Heartland’s Big Book Of Lies About Climate Change cuts no ice, thanks to Don Easterbrook

Over the weeks since the release of the first section of the IPCC’s Fifth Report, the Heartland Institute — the Chicago-based extreme right wing and free-market propaganda outfit that has done so much to promote climate denial — has been trying to get media traction for its latest Not-the-IPCC report (NIPCC: the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change), Climate Change Reconsidered 2: Physical Science. Heartland describes CCR2 as…

… an independent, comprehensive, and authoritative report on the current state of climate science.

The truth is somewhat more prosaic. CCR2, like its predecessors, is an extended effort in cherry-picking and misdirection designed to demonstrate that, as Heartland puts it:

…the human effect is likely to be small relative to natural variability, and whatever small warming is likely to occur will produce benefits as well as costs.

For a detailed take-down of the NIPCC’s main arguments, take a look at Graham Wayne’s Notes for Educators, prepared as a response to an effort by Heartland to push CCR2 to schools in the US. Wayne notes:

The NIPCC report is akin to a confidence trick. It is pseudo-science, badly presented, made difficult to assess or check, and depends on ‘blinding the reader with science’ that may look credible until you actually try to verify those claims against the peer-reviewed published literature.

Climate statistician Tamino was equally unimpressed, suggesting that the NIPCC would be better designated the ICP – for Intentional Cherry-Picking in service of a predetermined conclusion.

My interest in the latest NIPCC “report” was piqued by the discovery that Don Easterbrook, the retired geologist with a long track record of misunderstanding and misrepresenting the Greenland ice core temperature record, was the lead author of chapter 5, Observations: The Cryosphere [pdf]. The NIPCC is clearly not blessed with an overabundance of qualified authors if they have to rely on Easterbrook as an expert on the cryosphere. Worse, his co-authors are two other retired geologists with little or no domain expertise: Cliff Ollier from Western Australia, and Bob Carter, a marine stratigrapher and all-purpose climate denier who never saw an argument against warming that he didn’t like1.

My first reaction to a quick skim through the chapter was pretty much the same as everybody else: this was cherry-picking taken to an extreme. To make sure that I was on the right track, I asked two real ice experts — Greenland maven Jason Box, and glaciologist Mauri Pelto — to take a quick look. Their reaction was scathing.

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  1. Carter is also one of the lead authors of the full report. []

Don Easterbrook knowingly misleads Washington State Senate

Don Easterbrook, the retired Western Washington University geologist who has made something of a second career out of misunderstanding the Greenland temperature record, appears to be happy to play a very public role in local politics, testifying on climate issues before a Washington State Senate committee last month (video here). His evidence was so far off the mark that his former colleagues at Western Washington University’s geology department felt compelled to go on record in an op-ed for The Bellingham Herald disowning Don’s presentation. Dan McShane has the full story, but here’s a telling little extract from the piece:

Easterbrook’s views, as exemplified by his Senate presentation, are a stark contrast to that standard; they are filled with misrepresentations, misuse of data and repeated mixing of local vs. global records. Nearly every graphic in the hours-long presentation to the Senate was flawed, as was Easterbrook’s discussion of them.

Quite a slap-down for Easterbrook. One of his most egregious misrepresentations was — as you might expect — of the Greenland ice core evidence:

Easterbrook’s definition of “present temperature” in the graph is based on the most recent data point in that record, which is actually 1855, more than 150 years ago when the world was still in the depths of the Little Ice Age, and well before any hint of human-caused climate change.

I watched that section of Easterbrook’s evidence with some interest (starts at 22:48 in the video stream). He points to one of his standard graphs of the GISP2 ice core temperature record, and explicitly tells the senate hearing that the last data point is “the present” — as noted by the WWU faculty above. Don gave this evidence on March 26th.

But on March 11th and 13th, Easterbrook posted articles at µWatts in which he explicitly acknowledged that some allowance would have to be made to bring the temperatures up to date. Amusingly, he not only gets the dates (and temperature allowance) wrong (as I noted at the time), he is inconsistent — referring in the first article to the last data point being 95 years ago, and in the second claiming it is 1950.

Set aside his incompetence and inconsistencies: what this means is that two weeks before he gave his Senate evidence, he knew that he should not refer to the end of that GISP2 temperature curve as “right now”, but he went right ahead and did it anyway. In other words, he knowingly misrepresented the data to the senate hearing. No wonder his erstwhile colleagues are so keen to distance themselves from him.

