Sunday, November 29, 2015

Guest commentary "Climate change is the world's most pressing issue"
--> The world climate widget.
 -->   The local paper - The Oregonian - recently printed an article (“Is 'climate change' really the world's most pressing problem?”) by Gordon Fulks, who Gish-galloped through distortion, misrepresentation, and outright scientific error, all attempting to persuade the reader that there is no substance to the easy-to-observe relationship between increased levels of CO2 in the atmosphere and increased surface temperatures.

Urban dictionary says this about the Gish gallop:
Named for the debate tactic created by creationist shill Duane Gish, a Gish Gallop involves spewing so much bulls&*t in such a short span on that your opponent can’t address let alone counter all of it. To make matters worse a Gish Gallop will often have one or more 'talking points' that has a tiny core of truth to it, making the person rebutting it spend even more time debunking it in order to explain that, yes, it's not totally false but the Galloper is distorting/misusing/misstating the actual situation. 
This seems the right appellation for Fulks, except that in Fulks’ case, it is very difficult to identify that “tiny core of truth”. His initial statement has a germ of truth in it - "Famed Nobel laureate in physics Richard Feynman".

Fulks does have a doctorate in physics from the University of Chicago's Laboratory for Astrophysics and Space Research. In other settings, Fulks has compared himself to James Hansen, former head of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies at Columbia. He wrote “…The fact that I have the same background in Astrophysics as the Great Global Warming Guru James Hansen, PhD should suggest to them that I might have something intelligent to say…”

Here is the difference: James Hansen has published hundreds of articles on climate science in the peer-review literature. And what of Fulks? Zero. Not a single article on climate science in the peer-reviewed literature. Some expert.

Here are some of Fulks' howlers - I call them "Fulks-tales"
  • “In fact the robust data show no link between man-made CO2 and global temperature.” 
  • “The Minoan, Roman, and Medieval Warm Periods were all warmer than the Modern Warm Period and had nothing to do with our ancestors pulling their chariots with Hummers.” 
  • “…It soon became apparent that [Jagadish] Shukla had diverted a portion of his $63 million in government contract funds to his family.” [OG- This was apparently gleaned from right wing blogs reverberating through the nutosphere, born from a Pielke, Jr. misinterpretation.] 
  • “One can only hope that Paris will finally mark the unraveling of the vast and greedy climate cartel. The world must move on to far more pressing — and real — problems.” 
Here is Jim Diamond's commentary, with figures not included in the published version.
Note: the published article had minor revisions.

Thanks for the commentary, Jim!
- OnymousGuy

In 2001, Linfield College hosted F. Sherwood Rowland, who shared the 1995 Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Paul Crutzen and Mario Molina for their discovery of the chemistry underlying depletion of stratospheric ozone. Sherry Rowland told me that I should develop a course aimed at students majoring in areas outside the sciences, teaching them about stratospheric ozone depletion and global warming. I’ve been teaching that course nearly every year since then.
Enhanced reconstruction by Jos Hagelaars
My students and I have come to conclusions about global warming that are quite different than those of Gordon Fulks. We learned from the scientific literature that the world is warming, and will, over the next century, warm far more than any other time during written history, that greenhouse gases - molecules in the air like CO2 that let visible light pass, but absorb infrared radiation, trapping more of the sun’s energy within the atmosphere – have accumulated more than at any time in millennia, that man’s addition of CO2 to the atmosphere is the main driver of climate change, and that the consequences of climate change will be devastating.

Shaun Marcotte and Jeremy Shakun at Oregon State wrote in 2013 about global warming: “Surface temperature reconstructions of the past 1500 years suggest that recent warming is unprecedented in that time… [IPCC] model projections for 2100 exceed the full distribution of Holocene  [the period since the last ice age] temperature under all plausible greenhouse gas emission scenarios.”
Figure 8.20 from IPCC 5th report WGI.
The link between CO2 and global temperature is well-known. Andy Lacis and Gavin Schmidt and co-workers wrote in 2010: “Ample physical evidence shows that carbon dioxide (CO2) is the single most important climate-relevant greenhouse gas in Earth's atmosphere.”  Yes, water vapor is a greenhouse gas, but water vapor is limited to its equilibrium vapor pressure at a given temperature. Any more, and it condenses – a phenomenon we know well in the Northwest. Direct measurement of infrared absorption by CO2 – an experiment I have repeated many times with my chemistry students – is not affected by the presence of water vapor.

Gordon Fulks wrote in his commentary that Jagadish Shukla of George Mason University (GMU) and the Institute of Global Environment and Society (IGES) had improperly used government funds.  Here is what the Climate Science Legal Defense Fund said: Dr. Shukla told CSLDF that his reported salary levels were “grossly exaggerated.” As a part-time employee of IGES and GMU, he receives partial salaries from both organizations; Dr. Shukla said these part-time salaries have been reported on annual basis, while he is actually paid on a pro rata basis, and “media reports have erroneously combined the two.” There IS no scandal.

This all matters. Carl Wamser, my friend and colleague in the Department of Chemistry at Portland State University, begins every seminar on his research with Rick Smalley’s 2002 list of “Top Ten Problems Facing Humanity over the next 50 Years”: Energy, water, food, environment, poverty, terrorism & war, disease, education, democracy, and population. Rick Smalley, along with Harry Kroto – who also visited Linfield College - and Robert Curl, were awarded the 1996 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their separate contributions to the discovery of fullerenes – Bucky balls –the basis of modern nanoscience.
--> Rick Smalley’s Top Ten Problems  Every problem on Rick Smalley’s list is exacerbated by climate change, affecting our national security and health while threatening the entire world with drought, disease, famine, and strife.

It kills, too. This summer the world saw the wet bulb temperature in Pakistan climb to 33°C ( 92°F), “to the point that evaporation can no longer cool the human body to a natural maintenance temperature of 98.6 (F) or 37 (C)”, killing hundreds if not thousands. The inevitable impact of additional warming will be an increase in the frequency of such deadly heat waves.

This is all quite real, as real as the ground under your feet, not “politics and pseudo-religion.” This is why the climate talks in Paris this December are so important and why climate change is the world’s most pressing issue.

No comments: