Thursday, December 27, 2007

Congressmen join ScienceDebate2008 effort

In part to make up for the situation described below, I'm supporting an effort to get the presidential candidates to debate science and technology issues: ScienceDebate2008.

Today, that effort got a boost when two congressmen, Vern Ehlers, R-MI, and Rush Holt, D-NJ agreed to co-chair the steering committee. From the press release:
"Advancing science and technology lie at the center of a very large number of the policy issues facing our nation and the world - issues that profoundly affect our national and economic security as science and technology continue to transform our lives,” the two said in a joint statement. “No matter one's political stripe, these issues pose some of the most important pragmatic policy challenges the next president will face."

“We believe a debate on these issues would be the ideal opportunity for America and the candidates to explore our national priorities for the twenty-first century, and we hope candidates will wish to be involved in such a discussion,” they said.
Ehlers is the Ranking Republican of the Subcommittee on Research & Science Education of the House Science and Technology Committee. Ehlers has Ph.D. in physics from U.C.-Berkeley and taught at Calvin College in Michigan for 16 years. Holt is Chairman of the Subcommittee on Intelligence Policy and also serves on House Committee on Natural Resources. He has a Ph.D. in Physics from New York University and was assistant director of the Princeton Plasma Physics Lab.

I'm still hopeful this debate will happen during the primaries were there's less control over the content and structure. But a debate between the two major party candidates would get more coverage. Either way, the voters win.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Why aren't Sunday morning news shows asking about Global Warming?

(An intro for you international readers and those who avoid TV) All the major networks have a half-hour to one-hour show on Sunday morning where various pundits and news figures interview various White House and Congressional figures. I stopped watching these a while ago since they have an annoying conservative bias and only talk about what the Village Elders (pundits in the prestige press) think is important.

But because it is a reflection of what the Village Elders think is important, its telling that these talk shows, which frequently have presidential candidates or their spokesmen as guests, don't ask about global warming. We don't want them asking if its real. We want them to ask candidates what they're going to do about it.

The League of Conservation Voters have set up a website highlighting this issue and started a petition to hopefully get their attention. I encourage you to sign it.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Lets hear the candidates debate their solutions for global warming

Nearly all of the major-party presidential candidates have some kind of plan for dealing with global warming. But which is better? Who really knows his/her stuff? What about their support of science and technology in general which has suffered greatly under the anti-science Bush administration?

This should not be a minor issue but one of the biggest issues in the campaign along with Iraq and health care.

I've joined a group of science bloggers calling for a presidential debate focused only on issues of the environment, health and medicine, and science and technology policy. Strong support for these areas used to be a given but after 8 years of Bush, we need to hear specifics from the candidates.

You can get involved by submitting a question.

I'll recommend that Tim Russert not be the moderator.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

NBC's Green Week really Greenwash week

From November 4 through 10, NBC, (for you non-U.S. readers, one of the big 4 broadcast networks here in the states) dedicated a week of programming to the theme "Green is Universal". Scripted dramas, news, sports, game shows, and reality shows were all supposed to be in on it.

You can see the archive of this event at NBC's website.

I was a little apprehensive that this would turn in to a series of quickly forgotten stunts and, for the most part, that's what happened. NBC pulled off a neat logistics trick by doing live simulcasts from the Arctic and Antarctic giving a vivid "the world is small" feeling. But the rest was pretty forgettable.

I knew it was going to be more style then substance when watching football on NBC on Sunday night and the studio which does commentary before the game dimmed their lights and used candles for their entire time on the air. They said it saved some tons of carbon and I'm sure it did but the lights were right back on full the next week. It was eye-catching at least; looked like they had a partial power outage.

Joe over at Climate Progress has more thorough review. He was also unimpressed.

The best part was Al Gore's cameo on "30 Rock" where he gave a nice speech about how networks could do more to promote solutions to global warming then stunts, all while appearing on an episode which skewered greenwashing stunts. I can't find the full clip online so you'll just have to see his exit:

You can see the whole episode for free for the next couple of weeks at NBC's website. Its episode 205. The funniest joke is when the large plastic Earth prop they're using catches fire right at the end of the episode. As the screen fades to black, you can hear lead character Liz Lemon say "Ok this Earth is ruined! We need a new one!" If only it was that simple.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Chicago Sun-Times business editor shills for denialists

A minor journalism scandal is brewing here in Chicago over the decision by Chicago Sun-Times editor Dan Miller to write a cover letter urging an "open mind" over global warming. The cover letter is part of a package sent out by right-wing "think" tank The Heartland Institute. (Hat tip to Inel for alerting me to this.)

Phil Rosenthal over at the Chicago Tribune saw some of his fellow reporters get the package and wrote about it first:
Chicago Sun-Times Business Editor Dan Miller apparently believes this paper doesn't have enough editors to guide its staff. Two Chicago Tribune reporters received a letter under his name urging them to "keep an open mind" on global warming.
Heartland Institute spokesman Tom Swiss was maybe a little too honest in explaining The Plan: "If it came from just ourselves, it would look like an advertisement and just get lost." And its not just reporters who are getting this package:
The letters went to others in the media, Swiss said. Others whom Swiss declined to name signed cover letters that accompanied packages for those in other fields.
What is it about denialists and their packages? If you get one of these, let me know.

Who is Miller and why would he do this? Rosenthal tells us all we need to know:
Miller, who oversaw Heartland publications in 1998 and 1999 before joining the Sun-Times, is friends with Heartland President and Chief Executive Joseph Bast.
Is he in trouble? Maybe:
Efforts to reach Miller by phone and e-mail for comment Thursday and Friday were unsuccessful. Sun-Times Editor in Chief Michael Cooke indicated Thursday that he did not know about the Heartland packages and wanted to talk to Miller, a 2006 Chicago Journalism Hall of Fame inductee.
Rosenthal quotes Poynter Institute for media studies ethics scholar Bob Steele:
Most news organizations discourage staffers from being activists, particularly on issues that touch on what they cover or edit, Steele said. "It would be exceptionally hard to argue that global warming doesn't fall somewhere in the sphere of business," he said. "At least based on the cards I see on the table, it raises serious ethical concerns."

Jon Coifman over at the National Resource Defense Council doesn't think Rosenthal went far enough:
Still not convinced that this is a deep breach of journalistic ethics?

Try replaying the same scenario, but substitute “Hillary Clinton” or “Rudy Giuliani” for “global warming.” If the business editor for a leading metropolitan daily had sent a letter nakedly encouraging fellow reporters to take a second look at one of the presidential candidates, he would fast be looking for a new job.

Here, he has done essentially the same thing by throwing himself into one of the most important political debates today.

(For comparison's sake, note that *former* ABC News correspondent Carole Simpson yesterday had to offer up her resignation from the journalism program at Emerson College for publicly endorsing Hilary Clinton for President.)

To be clear: It would have been perfectly legitimate for Miller to raise this sort of question in a column, under the cold hard light of day. Or to assign a reporter to a news story examining the issue.

But it is *not* OK for him to be using his name and that of the paper as part of a one-sided, behind-the-scenes sales pitch from an organization with an expressly unbalanced view of a critical public issue. (It wouldn’t be any more appropriate for him to stick his name on something from us, for the same reason.)

Heartland President Joseph Bast apparently didn't like Rosenthal's piece calling it "libelous" in an email sent to his list which was reprinted in the blog of one of the package's recipients, Houston Chronicle reporter Eric Berger. In a typical bullying tactic of denialists, he included the emails of Rosenthal and his interviewee Steele in the letter and encouraged his minions to "let them know what you think". I hope Rosenthal publishes some of those thoughtful, intelligent letters!

Update: St. Petersburg Times got the package and are unimpressed.

