Who will the media believe this time: The Senate’s leading climate denier, James Inhofe (R-Okla.), or their own lying eyes?
Deniers like Inhofe have a serious media problem — an ever growing number of studies, real-world observations, and credible scientific bodies all point to human-caused emissions as the increasingly dominant cause of planetary warming and dangerous climate change.
What’s a denier to do? The answer is simple: Repackage previously debunked disinformation, release it as a “new” so-called “Full Senate Report” full of hysterical headlines, push it through right-wing news outlets, and hope the traditional media bites. Why not? It worked before.
Here is the screaming headline this week from Inhofe staffer Marc Morano:
UN Blowback: More Than 650 International Scientists Dissent Over Man-Made Global Warming Claims
Study: Half of warming due to Sun! – Sea Levels Fail to Rise?
Yes, it is tiresome debunking such nonsense for the umpteenth time, so let me try to keep this as short as possible.
Sea levels are still rising more than 50 percent faster now than pre-1990.
On what does Inhofe’s office base the “Sea Levels Fail to Rise” claim? Nothing more than a single blog post by a former TV meteorologist, Anthony Watts, who runs a denial website. That post claims, “We’ve been waiting for the UC [Univesity of Colorado] web page to be updated with the most recent sea level data. It finally has been updated for 2008. It looks like the steady upward trend of sea level as measured by satellite has stumbled since 2005. The 60 day line in blue tells the story.”
Does it look to you like the recent data shows that the rate of sea-level rise has slowed, as Watts says, let alone stopped, as Inhofe suggests? If so, I suggest you get your eyes checked. In particular, look at the most recent data points at the upper right. They are precisely on the long-term trend.
For an even clearer picture without the fluctuations that are driven by short-term temperature changes (i.e. last winter was cold), go to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s key indicator page for sea-level rise (click here). Role your mouse over the final data point in the upper right from August 2008. Again, it is almost precisely on the long-term trend.
Yet Inhofe’s office looks at the data and sees “Sea Levels Fail to Rise?” Who are you going to believe, traditional media — Inhofe, or your own lying eyes? In fact, JPL has two nice side-by-side graphs of sea level rise that show the rate of sea level rise since 1993 has consistently been about 70 percent higher than pre-1993 — a far bigger jump than the climate models had projected:
The sea-level rise data is in fact a reason to be more worried today about the pace and scale of global warming, not less.
The sun plays only a small roll in recent warming.
No matter how many studies debunk the myth that the sun is a dominant cause of recent warming, the deniers just can’t let go. Inhofe’s office shouts “Study: Half of warming due to Sun!” On what basis? Again, a blog post by a denier — this time one who selectively quotes from a new Geophysical Research Letters study ($ub. req’d) [PDF]. The blog and Inhofe’s office write:
… they conclude that “Our results are in agreement with studies based on NH temperature reconstructions [Scafetta et al., 2007] revealing that only up to approximately 50% of the observed global warming in the last 100 years can be explained by the Sun.”
First, let’s give the full quote from the GRL study:
However, during the industrial period (1850-2000) solar forcing became less important and only the CO2 concentrations show a significant correlation with the temperature record. Our results are in agreement with studies based on NH temperature reconstructions [Scafetta and West, 2007] revealing that only up to approximately 50% of the observed global warming in the last 100 years can be explained by the Sun.
Oops. The study shows that in the industrial period, it is carbon dioxide, not solar forcing, that is significantly correlated with the temperature record. The authors were not saying that their study found half the warming in the last century can be explained by the sun. It was saying their study found that only CO2 had a significant correlation, that the sun was not significantly correlated to temperature, and that the sun was clearly under half the contribution.
Second, Scarfetta and West’s 2007 paper has been thoroughly debunked by RealClimate here, which notes, “S&W make a number of unjustified assumptions and sweeping statements which turns it into a mere speculation. In a way, the conclusions are already given when S&W assume that the sun is the predominant cause from the outset.”
Third, even the very few analyses that conclude the sun was a significant contributor in the past century find that the sun’s impact relative to carbon dioxide has been shrinking (since, of course, greenhouse gas emissions and concentrations have been soaring). So, a statement that up to about 50 percent of the warming in the last hundred years can be explained by the sun turns into at most 25 percent to 35 percent of the warming since 1980 can be explained by the sun in Scarfetta and West’s 2006 paper, which, in any case, was debunked by RealClimate here.
Fourth, there is a large body of literature on this subject which makes clear the sun’s contribution to the accelerated warming of the last few decades is minimal. Since the myth won’t die, I will repeat some of them here.
