BBC:

Water company figures show that London and the Thames Valley have received below-average rainfall for 18 of the last 23 months.

The amount of water in the River Lee, which runs through Hertfordshire and north east London, is only 24% of its usual level while the Kennet is only 31% of its average level.

Southern Water has applied for a drought permit to enable it to restock Bewl Water reservoir in Kent, which is only 41% full.

Guardian:

Drought may be the new norm for the UK, with drastic measures including growing genetically modified crops likely to be considered as part of the solution, the environment secretary has said.

With large parts of the south and south-east of England officially in drought, and areas of the Midlands at risk, Caroline Spelman warned that households across the south-east were likely to face water usage restrictions this spring, starting with hosepipe bans. Reservoirs have reached record lows in some places and rainfall would need to be more than a fifth higher than normal in the next three months to relieve the drought, but forecasters have said this is unlikely.

“Two very dry winters – this may be the new norm,” the secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs told the National Union of Farmers annual conference on Tuesday. “We asked the question at the drought summit [on Monday] – what if this is what climate change means and this is the new normal?”

Pot, Meet Kettle

February 21, 2012

An open letter from Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility and the Climate Science Legal Defense Fund to the Heartland Institute:

February 21, 2012

Ms. Maureen Martin
General Counsel
The Heartland Institute
One South Wacker Drive #2740 Chicago, IL 60606

Dear Ms. Martin:

As a community that has been through similar invasions of our privacy, we understand what you are going through. We were struck by the eloquence of your words in describing your situation. We could not think of a better way to describe our feelings than with the words you’ve crafted.

Forgive us for taking the following paragraphs from your website and recent letters to members of the blogger and journalistic community, but as it is often said imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

In November 2009 groups posted online several documents they claimed were the emails of climate scientists. These documents were stolen from Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia.

Disagreement over the causes, consequences, and best policy responses to climate change runs deep. We understand that.

But honest disagreement should never be used to justify the criminal acts and fraud that occurred. As a matter of common decency and journalistic ethics, we ask everyone in the climate change debate to sit back and think about what just happened. Those persons who posted these documents and wrote about them before we had a chance to comment on their authenticity should be ashamed of their deeds, and their bad behavior should be taken into account when judging their credibility now and in the future.

Furthermore, the Climate Science Legal Defense Fund views the malicious and fraudulent manner in which the Climatic Research Unit documents were obtained and/or thereafter disseminated, as well as the repeated blogs about them, as providing the basis for civil actions against those who obtained and/or disseminated them and blogged about them. The Climate Science Legal Defense Fund fully intends to pursue all possible actionable civil remedies to the fullest extent of the law.

We respectfully ask the Heartland Institute, all activists, bloggers, and other journalists to immediately remove all of these documents and any quotations taken from them, from their blogs, Web sites, and publications, and to publish retractions.

Cordially,

Scott A. Mandia & Joshua Wolfe
Climate Science Legal Defense Fund: “Protecting the Scientific Endeavor”

Jeff Ruch
PEER Executive Director

Ace researcher John Mashey, whose indispensable investigation into the anti science movement’s leading players and finances has now been posted online, concurrent with release of internal documents from the anti-science “think” tank, Heartland Institute.

Among the gems John has rediscovered, a 1999 love letter (and boot licking appeal for funding) from Heartland chairman Joe Bast to the Phillip Morris Tobacco company. This document is among the trove of materials released thru the tobacco lawsuits of the 90s, and is available in the Tobacco Legacy Library online – so there’s no way for Heartland to run from this further evidence of their dark history. It’s another key bit of evidence showing the tobacco funded roots of the climate denial industry.

The letter is from Bast to Roy Marden, a Phillip Morris executive, and member of the Heartland board. Marden had apparently invited Bast to solicit further funds from the tobacco giant.

Dear Roy:

Thank you for inviting me to request renewed general operating support for The Heartland Institute for 1999.1 note that Philip Morris contributed $5,000 last August (for a Gold Table at our annual benefit) and $25,000 in October (general operating support). It also has allowed you to serve on our Board of Directors, which has produced many positive results for the entire organization.