Update 2: Former reporter Richard Littlemore weighs in over at desmogblog. Read all the way to the end for his spot-on put down of Miller and lawyer-baiting of Heartland.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Midwest climate pact generates little attention

Midwest Governors (plus Canadian officials) signed a couple of climate agreements in Milwaukee last Thursday. Madison's liberal paper, The Capital Times, only ran a couple of AP articles by Emily Fredrix who explains:
The plan calls for laying out concrete goals within the next eight months and establishing the cap-and-trade system within a year, with the entire agreement implemented within 2 1/2 years.

Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Manitoba, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin agreed to that deal, according to an association ballot circulated among the states. Indiana, Ohio and South Dakota have agreed as observers.
Those states also agreed to the other part of this agreement:
Under the other pact, biofuels produced in the Midwest and other low-carbon fuels would make up at least half of all transportation energy consumed in the region by 2025. A third of retail gas stations in the region, or about 10,000 stations, would offer the ethanol-based gasoline E-85 by that year.

Thirty percent of electricity in the region would come from renewable sources by 2030. All new coal plants would capture and store carbon dioxide emissions by 2020, and a multi-jurisdiction pipeline would be permitted by 2012 to move carbon dioxide captured from new plants to a reservoir.

This was called a regional summit on energy and climate change but a lot of the above is about "energy independence": finding a replacement for middle-east oil which powers our transportation. Everyone reading about global warming should remember this fact: doing something for independence in our transportation fuels doesn't necessarily do anything to stop global warming. Burning ethanol still produces CO2, though not as much as gasoline. Most of our CO2 release is from electricity generation.
A Reuters article from John Rondy answers my question from two posts ago:
The third such pact between U.S. states means that nearly half of Americans will be living in areas covered by agreements designed to combat global warming, according to the Washington-based World Resources Institute.

The area involved in Thursday's agreement runs from Ohio west to Kansas. If the region were its own country, the World Resources group estimates, it would be the globe's fifth-biggest producer of greenhouse gas emissions behind the United States as a whole, Russia, China and India.
The midwest gets about 70% of its electricity from coal (Chicago, mostly nuclear, is an exception) so we've got a lot to do. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel endorsed the pact in an editorial.
The NYTimes covered it as part of story on other regional efforts. The WashPost didn't cover it at all.

Friday, November 16, 2007

IPCC prepares final synthesis report.

If you only follow the IPCC reports casually, you probably wonder "What? Again?" every time you hear about one which you have a lot this year.

To review: there are 3 working groups -- basic science, impacts and mitigation -- and they each release a Summary for Policy makers (SPM) and a full report. This blog started around the time the SPM was released for the science working group (Working Group I)

All those pieces need to be summarized and the SPM for the "Synthesis Report" is due out tomorrow. Expect to see lots of stories about diplomats and scientists negotiating the text (which they do only for the SPMs). This will complete the Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) of the IPCC.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

U.S. Midwest governors to form climate pact

Local papers again are the place to go for global warming coverage.

Tom Content reports for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
Frustrated by inaction in Congress on global warming, Midwest governors will convene in Milwaukee next week to craft a regionwide strategy to curb greenhouse gas emissions and boost renewable energy.
Those dates are November 14th and 15th.
More from this just-the-facts article:
The summit agenda calls for the signing of a "Midwestern Energy Security and Climate Stewardship Platform." [Wisconsin Governor] Doyle currently serves as chairman of the 12-state governors association.
The plan is expected to follow regional plans created by six states on the West Coast and 10 northeastern and mid-Atlantic states to reduce emissions linked to global warming.
"These governors will be gathering in Milwaukee next week and will be getting together to sign historic agreements that will increase the production and use of renewable energy, promote energy efficiency and reduce greenhouse gases," [Doyle's spokesman Matt] Canter said.

An exercise for the reader: if enough U.S. regions get together and form cap-and-trade type systems, is this the same as if the U.S. had agreed to Kyoto as a nation? Better? Worse?

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Low Carbon Kid: That Geoclimatic Studies hoax - and what it was about

Read all about this great hoax perpetrated on gullible global warming deniers. I don't think the hoax made it in to any traditional media outlets (unless you count Rush Limbaugh) but I want you all to know about it anyway.

The Low Carbon Kid: That Geoclimatic Studies hoax - and what it was about

Update: Reuters ran a short story about the hoax.

More on the WPost Democrats and climate change story

I was going to make this an update to my previous post on this Washington Post article and its false choices but there's another angle to this.

First, Talking Points Memo noticed how awful this article was:
A few days ago, The Washington Post ran a long front-page story that carried this frightful headline:
Climate Is a Risky Issue for Democrats

There was zero polling data in the piece to support this claim. As Matthew Yglesias noted, the basis for it appeared to be little more than the "time honored principled Everything is Bad News for Democrats."
TPM links to a Politico story on a poll, conducted by a Republican pollster, which suggests the opposite, its bad for Republicans to ignore the issue and not propose solutions. Republicans need to do something. TPM concludes:
Yet despite the fact that lots of Republicans have reached this conclusion, somehow The Washington Post was only able to discover that this is a risky issue for Democrats. This illustrates once again that the default setting for many in the political media is still that Dems are always vulnerable; Dems are always at risk of getting too far ahead of public opinion; and Dems are always at risk of provoking a backlash from the same public that strongly agrees with them.

It'll be interesting to see if WaPo revisits this issue, now that we have some actual empirical evidence to shed light on the topic the paper reported so extensively on. Somehow one doubts that WaPo will call up Ayres and ask him what gives.
I'm not holding my breath.

The Columbia Journalism Review treated this article more seriously then it deserves. But I thought this passage said a lot:
Indeed, energy and the environment have been a source of strength for the Democrats in particular....The concern that the public may react unfavorably to a strong pro-environment platform in the general election is a fairly novel idea for news pages, and Post writer Juliet Eilperin makes the case that it’s legitimate.
"Makes the case". Think about that for a minute. Its not reporting that Eilperin is doing. She's trying to persuade her readers to believe something that simply isn't true. Making a case.

This is almost "swift boating". Here's the WPost taking a Democratic strength, the environment, and saying, with no support at all, just conjecture, that its a weakness for the candidates. I predict the next step in this will be a story which talks about how "reasonable" and "sensible" the Republican candidates plans are. Lets hope this particular brand of "kick the Democrats" that the beltway media loves to play stops here.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

False choices: economy or environment?

The Washington Post had a front page article on the presidential candidates' plans on global warming with the awful title: Climate Is a Risky Issue for Democrats and and even worse sub-title: Candidates Back Costly Proposals You almost don't have to read the article. The title asks the question "why is it risky?" and the subtitle has the answer: because its costly!

I've complained about Post headline writers before. If you read the article, you'll find what's becoming a....oh no I'm going to use that word..."frame" for solutions-focused articles: you get to choose between business-as-usual early 21st century prosperity or fix the environment and guess which one those no-fun liberals want you to choose?

Lets just pick apart the opening paragraph:
All of the leading Democratic contenders for the presidency are committed to a set of cuts in greenhouse gas emissions that would change the way Americans light their homes, fuel their automobiles and do their jobs, costing billions of dollars in the short term but potentially, the candidates say, saving even more in the decades to follow.

"would change" is followed with "costly" implying its not a change for the better. Also its stated as fact that it will definitely cost billions while it only "potentially" will save more. And the savings is "candidates say" implying its one of those lies they like to tell while the cost is just a God-given fact.

Quotes from Clinton's energy speech are for some reason countered with an MIT study about how much energy will cost in 2050 under an 80% reduction plan. Where's the quote about how unreliable economic forecast models are? Oh wait, they only do that for climate models.

A Siegel has more on how you can both protect the environment and be prosperous. A frequent subject on Michael Tobis's blog is how silly it is to discuss "cost-benefit" when we're talking about the one-and-only planet we live on.

I actually liked the second half of the article which goes into how global warming is figuring in to political strategy for the upcoming presidential election. This actually cheered me up:
"It's a huge issue. I've been stunned by this," said Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg, who found in a May poll that energy independence and global warming were cited as America's most important domestic challenge by 29 percent of respondents, second only to health care. "I think this is a top-tier voting issue that has crossover appeal," Greenberg said.
Republicans will try to attack them on the cost. I hope some candidate points out that it's a false choice.

