Recently what I characterize a partisan op-ed opinion article entitled Alarmist global warming claims melt under scientific scrutiny by James M. Taylor was published by the right leaning tabloid Chicago Sun-Times (June 30, 2007) and desperate for a win on their side the Global Warming Denial crowd has been spreading it around the net proclaiming it proof positive that Al Gore and the Global Warming believers are lying to the public.
In the first paragraph of the article Mr. Taylor writes:
In his new book, The Assault on Reason, Al Gore pleads, “We must stop tolerating the rejection and distortion of science. We must insist on an end to the cynical use of pseudo-studies known to be false for the purpose of intentionally clouding the public’s ability to discern the truth.” Gore repeatedly asks that science and reason displace cynical political posturing as the central focus of public discourse.
I will wholeheartedly echo the sentiment and agree with that in that we need to have “science and reason displace cynical political posturing as the central focus of public discourse.” and I think Mr. Taylor article is the perfect example of one of the forms that biased cynical political posturing takes.
James M. Taylor & The Heartland Institute
James M. Taylor is a “Senior Fellow” for the Heartland Institute. The Heartland Institute is self described as a “Chicago based think tank promoting public policy based on individual liberty, limited government, and free markets.” While advocating against what it describes as “junk science” and for “common-sense environmentalism” they also take on issues as surrogates for Big Tobacco (they lobby for smokers rights, they’re anti-tabacco tax, and they deny the effects of second hand smoke)among other issues(1) In short they seem to me to be a kind of ‘Discovery Institute‘ for the Global Warming Denial cause.
Mr. Taylor is a professional global warming denier. According to his biography (2) he’s a lawyer/legal analyst (3) and lawyers are “trained to represent even losing propositions”. He’s also written a whole pile of Global Warming Denial articles that appear on GlobalWarmingHeartland.org one of the other sites the Heartland institute runs. In particular he’s written one particular article for the Heartland Institute back in November of 2006 entitled Himalayan Glaciers Are Growing … and Confounding Global Warming Alarmists which I will get to comment on in a moment. That one certainly didn’t get as much notice which is perhaps why he for all intents and reasons re-purposed and rewrote that piece again as “Alarmist global warming claims…”.
In this retread article Mr. Taylor writes:
“A cooperative and productive discussion of global warming must be open and honest regarding the science. Global warming threats ought to be studied and mitigated, and they should not be deliberately exaggerated as a means of building support for a desired political position.”
I think whenever you have an article like this where so much focus is placed on man delivering the message, Al Gore, rather than on the science you recognize and see it as the ad hominem political attack that it really is. What “science” Mr. Taylor does reference is either one of his own scientific conclusions or cherry picked sentences that when taken out of their context seem to support his and the Heartland Institutes political position.
When you look at Mr. Taylor’s claim that…
Many of the assertions Gore makes in his movie, ”An Inconvenient Truth,” have been refuted by science, both before and after he made them. Gore can show sincerity in his plea for scientific honesty by publicly acknowledging where science has rebutted his claims.
You can see that those supposed refutations primarily came from the many web sites and publications The Heartland Institute has created to spread disinformation and similar political propaganda organs such as the Competitive Enterprise Institute. It seems Mr. Taylor and the Heartland Institute and their ilk would prefer a policy where we just continued to study things and otherwise stayed the course we are on now rather than take any real action on anything.
The reality is that the continuing scientific research has shot down many of the claims coming from the Global Warming Denial machine and Mr. Taylor’s attack on Al Gore assertions sound like they’re coming from a Baghdad Bob.
Taking a Look at Mr. Taylor Manipulating and Cherry Picking the Science
In Mr. Taylor’s op-ed piece he makes 12 references to scientific research or declarations that he says refute assertion made by Mr. Gore in the film An Inconvenient Truth.
#1 – “Yet the September 2006 issue of the American Meteorological Society’s Journal of Climate reported…” refers to the fifth paragraph in Mr. Taylor’s article which says:
For example, Gore claims that Himalayan glaciers are shrinking and global warming is to blame. Yet the September 2006 issue of the American Meteorological Society’s Journal of Climate reported, “Glaciers are growing in the Himalayan Mountains, confounding global warming alarmists who recently claimed the glaciers were shrinking and that global warming was to blame.”