The letter goes on to extoll Heartland’s tireless efforts to assist the tobacco industry in their sale of death dealing, addictive substances to children and adults around the planet.

Because Heartland does many things that benefit Philip Morris’ bottom line, things that no other organization does, I hope you will consider boosting your general operating support this year to $30,000 and once again reserve a Gold Table for an additional $5,000.

We genuinely need your financialsupport. Maybe by the end of this letter you’ll agree that we merit even greater support; I certainly hope so!

Jeff Biggers, Huffington Post:

As millions of pounds of explosives from mountaintop removal strip mining operations continue to devastate historic mountain communities in central Appalachia, a powerful new music video released this week by the beloved American Roots band Magnolia Mountain captures the haunting grief and stories of stricken families in America’s cradle of roots and country music.

Driven by Mark Utley’s banjo licks and Magnolia Mountain’s effortlessly haunting and plaintive harmonies, “The Hand of Man” joins the pantheon of classic mountain ballads and mining tunes, including Kentucky legend Jean Ritchie’s “Black Waters” and John Prine’s timeless paean to his family’s demise in western Kentucky to Peabody coal, “Paradise,” and 2/3 Goat’s recent metrobilly hit, “Stream of Conscience.”

One of the most popular urban Appalachian bands today, the Cincinnati-based
Magnolia Mountain has won a dedicated and growing fan base across the nation as one of the hardest-working, bone-shaking and original bluegrass, folk and blues bands on the American Roots circuit.

Thanks to Utley and fellow artists like Melissa English, Magnolia Mountain is also one of the most committed bands in the Appalachian and Ohio River heartland: Joining the tireless work of Grammy star Kathy Mattea, among many others, “The Hand of Man” is part of the compilation CD and music festival benefit, “Music for the Mountains,” that Utley and Magnolia Mountain organized over the past year for various grassroots activists defending mining communities against mountaintop removal operations.

Crickey:

Controversial US think tank the Heartland Institute has sent legal letters to bloggers and writers who reported on the release of the leaked Heartland Institute documents last week.

The Heartland documents revealed the key donors for the institute, plans for a K-12 curriculum based on a climate science denier agenda and how much well-known climate science denialists are paid to push the anti-climate change agenda for Heartland.

Among the recipients of the threat letters, Desmogblog, a prominent pro-science blog that posted the original leaked material, remains defiant.  Crikey continues:

DeSmogBlog, which first published the leaked Heartlands document dump last week, is refusing to remove any of the documents or articles in question and said it will keep them in place as a matter of public interest.

“After due consideration, we could see no basis in fact or law for Heartland’s demand that we remove these documents,” wroteDeSmogBlog founding editor and well-known environment journalist Richard Littlemore.

Crikey spoke to the Vancouver-based Littlemore this morning. The legal letter is full of “logical inconsistencies at the very least”, Littlemore told Crikey.

“What they are saying is that we’re accusing you of theft but we can’t be sure that the stuff you have is stolen,” said Littlemore. “If the stuff is legitimate, then you can accuse someone of having stolen it. But if you can’t even satisfy yourself that the material is yours, then you’re certainly not in a very good position to tell anyone that they’ve stolen it.”

DeSmogBlog were sent the leaked documents after an individual pretended to work at Heartland and convinced the Institute to email them the allegedly confidential documents in full.

“If any of this turns out to be demonstrably incorrect then we will take that very seriously,” Littlemore told Crikey. “But in the meantime we look forward to reading and writing about the material.”

Greg Laden, a climate blogger at ScienceBlogs who also received the legal letter threat, agrees that the legal letter was confusing. Laden thought at first that the legal letter “looked like something some crazy denialist made up and sent me” since the  letter he received via email didn’t include his name in full (it’s Gregory), the title was wrong (he’s a doctor) and the address was wrong (he doesn’t live at the address or know anyone who does).

“As far as I can tell looking at it, no one I know who is a lawyer would retain staff who are as incompetent as those who wrote this letter,” said Laden.

How can Heartland seek action against a document it says is a fake? “They can’t take down a document they have nothing to do with,” said Laden. “If it’s made up and has nothing to do with Heartland, it would be difficult for them to argue that I should take it down off my website.”

But he sees the legal letter as a threat from Heartland against those who write about climate change and climate science. “It’s obvious to me Heartland is interested in making people who argue against their point of view quiet,” said Larden. “They want people to shut up.”

Crikey understands The New York Times will tomorrow reveal the identity of Heartland’s “Anonymous Donor”, an individual who has donated $13.7 million to the Heartland Institute since 2007 and at times has provided 60% of the institute’s funding.

Clearly in a panic over the fallout from last week’s leak of internal documents, the Heartland Institute has gone to the dependable “Plan B” of authoritarians everywhere. Threats and bullying.

A number of bloggers have now received threatening but impotent messages from Heartland thugs, including 71 year old Air Force Vet and journalist, and a young activist Mom. See their responses below.

The Recorder Online:

When I read the original articles on the release of confidential documents from the Heartland Institute board meeting, (see They’re Coming for Your Kids)  I was infuriated.

I reacted by sending a strongly worded email to the president and all the board members of the Heartland Institute.

Surprisingly, one board member and institute president Joseph Bast responded to my email.

Bast’s response is one that I would consider threatening. He said he was turning the email over to their legal department, the forensic staff and the FBI. He also warned me not to delete any emails.

Apparently, I was supposed to be frightened by the specter of this multimillion dollar non-profit (?) spending resources on an old veteran. The whole idea seems ludicrous and they know it. Still, I am not afraid of the battle if it comes. This is a tactic that big money often used to suppress free speech. See Gleen Greenwald’s article in Salon “Billionaire Romney donor uses threats to silence critics.”

During my career I have been in position for many sensitive positions and have had top secret clearances, I have been investigated by the Civil Service Commission, the FBI and the Air Force Office of Special Investigations. I feel secure that the government knows who I am.

I decided to publish these emails so that you can judge the exchange for yourself.

From: Gary Wamsley [mailto:editor@berthoudrecorder.com] 
Sent: Friday, February 17, 2012 5:16 PM
To: Joseph Bast
Subject: Heartland Institute disinformation campaign

You should be ashamed of yourself. The United States already has a problem in keeping up with the rest of the world in science education and now you want to play a role in further destroying our nation as well as our planet.

You are a traitor to your own country. I did not spend 30 years in the military to protect the likes of you.

Gary Wamsley
Colonel, USAF, Retired

From: Joseph Bast <JBast@heartland.org>
Date: Sat, 18 Feb 2012 09:46:00 -0600
To: Gary Wamsley <editor@berthoudrecorder.com>
Cc: Jim Lakely <JLakely@heartland.org>
Subject: RE: Heartland Institute disinformation campaign

Mr. Wamsley,

I assume your intemperate comments are based on a forged memo that misrepresents our efforts in the area of  global warming research education, so let me explain before demanding an apology.

The Heartland Institute is a 28-year-old national nonprofit research and education organization. We produce top-quality research and commentary on a wide range of topics, including school reform, health care,  budget and tax issues, and environmental regulation. More than 100 academics and 200 elected officials serve on advisory boards, helping to write our publications and review our work. More than 1,800 individuals, foundations, and corporations contribute voluntarily to support our work.

Last week, someone stole some documents from us and forged a memo claiming to state our ‘strategy” on global warming. See our statement in response to this attack here: http://heartland.org/press-releases/2012/02/15/heartland-institute-responds-stolen-and-fake-documents .