Update: another take on this article above.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Another underreported story on CO2 emissions: they're getting stronger faster then expected

Back in June, I wondered why a report from the Global Carbon Project that emissions rose faster then expected got little coverage.

4 months later another Global Carbon Project study, this one also published (and available for free) in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, that asks why this is happening is also not getting much attention. Its a shame because it has some sobering news: global emissions are rising faster then the most pessimistic scenario used in the recent IPCC climate predictions. (hat tip to Michael Tobis for finding this.)

USAToday had some good matter-of-fact coverage on the "why" question:
The growing world economy is fueling the emissions. "Our ability to become more carbon-efficient is declining, especially since 2000," Field says. "We're no longer seeing progress in this area, which is probably a reflection of a large amount of coal coming into the power system."
The Associated Press had an article by Randolph Schmid but I haven't seen it picked up anywhere except the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:
Carbon dioxide emissions were 35 percent higher in 2006 than in 1990, a much faster growth rate than anticipated, researchers led by Josep G. Canadell, of Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, report in Tuesday's edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Increased industrial use of fossil fuels coupled with a decline in the gas absorbed by the oceans and land were listed as causes of the increase.
Unfortunately, Mr. Schmid felt the need to include some "balance" and NCAR's Kevin Trenberth, surprisingly, supplied it:
Trenberth noted that carbon dioxide is not the whole story — methane emissions have declined, so total greenhouse gases are not increasing as much as carbon dioxide alone. Also, he added, other pollution plays a role by cooling.

There are changes from year to year in the fraction of the atmosphere made up of carbon dioxide and the question is whether this increase is transient or will be sustained, he said.
For the first point: the CO2 is the one that will stick around for thousands of years and he knows that. For the second: that might matter if it was a new trend but this is plainly a continuation of an existing trend.

A companion article (also free) goes in to the global and regional drivers of the rise. Its worth quoting at length despite the tiny bit of algebra:
The strong global fossil-fuel emissions growth since 2000 was
driven not only by long-term increases in population (P) and
per-capita global GDP (g) but also by a cessation or reversal of
earlier declining trends in the energy intensity of GDP (e) and
the carbon intensity of energy ( f ). In particular, steady or slightly
increasing recent trends in f occurred in both developed and
developing regions. In this sense, no region is decarbonizing its
energy supply.
Continuous decreases in both e and f (and therefore in carbon
intensity of GDP, h=e*f) are postulated in all IPCC emissions
scenarios to 2100, so that the predicted rate of global
emissions growth is less than the economic growth rate. Without
these postulated decreases, predicted emissions over the coming
century would be up to several times greater than those from
current emissions scenarios. In the unfolding reality since
2000, the global average f has actually increased, and there has
not been a compensating faster decrease in e. Consequently,
there has been a cessation of the earlier declining trend in h. This
has meant that even the more fossil-fuel-intensive IPCC scenarios
underestimated actual emissions growth during this period.
GCP also made available a PowerPoint presentation with some figures. Initforthegold explains the best ones. There's been plenty of blog coverage: ClimateProgress, Rabett Run, and Stoat but they all seem to focus on the one part of the increase: a slow down in the natural carbon sink. But Canadell et. al. say that's only 18% of the increase, the rest is the growing world economy and its increasing reliance on coal.

If you're feeling depressed just remember: we've just now started talking collectively about doing something. There's a lot of inertia in the system so the previous years of neglect will continue to generate bad stories like this while we work to prevent future worse stories.

Monday, November 05, 2007

StepItUp post script

I went to check out the StepItUp2007 event near me which was over in the Lakeview neighborhood of Chicago at the High Risk Gallery on Belmont. Not a place associated with a historical leader like most StepItUp rally sites but a nice venue.

You can read reports from the organizers and others here.

The first part featured speakers talking about the problem. Tim Montague from Climate Justice Chicago seemed to be at the wrong venue. He gave a very doom-and-gloom talk about the urgent need for action which seemed more suited to a general audience. Isn't everyone at a StepItUp rally already aware of the need for action? Also he kept using the phrase "runaway global warming". I don't know what he meant by that but the old idea that we might develop a Venus-like climate was discredited years ago. Anthony Star from the Center for Neighborhood Technology went over Chicago's GHG emissions. He also mentioned there is a Chicago Climate Task Force which has been formulating a climate plan for the city. Its supposed to be released "soon" and will make Chicago a world leading Green City. I'm looking forward to seeing it. Jack Darin, Illinois Director of the Sierra Club, told me something I didn't know: that the Sierra Club made global warming its central issue for the next 10 years at a conference in 2005. He had some interesting facts like Illinois is about equal to the Netherlands in total emissions and that Detroit currently makes two versions of every car sold: a clean version for California and similar states with tough laws and a "dirty" version for Illinois (the 5th largest car market by state) and states without those laws. There's currently a bill in the Illinois legislature which would make us clean and maybe that would be the "tipping point" to convince Detroit to make only clean cars.

In the second part of the meeting, we heard from elected officials. I was most pleased to hear from Mike Quigley and learn about the great work he's doing in the Cook County Commissioners office. Cook County has a $3 billion annual budget and can do a lot to make Chicago green. Illinois State Rep. Greg Harris had a disappointing answer to my question about possibly banning coal-fired power plants in Illinois: "not likely". Illinois has 1/4 of the country's coal and mining counts for a lot of jobs in the southern part of the state. Debra Shore of the Metropolitan Water District talked about the changes there such as seeing rainwater as resource to preserved instead of waste to be rid of.

Although I know a lot about the science of global warming, I didn't know much about what's being done locally to address it. I learned a lot at this meeting. The most encouraging bit of news was a recent law which gave customers a rebate in electricity bills included a provision to make it easier for the local utility to buy wind power. A wind farm north of Bloomington, IL was announced almost immediately after the bill passed.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Step it Up tomorrow

Back in April, author and environmentalist Bill McKibben "led the organization of the largest demonstrations against global warming in American history". Step It Up 2 is tomorrow, November 3rd, one year before the U.S. presidential election:
On November 3rd, Americans will demand real leadership on global warming. From coast to coast, we'll rally in our communities and invite our politicians to join us. We'll see who rises to the occasion and who has a real plan to tackle the defining challenge of our time. One year before the election, let's make sure the world witnesses our national call to action.

I've been disappointed that global warming doesn't seem to be on the top of any candidate's stump speech. This is not just a policy issue you need to have a position on. You need to lead. From the website:
...most of our elected officials and candidates for federal office think global warming is a “third-tier” issue for their constituents—they don’t know that this is the greatest challenge confronting our civilization. And so they’re likely to act too modestly if they act at all—passing some new law that calls for only small cuts in carbon emissions and takes too long to get started. If we allow that to happen, the pressure for change will fade away, and by the time it builds again the scientists tell us it may be too late.

And let's not forget, November 3 is one year before the next federal elections, and most campaigns will be eager to get out see their constituents. If we do our job right -- all of us -- at events all across the country on November 3 and find out who's a leader.

I encourage everyone reading this blog to find a location near you and go.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Climate change polls presidential candidates should look at

A couple of climate change polls in the early primary stats of New Hampshire and Iowa show climate change is on voters minds.

Think Iowa hunters would be a conservative group with a typical denier attitude? Think again. According to this poll taken by the National Wildlife Federation and reported in the Des Moines Register:
--69 percent of Iowa hunters and anglers agree global warming is currently occurring.
--57 percent agreed with a statement that global warming is an urgent problem requiring immediate action
--57 percent believe global warming is a threat to fishing in Iowa.
----54 percent believe global warming is a threat to the future of hunting in Iowa.
--75 percent agree the U.S. should be a world leader in addressing global warming.
Party identification was split evenly.

On the other hand, a New Hampshire poll done by the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests found concern for climate change breaking along party lines:
the poll...found that 69 percent of Democrats said they were very concerned about climate change, while just 22 percent of Republicans had the same level of concern. Forty percent of independents said they are very concerned.