The quotation “Glaciers are growing in the Himalayan Mountains, confounding global warming alarmists who recently claimed the glaciers were shrinking and that global warming was to blame” does not come in fact come from the American Meteorological Society’s Journal of Climate but in fact comes from another article that Mr. Taylor wrote entitled Himalayan Glaciers Are Growing … and Confounding Global Warming Alarmists. In other words he’s quoting himself as the scientific authority.
There is however an American Meteorological Society’s Journal of Climate article from September 2006 entitled Conflicting Signals of Climatic Change in the Upper Indus Basin. which might be what Mr. Taylor is trying to get us to believe he pulled that quotation from but it’s certainly not from anywhere in there. What that paper does actually say however in one of the points in the conclusions drawn is:
Summer temperature reductions and positive trend
in winter precipitation imply reduced ablation [the removal of snow and ice by melting or evaporation] and
increased accumulation of Karakoram glaciers.
These climatic changes are consistent with the observed
thickening and expansion of glaciers in the
UIB region, in contrast to widespread retreat and decay in the eastern Himalayas.
John Cook on his Skeptical Science: Examining the science of global warming skepticism web site on the Skeptic Argument:Himalayan glaciers are growing page writes on that subject:
The original 2006 study is not refuting global warming (quite the contrary) but observing anomalous behavior in a particular Indian region which has shown short term glacier growth in contrast to the long term, widespread glacier retreat in the rest of the Himalayas. There is no disputing that glaciers are retreating – a 2007 satellite study of Himalayan glaciers has observed “an overall deglaciation of 21%” from 1962 to 2007. Globally, glaciers are shrinking in area and thickness and the melt rate has accelerated dramatically since the mid-1990s. In essence, the 2006 Himalayan study is the exception that proves the rule.
In other words the increased snowfall has allowed the Karakoram glaciers to grow somewhat there is “widespread retreat and decay in the eastern Himalayas“. Mr. Taylor had taken a report that said there is “widespread retreat and decay in the eastern Himalayas” and turned it around saying to the public that it said “Glaciers are growing in the Himalayan Mountains, confounding global warming alarmists who recently claimed the glaciers were shrinking and that global warming was to blame.”
# 2- As to the first reference “Yet according to the November 23, 2003, issue of Nature magazine,…” that appeared in the sixth paragraph as:
Gore claims the snowcap atop Africa’s Mt. Kilimanjaro is shrinking and that global warming is to blame. Yet according to the November 23, 2003, issue of Nature magazine, “Although it’s tempting to blame the ice loss on global warming, researchers think that deforestation of the mountain’s foothills is the more likely culprit. Without the forests’ humidity, previously moisture-laden winds blew dry. No longer replenished with water, the ice is evaporating in the strong equatorial sunshine.”
Comes from a short little 492 word blurb of an article entitled African ice under wraps
Secrets locked in Kilimanjaro’s ice cap need urgent protection (text) by Betsy Mason that appeared probably as interesting filler in the November 24th 2003 of Nature since the focus of it was on the unique, novel, and wild idea of covering the mountain top in a giant tarpaulin to help save it’s ice cap.
Eric Steig (4) a geochemist at the University of Washington in Seattle who’s primary research interest is use of ice core records to document climate variability in writing a piece entitled Tropical Glacier Retreat (May 23rd 2005) writes a little bit more scientifically about the Kilimanjaro glacier retreat criticizing the Heartland Institutes tactics and interpretations saying (the emphases are mine):
….The reports put out by the Heartland Institute (here and here) are typical. The first of these, which came out under the banner “Global Warming Fears Melting,” is headed by a quote from Patrick Michaels starting, “Kilimanjaro turns out to be just another snow job …” and goes downhill from there. All subtlety, tentativeness, context and opposing evidence has been lost. The study is presented as a broadside on one of the central tenets of global warming, in a fashion echoing skeptics’ coverage of the “hockey stick” issue. Even when the work is quoted directly, it is quoted without the context needed to make sense of the claims. Notably, the quote “Mölg and Hardy (2004) show that mass loss on the summit horizontal glacier surfaces is mainly due to sublimation (i.e. turbulent latent heat flux) and is little affected by air temperature through the turbulent sensible heat flux.” is intended to give the impression that air temperature can make no difference, whereas we have seen that the results of [Moelg and Hardy,2004] are compatible with several ways in which air temperature can affect ablation.