The Heartland Institute has never tried to “dissuade teachers from teaching science, “undermine” any other sources of research, or “keep opposing voices out” of the debate over global warming. In fact, our goals and activities are just the opposite: We have helped thousands of teachers upgrade the ratio of science to rhetoric in their classes on climate change. We have complied two hefty reports – one 800 pages long and another 400 pages long – summarizing peer-reviewed literature on climate change. We have sought to promote debate and a free exchange of ideas, despite efforts by the most alarmist voices in the debate to try to shut down discussion and ruin the reputations of any who doesn’t toe the ideological line of a small but politically powerful faction of the global science community.

The forged memo has been quoted in scores of articles and hundreds of blog posts. We are working to get those statements removed and retracted. Meanwhile, and regrettably, many people like you are being misled about our work and intentions.

Now that you know the truth, I ask that you apologize for your intemperate and very offensive letter. Since your letter is threatening, I’ve forwarded it to our legal counsel, forensics team, and the FBI. It is important that you not delete the email from your sent file, or any other emails you may have exchanged with other people while preparing it, since this could be evidence in criminal and civil cases.

Please write back to let me know if you will comply with my requests.

Best regards,

Joseph Bast
President
The Heartland Institute

One South Wacker Drive #2740
Chicago, IL 60606
Phone 312/377-4000
Email jbast@heartland.org
Web site http://www.heartland.org

Read the rest of this entry »

Zachary Shahan in CleanTechnica:

Remember last year when Germany decided to speed up its phasing out of nuclear power and switch to clean energy and everyone (not in the clean energy industry) got freaked out about how German electricity prices would rise and the country would just start importing electricity from France’s nuclear power plants?

Well, as I just wrote, it seems pretty clear that solar photovoltaics are bringing down the cost of electricity in Germany. Additionally, German electricity exports to France have been increasing!

“Because France has so much nuclear power, the country has an inordinate number of electric heating systems. And because France has not added on enough additional capacity over the past decade, the country’s current nuclear plants are starting to have trouble meeting demand, especially when it gets very cold in the winter,” Craig Morris of Renewables International writes.

And, with relatively sunny skies above, guess who’s coming to the rescue—good old solar power from Germany.

“As a result, power exports from Germany to France reached 4 to 5 gigawatts – the equivalent of around four nuclear power plants – last Friday morning according to German journalist Bernward Janzing. It was not exactly a time of low consumption in Germany either at 70 gigawatts around noon on Friday, but Janzing nonetheless reports that the grid operators said everything was under control, and the country’s emergency reserves were not being tapped. On the contrary, he reports that a spokesperson for transit grid operator Amprion told him that ‘photovoltaics in southern Germany is currently helping us a lot.’”

Solar power production peaking at about 10 GW, 40% of capacity, lately. (Source: EEX, via Renewables International) Source: Clean Technica

Hmm, a bit of cognitive dissonance for solar power haters with breakfast this morning.

Read the rest of this entry »

Zachary Shahan in CleanTechnica:

Oh, the solar power haters are going to love this one—a recent study by Germany’s Institute for Future Energy Systems (IZES), conducted on behalf of of the German Solar Industry Association (BSW-Solar), has found that, on average, solar power has reduced the price of electricity 10% in Germany (on the EPEX exchange). It reduces prices up to 40% in the early afternoon, when electricity demand is peaking and electricity typically costs the most. There’s a visual of that (in German) here:

This cost-reduction phenomenon is known as the merit order effect, and it’s something we’ve written about in the past when writing about the cost of wind energy (wind does the same thing). But let’s look a little more closely at what this is, since it’s been awhile.

Merit Order Effect & Clean (Solar & Wind) Energy

“Increasing the amount of renewable energy on sale lowers the average price per unit of electricity because of the merit order effect,” Wikipedia writes. “This is because it counteracts the effects of peak demand.”

More specifically: “Wind energy has no marginal costs [wind energy producers don’t need to buy combustion fuel] so their electricity is the cheapest and transmission companies buy from them first. Having a supply of very cheap wind electricity substantially reduces the amount of highly priced peak electricity that transmission companies need to buy and thus reduces the overall cost.”

The same goes for solar.