Education level is also a factor, with more educated respondents more likely to be concerned about climate change.

Both polls were conducted in September.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Chicago Humanities Festival takes on climate change

The theme for this year's Chicago Humanities Festival is The Climate of Concern. An odd choice for a humanities festival? Artistic director Lawrence Weschler explains:
Concern about the changing climate, to be sure, but more generally and broadly about humankind’s place in nature, and the future of that relation. In those days, certainly here in America, the challenge still seemed to be one simply of rousing ourselves to the crisis at hand. We’ve watched in amazement as the discourse has since accelerated: suddenly the specter of global climate disruption and its many interrelated symptoms has become the media flavor of the year (all that noise, paradoxically, threatening to become simply another way in which we cocoon ourselves from the palpable reality of the situation at hand). Still, the challenge grows clearer and more urgent with each passing week: how do we, as a community of fellow humans, come to envision – with lucidity, vigor, and hope — our responsibilities toward each other, our progeny, and the planet?
Its certainly an interesting program. I'll be part of a panel on Sunday, October 29th, looking at climate change images. Stop by and say "hello".

Update: Some coverage of the panel from the Computation Institute Newsletter.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Al Gore to lauch $100 million climate change ad campaign

Kudos to Steve Hargreaves over at CNN Money who seems to be the only traditional media reporter (and just barely that since he writes for CNN's web site) to catch this:
The former vice president, Oscar-winner and now Nobel Peace Prize recipient is embarking on a climate-change advertising campaign estimated to cost between $100 million and $200 million a year, one of the largest public service campaigns in history [emphasis added]. Expect to see television commercials, newspaper spreads and Internet ads popping up in a few months time.

Funded by donations and proceeds from Gore's 2006 "An Inconvenient Truth," the campaign will focus on convincing people that they can do something about global warming.

"It's about communicating the urgency and solvability of the climate crises," said Brian Hardwick, a spokesman for the Alliance for Climate Change, an environmental group founded and chaired by Gore. "So [people] will demand the kind of change we need."

The campaign is organized through the Alliance for Climate Protection, which is also the organization Al Gore donated his Nobel Peace Prize money too.

Looks like I won't have to worry about global warming falling off the radar between now and the next IPCC report (if there is one.)

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Recent polls on global warming

I last looked at polls of public opinion on global warming back in April here, here and here.

Those polls were taken during or soon after the media blitz which accompanied the release of the IPCC Working Group I Summary for Policy Makers, Al Gore's testimony to Congress and "An Inconvenient Truth" winning the Oscar.

Global warming couldn't keep up that kind of media saturation all summer. Nevertheless, a poll taken by Yale and Gallup in July showed a high level of awareness of the problem and what level of action might be needed. From Science Daily:
A growing number of Americans consider global warming an important threat that calls for drastic action, and 40% say that a presidential candidate's position on the issue will strongly influence how they vote....Sixty-two percent of respondents believe that life on earth will continue without major disruptions only if society takes immediate and drastic action to reduce global warming....A surprising 40 percent of respondents say a presidential candidate's position on global warming will be either extremely important (16 percent) or very important (24 percent) when casting their ballots.
Annoyingly, this is not the same group from Yale that did the poll back in March. They didn't ask exactly the same questions.

The same group that did the July survey also adid one in September about local responses to global warming. The NYTimes covered their blog.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Have you heard?! Gore wins Nobel!

This blog focuses on U.S. media coverage of global warming but even that restriction leaves to much to cover during the days following the announcement that Al Gore and the IPCC had won the Nobel Peace Prize...
for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change
In the deluge of coverage, it's nice to read the actual award. I especially like this passage from the press release on why Gore deserved the award:
He is probably the single individual who has done most to create greater worldwide understanding of the measures that need to be adopted.[Emphasis added]
However most of the U.S. coverage included one or more of the following items: Will Gore run for president? Bush is dumb. Which is better: Nobel Peace Prize or two U.S. presidential terms? Gore is famous. Nobody took Gore seriously. Gore is smart. Oh yeah, the IPCC also won.

You could write one of these yourself.

A French climate scientist visiting U. Chicago noted that in Europe at least, the coverage is all about the IPCC and Gore gets little mention.

I was pretty disappointed in the Washington Post but Deltoid has covered that well including links to Bob Somersby, the go-to source for dissecting the traditional media's horrible coverage of anything Gore-related.

Seth Borenstein, who usually writes great global warming coverage for the Associated Press, for some reason felt the need to quote a global warming denier in his article. The denier did his job and provided some juicy quotes, including that the Nobel Peace Prize had been "cheapened". But its not really news that he's going to say that so why report it?

Overall, my view is that its always good for the global warming problem to get another boost in coverage. Here in the U.S., the serious national stories are still dominated by the Iraq war or health care. This is also what the presidential candidates are mostly talking about. Keeping it on the front pages is a good thing.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

First detection of global warming in water vapor goes underreported

A significant paper was published online on September 19th in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences titled "Identification of human-induced changes in atmospheric moisture content."

Why is this a big deal? Lets let the lead author, Ben Santer, explain the key findings (from new media Science Daily):
Our key findings were as follows:

1. Despite the relatively short length (19 years) of the observed water vapor data, we were able to identify a "fingerprint" of human activities in this observational record.
2. Unlike most previous "fingerprint" work, our study used results from virtually all of the world's major climate models. We showed that our identification of a human "fingerprint" in satellite-based water vapor records was robust to current uncertainties in climate models.
3. The model results enabled us to "disentangle" the contributions of different factors to the overall increase in water vapor. We found that in climate models, this increase in water vapor was primarily due to human-caused increases in greenhouse gases.
4. Bottom line: our results suggest that there is an emerging signal of human activities in the moisture content of Earth's atmosphere. The climate system is telling us a consistent story. The observed changes in temperature, moisture, and atmospheric circulation fit together in an internally- and physically consistent way.
And the reason this is important from Dr. Santer:
One persistent criticism of the "discernible human influence" findings of previous IPCC assessments is that such conclusions were largely based on "fingerprint" studies which relied heavily on surface temperature changes.

The thrust of the criticism was this:

"If there really is a signal of human activities lurking in the climate system, it should be manifest in many different climate variables, and not in surface temperature alone."

Our study helps to refute this criticism, and shows that we have now moved well beyond "temperature only" fingerprint studies.

Here's the press release from Lawrence Livermore National Lab.

About all I can find is coverage in the San Jose Mercury News and brief mention in United Press International. This would have been great to mention during the Bush and U.N. meeting's coverage the following week.

Monday, October 08, 2007

U.N. and Bush meetings coverage

(My apologies for the lack of posts. Work/life got in the way again.)

The Bush meeting was somewhat successful in its main goal: compete with the U.N. meeting on the same week. It did it by forcing almost every story on the U.N. to mention the Bush meeting, although not in a very good light.

Take this AP preview story which gave the background to the U.N. meeting but also was compelled to mention:
On Thursday and Friday, Bush will host his own two-day climate meeting in Washington, limited to 16 "major emitter" countries, first in a series of such U.S.-sponsored climate gatherings.

Many environmentalists fear this separate U.S. "track," which will involve China and India, may undercut the global U.N. negotiating process. But some hope it eventually helps draw those two big developing nations and others into a new, U.N.-negotiated emissions regime.
This Reuters story also mentions the Bush meeting but does not have quotes about what it really is. Shame on you, Deborah Zabarenko.

The NY Times U.N. preview story also mentions the Bush meeting and includes a few quotes on what a crock it is but is not as dismissive as the AP story. USA Today strikes a similar "balance".

