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A Dust Bowl storm approaches Stratford, Texas ...

A Dust Bowl storm approaches Stratford, Texas in 1935. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


It sure must be hard lately to remain a global warming skeptic. Or so one would think.  Last month, had a story on Torrid Heat: 4,500 Record Highs and Counting:  “Saturday, St. Louis had its 10th straight day of 100-plus degree days on record, now the second-longest streak in its history. While the record of 13 straight days (August 1936) will not be eclipsed, the mere fact we’re in the territory of the “Dust Bowl” speaks magnitudes!”


What we’re seeing is a window into what global warming really looks like.  It looks like heat, it looks like fires, it looks like this kind of environmental disaster … This provides vivid images of what we can expect to see more of in the future.
- Michael Oppenheimer, Princeton University


With the Colorado wildfires, significant drought in the U.S. heartlands, one would think that the opinions of Americans might be changing. Perhaps they are, but the polling data is confusing.

According to a recent Washington Post-Stanford University poll, 72% of Americans believe the earth is warming, and will continue to warm if nothing is done, and will be a serious problem.  Yet in the same poll, just 18% name the issue as their top environmental concern.  The article speculates that this sentiment “may help explain why elected officials feel little pressure to impose curbs on greenhouse gas emissions.”

One third to one half of those polled think that scientists  base their climate science conclusions on money and politics.

And on that note, results from a new study were announced last week.  This study is not significant for finding anything that hasn’t been conventionally accepted climate science for the last decade, but because the study was led by a climate skeptic using methodology designed to appeal to climate skeptics.

According to The Guardian,

Prof Richard Muller, a physicist and climate change sceptic who founded the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (Best) project, said he was surprised by the findings. “We were not expecting this, but as scientists, it is our duty to let the evidence change our minds.” He added that he now considers himself a “converted sceptic” and his views had undergone a “total turnaround” in a short space of time.


In Muller’s Op-Ed piece in the New York Times, The Conversion of a Climate Change Skeptic, he says “I’m now going a step further: Humans are almost entirely the cause.”

It is important to note that this study had the backing of The Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, and the support of folks like climate change denier Anthony Watts (Watts Up With That? blog).  Watts wrote on his blog, “I think, based on what I’ve seen, that BEST has a superior method…I’m prepared to accept whatever result they produce, even if it proves my premise wrong. I’m taking this bold step because the method has promise.”

However, when the BEST team came back with results supporting human caused climate change, Watts and the other skeptics have found all kinds of reasons to reject it.

Moving beyond events in the United States, there have also been alarming reports from the polar regions.  First, there was a story in The Guardian on July 19th,  Greenland Glacier Calves Iceberg Twice the Size of Manhattan:  “An iceberg twice the size of Manhattan broke free from Greenland’s massive Petermann glacier, which could speed up the march of ice into northern waters, scientists said on Wednesday. This is the second time in less than two years that the Petermann glacier has calved a monstrous ice island. In 2010, it unleashed another massive ice chunk into the sea.”

On July 25th, the BBC reported on Antarctica, Grand Canyon Sized Rift Speeding Ice Melt: “A rift in the Antarctic rock as deep as the Grand Canyon is increasing ice melt from the continent, researchers say. A UK team found the Ferrigno rift using ice-penetrating radar, and showed it to be about 1.5km (1 mile) deep…The team writes in Nature journal that the canyon is bringing more warm sea water to the ice sheet, hastening melt.”


Back to Greenland, also on July 25th, the New Scientist carried a very disturbing report: 97% of Greenland Surface Ice Turns To Slush.
“The surface of Greenland has turned to slush. Satellite data shows that a warm spell earlier this month melted nearly the entire surface of the nation’s ice cap. The melt is unusual: normally about half of the ice sheet melts at the surface during summer, mostly at low elevations. This year the thaw was stunningly swift and widespread, and extended high up the nation’s peaks.”

To top it all off, Bill McKibben has written a major article for Rolling Stone, Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math, about which McKibben himself said “may be the most important writing I’ve done since The End of Nature, way back in 1989.”


Three simple numbers that add up to global catastrophe – and that make clear who the real enemy is If the pictures of those towering wildfires in Colorado haven’t convinced you, or the size of your AC bill this summer, here are some hard numbers about climate change: June broke or tied 3,215 high-temperature records across the United States. That followed the warmest May on record for the Northern Hemisphere – the 327th consecutive month in which the temperature of the entire globe exceeded the 20th-century average, the odds of which occurring by simple chance were 3.7 x 10-99, a number considerably larger than the number of stars in the universe.

Meteorologists reported that this spring was the warmest ever recorded for our nation – in fact, it crushed the old record by so much that it represented the “largest temperature departure from average of any season on record.” The same week, Saudi authorities reported that it had rained in Mecca despite a temperature of 109 degrees, the hottest downpour in the planet’s history.
- Bill McKibben, Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math


McKibben wrote in an email to supporters that “The analysis — the math — that’s in [the article]  is going to form the basis of a lot of our work going forward.”  To begin with, this apparently means  “we’re … engaged, right through election day, in the fight against fossil fuel subsidies. It’s gaining momentum — almost 60 Senators and Representatives have signed on in support of the Sanders/Ellison bill to end the giveaways to the richest industry on earth. Teams of people are fanning out across the country this week and next to ask their public officials: Where do you stand on removing fossil fuel subsidies?’”

Although I support removing fossil fuel subsidies, and think it’s important to get behind this effort, you’ll have to come back tomorrow (or the next day) to catch my next installment regarding some of the concerns I and others have about McKibben’s article and his new emphasis.  (Hint: It aligns very closely with this excellent article: Bill McKibben is wrong, we must not forget that “We have met the en... by Nicholas Arguimbau).

Until then, check out to “follow the money” – Find out which companies are pumping their dirty money into politics and which politicians are receiving it.

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Comment by David MacLeod on August 3, 2012 at 6:39pm

Walter, thanks for the link.

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