balancing, effect. This negative human factor is decreasing as humanity cleans up its act in terms of SO2 and other aerosol pollution.

As Skeptical Science summarises these findings:

“A wide variety of statistical and physical approaches all arrived at the same conclusion: that humans are the dominant cause of the global warming over the past century, and particularly over the past 50 years.  This robust scientific evidence is why there is a consensus amongst scientific experts that humans are the dominant cause of global warming.”

Our fingerprints are all over it!

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Christmas gift ideas: Thinking of our grandchildren

Books are ideal Christmas presents. And as I am spending some time dealing with family business I thought reposting some of my past book reviews over the next few days could be useful am repeating some of my past book reviews.

Climate change is a pressing issue – and one which attracts a lot of politically inspired misinformation. Hansen’s book provides a lot of the science, but also the history of the science..

Book Review: Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth About the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity by James Hansen

Price: US$16.50*
320 pages
Bloomsbury USA (December 8, 2009)

Climate change contrarians and deniers love to hate James Hansen. He’s up there alongside Al Gore, Michael Mann and Phil Jones. And of course their hatred is no more justified in Hansen’s case than it is for the others.

Others criticise Hansen for his “activism.” His willingness to warn politicians and the population in general of the dangers we face if we continue with a “business as usual” approach to fossil fuel and CO2 emissions. They suggest this could discredit his science. Scientists must always be objective and should limit their pronouncements to the scientific facts alone.

This is not an old problem for scientists – remember their activism after the first use of nuclear weapons and the beginning of the nuclear arms race. Scientists often confront ethical issues arising out of their work.

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What’s this about cosmic rays and global warming?

This old argument is getting another airing among the internet climate change contrarian/denier ghetto. Briefly it claims that humans have nothing to do with current climate change – it’s all caused by the sun! Specifically the influence of cosmic rays originating from the sun on formation of clouds in the atmosphere.

Of course things are never that simple – but that doesn’t stop those wishing to justify a preconceived position. And the sudden new evidence which is being touted arises from a recent paper from CERN  Role of sulphuric acid, ammonia and galactic cosmic rays in atmospheric aerosol nucleation published in Nature. The denier ghetto has come out with headlines like New CERN “CLOUD” Study Makes the Al Gore Climate Change Forecasts Obsolete! Or locally the NZ climate change denier blog Climate Conversation asserts CLOUD proves cosmic ray link!

The reasearch findings in no way justifies these headlines. And even veteran denier Richard Treadgold at Climate Conversations has backed away to some extent from his headline. Nevertheless it ahs him demanding that New Zealand review its Emmisions Trading Scheme and he thinks that “warmists” are responding by “rushing to the exits”!

Yeah, right!

What are the research findings?

Potholer54 has produced a nice video summary of the facts around this research Are cosmic rays causing global warming? It’s well worth watching

Another brief video, starring Jasper Kirkby the lead scientists in this work,  also provides more information on this work  Kirkby on Cosmic Rays

As Kirkby points out the work is only the first step in this research and says nothing about the influence of cosmic rays on cloud formation. This initial work really only reports the influence of chemicals and cosmic rays  on nucleation of chemical particles which may eventually lead to some cloud formation.

As for headlines like CERN: ‘Climate models will need to be substantially revised’ Kirkby points out we are a long way from that – at least ten years before the influence on models can even be considered.

It’s certainly interesting research, but only one step in considering climatic effects. We still have a long way to go to understand how clouds and other aerosols influence climate change.

And it is the nature of research that we should be ready for all sorts of tangential leads produced. For example, perhaps this research may in the end say more about the influence of human activities on climate through the emission of all sorts of chemicals not yet considered and their role in cosmic ray induced particulate formation in the atmosphere.

Thanks to Richard Christie and Cedric Katesby for videos.

See also: For a more detailed discussion of Kirkby’s research watch this  video of one of his lectures (65 min): Jasper Kirkby: The CLOUD experiment at CERN.

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Atlantis returns home – viewed from ISS

This is a time exposure taken from the International Space Station (ISS). It shows the plasma trail of Atlantis as it travelled through the atmosphere on its final return from orbit.

