The following article, by Ms. Julie Johnstone, referencing an article I wrote which appeared in the Islands Independent, was posted on 16 September 2011, on www.greenhearted.org a website co-authored by Ms. Johnstone. My “rebuttals” to her blog are in italics below. Enjoy this diatribe….
In Response to a Global Warming Denialist’s Drivel, Untruths and Outright Fabrications in My Local Paper
(Eric’s note – See my article – click here) You know, the most labour-intensive part of responding to denialists is that they can say (and seem to get away with saying) whatever they want with impunity (using, by the way, hollow aphorisms repeated ad nauseum in the internet’s echo chamber by other denialists who refuse to see what’s happening around the world or just don’t give a damn about others).
But the scientists and others who are trying to explain the science always feel they have to make sure that every single tiny little weeny detail is backed up with references — or the likes of the mean-spirited old codger I’m responding to here will jump on it, using more flippant nonsense gleaned from denialist blogs and websites.
Here, then, is my detailed response, even though I would rather have spent my time on doing what’s right for the children of all species. (But then, maybe this constant recorrecting is what’s called for to ensure them a climate-safe future….)
1. Some warm periods in the last 12,000 years were warmer than today?
It is now generally accepted by paleoclimatologists and other scientists that the Medieval Warm Period (or Medieval Climate Anomaly), from 950 to 1250 A.D., saw some regions slightly warmer than today’s warmed world, but it was not a global phenomenon like today’s global warming is. For more info, see the composite graph below and http://www.bioone.org/doi/abs/10.1579/0044-7447-29.1.51.
Eric’s Rebuttal –
Visit this interactive website and check out for yourself whether it appears the MWP was regional, or occurred around the globe, or, is now “generally accepted.” No “consensus” on this question:
2. An ice age in the planet’s near future? No, sir. Not if we continue adding heat-radiating greenhouse gases to the atmosphere at an ever-increasing rate. According to the laws of physics, that is.
Eric’s Rebuttal: This is utter nonsense and ignores historical shifts in temperature far beyond the possible influence of CO2. This indicates just how biased the author is, ignoring basic science. I challenge her to provide credible scientific references which argue in favour of her point.
3. We’re far past the days of scientific consensus on whether man-made CO2 is actually responsible? Actually, the scientific consensus on anthropogenic global warming (AGW) came about as the weight of more and more evidence showed that humans are causing current warming with their increasing emissions of greenhouse gases. For more info, see http://www.skepticalscience.com/global-warming-scientific-consensus.htm. (“There are no national or major scientific institutions anywhere in the world that dispute the theory of anthropogenic climate change. Not one.”)
Eric’s Rebuttal: – For a number of years the word “consensus” was used by warmists to suggest there was no longer any debate necessary on the science of climate change, and that there were no credible scientist opposed to the CO2 theory. This has been shown to be utter nonsense. Over 31,000 American scientists (including over 9,000 PhD’s) alone have signed the following petition:
These scientists certainly don’t believe there is a “consensus,” and, nearly 6 out of every 10 Americans now doubt there’s any “consensus” on the theory.
4. “Global warming” has given way to “climate change”? And the insinuation is …? The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was set up in 1988. Perhaps you were trying to say that warming the atmosphere leads to changes in climate, which is correct.
Eric’s Rebuttal: – Actually I was referring to the fact that alarmists, such as Al Gore, have stopped using the term “global warming” and now refer to anything they want to blame on weather as “climate change.” The vernacular change is primarily due to the fact that temperature/warming hasn’t kept up with computer predictions, so, it is easier to avoid the question altogether and just say things like sea levels are rising or there are more hurricanes, etc. due to “climate change.” The climate, like the weather has always, and will always, “change” so, Ms. Johnstone’s, et al, argument is “who can argue with that?” The problem is the hundreds of things blamed on man made “climate change” could also be blamed on natural climate change. Its just that alarmists have a tendency to blame any extreme weather event on man made climate change.
5. Average temperature appears to have slightly declined over the past decade? No, the temperature trend is still upwards (with 2005 and 2010 tied as the hottest years on record). For more info, see the NASA graph (Goddard Institute for Space Studies) below, or http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2011/20110112_globalstats.html.
Eric’s Rebuttal: – Cherry picking another graph, from another time period to try make an argument is fine in Ms. Johnstone’s world I suppose, but, what I said was the last ten years are trending down. That is a true statement. Why avoid the truth? Possibly because she can’t explain it, or, like Mann and others, prefers to sidestep the issue.
6. Prompting scientists to “hide the decline”? Talk about something taken out of context! One email, written by one climate scientist, has been skewed so many different ways, it’s farcical. He was talking about an anomalous decline in northern tree ring growth starting about 1960, not global temperature. For a better explanation, see http://www.skepticalscience.com/Mikes-Nature-trick-hide-the-decline.htm.