The Washington Post had probably the worst article title, playing in to the Bush cult-of-personality with an article titled "Bust Steps Out in Front on Climate Issue". This absurd title seems to come from this quote:
"It's a great initiative that [Bush] has taken," said Lars G. Josefsson, chief executive of the European utility Vattenfall AB and an adviser to German Chancellor Angela Merkel. "But of course with that initiative, he also takes on a responsibility, which means he has to deliver."
Hey, W. Post, you're quoting an energy company executive. Bush is only taking an initiative to deliver a process:
But [United Nations Foundation President Timothy E. Wirth] faulted the Bush administration for promoting dialogue without pressing for concrete commitments. "When you don't want to do anything, talk process. Nowhere in this process is this administration talking about a concrete commitment," he said. "Is this administration going to be the one to break the logjam? I haven't seen any evidence of that."

The AP continued its tone with its preview of the Bush climate meeting titled "Bush Climate Goals Marked by Bureaucracy".

The post-meetings coverage for the U.N. emphasized the star power of Schwarzenegger and Gore: Reuters, Wash Post, Reuters again. U.N. Secretary Ban's call for a "real breakthrough" at least made it in to the Washington Post's coverage.

Business Week, of all places, had a good summary of the Bush meeting. Title: "Bush's Climate Meeting: Talk, But no Action." But U.S. outlets missed just how badly Bush's party was perceived from U.K's The Guardian:
George Bush was castigated by European diplomats and found himself isolated yesterday after a special conference on climate change ended without any progress.

European ministers, diplomats and officials attending the Washington conference were scathing, particularly in private, over Mr Bush's failure once again to commit to binding action on climate change.

For me, the most promising meeting that week was one between some U.S. Congressmen and officials from China discussing what do do post-Bush. Hat tip to H.E. Taylor's GW News who spotted this story in Der Spiegel.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Corporate Climate Response

Another event this week, one unlikely to get much national coverage, is a "Green Power" conference on "Corporate Climate Response" here in Chicago. I would go but the fee is over $1K.

I'm a little jealous that Prof. Ricky Rood got a free press pass based on his new blog at Weather Underground.

However I will be going to similar themed conference in Maryland next month. I keep hearing that business is taking climate change seriously and want to see it for myself and also learn about what climate modelers can be doing better for these communities.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Big week for climate news in U.S.

This should be a week where global warming is a big story in the traditional media. The U.N. starts a meeting on climate change today and Bush's climate party is at the end of this week. The traditional media in the U.S. typically ignores the U.N. and the meeting later this week is mostly a way for the administration to whitewash its lousy record. We'll see how they do.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Hope and despair in AP wire stories on global warming

My thanks to Climate Progress for pointing out a recent AP wire story by Seth Borenstein, who's work has been followed here before.

This story concerns new maps that the AP has seen of what coastlines will look like with a meter of sea level rise. The depressing part is that a meter of sea level may already be inevitable, its just a question of when. I think this is the kind of journalism Steve Outing had in mind: passionate and truthful.

The downside of these kind of stories is it might make people despair: what's the point of working to de-carbonize our economy if so much damage is already done?

Well the reason is in the hopeful counterpoint to this article, also written by Mr. Borenstein:
"It's hard at times," said University of Victoria climate scientist Andrew Weaver. "You can't give up hope because what else is there in life if you give up hope? When you give up hope, that's quitting and scientists don't like to quit."

That optimism is based on science and faith.

The science, [Penn State Professor Michael] Mann said, is because climate researchers are sure of one thing that the public isn't: The numbers show that there is still time to avert the worst.

NASA's James Hansen, who forecasts some of the bleakest outlooks on global warming, said in an e-mail: "I am always surprised when people get depressed rather than energized to do something. It's not too late to stabilize climate."
Here's the best anecdote from this article:
Stanford University climate scientist Stephen Schneider has battled cancer and it has colored his outlook. He said the key is not to get overwhelmed by the belief that something is too tough. Sure a 2-degree rise in temperatures is bad. But 4 or 5 degrees would be even worse [emphasis added].

Schneider's wife, Stanford University biologist Terry Root, recalled how in 2002 she was sitting at the hospital as Schneider slept after cancer treatment. The oncology nurse came in, chatted and asked her what she did for a living.

Root said she studied how animals are being hurt by global warming. "That is such a depressing job," replied the nurse who daily deals with cancer patients.

Then they both laughed.
It will be interesting to see which papers pick up one or both articles.

The message that "bad things will happen but we need to prevent worse ones" is a tough one for a political leader to say. But then, saying the tough things is what makes someone a leader. I wonder if any of the current U.S. presidential candidates can convey this particular message about global warming? I know the current office holder can't.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

IPCC Working Group II full report released to silence.

The IPCC process can be confusing. In a nutshell, there are three working groups looking at science of, impacts from and response to climate change, respectively. Each group releases a "Summary for Policymakers" and then a full report.

Working Group II, which looks at impacts, released its summary back in April and the full report earlier this week (Sept 18). While the summary was noticed, did anyone notice the full report? Not that I can tell.

Adam Siegel pointed out the lack of coverage and also noticed this depressing quote from an article in the U.K.'s The Independent:
"If warming is not kept below two degrees centigrade, which will require the strongest mitigation efforts, and currently looks very unlikely to be achieved, the substantial global impacts will occur, such as species extinctions, and millions of people at risk from drought, hunger, flooding."

If preventing a two degree warming is now "very unlikely" and the IPCC says so, that's news. But I can't find that phrase in the report itself. The source of the quote is referred to as "the body" by The Independent. A google search turned up an article on the same subject and with the same quote in Marie Claire U.K. (!?) But here the quote is "A spokesman said". Maybe a reporter can fill me in on the distinction.

The source of this quote must have been from the press conference. In a way, its good that this wasn't in the full report because its supposed to not contain any surprises: all the main conclusions are supposed to be in the Summary for Policymakers. That may also be why the full report isn't getting much coverage. Still, that's a newsworthy quote whatever the source.

(I'm back home for a week. But now each evening I have a choice: unpack or blog?)

Monday, September 17, 2007

Another delay in posting

I'm currently at a meeting of the Climate Change Prediction Program in Indianapolis. Probably won't be able to post until I'm back on Thursday.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Latest blogstorm (Oreskes) fails to impress traditional media

Soon after the NASA GISTEMP non-story died away in the blogosphere, a new one started up concerning a yet-to-be-published paper in denier "journal" Energy and Environment that supposedly refutes the notion that there is a scientific consensus on global warming by counting publications. You can get some background at Stranger Fruit here and here, at DeSmogBlog here and here and at Deltoid.

But this blog is about traditional media coverage of which there's been none so far for this story. The NASA GISTEMP story took about 3 weeks between its first appearance on blogs and mention in the New York Times, although not how the deniers would want it. This one started around late August so time is running out. It might get another push when the paper is actually published.

Update: The best summary of this story is at the Stranger Fruit blog here and here.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

No posts, moving.

I just finished moving within Chicago and will resume posting when things are somewhat back to normal.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Hansen releases GISTEMP source code

Jim Hansen and colleagues have made available the source code that generates their global temperature plots. From Hansen's latest email:
Because the programs include a variety of languages and computer unique functions, [my colleague] Reto [Reudy] would have preferred to have a week or two to combine these into a simpler more transparent structure, but because of a recent flood of demands for the programs, they are being made available as is.
The data which this source code uses was corrected slightly and this was the subject of a lot of hot air from the denier crowd who tried to take an insignificant data correction, blow it up and then sow doubt about the whole process. Gavin Schmidt maintained that the references for the algorithms were enough (see comment #44 and #67). I think open source is always better. Not publishing the source just gives deniers more mud to throw in people's eyes. Cheers to Hansen and his colleagues (especially Reto Reudy).

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Editor and Publisher columnist: "Climate Change: Get Over Objectivity"

I've argued on this blog that the denialists haven't been getting nearly as much of their material in to the traditional media since the IPCC report came out in February (when I started this blog). They're mostly heard in the right wing outlets and in editorial and columnist pages (and in the non-traditional media.)