[See also: Hot Whopper notes that Denier Don is Angry, and refers to an attempt to support Easterbrook by David Deming at µWatts. It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: Deming’s piece is rubbish, and Easterbrook’s serial philandering with the facts is indefensible.]

Umm, a Gummer and carbon nonsense

Twenty years ago I’d have crossed the street to avoid meeting John Selwyn Gummer, then agriculture minister in Margaret Thatcher’s government, chiefly famous for having attempted to feed his young daughter a beefburger at the 1990 Ipswich Boat Show to demonstrate his understanding of the risks of contracting bovine spongiform encephalopathy (aka mad cow disease) from contaminated meat. It has since killed 166 people in Britain, Cordelia Gummer not among them. I now find myself in the strange position of agreeing rather wholeheartedly with Baron Deben, as he is currently styled, in an article headlined Climate change doubters are endangering our common future published in The Australian (!) last week. And his musings on the politics of climate action provide a useful counterpoint to the astonishing submission on the NZ government’s intention to gazette a “50 by 50” target for carbon emissions made earlier this month by an Australian organisation calling itself The Carbon Sense Coalition.

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Core blimey, Easterbrook’s at it again

Don Easterbrook’s strange obsession with the Greenland temperature record and the GISP2 ice core data series continues. Despite his last effort having been shown to be completely clueless (though still good enough for Bob Carter and “potty peer” Chris Monckton to reference approvingly), he continues to (snow)plough a lonely furrow. This time it’s in a guest post at µWatts headlined (rather poorly) Easterbrook on the magnitude of Greenland GISP2 ice core data. It’s BIG data, obviously, for Don, but sadly he shows no signs of actually doing any proper research, or developing any real understanding of the issues he feels so free to write about.

So where are the errors this time?

Continue reading “Core blimey, Easterbrook’s at it again”

Don Easterbrook’s Academic Dishonesty


As Don Easterbrook has shown no signs of withdrawing his article claiming that most of the last 10,000 years were warmer than present, and as his university has shown no appetite for addressing the issue, Professor Scott Mandia of the Climate Science Rapid Response Team and I decided to write to the local press. The letter below was sent to The Bellingham Herald (local newspaper) and to Western Front Online (Western Washington University newspaper) on Monday January 9, 2011. Scott also called and left a message with the Bellingham Herald News Editor. He did not hear back from either newspaper, so we’re reprinting the letter in full here and at Scott’s blog.

Sir or Madam,

Don Easterbrook, a Professor Emeritus at Western Washington University has been promoting his belief that natural cycles of the sun and oceans are going to cause global cooling over the next few decades and this will offset the CO2-caused warming headed our way. In 2001, he announced that global cooling was about to begin and would last for the next 25 years. Of course, the previous decade was the warmest in over 150 years and 2010 is likely to be the warmest or second warmest year in that period. Easterbrook wants to persuade us to ignore global warming despite the fact that most of his peers, climate scientists, military and intelligence experts, health officials, and insurance companies expect major societal disruptions due to the current and expected human-caused climate disruption.

It is ok to be wrong. Science cannot prove an idea is true but only that it is false. Correcting mistakes is how science moves forward. But Easterbrook is not just wrong, he is playing fast and loose with the data. He was caught red-handed using a doctored graph in a 2007 conference (see http://bit.ly/goEkd3) and in subsequent articles and talks. Easterbrook not only edited these graphics to change the information they contained, but did so in order to minimize the evidence of recent global warming. This is, at the very least, academic malpractice. More recently (12/28/10) he incorrectly labeled a graph of temperatures for the previous 10,000 years to claim that most of these years were warmer than present. His “current temperature” was really 1855 and not the much warmer present day. He was notified of his mistake but refuses to issue a retraction (see http://bit.ly/dW6BOk). A good scientist corrects and learns from mistakes, but this seems foreign to Easterbrook.

WWU officials were notified of Easterbrook’s doctoring of data last May and again this January but have so far chosen to do nothing. Academic freedom must be cherished and defended but dishonesty should never be condoned – whether at WWU or any other institution of higher education.

Scott Mandia and Gareth Renowden


Bios: Scott Mandia is a professor of physical sciences at Suffolk County Community College, Long Island, New York and has been teaching meteorology and climatology courses for 23 years.

Gareth Renowden is an NZ-based science writer and blogger, author of Hot Topic – Global Warming & The Future of New Zealand. He has written extensively on Easterbrook’s cavalier approach to climate data.