The skeptics’ press, especially as echoed in Crichton’s State of Fear states that the Kilimanjaro retreat can have nothing to do with anthropogenic global warming, because it began in the 1880’s, before any appreciable CO2 response is expected. The error in this reasoning was discussed in the previous section. This situation here is reminiscent of the ubiquitous “Little Ice Age” problem. It is a fact of life for attribution studies that the climate changes associated with the end of the Little Ice Age overlap with the beginning of the era of industrial warming. Thus, a graph will always give the superficial impression that the present trends are just a continuation of something that began before human influences were much in the picture, leading one into the fallacy that the causes of the beginning of the trend are the same as those responsible for its continuation.
The Heartland Institute’s propagation of the notion that the Kilimanjaro glacier retreat has been proved to be due to deforestation is even more egregious. They quote “an article published in Nature” by Betsy Mason (“African ice under wraps,” Nature, 24 November, 2003) which contains the statement “Although it’s tempting to blame the ice loss on global warming, researchers think that deforestation of the mountain’s foothills is the more likely culprit.” Elsewhere, Heartland refers to this as a “study.” The “study” is in reality no scientific study at all, but a news piece devoted almost entirely to Euan Nesbit’s proposal to save the Kilimanjaro glacier by wrapping it in a giant tarp. The article never says who the “experts” are, nor does it quote any scientific studies supporting the claim. The Mason news article is what Crichton quotes as “peer reviewed research” proving that it is deforestation, not global warming, which is causing the Kilimanjaro glaciers to retreat. (George Monbiot’s article in The Guardian documents a similar case of systematic misrepresentation of glacier data by skeptics.)
As Eric Steig infers in his article while Nature is an eminent magazine of science if you look at the African Ice Under Wraps article text you’ll see we don’t know who did, or how much, science was done in the article which really wasn’t focused on the cause of the melt but on the unique and wild idea of putting a “tarp” over the mountain to stop the melt. Interestingly too in the abstract to that article on the Nature Journals web site it says:
Secrets locked in Kilimanjaro’s ice cap need urgent protection. The celebrated ice cap on Africa’s loftiest peak could vanish within 20 years, taking with it a unique scientific resource.
Douglas R. Hardy, a climatologist at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst has said in looking at Kilimanjaro: “There’s a tendency for people to take this temperature increase and draw quick conclusions, which is a mistake, the real explanations are much more complex. Global warming plays a part, but a variety of factors are really involved.” Hardy doesn’t totally dismiss global warming as having some effect but thinks that less moisture to be pumped into the atmosphere due to forest reduction and as a consequence of that less precipitation to replenish the Kilimanjaro glaciers are the predominant human influenced effect on the climate there.(5)
Mr. Taylor however taken little comment from within a tiny filler article from the Journal Nature and it sound like it was taken from an article of scientific research on the climate in the Kilimanjaro region which it wasn’t. And the same author of that little November 2003 article, Betsy Mason is also the author of May 2006 a more significant article entitled Global Warming Could Be Worse Than Predicted, Research Shows.
#3 – Yet the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change stated in February that there has been no scientific link established between global warming and tornadoes…. reference comes in the seventh paragraph and says:
Gore claims global warming is causing more tornadoes. Yet the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change stated in February that there has been no scientific link established between global warming and tornadoes.
Looking through that whole IPCC Report I found it doesn’t say “no scientific link established between global warming and tornadoes” but instead says that:
“Observational evidence for changes in small-scale severe weather phenomena (such as tornadoes, hail and thunderstorms) is mostly local and too scattered
to draw general conclusions; increases in many areas
arise because of increased public awareness and improved efforts to collect reports of these phenomena.” (AR4WG1_Pub_FAQs.pdf pg.15)
In other words the data on tornados is too local and too scattered to draw a definitive conclusion one way or the other at this time. Mr. Taylor’s made his statement sound like the IPCC has conclusively ruled out any link between global warming and tornadoes which is just not that case at all.
#4,5 & 6 Appear in the eighth paragraph, related to tornadoes in that it is another form of “severe weather”, Mr. Taylor then writes about hurricanes :
Gore claims global warming is causing more frequent and severe hurricanes. However, (4) hurricane expert Chris Landsea published a study on May 1 documenting that hurricane activity is no higher now than in decades past. (5) Hurricane expert William Gray reported just a few days earlier, on April 27, that the number of major hurricanes making landfall on the U.S. Atlantic coast has declined in the past 40 years . (6) Hurricane scientists reported in the April 18 Geophysical Research Letters that global warming enhances wind shear, which will prevent a significant increase in future hurricane activity.