But other's are still concerned. The excellent column by Mark Lynas (below) started out haranguing the false balance in global warming stories. Now Steve Outing, a columnist for the newspaper trade magazine Editor and Publisher, has published a strong argument for abandoning "objectivity" about climate change.

He starts out thinking about what he can do do make his kid's world better:
I've also been thinking about the newspaper industry and global warming. And frankly, I don't think newspapers are doing enough. Indeed, newspapers' fabled commitment to "objectivity" has been a detriment to efforts to combat global warming.

The industry still has a lot of power to influence people. How about if newspapers abandon their old way of doing things when it comes to the issue of global warming, and turn their influence to good? It just might be that through this issue alone, newspapers revive themselves to some extent. Editors are shirking their responsibility to improve our world, in my view, so let's change that.
This echo's Mark Lynas' call for a "more rigorous and honest approach".

He then goes on the say where objectivity is meant to be used:
I have no quibble with the status quo when it comes to controversial issues where there is a significant split of opinion. Outside of the opinion section, most newspapers are not going to allow writers and editors to express an opinion on hot debates like the right to abortion, or public funding for stem cell research. There are sizable groups of people lining up on both sides of those issues (not to mention those who fall in between). It would be journalistic suicide to take a mainstream paper and go on an advocacy tear about abortion, for example.

But advocacy in terms of encouraging people to act to alleviate climate change is really a wholly different issue. There's clearly scientific consensus that humans are altering the planet's climate, and that the effect is accelerating. Stronger hurricanes, melting glaciers and sea ice, worse wildfires and longer fire seasons, more severe droughts and flooding, and more frequent bizarre weather events overall.
Wow. I'm glad that message has gotten through to this non-scientist professional newspaperman.

For me the most interesting part was this mini-history of "objectivity":
The problem with that kind of coverage is that it doesn't permit journalists to find the truth in an issue, like global warming. Jay Rosen, associate professor of journalism at New York University and a respected new media observer, points out that journalistic objectivity first arose in the 1920s and '30s -- following a period of sensational, "muckraking" reporting by newspapers.

"Part of the problem is that journalists don't realize what objectivity was in the first place," says Rosen. "From the beginning it was a way of limiting liability, and allowing journalists to take a pass when it's hard to figure out who's right and what's really going on. From the beginning it was meant to dull the knife edge of the press. It was meant to 'de-voice' or defang the individual journalist, so that more people would be comfortable with the product. But the costs of that system have built up over time.

"One of the most insidious and deceptive things about the system of objectivity is how it persuades journalists that the alternative to it is 'subjectivity.' From this angle, to relinquish objectivity means to surrender to partisanship, opinion, bias. Not very attractive, that. But what if the real alternative is truthtelling itself?" Rosen adds.
That's a powerful observation that should be repeated often to anyone trying browbeat the media into downplaying or denying global warming. The alternative to false-balance "objectivity" in global warming reporting is not advocacy or subjectivity but truthtelling.

He concludes the philosophical discussion:
The good professor would seem to support my idea that newspapers' sacred commitment to journalistic objectivity perhaps is hindering the power of the press to impact humans' behavior, because in the name of objectivity, reporters must give equal time to the tiny minority of skeptics and not go too far out on a limb to declare that climate change indeed is caused by humankind. (Perhaps that's why during recent news coverage of severe summer flooding in the Midwest US and historic wildfires in Greece, seldom is mentioned the possible -- I'd suggest, likely -- link between those events and human-caused climate change.)

As long as news organizations keep alive the idea that there's still a "debate" about whether human-induced climate change is real or not, people have an excuse for not changing their behavior.
What I take away from this is that editors need to go beyond making sure their reporters don't fall for the denialist spin, they need to also clean up their editorial pages.

Mr. Outing's inbox was apparently filled with flames from a few newspaper people and some denier usual suspects. Lets let him know his views are appreciated.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The morality of global warming and its reporting

I've been aware of the movement to describe global warming as a moral issue but mostly saw it as a way to bring more people, such as religious leaders, in to the effort to stop it.

However this excellent column by British reporter and activist Mark Lynas, called "Neutrality is cowardice", has made a connection between this moral side and reporting which I had not appreciated.

The BBC was planning an "Earth Relief" day of climate-change related programming. A little complaining from some anti-environmentalists and the BBC executives couldn't disown it fast enough:
The spat at last weekend's Edinburgh International Television Festival was a classic example of this impulse to timidity. When the anti-environmentalist film-maker Martin Durkin and his Channel 4 commissioning editor Hamish Mykura attacked the BBC's upcoming Planet Relief project - a proposed day of climate change-related programming and entertainment modelled on Comic Relief - corporation executives present rushed to disown it. "It is absolutely not the BBC's job to save the planet," insisted Newsnight editor Peter Barron. "I think there are a lot of people who think that it must be stopped."
Yes its not the BBC's job but if you could help save the planet, wouldn't you? Here's the passage that really struck me:
If Barron is really suggesting that the BBC should be "neutral" on the question of planetary survival, his absurd stance surely sets a new low for political cowardice in the media. It is also completely inconsistent. On easy moral questions, such as poverty in Africa, the BBC is quite happy to campaign explicitly (as with Comic Relief or Live Aid), despite the claim by the corporation's head of television news, Peter Horrocks, that its role is "giving people information, not leading them or prophesying". By analogy, the BBC would have been neutral on the question of slavery in the mid-19th century, and should be giving full voice today to the likes of the British National Party - all in the interests of balance and fairness. Likewise, it should not cover the plight of Aids orphans in South Africa without constantly acknowledging the views of the tiny minority who still dispute the link between HIV and Aids.
Another example that immediately came to mind was Apartheid in South Africa which the press here easily condemned in the eighties. More from Mr. Lynas:
It is worth re-stating again what a more rigorous and honest approach to climate change might look like. First, it would recognise that, despite small uncertainties regarding the specifics, the larger scientific question regarding causality has been settled for a decade at least. Second, it would acknowledge the moral repercussions of our failure to act so far: on people who are already suffering and dying in more frequent and extreme weather events, on future generations of human beings who will suffer a far worse fate, and on other species that will be driven to extinction as a result.
Mr Lynas has a lower opinion of reporters, editors and producers then I do (some of them know what to do). But this does put the onus on the traditional media: its not enough to not give deniers space in your pages or patiently explain the latest scientific findings. They need to talk about how this is ruining lives now and in the future and why action is necessary now. More on this in a future post.

I'll also track down and comment on an interesting reference Mr. Lynas found comparing denier-speak with pro-slavery arguments from 19th century America!

Update: BBC canceled the Planet Relief special. Cowards.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

More on religion and climate change

I continue to be fascinated by the growing involvement of religious leaders of many different faiths in stopping global warming. Here's a few recent articles on the topic:

A small gathering of church leaders was held in Charleston:
It is an issue of stewardship, Rose Edington, co-minister of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, said.

“Regardless if the science on global warming is true, half true or not true, we have to be stewards of our planet for the next generation,” he said.

A group of scientists and Evangelicals took a trip to Alaska together to discuss climate change:
The historic collaboration between leading scientists and Evangelicals to protect the environment, spearheaded by the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School (HMS) and the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) continues this week with a trip to Alaska.

"The goal of our trip is to witness together what human-caused climate change is doing to our world," said co-leader of the trip Eric Chivian, who shared the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize and is Director of the HMS Center. "While this collaboration may come as a surprise to some, it makes perfect sense. Both scientists and Evangelicals see life on earth as sacred and share the same deep sense of responsibility about protecting it."

"The idea is for all of us to experience what human activity is doing to God's Creation so that we can understand the urgent importance of caring for it," added expedition co- leader Rev. Richard Cizik, Vice President for Governmental Affairs of the NAE. "We dare to imagine a world in which science and religion cooperate, minimizing our differences about how Creation got started, to work together to reverse its degradation."

Counterpoint: On the other hand, some Evangelicals are not yet convinced.

Update: The Pope is also saying climate change is a serious issue.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Did anyone in U.S. cover U.K. climate protests?