Thanks to NASA – Station Crew Views Shuttle Landing.

Background Briefing for Mockton’s NZ visit

Christopher Monckton speaking in Melbourne last year. (Photo: Australian Conservative.)

Apparently Christopher Monckton will visit New Zealand for a few days (August 4 – 7) at the end of his Australian tour. His fanboys in the local climate change denier/contrarian/sceptic groups will obviously do their best to make as much publicity out of the visit as possible.

Others who want a more balanced assessment of Monckton might like to listen to the Backgrounder prepared by the Australian ABC (see Background Briefing – 17 July 2011 – The Lord Monckton roadshow). It includes extensive recordings of Monckton’s statements plus checking of many of his claims (he is often completely wrong and misrepresents science and scientists). There is also information on his mining industry financial backers.

The backgrounder illustrates how Monckton is attempting to whip up an anti-science and anti-scientists campaign (listen to him present his aim to prosecute and imprison scientists). The experience of the reporter who was exposed to the hysterical anti-media campaign at one of his meetings is also enlightening.

Download Audio – 17072011
Listen Now – 2011-07-17

See also:
Background Briefing on Monckton
Monckton’s Nazi jibe over the top: Abbott
A letter to Viscount Monckton of Brenchley from the Clerk of the Parliaments
Astroturfing works, and it’s a major challenge to climate change
Monckton requires religious certification for scientists?

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That hacking scandal

The current phone hacking scandal in the UK brings back some memories. It’s taken several years for those hacking crimes to reach public consciousness and create a storm of disgust. I wonder how long it will be before we get to find out who was behind the “climategate” hacking scandal? It was obviously well organised and had  a big political effect, despite the tameness of the emails released.

But I bet the true story behind that hacking will be interesting.

Thanks to Treehugger for the timely reminder (see Cold Case: Who Hacked Climatic Research Unit Emails Back In 2009?)

I also have to thank treehugger for bringing this handy infographic to my attention. It’s from and compares the scientific consensus and the sceptics arguments over global warming. Click on the image for a larger version.

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The ethics of exploitation

A cartoon in the current issue of the NZ Listener magazine says it all. It portrays New Zealand politicians lining up to pass through the cordon around the earthquake damaged city of Christchurch. The policeman on duty is saying “No politics past this point.”

New Zealanders don’t think well of people who seek to exploit a tragedy for their own political, ideological or monetary purposes.

The web site that attempted to explain the earthquake as divine punishment for homosexuals and prostitutes in Christchurch offended us. (Whether genuine or a very bad joke that site seems to have now been taken down).

Respectful and secular

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Another local climate change denial meme

I commented in Painted into a corner? that the release of NIWA’s report of the recalculation of New Zealand’s 7-station  long term  temperature series had called the local climate change deniers’ bluff. It was time for them to apologise, withdraw their slanderous attacks on NIWA and move on.

Yeah, right! That may have been the sensible thing to do, but of course they are in it for the politics, not the science. So the attacks continue.

Gareth at Hot Topic has an excellent summary of the action (see A Christmas cracker for the cranks). And of course the denier trolls have descended on his post with quite hilarious arguments. One is their claim “this new series shows no warming has occurred here since about 1960.”

Well, of course the series shows nothing of the sort. They appear to basing this incorrect claim on a paragraph in the report which says:

“The unusually steep warming in the 1940-1960 period is paralleled by an unusually large increase in northerly [air] flow during this same period. On a longer timeframe, there has been a trend towards less northerly flow (more southerly) since about 1960. However, New Zealand temperatures have continued to increase over this time, albeit at a reduced rate compared with earlier in the 20th century. This is consistent with a warming of the whole region of the southwest Pacific within which New Zealand is situated.”

Never the less these trolls and their public spokespersons, Richard Treadgold and Brian Leyland are working hardto push this meme. And they claim support from their “eyeball” analysis of the graph in NIWA’s report.

But all the data is available (Seven station data and 11 station data) and anyone can do their own analysis to check these claims.

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