The same IPCC report I just mentioned says “Tropical storm and hurricane frequencies
vary considerably from year to year, but evidence suggests substantial increases in intensity and duration since the 1970s.” and goes on to later say regarding extreme weather events that “extreme events usually result from a combination of factors” and therefore it is “not simple to detect a human influence on a single, specific extreme event.” But “Nevertheless, it may be possible to use climate models to determine whether human influences have changed the likelihood
of certain types of extreme events.”
Mr. Landsea disagrees with that conclusion and instead echoes the opinion expressed regarding tornados in that there is not enough data available on hurricanes to conclusively make that judgment at this time and withdrew from authorship of the report because of that disagreement.
As for Colorado State University’s William Gray while perhaps the world most well known and visible hurricane expert but from my own observation he is also something ideologue (he’s often prone to quote and praise Senator Inhofe) so I always take anything he says with a grain of salt (see Gray and Muddy Thinking about Global Warming). Like Mr. Taylor to me Mr. Gray seems more interested in attacking the messenger Al Gore than the logic of the science and scientists whose thinking Al Gore is giving voice to. In Mr. Gray’s writing and oral comments to the general public instead of giving us the logic and reasoning for his own thinking he often uses expressions such as “I’ve been a meteorologist for 50 years…” assuming we should then just take on faith without question what he has to say solely because of that.
While I was unable to find any reference to Mr. Gray writing or saying “…that the number of major hurricanes making landfall on the U.S. Atlantic coast has declined in the past 40 years” but I also have no real reason to doubt that figure either but the point is with regard to Mr. Taylor using that reference in his op-ed is it is irrelevant.
The problem is not ‘U.S. Warming’ it is ‘Global Warming’. Mr. Taylor did not quote Mr. Gray saying “that the number of major hurricanes making landfall WORLDWIDE has declined in the past 40 years” and even then isn’t the number of hurricanes making landfall anywhere a chance roll of the dice based on the weather patterns at the time the hurricane or tropical storm in question is formed?
Regardless of any other science and information linking or not linking hurricanes and global warming the number of hurricanes making landfall is absolutely irrelevant as to the issue of whether global warming is taking place.
As for “Hurricane scientists reported in the April 18 Geophysical Research Letters that global warming enhances wind shear, which will prevent a significant increase in future hurricane activity.“ I believe that ultimately refers to the paper Increased tropical Atlantic wind shear in model projections of global
Gabriel A. Vecchi and Brian J. Soden that was distributed at one point by the American Geophysical Union.
A recent paper by Vecchi and Soden (preprint) published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters has been widely touted in the news (and some egregiously bad editorials), and the blogosphere as suggesting that increased vertical wind shear associated with tropical circulation changes may offset any tendencies for increased hurricane activity in the tropical Atlantic due to warming oceans. Some have even gone so far as to state that this study proves that recent trends in hurricane activity are part of a natural cycle. Most of this is just ‘spin’ (pun intended), but as usual, the real story is a little more nuanced.
We have commented on the connections between hurricanes and climate change frequently in the past (see e.g. here, here, here, and here). The bottom line conclusion has consistently remained that, while our knowledge of likely future changes in hurricanes or tropical cyclones (TCs) remains an uncertain area of science, the observed relationship between increased intensity of TCs and rising ocean temperatures appears to be robust (Figure 1). There is nothing in this latest article that changes that.
Even Soden in speaking of his own research paper has said:
“This certainly isn’t the last word on global warming,” Soden said. “There’s a lot of debate about how clearly they’re (connected). There will be a lot more research on this.”
He also said it’s not yet possible to tell how much the increased wind shear will offset the strength of storms strengthened by higher ocean temperatures. (Global warming may spawn wind shear able to hobble hurricanes, study finds by Tim O’Meilia
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer Wednesday, April 18, 2007)
It’s been noticed by others far smarter than me that the Global Warming Skeptics actually tended to disagree more with each other than with the scientists that actually believe in global warming and the issue of Hurricanes and wind shear is a classic example case of that too.
