The year the earth bit back: top climate stories of 2012

2012Amidst the blizzard of year-end roundups, here’s one you have to read in full — a joint effort put together by a diverse group of bloggers and scientists: Angela Fritz, Eli Rabett, Emilee Pierce, Greg Laden, Joe Romm, John Abraham, Laurence Lewis, Leo Hickman, Michael Mann, Michael Tobis, Paul Douglas, Scott Mandia, Scott Brophy, Stephan Lewandowsky, Tenney Naumer and yours truly. Lead author Greg Laden explains:

A group of us, all interested in climate science, put together a list of the most notable, often, most worrying, climate-related stories of the year, along with a few links that will allow you to explore the stories in more detail. We did not try to make this a “top ten” list, because it is rather silly to fit the news, or the science, or the stuff the Earth does in a given year into an arbitrary number of events. (What if we had 12 fingers, and “10” was equal to 6+6? Then there would always be 12 things, not 10, on everyone’s list. Makes no sense.) We ended up with 18 items, but note that some of these things are related to each other in a way that would allow us to lump them or split them in different ways. See this post by Joe Romm for a more integrated approach to the year’s events. Also, see what Jeff Masters did here. We only included one non-climate (but related) item to illustrate the larger number of social, cultural, and political things that happened this year. For instance, because of some of the things on this list, Americans are more likely than they were in previous years to accept the possibility that science has something to say about the Earth’s climate and the changes we have experienced or that may be in the future; journalists are starting to take a new look at their own misplaced “objective” stance as well. Also, more politicians are starting to run for office on a pro-science pro-environment platform than has been the case for quite some time.

A failing of this list is that although non-US based people contributed, and it is somewhat global in its scope, it is a bit American based. This is partly because a few of the big stories happened here this year, but also, because the underlying theme really is the realisation that climate change is not something of the future, but rather, something of the present, and key lessons learned in that important area of study happened in the American West (fires) the South and Midwest (droughts, crop failures, closing of river ways) and Northeast (Sandy). But many of the items listed here were indeed global, such as extreme heat and extreme cold caused by meteorological changes linked to warming, and of course, drought is widespread.

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NZ Herald’s turn to offer propaganda as opinion – De Freitas’ links to cranks hidden from readers

The new “compactNZ Herald has taken a downmarket tabloid approach to informing its readers by running an opinion piece about the recent courtroom defeat for NZ’s climate cranks by prominent climate sceptic and Auckland University geographer Chris de Freitas, without explaining de Freitas’ long history of association with the cranks he’s defending. In the article, de Freitas overstates the uncertainties associated with temperature records, even going so far as to imply that the warming trend over the last hundred years might be “indistinguishable from zero”1. He also overplays the importance of temperature series to policy-makers — a line straight out of crank litigant Barry Brill’s playbook, and self-evident nonsense.

Despite this transparent partiality, the opinion editors at the Herald credit him like this:

Chris de Freitas is an associate professor in the School of Environment at the University of Auckland.

But, as the Herald opinion team well know, de Freitas is much, much more than a mere associate professor in the School of Environment. He has a track record of activism against action on climate change that stretches back two decades. Here, for the poor misled readers of the new Herald‘s opinion pages is a handy, cut-out-and-keep guide to de Freitas’ long history of climate denial activism.

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  1. “Temperature trends detected are small, usually just a few tenths of one degree Celsius over 100 years, a rate that is exceeded by the data’s standard error. Statistically this means the trend is indistinguishable from zero.” []

The incorrigible Easterbrook

There it was in my Google News feed — a headline saying Sorry Global Warming Alarmists, The Earth Is Cooling. As you might expect, it caught my attention, because the Earth is doing no such thing. Following the link led me to an an article at the Forbes magazine web site by a Heartland Institute person called Peter Ferrara. A few paragraphs into what is nothing more than an extended advertisement for Heartland’s recent climate sceptic networking event, Ferrara writes:

In 2000, the UN’s IPCC predicted that global temperatures would rise by 1 degree Celsius by 2010. Was that based on climate science, or political science to scare the public into accepting costly anti-industrial regulations and taxes?

Don Easterbrook, Professor Emeritus of Geology at Western Washington University, knew the answer. He publicly predicted in 2000 that global temperatures would decline by 2010. He made that prediction because he knew the PDO had turned cold in 1999, something the political scientists at the UN’s IPCC did not know or did not think significant.

Don Easterbrook? The retired geologist who steals other people’s work and alters it to suit his purposes? The one who uses Greenland ice core data but misunderstands and misrepresents it?
Yup, that Easterbrook.

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Monckton and the mob

Scrotum stood looking down King Street towards St James’s Square. The spring wind was chill, and the young leaves on the trees in the square were struggling to look green. The old fashioned street lights gleamed on the rain-swept road and glistening pavements. He pulled his collar up around his neck, tugged at his trilby and shivered. This was no night for an assignation, this was a night to pour the Laird a stiff snifter of Glenfarclas in his suite at Pratt’s and to then retire to the kitchen for a drink with the Georges. A fresh blast of rain blew down over Christies and bounced off the front of the Golden Lion. He retreated to the shelter of a doorway and sighed. His breath swept out of his nostrils and hung in a brief mist before being beaten to the ground by the ice-sharpened rain. The things he did for the cause…

Monckton, meanwhile, was relaxing in front of the fire in his rooms at the club, sketching out some notes for the keynote he expected to deliver in Chicago in a few days. It would be a triumphant return, he was sure, though he thought he had detected some reluctance from his American comrades in arms in the great climate fight to pick up the tab for his first class airfare and extra baggage allowance. Perhaps Scrotum could travel in a trunk in the hold? He would phone British Airways in the morning.

Scrotum looked at his watch. A quarter past eleven. He snorted. Five more minutes, and he would be off. A soft whistle began to echo down the deserted street. The Third Man theme. Scrotum smiled and stepped out onto the pavement, but a hand reached out and grabbed his coat, pulling him back into the doorway. A voice hissed into his ear.

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Big coal coughs up for climate denial “conference”, takes NZ sceptics along for the ride

As US corporate donors step away from the Heartland Institute following their ad campaign likening climate change believers to mass murderers and terrorists, big coal — in the shape of the Illinois Coal Association, supported by all the major US coal companies — has stepped in as a “Gold Sponsor” to support Heartland’s climate “conference” next week. In other heartwarming news for the ultra-conservative lobby group, the big guns of New Zealand’s climate denial movement, the Heartland-funded NZ Climate “Science” Coalition, have also sponsored the conference, thereby endorsing Heartland’s disgusting ad campaign.

Here’s what Heartland’s president Joe Bast says about the Unabomber billboard campaign:

“The leaders of the global warming movement have one thing in common: They are willing to use force and fraud to advance their fringe theory.”

Can we assume that Barry Brill, Bryan Leyland, “Heartland expert”1 Chris de Freitas and the other members of the NZ CSC all support Bast’s statement? Only Bob Carter has made a public statement, telling The Age that:

“the usual ‘liberal’ media sources” had been “amazing, immediate and over-the-top”, and that he would still speak at the conference.

Given that Heartland are happy to pay Carter a monthly retainer, it’s perhaps not surprising he supports their tasteless little publicity stunt. Money may not be able to buy you love, but it can certainly buy support, as Carter and the CSC crew prove.

  1. It’s worth following Big City Lib’s polling of other Heartland experts, to find out how many have asked for their names to be withdrawn following the Unabomber stunt. There’s no sign (yet) of de Freitas following suit. []