Basically, when a boost of electricity is needed, solar and wind can out-compete any electricity source that requires non-free fuel (e.g. coal, nuclear, or natural gas), since the added cost of sending more electricity to the grid from solar panels or wind turbines is essentially nil.

The advantage of solar is that it produces the most electricity when there’s the most demand for the electricity—it’s a nearly perfect match.

Read the rest of this entry »

An Open Letter to the Heartland Institute:

As scientists who have had their emails stolen, posted online and grossly misrepresented, we can appreciate the difficulties the Heartland Institute is currently experiencing following the online posting of the organization’s internal documents earlier this week. However, we are greatly disappointed by their content, which indicates the organization is continuing its campaign to discredit mainstream climate science and to undermine the teaching of well-established climate science in the classroom.

We know what it feels like to have private information stolen and posted online via illegal hacking. It happened to climate researchers in 2009 and again in 2011. Personal emails were culled through and taken out of context before they were posted online. In 2009, the Heartland Institute was among the groups that spread false allegations about what these stolen emails said. Despite multiple independent investigations, which demonstrated that allegations against scientists were false, the Heartland Institute continued to attack scientists based on the stolen emails. When more stolen emails were posted online in 2011, the Heartland Institute again pointed to their release and spread false claims about scientists.

So although we can agree that stealing documents and posting them online is not an acceptable practice, we would be remiss if we did not point out that the Heartland Institute has had no qualms about utilizing and distorting emails stolen from scientists.

We hope the Heartland Institute will heed its own advice to “think about what has happened” and recognize how its attacks on science and scientists have helped poison the debate over climate change policy. The Heartland Institute has chosen to undermine public understanding of basic scientific facts and personally attack climate researchers rather than engage in a civil debate about climate change policy options.

These are the facts: Climate change is occurring. Human activity is the primary cause of recent climate change. Climate change is already disrupting many human and natural systems. The more heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions that go into the atmosphere, the more severe those disruptions will become. Major scientific assessments from the Royal Society, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, United States Global Change Research Program and other authoritative sources agree on these points.

What businesses, policymakers, advocacy groups and citizens choose to do in response to those facts should be informed by the science. But those decisions are also necessarily informed by economic, ethical, ideological, and other considerations.While the Heartland Institute is entitled to its views on policy, we object to its practice of spreading misinformation about climate research and personally attacking climate scientists to further its goals.

We hope the Heartland Institute will begin to play a more constructive role in the policy debate. Refraining from misleading attacks on climate science and climate researchers would be a welcome first step toward having an honest, fact-based debate about the policy responses to climate change.

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Ray Bradley, PhD, Director of the Climate System Research Center, University of Massachusetts

David Karoly, PhD, ARC Federation Fellow and Professor, University of Melbourne, Australia

Michael Mann, PhD, Director, Earth System Science Center, Pennsylvania State University

Jonathan Overpeck, PhD, Professor of Geosciences and Atmospheric Sciences, University of Arizona

Ben Santer, PhD, Research Scientist, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Gavin Schmidt, PhD, Climate Scientist, NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies

Kevin Trenberth, ScD, Distinguished Senior Scientist, Climate Analysis Section, National Center for Atmospheric Research

Heartland: Cry me a River

February 17, 2012

Zachary Shahan at PlanetSave – reposted with permission:

Climategate was a crime. Why? Because:

  1. someone hacked into computers and private emails;
  2. the hacked info was used to frame climate scientists by pulling and publishing quotes out of context and making the climate scientists look like they were saying something they weren’t and doing something wrong (over half a dozen independent investigations have found data were NOT manipulated and the science is as sound as ever).

Someone also committed a crime this year, as we found out this week on Valentine’s Day, by pretending to be a Heartland Institute board member in order to get board documents emailed to him or her and then sharing those with the public.

However, it’s pretty odd to see how the Heartland Institute framed the latter incident compared to how it framed the former (one which had much more severe consequences).

Read the rest of this entry »