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.]

Don Easterbrook is a zombie

Don Easterbrook is back, and his misunderstanding of Greenland’s climate history rides again in two remarkable posts at µWatts — attempted demolitions of the new paper every denier worth his (or her) salt is frothing at the mouth to claim has been rubbished, the 11,300 year global paleoclimate reconstruction of Marcott et al1. Unfortunately Easterbrook is as far off the mark in his two essays at µWatts (one, two) as he has ever been, which makes not only him look stupid, but everyone who relies on his “work”2.

The easiest thing for me to do to debunk Don would have been to republish this post from January 2011, because all of the points I make there remain true, and are sufficient to discredit Easterbrook’s interpretation of Greenland temperatures and their relevance to Marcott et al, but this time round Don has actually added a couple of extra mistakes — I presume just to keep people like me on their toes. So, for the record, here are Don’s new errors:

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  1. A. Marcott, J. D. Shakun, P. U. Clark, A. C. Mix. A Reconstruction of Regional and Global Temperature for the Past 11,300 Years. Science, 2013; 339 (6124): 1198 DOI: 10.1126/science.1228026 []
  2. That means the Heartland Institute’s James Taylor, who relies on Easterbrook’s efforts in his latest Forbes article, and looks like a chump because of it. Well, he already looks like a chump in many respects, but this is a doozy, as chump-making status goes. []

Greenland melt record likely

Jason Box reports that the Greenland ice sheet darkening recorded in satellite albedo1 measurements is setting new records this summer, especially at high altitudes. Box recently blogged that ice sheet reflectivity this summer “has been the lowest since accurate records began in March, 2000”.

Here’s the latest “noodle plot”2 (regularly updated here) for the ice sheet between elevations of 2,000 and 2,500 metres. 2012 (the black line) is well down into new record territory:

2000 2500 Greenland Ice Sheet Reflectivity Byrd Polar Research Center

Box comments:

What I expect we will see if these low albedo conditions persist is 100% surface melting over the ice sheet. This would be a first in observations. It may not happen this year, but the trajectory the ice sheet is on, along with amplified Arctic warming, will have the ice sheet responding by melting more and more.

To see this darkening in action, have a look at the MODIS image of the west Greenland ice sheet here. You can see the surface melt spreading inland and upwards, grey ice dotted with blue lakes. Add another interesting, if depressing, graph to the panoply of information on the Arctic summer. The sea ice doesn’t look too good either…

In other Greenland-related news, a new study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science by Liu et al3, Younger Dryas cooling and the Greenland climate response to CO2 (Science Daily, PNAS abstract), looks at the ice sheet temperature record inferred from the oxygen isotope measurements taken from ice cores, and concludes that they may overestimate the extent of the Younger Dryas cooling. This is interesting stuff for those who have been following the Easterbrook story, because Don places great store by the ice core temperature record. He was wrong before this paper hit the presses, but he’s even wronger now!

  1. High albedo = very white, lots of reflection; low albedo = darker, more heat absorbed []
  2. Looks like a spaghetti graph to me. What is it with climate people and pasta? []
  3. Zhengyu Liu, Anders E. Carlson, Feng He, Esther C. Brady, Bette L. Otto-Bliesner, Bruce P. Briegleb, Mark Wehrenberg, Peter U. Clark, Shu Wu, Jun Cheng, Jiaxu Zhang, David Noone, and Jiang Zhu. Younger Dryas cooling and the Greenland climate response to CO2. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, June 25, 2012 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1202183109 – PDF here. []

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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