Political Habitat: Open letter to a mad scientist
An MNN column causes an uproar in the scientific and not-so-scientific community. Our columnist responds.
Wed, Mar 18, 2009 at 05:34 AM
Illustration: Carlos Bouza Valverde / iStock
Editor's note: In his Monday column, Peter Dykstra discussed the prolific work of Marc Morano, a global-warming denier. Dykstra received many letters in response to that article and, today, Peter responds to one of those letters.
First, an update: The website Energy & Environment News reports that Marc Morano will leave his job on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee minority staff and bring the disinformation machine to the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow.
Joe Daleo is a meteorologist who's a mentor to many, including the weather folks I used to work with at CNN. He runs a blog called Icecap, which features input from just about all of the climate-denial regulars, and is, in my humble opinion, off the deep end.
He was kind enough to send me the following note after he read my piece on Marc Morano, the climate-denying political operative. For space and graphical reasons, I have not included two charts Joe sent — they're available at the Icecap site, and I'd be happy to e-mail them to anyone who's curious. Links to some of his references, like scientist Naomi Oreskes, are here from my Monday piece. Take it away, Joe Daleo:
"You are a fool. Even your own CNN meteorologists know your wrong.2008 was the coldest year of the decade and the 14th coldest in 30 years (NASA satellites -- the most accurate data). Surface observation networks are seriously flawed and not at all useful in trend analysis. [See link.]Anthony Watts has surveyed and photographed 919 of the 1200 U.S. Climate Stations and used the government's own standards for rating citing criteria. 89% were poor to very poorly sited. Only 11% met standards.The temperatures have been in decline since 2001 and in 5 of the last 7 decades. There is no correlation with CO2.[Salt Lake City] … has double the normal atmospheric winter CO2 content in recent years (500-600ppm) but has seen no winter warming.Correlations of temperatures globally with ocean multidecadal cycles and the sun are three times higher than CO2.31,000 US scientists, 9000 PhD's signed a Petition Project. [See link.]Oreskes is a totally discredited scientist in the community right behind Mann and Hansen. They have executed a perversion of science. It appears you do the same. As the public and world continues to recognize they have been duped, the alarmists will fail and fall."
Thanks, Joe. Here's my response:
Thanks for writing, and nice to meet you.
I know that your good name and reputation were well-earned as a meteorology pioneer for WSI, the Weather Channel and elsewhere. I'm genuinely curious about the development of your thoughts on the science and politics of climate change.
First, you say "[t]here is no correlation with CO2." This flies in the face of the findings of virtually every scientific body that's studied the relationship between CO2 and other greenhouse gases and climate, from the American Meteorological Society, the American Physical Society, the IPCC, the WMO, the National Academy of Sciences, the Royal Academy, and many more. Even your Icecap blog contributor Pat Michaels attributes "maybe half" of the documented temperature rise since 1900 to CO2.
Secondly, you wrote, "2008 was the coldest year of the decade." Does this establish a trend? Are you not aware that the WMO declared 2008 to be the 10th warmest year on record, and the U.K. Met Office says that means global temperatures to date for this decade are 0.2 degrees Celsius higher than the 1990s, the previous record holder?
And if solar activity, not human activity, is a big influence on the climate, how did we stay so warm through the lowest point in solar activity? To what do you attribute the line that Naomi Oreskes has been "discredited"? And Hansen? It's clear you don't like him, but how has he been discredited? And Michael Mann? The controversy over the "hockey stick" graph was studied by the National Science Foundation, the National Research Council and a congressionally appointed committee. Between the three, I think the most that either a supporter or opponent of Mann could claim is that the verdict was mixed. And the congressional committee, which was the most critical of Mann's work, was not peer-reviewed.
Regarding the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine petition of "scientists" who disagree with the overwhelming view on climate change, I'm truly amazed that it's taken seriously. When first presented in 1997, the petition was the focus of ridicule when it was revealed that there was virtually no quality control over who signs. Charter signers of the petition included one of the Spice Girls, and all of the "doctors" from the M*A*S*H TV show. Today, the petition embraces the views of scientists in fields that have no relevance whatsoever to climate issues, including proctologists and veterinarians.
Who did the math on the alleged $50 billion funding advantage? To lump all of the world's funding of climate research and compare it to the amount that fossil-fuel companies and ideological groups hand out to deniers is dishonest. Joe, you're not funded by Exxon or the coal industry as far as I know, but doesn't it trouble you to be in league with people who are? It's as shameful as the work of Fred Seitz, who traded in his well-earned reputation from the National Academy of Sciences to do business on behalf of the tobacco industry — before doing the same for climate-change deniers. Seitz was the original frontman for the Oregon petition, earning an unprecedented smackdown from the National Academy of Sciences. How can you defend or associate yourself with such corrupt behavior?
The torrent of peer-reviewed research chronicling glacier loss, a trend of loss in Arctic sea ice, decline of the Western Antarctic ice shelf, phenologic changes due to warming, decline of permafrost, ocean acidification, and much more — are they all part of the conspiracy, Joe?
Nothing would please me more for you to be right and for me to be wrong. I'd gladly take the embarrassment in lieu of what is likely to be a prolonged and global natural disaster. But my being wrong doesn't appear to be in the cards.
Finally, regarding the "CNN meteorologists" who know I'm wrong. I left the network in December. There are 10 accredited meteorologists employed there full time. Two of them have voiced opinions on climate change; both are good friends whom I respect. In 2007, Rob Marciano criticized aspects of Al Gore's film, taking particular issue with Gore's presuming a certain link between anthropogenic global warming (AGW) and hurricanes. He was right to do so because, as you know, there's credentialed research on both sides of this issue. Rob also said he was convinced that climate change was real and that manmade causes were "likely" to blame. For this, he was included in Marc Morano's list of "400 scientists" who disagreed with the notion of climate change. Morano cited his Gore statement, but made no mention of Marciano's agreement with the notion of AGW. This is the type of dishonesty you've chosen to defend.
Late last year, Chad Myers said he felt it was "arrogant" to presume that human activity could change the weather. He then went on to say that ocean acidification, among other things, was a bigger problem. Wouldn't it also be arrogant to presume that human activity could change the chemical composition of the oceans? Because they absorbed too much carbon? I don't think my friend Chad is right about this. But at least he's honest. You're a mentor for him and many meteorologists, and it saddens me to see that you're beyond objective or honest thought on a topic that's very important to us all.
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