This is now old news but I want to write about it before its really old.

On Saturday, August 18th, and the week prior, groups of protesters conducted a coordinated protest of global warming over multiple sites in England including Heathrow airport where early rumors the protests would shut the airport down didn't pan out. It all went peacefully.

Despite getting lots of coverage in the U.K., I didn't see anything in the traditional U.S. media except for this story in the L.A. Times.

The traditional media missed a great story. From the L.A. Times article:
The greatest show of force was a midday parade through this village's streets -- shadowed by Heathrow's lumbering jets overhead -- as demonstrators carried placards reading, "No Third Runway," "Altitude Sickness" and one of the catchier slogans of modern protest, "We Are Armed Only With Peer-Reviewed Science."
Heh, heh. I love British humor.
From the same article:
Over the last week, an estimated 1,200 activists set up makeshift tents, a fleet of bicycles on loan and a sophisticated recycling center in the Camp for Climate Change near the site of the proposed runway. In addition to preparing for Sunday's showdown, camp leaders conducted workshops on civic activism and environmental science and oversaw a series of earlier protests leading up to Sunday's clashes.
This was a large, well coordinated protest. Besides Heathrow, there was action at other places. From The Guardian:
Demonstrators from the Heathrow Camp for Climate Action today glued themselves to the Department of Transport in the latest action to highlight their protest against the airport.

Around 11 protesters arrived at the building in Horseferry Road, central London, at around 8.15am.

Six superglued their hands to its rotating doors, police said, while another two climbed on top of them with a banner protesting against airport expansion. A further three chained themselves to the doors
. Clever. Also from The Guardian:
Climate change activists who set up a camp at Heathrow airport nine days ago yesterday began to wind down their protests after a second day of civil disobedience which saw financiers, oil and nuclear power companies and even carbon offset firms targeted. In the past week there have been 12 separate actions and 71 arrests.

The climate camp's promised 24 hours of direct action, which began with protests at Heathrow against the aviation industry on Friday evening, spread to protests in Oxford, the City of London and Essex. Targets included organisations which campaigners said were contributing to climate change through their emissions at Heathrow or which they judged were not offering solutions
Here's my favorite story:
Two carbon offset firms staffed by committed environmentalists also found themselves targeted. Climate Care in Oxford was invaded by people dressed as red herrings and the CarbonNeutral Company in London was leafleted. Both offer to "neutralise" the emissions of consumers and companies by investing in projects which lower emissions elsewhere.

"Carbon offsets are ineffective, based on dubious science and lead people to believe they are helping when they are not," said Sophie Nathan, who took part in the CarbonNeutral Company action.
Now I realize that U.S. newspapers usually ignore domestic events in other countries but this particular domestic event involves an issue that affects all of us so maybe that should change.

You can catch up with this story at Google News and YouTube.

Update: H. E. Taylor of GW News has provided a collection of links to coverage, mostly on non-traditional media. I've put the summary here.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Who killed the DSCOVR climate satellite? An experiment in blog-to-traditional media crossover

DeSmogBlog is launching an investigative series into how a NASA satellite called the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) was killed before launch even after 90% of it was done. The DSCOVR satellite is designed to sit at an L1 point, very far from the earth, and measure its energy budget. This can provide a very simple and direct measurement of global warming and also help bound a few important parameters in climate models.

Despite being ready for launch for about 5 years, the satellite has sat in storage. I've always heard this was because it was 1) a climate thing and 2) championed by Al Gore and the Bush administration is just that petty.

DeSmogBlog investigative reporter Mitchell Anderson hints that the oil lobby may have requested that it be killed. In an odd move, DeSmogBlog is asking for donations to support the ongoing (?) investigation in to this story. Don't you want to keep the investigation a secret until the story is done so you don't spook sources? And what if there's no story there? Unlikely, but still....

Anyway, good for DeSmogBlog and I wish them luck. It will be interesting to watch and see if this story makes it in to the traditional media. Blogs are often criticized (unfairly (by the traditional media)) for only feeding off the original reporting of the big papers and news networks. But lefty blog Talking Points Memo is credited with pushing the fired U.S. attorney scandal back in to the traditional media, thus making it a scandal, by a combination of linking and original reporting. It will be interesting to see if DeSmogBlog can accomplish something similar.

Friday, August 31, 2007

There are models and then there are models

Some NASA scientists recently published an article in Journal of Geophysical Research Letters which shows that severe thunderstorms may be more intense in a warmer world.

There's nothing wrong with the article or the science, but I have a quibble with the press release NASA put out about it. It seems to imply that NASA built an entirely new climate model. Consider the opening paragraph:
NASA scientists have developed a new climate model that indicates that the most violent severe storms and tornadoes may become more common as Earth’s climate warms.

Wow! A whole new climate model? NASA sure has been busy! There's more:
Previous climate model studies have shown that heavy rainstorms will be more common in a warmer climate, but few global models have attempted to simulate the strength of updrafts in these storms. The model developed at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies by researchers Tony Del Genio, Mao-Sung Yao, and Jeff Jonas is the first to successfully simulate the observed difference in strength between land and ocean storms and is the first to estimate how the strength will change in a warming climate, including “severe thunderstorms” that also occur with significant wind shear and produce damaging winds at the ground.

I know how hard it is to make a climate model so I didn't think it was really a new model. Indeed the article said that Dr. Genio et al. had simply altered one small part, the convection parameterization, of the NASA GISS Model E which is probably 3-4 years old. Its more accurate to say that Dr. Genio et al. have developed a new model of convection and placed this in the larger model of the global atmosphere. Those two uses of the word "model" are very different. I would expect this distinction to be lost somewhere but not in the NASA press release.

The press release, or slightly re-written versions of it, have shown up in a couple of places so far: ScienceDaily and even Fox News.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

U.S. states continue to lead on global warming

Global warming is expected to be a big topic when Congress returns in September. I continue to believe that Bush won't even sign a bill with weak restrictions on CO2 emissions and lots of loopholes. His position is still "no mandatory cuts".

So leadership will have to continue to come from the states. Some recent coverage:

In Oregon:
Gov. Ted Kulongoski signed the state's first climate change legislation Tuesday, capping what he called the "most momentous legislative session for energy and the environment in more than 30 years in Oregon."

The bill sets ambitious standards for greenhouse gas reduction in Oregon, including reducing greenhouse gas levels by 75 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.

In Maryland:
[Governor] O'Malley signed a bill earlier this year on tightening car emissions and created the Commission on Climate Change. And Mr. Aburn [top air quality official at the Maryland Department of the Environment] also said he expects his boss to continue to take action on global warming.

Standing in front of a bright yellow banner advertising the goals of "at least 20 percent by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050," Mr. Aburn said: "I think the time has come and you're going to see action this year."

Mr. Aburn hinted that even stricter emissions are possible, pointing to the banner and saying, "I'm glad you put the words 'at least' in there.

In California, Attorney General Jerry Brown was suing cities who weren't abiding the state's environmental laws in its development planning:
San Bernardino now sets the pace for how local government can adopt powerful measures to combat oil dependency and climate disruption," Brown said. "This landmark agreement establishes one of the first greenhouse gas reduction plans in California. It is a model that I encourage other cities and counties to adopt."

Approved today by the County Board of Supervisors, today's settlement resolves a lawsuit, filed by the attorney general in April, contesting the adequacy of San Bernardino's general plan under the California Environmental Quality Act.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Bush Administration ordered to produce climate report

A federal judge has ordered the Bush administration to finally produce the two reports about climate change that its required to make under the Global Change Research Act of 1990.

Part of this report was leaked to a couple of reporters in March.

This press release from the Center for Biological Diversity has the details:
The Research Plan and National Assessment required by the Global Change Research Act are intended to be the preeminent documents guiding federal research and policy-making on issues related to global warming. The Research Plan guides all federal climate research, while the National Assessment serves to provide an understandable summary of global warming impacts on the environment, economy, human health and human safety of the United States and is to by used by Congress and federal agencies in setting policy and responding to global warming. The last National Assessment was issued in late 2000 under the Clinton administration. Its use and dissemination was suppressed by the Bush administration, and the required update in 2004 was never produced. The Research Plan was required by law to be updated in 2006 but also has never been produced.