Eric’s Rebuttal: – This is proof Ms. Johnson while knowing what “hide the decline” actually referred to, belittles it’s meaning. Go to http://climateaudit.org/2009/12/10/ipcc-and-the-trick/ for a thorough analysis of the issue. In a nutshell, when the lead researchers involved noted that the tree ring data (red line on the following graph) diverged from the “consensus view” of warming, they truncated the data series (green line), then effectively hid it by plotting it with other time series. The larger question is this: If the truncated (red) data series was deemed to be “wrong” why did they include it as being representative of pre-1960 temperatures?
7. I always like to hand it to denialists when they’ve got something right. Computer projections aren’t always correct (when compared to observations). Unfortunately, for the most part they have failed to predict how quickly the warming and other disturbing trends are actually happening. However, “surface temperature observations are well within the range of model projections,” “the observed rate of sea level rise is at the upper limit of the IPCC’s projected range,” and “the end-of-summer extent of Arctic sea ice is plummeting far more rapidly than … IPCC models predicted.” For more info, see: http://www.skepticalscience.com/christy-crock-4-observations-match-models.html.
But to say that “every computer prediction of global warming from warming enthusiasts shows smooth upward curves in temperature, not declines, or fluctuations” is sheer fabrication. (See NASA graph in #5 above, for example.)
Eric’s Rebuttal: – Once again Ms. Johnstone refuses to read what I actually said – “every computer prediction of global warming.” What is it about the word “prediction” that makes her think I meant actual recorded/reported temperature?
8. As greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere have increased (we’re over 390 parts per million of CO2 right now, and we started at 290 in the pre-industrial era), global average temperature has increased. So to ask “Why then, if CO2 has continued to rise, has our temperature not followed suit like it’s supposed to?” is disingenuous at best, because temperature has followed suit.
Eric’s Rebuttal: – Except for the past 10 years….and for the other temperature fluctuations which have occurred since 1950, or since after the Industrial Revolution – take your pick, there’s just so many.
9. “Could it be that computer models are deficient in raw data input?” Climatologists actually study and know about “the myriad of factors that affect this world’s climate.” Really, they do! But no, they probably can’t include every single one in every single climate projection model. But, for example, they now know that temperature increase over the last three decades cannot be attributed to solar activity. For more info, visit http://www.skepticalscience.com/solar-activity-sunspots-global-warming.htm or watch http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Sf_UIQYc20&feature=player_embedded.
Eric’s Rebuttal: – At least Ms. Johnstone acknowledges, albeit grudgingly, that computer models do not take into account all factors. However, she immediately dismisses “solar activity.” Solar activity not only refers to irradiance, but also to magnetic output, which, as the latest news from CERN indicates may have an effect on cloud formation and hence on climate.. It is interesting to note that a 2% change in cloud cover would balance off all alleged man made warming. This indicates just how important (a) the preliminary science coming out of CERN, and (b) the sun’s role in cloud formation.
10. The writer stopped being puzzled long ago about “why weathermen can’t even successfully predict next week’s local weather accurately.” That’s nice. But he also — as denialists often do — seems to be confusing weather (day to day changes) with climate (which is all about long-term trends).
Eric’s Rebuttal: – Excuse me, but I’m not confused. My comment was making an analogy between weathermen and predictive climatologists. I apologize for not being clearer. Ms. Johnstone, when she speaks of “climate” appears to think that “climate” is a worldwide phenomenon, when in fact “climate” is “regional.” There is no such thing as the “Earth’s climate.”
11. “Over the past few years governments have bowed to the political pressure of environmentalists concerned over greenhouse gasses and they’ve passed new regulations and taxes aimed at reducing CO2 emissions.” Yes, and thank goodness for that! Tragically, not nearly enough of this has happened. It’s been suggested that a $300 per ton tax on carbon would help turn the economic momentum around almost overnight, heading us toward a safer, cleaner, healthier, more equitable and more peaceful zero-carbon economy. But who’s fighting that? Yup, the denialists.
Eric’s Rebuttal: – OK. Let’s talk about “denial” and who is actually a “denier” of facts. It is completely irrational to suggest you could actually implement a $300 per ton tax worldwide. There is no way China or India are about to significantly reduce (a) their carbon output, or (b)the increase in standard of living they are beginning to enjoy..
The graph below shows, at the developing world’s estimated rate of growth, the expected increase in CO2 emissions. What is interesting, is that our emissions (Canada/US) are already decreasing. However, to add a burden of $300 per ton tax would cripple our already fragile economy.
It would appear Ms. Johnstone believes “reduction at any cost” is called for. In that regard we certainly disagree on carbon tax..