The paper states that the increase in water temperature created by global warming that tends to help spawn hurricanes is mitigated by the increase in wind shear created by global warming. In both events global warming is the root cause so if you are going to use that paper in a claim that you make it can’t be that global warming doesn’t exist or take place. I wonder just what is Mr. Talyor’s overarching opinon on Global Warming? That it doesn’t exist or that it isn’t anthropogenic in origin?
#7 – However, the Sept. 16, 2002, issue of New Scientist reports…reference refers to the 9th paragraph
Gore claims global warming is causing an expansion of African deserts. However, the Sept. 16, 2002, issue of New Scientist reports, “Africa’s deserts are in ‘spectacular’ retreat . . . making farming viable again in what were some of the most arid parts of Africa.”
Mr. Taylor cites the New Scientist article Africa’s deserts are in “spectacular” retreat. as if that isolated case is in and of itself is a good thing? John Cook again on this on his Skeptical Science: Examining the science of global warming skepticism web site answers mr. taylor directly in writing:
a quick look at the actual article shows that Taylor’s cut-n-paste egregiously misrepresented the contents of the article. First, the “spectacular retreat” was confined to the “Sahel region of the southern edge of the Saharan desert,” and that no consensus for the retreat existed. A possible reason for the recovery of the desert, according to the article, was improved farming and irrigation methods. Even if the recovery of the desert were due to increased rainfall in the region, it’s scientifically irresponsible to judge larger patterns by a small sample size — in this case, a specific region. All other reports show that the size of deserts world-wide is rapidly increasing, including the Sahara Desert’s creep northwards. (Skeptical Science: Skeptic Arguments: Deserts are retreating)
#8 & 9- refers to the 10th paragraph:
Gore argues Greenland is in rapid meltdown, and that this threatens to raise sea levels by 20 feet. But according to (8) a 2005 study in the Journal of Glaciology, “the Greenland ice sheet is thinning at the margins and growing inland, with a small overall mass gain.”(9) In late 2006, researchers at the Danish Meteorological Institute reported that the past two decades were the coldest for Greenland since the 1910s.
#10, 11, & 12- And the U.N. Climate Change panel reported in February 2007 that Antarctica is unlikely to lose any ice mass during the remainder of the century….reference refers to the 11th and second to last paragraph
Gore claims the Antarctic ice sheet is melting because of global warming. Yet (10) the Jan. 14, 2002, issue of Nature magazine reported Antarctica as a whole has been dramatically cooling for decades. More recently,(11) scientists reported in the September 2006 issue of the British journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society Series A: Mathematical, Physical, and Engineering Sciences, that satellite measurements of the Antarctic ice sheet showed significant growth between 1992 and 2003. And (12) the U.N. Climate Change panel reported in February 2007 that Antarctica is unlikely to lose any ice mass during the remainder of the century.
- SourceWatch.org: Heartland Institute
- Heartland.org Speaker Bio James M. Taylor
- ExxonSecrets.org Factsheet James M. Taylor
- Real Climate: Biography: Eric Steig
- Mount Kilimanjaro’s Glacier Is Crumbling;
National Geographic Adventure;
September 23, 2003
- ExxonSecrets.org Factsheet Heartland Institute
- Op-Ed Or Op-Lie? The HuffingtonPost July 2nd 2007
- Skeptical Science: Examining the science of global warming skepticism: Skeptic Arguments
- Science & Non-Science Concerning Human-Caused Climate Warming;
J. D. Mahlman;
Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory/ NOAA, Princeton University
- RaisingKaine: Big Oil and General Motors Still Going After Gore
The Articles cited by Mr. Taylor in his article:
- American Meteorological Society’s Journal of Climate:September 2006:
Conflicting Signals of Climatic Change in the Upper Indus Basin
- Nature Magazine: African ice under wraps;
SUMMARY: Secrets locked in Kilimanjaro’s ice cap need urgent protection.
CONTEXT: …believes that the ice can be saved Ã¢Â€Â” by covering it with a giant tarpaulin. Tanzania’s ice-crowned Mount Kilimanjaro is not only a top tourist attraction and a national symbol. Its frozen cap, gradually deposited over millennia,…
- Increased Tropical Atlantic Wind Shear in Model Projections of Global Warming
Gabriel A. Vecchi and Brian J. Soden
Other Criticsm of Mr. Taylors Article