The Court ordered the Bush administration to issue the draft overdue Research Plan by March 1, 2008, with a final 90 days thereafter, and the National Assessment by May 31, 2008.

Coverage by Bloomberg, ABC News, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the Associated Press.

The administration claimed the law gave it lots of discretion on deadlines and the judge flatly rejected that. The administration also said it didn't need to do 2 reports and is instead planning to do 21 little reports over 2 years. Thus minimizing the impact and press coverage, of course. You can see the planned reports and schedule here.

The news articles are all appropriately harsh to the administration. This is mentioned as their second legal setback along with the Supreme Court decision on CO2.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Newsweek editor's pre-apology.

I read Newsweek editor Jon Meacham's "Editor's Desk" note in the issue of Newsweek with the great story on global warming deniers. I found this anecdote interesting:
In the issue of NEWSWEEK dated April 28, 1975—the cover that week, about the pending fall of Saigon, was called "The Last Battle" —the magazine ran what is probably the most-cited single-page story in our history. Headlined the cooling world, it explored worries about a new ice age. Global warming soon led scientists to put such concerns aside, but those who doubt that greenhouse gases are causing significant climate change have long pointed to the 1975 NEWSWEEK piece as an example of how wrong journalists and researchers can be. (If you type NEWSWEEK and global cooling into Google, you get 262,000 hits—not bad for a 33-year-old article.)

Meacham continues to misinterpret this history by saying scientists "put aside" cooling like it was some fad and now the same scientists are talking about warming. This was never more than a handful of scientists' speculations being blown up by the press, e.g. Newsweek. See realclimate for the definitive debunking of this media myth.

But I missed the significance of this odd paragraph in the same note:
We are not saying that it is time for all Americans to give up their cars and bike to work, or that Gore should be canonized or that the board of the Sierra Club should be given emergency powers to run the country.

Well of course you're not. Does a story about the denial industry really need this qualifier?

Luckily, the Daily Howler is long skilled at spotting this kind of journalistic weasel-ness:
But the real must-read in the current Newsweek is Jon Meacham’s weak-kneed “Editor’s Desk,” in which The Parson finds three hundred ways to apologize for running such a piece. Meacham is a genial person, but we’ve long been struck by his lack of spine, a problem which was always clear when he was doing more TV punditry. But this “Editor’s Desk” is an Instant Classic—a portrait of a multimillionaire press corps’ pusillanimity in the face of conservative power.

Sigh. Between the Democratic leadership and traditional media editors, I hope there's enough spines to go around.

Monday, August 20, 2007

The deniers screamed and nobody listened

For the last couple of weeks, the climate blogosphere has been a-buzz with the story of how a small error was spotted, and corrected, in the NASA GISS global temperature record. The correction was very minor and did not alter the global trend (up) at all. See coverage at realclimate, ClimateProgress (reprinting much of an email from James Hansen), and the August 19th edition of GW news.

Here's what's really interesting about this event: despite the coordinated effort from the deniers and their supporters in Rush Limbaugh, Fox News and the Washington Times, this "story" was completely ignored by the traditional media. About all I could find was a mention in the Washington Post, where it was portrayed as a "look at what those bloggers are in a tizzy over now" story. The LA Times also had a brief mention where the change in the data is appropriately described as "negligible" and the blog reaction is a big part of the story.

This non-reaction underscores a point I've been making a lot on this blog: the traditional media have shut the door on the climate deniers. When they're mentioned at all, they are always qualified with their conservative and other agendas. They aren't portrayed as scientists engaged in a legitimate debate.

So what should climate bloggers do? Take a cue from the traditional media reporters: when climate deniers say they have "proof" that GW isn't happening or is a hoax, ignore them. No matter how much they post in your comment section, ignore them. They will only sap your strength and time for the real fight that will begin when Congress returns in the fall: the debate about what to do about global warming.

Update: The paper of record, the New York Times, has weighed in with a story by their main climate reporter, Andrew Revkin. Again the emphasis is on the over-reaction in the blogosphere. There's some interesting words on what James Hansen and Stephen McIntyre agree on (a surprisingly large amount). This passage was interesting in what it didn't say:
Everyone appears also to agree that too much attention is paid to records, particularly given that the difference between 1934, 1998, and several other sets of years in the top 10 warmest list for the United States are so small as to be statistically meaningless.

And who is it that pays all this misleading attention to records? The media, Mr. Revkin.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Speed Matters

Let me take a timeout from climate coverage to address an issue that concerns everyone who uses the internet. Did you know the U.S. is currently ranked 16th in the world in average internet bandwidth to the home? I can remember when the U.S. led the world in internet bandwidth but that was apparently back in the dial-up days.

If we want to grow the online community, one straightforward way to do that is to improve the infrastructure.

A group called is advocating that Congress address the problem of both speed and access. The results from their test on my AT&T DSL line are on the right. Try it yourself at their website and see what you can do to help.

Monday, August 13, 2007

How to report on science: "Its not that hard".

Sharon Begley, the lead reporter on the mostly excellent Newsweek article on the global warming denial industry had an online chat last Wednesday. In it she not only showed a good grasp of the issues but had a good answer for the question of how reporters report on global warming:
White Stone, Va.: How can the responsible media best meet their "fairness/accuracy/'balance'" responsibilities in dealing with climate change deniers?

Sharon Begley: We haven't figured that out, have we? In my case, whether it's climate change or the latest fossil find, I believe that only those who do research in the given field are qualified to comment. Further, I don't think science is like political or social issues, where all views are of equal weight. To the contrary: in science, there really is a 'right' answer, tho it may take time to emerge, and journalists have a duty to tell readers what that answer is likely to be. Me, I don't do he said/she said, but delve into the arguments and see which has empirical merit. It's not that hard.

The question was an odd one, how to fairly deal with deniers (?), but the answer was a very good one on how to report science. Indeed it is not that hard. The deniers, even the few legitimate scientists like Lindzen, don't have the facts on their side. So you don't have to give equal column inches to their "view". I'm not familiar with Ms. Begley's work so I don't know if she's always been this good in reporting on global warming. But why did her fellow reporters do so badly until recently?

The best example of how to deal with deniers is the Newsweek article itself. Ignore them on stories about global warming, since they only lie about it, and instead write articles on their motives for and history of lying. I'm sure there's more great stories there. As Gavin Schmidt recently speculated in a post on Realclimate:
However, there is clearly a latent and deeply felt wish in some sectors for the whole problem of global warming to be reduced to a statistical quirk or a mistake.

Yeah. Why is that? C'mon reporters! Dig!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Newsweek's history of "The Denial Machine"

The August 13th edition of Newsweek has an eye-catching cover with a picture of the sun and the headline "Global Warming is a Hoax*". The asterisk goes on to say "Or so claim well-funded naysayers who still reject the overwhelming evidence of climate change. Inside the denial machine". This excellent article by Sharon Begley (with help from 4 others) gives a history of the denial efforts which started as a response to Jim Hanson's 1988 testimony to Congress and continue through today.

If you are new to this topic and think there's any doubt about global warming, please read this article and see how you've been manipulated. Even if this is all old news, its a good summary.

The article is mostly history but here's a quote about where things stand today:
To some extent, greenhouse denial is now running on automatic pilot. "Some members of Congress have completely internalized this," says Pew [Center for Climate Change]'s [Manik] Roy, and therefore need no coaching from the think tanks and contrarian scientists who for 20 years kept them stoked with arguments
Fortunately, they can still be voted out of office.

Update: Joe over at Climate Progress thinks Newsweek wasn't hard enough. He also think the cover is a little to clever and I agree with that. A lot of people will just read the cover headline and not see the asterisk.

Update II: more on this article from me here and here.