12. “However, when it comes to the facts of proposals for those reductions including Kyoto, Copenhagen, and others, the political/environmental machinations regarding CO2 are shown to be nothing more than a surrealistic smoke and mirrors show.” Ah, speaking of dense fog. The surrealism actually lies in the miniscule response of governments to the greatest threat ever to face the existence of the human species. It creates cognitive dissonance for people (“I hear it’s an emergency, but I see my leaders doing nothing about it”), which in turn leads to even less political will to do the right thing for our children.
Eric’s Rebuttal: – See Point #11.
13. “I want to make it clear, I am opposed to pollution.” That’s nice. But the writer then goes on to say “However, CO2 is not a pollutant…. Without it, plants would die and stop producing the oxygen you and I so appreciate….” Why can people who appear concerned about pollution not understand that if you trap enough CO2, methane, nitrous oxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, the result will be deleterious? Just like the impacts of pollution. No one wants to take all the CO2 away! We just want to get the emission and concentration of it down to levels that won’t lead to global warming and climate disruption. (Am I allowed to say “Duh!” yet?)
Eric’s Rebuttal: – While the CO2/warming theory is yet to be proven, take a few minutes and get a perspective on what 180% increase in CO2 may actually accomplish:
And, remember, increased plant growth = increase carbon sequestration for those of you who pray for greater sequestration.
14. I’m going to ignore his nasty rhetoric about China and India. Yes, they’re developing. And if we’d kept the promise we made when we signed onto the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change back in 1992, they would all be developing in zero-carbon —or at least carbon neutral — ways. So to blame them now is really mean. (Enjoy your daily shower while you can, sir. Water will soon enough become so valuable, you won’t have that luxury.)
Eric’s Rebuttal: – What nasty rhetoric???? I was not “blaming” anyone, let alone the developing countries. What I was saying was I wasn’t blaming them for wanting the same standard of living as I have. How Ms. Johnstone twisted this one around is beyond me.
15. And what’s with throwing in a complete red herring critique of the UN’s Agenda 21? Because the world is urbanizing (over half of us now live in cities, and the percentage is growing all the time), Agenda 21 suggested “sustainable urbanization,” NOT a “protocol for the urbanization of the planet.” Sheesh, dude. You sure are grasping at straws!
Eric’s Rebuttal: – Difference of opinion here on a large topic – Agenda 21. Perhaps we can debate that one sometime in the future. However, if we look what is happening closer to home we find more and more regulations reducing property owners’ rights in the name of over protecting the environment to the point (e.g.- the recent Salt Spring Riparian Area Regulation proposal), of requiring a professional biologist’s report on the impact of development on ditches.
16. Then he accuses people who understand the climate change emergency of “manipulated, exaggerated, fear mongering, child scaring, doomsday scenarios.” Let me take each of these in turn:
Manipulate – This is what denialists do to data that shows global warming due to increased CO2 emissions actually exists; it’s called “cherry-picking” and we know they do it because they keep accusing the “other side” of doing it. (This is a psychological defence mechanism called projection, which involves taking one’s own unacceptable qualities or feelings and ascribing them to other people.)
Eric’s Rebuttal: – Examples – Mann manipulated temperature charts by “hiding the decline,” Pauchauri and Gore manipulate the media by telling lie after lie after lie, and cherry picking data happens just as often from alarmists as it does from anywhere else – Ms. Johnstone’s depiction of the Medieval Warm Period above is a good example.
Exaggerate – The sad part of this accusation is that we’re NOT exaggerating! Overheating the oceans and the atmosphere really could devastate the habitability of this planet!
Eric’s Rebuttal – Computer predictions, which have been proven incapable of reverse predictions, are being used to exaggerate reality. Yes, overheating of the planet could be disastrous, but, there is no conclusive evidence this will occur. Exaggerations which the IPCC have been involved in include – (a) Himalayan glacier melt, (b) 40% of Amazon rainforest in jeopardy, (c) increase in storms, (d) temperature records in the US, to name just a few. This past year sea levels were down slightly, the ten year temperature trend is down, sunspot activity is down, the potential influence of each additional molecule of CO2 in the atmosphere is less than the previous molecule.
Fear mongering – People call us alarmists, but you’re not an alarmist if you’re raising the alarm about something that’s alarming! We’re not creating needless worry or panic — though we wish we were! (Do you see worry or panic anywhere?) Fear mongering is the use of fear to influence the opinions and actions of others towards some specific end. But we’re not using fear, we’re telling people the impacts of continuing to burn fossil fuels — and those impacts are scary.
Eric’s Rebuttal – There is a big difference in reporting “the bridge is out” as opposed to claiming, with the same ferocity, “we think the bridge may be out soon.” Exaggerations used by Al Gore (as he has openly admitted) are purposefully intended to scare people.