The Naval Research Laboratory and NASA reported in September that, “if anything,” the sun contributed “a very slight overall cooling in the past 25 years.” The study, “How natural and anthropogenic influences alter global and regional surface temperatures: 1889 to 2006,” found:
According to this analysis, solar forcing contributed negligible long-term warming in the past 25 years and 10% of the warming in the past 100 years.
A major 2007 study concluded [PDF]:
Here we show that over the past 20 years, all the trends in the Sun that could have had an influence on the Earth’s climate have been in the opposite direction to that required to explain the observed rise in global mean temperatures.
More studies can be found on the excellent debunking website, Skeptical Science:
- Ammann 2007 [PDF]: “Although solar and volcanic effects appear to dominate most of the slow climate variations within the past thousand years, the impacts of greenhouse gases have dominated since the second half of the last century.”
- Foukal 2006 [PDF] concludes, “The variations measured from spacecraft since 1978 are too small to have contributed appreciably to accelerated global warming over the past 30 years.”
- Usoskin 2005 [PDF] concludes “during these last 30 years the solar total irradiance, solar UV irradiance and cosmic ray flux has not shown any significant secular trend, so that at least this most recent warming episode must have another source.”
- Stott 2003 [PDF] increased climate model sensitivity to solar forcing and still found, “most warming over the last 50 yr is likely to have been caused by increases in greenhouse gases.”
- Solanki 2003 [PDF] concludes, “the Sun has contributed less than 30 percent of the global warming since 1970.”
- Lean 1999 concludes “it is unlikely that Sun-climate relationships can account for much of the warming since 1970″.
- Waple 1999 finds “little evidence to suggest that changes in irradiance are having a large impact on the current warming trend.”
- Frolich 1998 [PDF] concludes, “solar radiative output trends contributed little of the 0.2Â°C increase in the global mean surface temperature in the past decade.”
Forget padded, laughable lists: Science, not scientists, tells us humans are warming the planet dangerously.
Inhofe’s Office claims “More Than 650 International Scientists Dissent Over Man-Made Global Warming Claims.”
Yet the vast majority of those names are simply repeated from a 2007 list that was widely debunked, see Inhofe recycles unscientific attacks on global warming” and here and here and here. Let me repeat what I wrote at the time.
“Padded” would be an extremely generous description of this list of “prominent scientists.” Some would use the word “laughable.” For instance, since when have economists, who are pervasive on this list, become scientists, and why should we care what they think about climate science?
I’m not certain a dozen on the list would qualify as “prominent scientists,” and many of those, like Freeman Dyson — a theoretical physicist — have no expertise in climate science whatsoever. I have previously debunked his spurious and uninformed claims, although I’m not sure why one has to debunk someone who seriously pushed the idea of creating a rocket ship powered by detonating nuclear bombs! Seriously.
Even Ray Kurzweil, not a scientist but a brilliant inventor, is on the list. Why? Because he apparently told CNN and the Washington Post:
These slides that Gore puts up are ludicrous, they don’t account for anything like the technological progress we’re going to experience … None of the global warming discussions mention the word ‘nanotechnology.’ Yet nanotechnology will eliminate the need for fossil fuels within 20 years … I think global warming is real but it has been modest thus far — 1 degree f. in 100 years. It would be concern if that continued or accelerated for a long period of time, but that’s not going to happen.
And people say I’m a techno-optimist. So Kurzweil actually believes in climate science — rather than the reverse, as Inhofe claims — but thinks catastrophic global warming won’t happen because of a techno-fix that stops emissions. If wishes were horses … everyone would get trampled to death. In the real world, energy breakthroughs are very rare, as we’ve seen, and it’s even rarer when they make a difference in under several decades.
Then we have the likes of this from Inhofe’s list:
CBS Chicago affiliate Chief Meteorologist Steve Baskerville expressed skepticism that there is a “consensus” about mankind’s role in global warming.
Wow, a TV weatherman expressed skepticism. If only the IPCC had been told of this in time, they could have scrapped their entire report. Seriously, Wikipedia says “Baskerville is an alumnus of Temple University and holds a Certificate in Broadcast Meteorology from Mississippi State University.” I guess Inhofe has a pretty low bar for “prominent scientists” — but then again he once had science fiction writer Michael Crichton testify at a hearing on climate science.
I don’t mean to single out Baskerville. Inhofe has a lot of meteorologists on his list, including Weather Channel Founder John Coleman. I have previously explained why Coleman doesn’t know what he is talking about on climate, and why meteorologists in general have no inherent credibility on climatology. In any case, they obviously are not prominent scientists.
Then we have people like French geomagnetism scientist Vincent Courtillot, geophysicist Louis Le Mouël, geophysicist Claude Allègre, geomagnetism scientist Frederic Fluteau, geomagnetism scientist Yves Gallet, and scientist Agnes Genevey — whose “research” on global warming is brutally picked apart by RealClimate here and especially here (and again here [PDF] by other scientists), who together “expose a pattern of suspicious errors and omissions that pervades” their work.
So, yes, the Inhofe list is utterly ignorable compared to either the IPCC report or the Bali declaration by actual prominent climate scientists. The notion it is relevant to the climate debate is laughable, as even a cursory examination makes clear.
Since Inhofe’s office is beating a dead horse, let me also quote from climate scientist Andrew Dessler had a running “The ‘Inhofe 400’ Skeptic of the Day” and repeatedly identified some skeptics who were completely unqualified and others who are qualified but not actually skeptical. One posting deserves repeating here.
Meteorologist George Waldenberger is on the list. In response, George sent an email to Inhofe’s staffers that began:
Take me off your list of 400 (Prominent) Scientists that dispute Man-Made Global warming claims. I’ve never made any claims that debunk the “Consensus”.
You quoted a newspaper article that’s main focus was scoring the accuracy of local weathermen. Hardly Scientific … yet I’m guessing some of your other sources pale in comparison in terms of credibility.
You also didn’t ask for my permission to use these statements. That’s not a very respectable way of doing “research”.
Yet, as Dessler notes, “he’s still on the list.”
And he is still on the “new” 2008 list [PDF] from Inhofe’s office!
Dessler’s other conclusions:
Second, the more I look through this list, the more it perfectly demonstrates the weakness of the skeptics. The AGU, for example, has 50,000 members, the majority of whom are Ph.D. Earth scientists. Inhofe would have been tickled pink to take any one of them. But he couldn’t. Despite the huge numbers of qualified scientists out there, Inhofe could barely muster a few dozen for his list.
As a result, Inhofe was forced to include on this list people with zero qualifications as well as people who are not actually skeptics. In the end, I estimate that his list is 80-90 percent bogus — which leaves a few dozen credible climate skeptics on the list. Hmm, just what I’ve been saying all along.
Third, several commenters here as well as other websites have taken it upon themselves to look at the qualifications of the authors of the IPCC. Despite their best efforts, none of them has been able to provide names of any authors of the working group 1 report that are similarly unqualified.
It seems that a careful analysis of the situation shows clearly that the scientific consensus is as robust as ever. Keep tryin’, Jim.
My only disagreement with Dessler: I’d end by saying “Stop tryin’, Jim — please!”
Given how padded and laughable the 2007 list was, I am not going to waste any time on the new names that Inhofe has added for the 2008 list. I leave that pointless task to others.
Let me make a final point for the media, from my Salon piece, “The cold truth about climate change“:
In fact, science doesn’t work by consensus of opinion. Science is in many respects the exact opposite of decision by consensus. General opinion at one point might have been that the sun goes around the Earth, or that time was an absolute quantity, but scientific theory supported by observations overturned that flawed worldview.
One of the most serious results of the overuse of the term “consensus” in the public discussion of global warming is that it creates a simple strategy for doubters to confuse the public, the press and politicians: Simply come up with as long a list as you can of scientists who dispute the theory. After all, such disagreement is prima facie proof that no consensus of opinion exists.
So we end up with the absurd but pointless spectacle of the leading denier in the U.S. Senate, James Inhofe, R-Okla., who recently put out a list of more than 400 names of supposedly “prominent scientists” who supposedly “recently voiced significant objections to major aspects of the so-called `consensus’ on man-made global warming.”
As it turned out, the list is both padded and laughable, containing the opinions of TV weathermen, economists, a bunch of non-prominent scientists who aren’t climate experts, and, perhaps surprisingly, even a number of people who actually believe in the consensus.
But in any case, nothing could be more irrelevant to climate science than the opinion of people on the list such as Weather Channel founder John Coleman or famed inventor Ray Kurzweil (who actually does “think global warming is real”). Or, for that matter, my opinion — even though I researched a Ph.D. thesis at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography on physical oceanography in the Greenland Sea.
What matters is scientific findings — data, not opinions. The IPCC relies on the peer-reviewed scientific literature for its conclusions, which must meet the rigorous requirements of the scientific method and which are inevitably scrutinized by others seeking to disprove that work. That is why I cite and link to as much research as is possible, hundreds of studies in the case of this article. Opinions are irrelevant.
As Inhofe’s office likes to brag (see here), his 2007 “report” garnered tremendous coverage from the traditional media.
The truth is there is no news in Inhofe’s new report — just a recycling of long-debunked denier talking points and padded, irrelevant lists of names. The only news is whether the media will get suckered by it — and, sadly, given how many times they have been suckered already by the deniers, even that doesn’t qualify as news.
This post was created for ClimateProgress.org, a project of the Center for American Progress Action Fund.