Child scaring – This is a low blow, designed to turn people against anyone who actually cares about children and their future! I never talk to anyone younger than 12 (or a mature 11 year old) about climate change (and most of them don’t care anyway, just like their parents). If younger children ask me, I lie and tell them there are lots of adults looking after the problem for them. I hate having to lie. And, frankly, I hate people who are quite blithely blighting the children’s future by living their own lives with no sense of responsibility toward the future.
Eric’s Rebuttal – While Ms. Johnstone may be an exception, she cannot claim ignorance of the fact that people like Raffi and others are getting their message into elementary schools, and certainly to those younger than 11 years old. Take for example this article (http://chalcedon.edu/research/articles/humanist-doomsday-myth-scares-children/) which indicates “1 out 3 children ages 6-11 years old fear that the planet won’t exist when they grow up…” I can’t find any evidence of Ms. Johnstone warning, advising or admonishing anyone on her website (directed at educational professionals) regarding the issue of scaring children.
Doomsday scenarios – My gosh, but were it not so! But if the shoe fits the scenario …. The end of life on the planet is, well, pretty doomy and gloomy. A diagnosis of cancer is doomy and gloomy, too, but doctors have to tell their patients the truth nonetheless.
Eric’s Rebuttal – So, start wearing a “The World Is Coming To An End” t-shirt (but please don’t let the children see it.) At every turn of human civilization there have been doomsayers, and Ms. Johnstone’s group are now likely the largest – perhaps apart from those who still believe in Armageddon.
17. And now the writer shows both his true colours (one of his compatriots once told me that Canadians would rather die comfortable than live uncomfortable) and his lack of understanding and imagination for solutions to the climate crisis. “Until then [until someone can show him how changing our EuroAmerican lifestyles will actually make a significant difference — selfish bastard!], I plan to continue showering in the mornings, keep driving to work in my gas dependent automobile, buy food from here, there and everywhere, fight carbon taxation, and keep wondering how we’re all going to stay warm, without carbon, when winter inevitably comes.”
Did I mention “selfish bastard” yet? And I suppose he’s never heard of solar power, passive solar, solar photovoltaic, solar thermal (for all those showers he thinks he needs), wind power, tidal power, wave power, geothermal energy? Nope, guess not. All he can picture doing is what he’s always done: burn, burn, burn.
I know, I know, this is a blog about compassionate climate action. But my patience and my compassion wear very thin with people like this. I guess I already mentioned “selfish bastards,” did I?
Eric’s Rebuttal – OK Ms. Johnstone, please tell us all, because I’m dying to know how your lifestyle is so dramatically different than mine – (a) do you not shower or bathe in hot water? (b) do you or Peter drive a car or ride in one from time to time? (c) how much carbon does it take to make the food you eat every day? (d) have you flown in a plane in the last 5 years, (e) do you use toilet paper? (f) the clothes and shoes you wear took how much carbon to produce? (g) the computer you took how much carbon to make? or (h) make one up and fill in the blank -________________________________
My guess is Ms. Johnstone’s lifestyle is not as “holier than thou” than as one might expect from reading her response to my article.
Her assumptions that I don’t think solar power, passive solar, solar photovoltaic, solar thermal, wind power, tidal power, wave power, or geothermal energy are all good and wonderful things, is completely wrong. She also didn’t mention my favourite potential energy source – magnetic energy.
Concluding remarks – Within the past week Ms. Johnstone has called me “a selfish bastard,” (with “selfish” scrawled graphically in what looks like blood), a “progenycidist” (sic? I’m guessing she must have meant pro-genocidist), a “mean spirited old codger,” and, has alleged I must have paid the Islands Independent editor to print my article. Did I mention she called me a “selfish bastard?”
These remarks coming from a self-styled “compassionate” person, are all either exaggerations, libel or lies – (a) My parents were married when I was born – hence no-bastard status, (b) I am a pro-lifer – hence I am certainly no pro-genocidist, (c) as my friends and acquaintances, and even opponents, will tell you, I’m not mean, or selfish, (d) I’m a young 59, and I still rollerblade and play hacksack with kids 1/3 of my age – hardly what someone of Ms. Johnstone’s own age group should refer to as being either “old” or “codger(ly),” and (e) I have never had to pay anyone to publish my numerous articles, letters or columns. Combined, her allegations perhaps reveal more about Ms. Johnstone’s lack of character or lack of knowledge (a terrible thing for an educator to be lacking) of me, more than anything else.
And, while I’m sure I could come up with a variety of adjectives/slurs describing her as well, being a gentleman, and thick skinned (3 years in local politics will do that), I won’t…at least not this time around. I’d prefer to debate, not name call, which is what scientific skeptics worldwide would prefer to do with alarmists. Now, if only we could only convince our critics that scientific debate is healthy, even for children…I’m afraid that it may be a cold day in hell before that happens, or perhaps a couple of cold decades on earth…winter is coming….