This topic is not one I’ve spent a whole lot of time or effort on, except to chortle when climate deniers start sputtering when you compare them to moon landing conspiracy theorists. But now, 2 trusted readers have sent this link to me in one week.

This video has an amusing, informative discussion of the video logistics of alleged moon fakery, and ends with an insightful take on the psychology that applies to science and reality deniers of all stripes.

In his confirmation hearings as Secretary of State, John Kerry’s powerful, ringing defense of climate science and renewable energy affirms and and expands the President’s inaugural declaration on climate change.

One of the first rules of management – People are Policy. In choosing Senator Kerry, Obama sent a  strong signal that makes me more confident in what I wrote earlier in the week.

Trailer – Life of Pi

January 25, 2013

I don’t often recommend movies. I’ll recommend this one.


Everybody’s ship goes down.

Everybody has a Tiger in their lifeboat.

Read the Manual.

Enjoy the view.

Video and a note from a reader Down Under, Mike Mariopolis.

What does climate change mean to you?

For three years I’ve been running a blog called Watching the Deniers, a site dedicated to examining the claims of climate sceptics and the techniques they use to sow confusion. I’ve also attempted to highlight the risk climate change poses.

In addition to writing about climate scepticism I’ve also immersed myself in the science. I kept up with the latest papers and blog posts; I read deeply and broadly works form both the popular and technical literature. I wanted to be informed; to understand the science.

Those of us who research climate change, blog on the topic or wish to educate the broader public are often consumed with questions about effective messaging and inspiring others to act. What will make an impact? What will motivate people to act: to demand change from their leaders?

All worthy questions, and worth debating.

But knowledge – even foreknowledge – often fails to match the lived experience. Which is the exact position both myself and many of my fellow Australians have found themselves in this past month.

You may have seen the news reports about the heat wave and bush-fires Australia is experiencing. As expected, those sceptical of climate change have simply dismissed these events as another “typical” Australian summer.

But its not. Its far from typical.

It is extraordinary.

The word you hear repeated again, and again in the media and from the experts is “unprecedented”. However even during this extraordinary time most of the mainstream media is failing to make the connection with climate change.

The severity, duration and extent of the heat wave is unprecedented (there’s that word again).

For the last month large parts of the continent have been burning: Australia is on fire. Everything is on fire, everywhere.

This is climate change.

This is what it feels like – this is the experience of living on a radically different Earth.

Most scientists are understandably reticent to link specific events to climate change, however I wanted to convey something of what living through these extraordinary events feels like. I could have written another blog post, but I felt that was insufficient to capture the scale of what is happening. I also wanted to make explicit the link between what the science had been predicting for decades, and what was actually happening “Down Under”. And I wanted to offer a deeply personal reflection.

Hence this video. It is literally the first film I’ve ever made, and I spent hours agonising over it. I become obsessed with “getting it right”, fretting over my novice film making efforts. But as a friend explained, a piece of art or literature is never finished: it is merely abandoned. I stopped worrying about its flaws, and released it on YouTube. I hope to do more videos, as I’ve been greatly inspired by Peter’s work.

“Everything is on fire, everywhere” is my own personal reflection about living through climate change. However the real driver for making this video was to pay tribute to the people and communities affected by these extraordinary events.

And as ambitious as it sounds, I wanted to convey something about our common humanity. All of us – sceptics, warmists, liberals, conservatives, regardless of race, nationality, gender or status – are living through extraordinary times

Perhaps it is unfashionable in these deeply polarised times to say this, but it is my hope we recognise this common humanity and pull together.

The failure to do so will – quite literally – be catastrophic.



Important job opportunity, everyone. From Craigslist:

Our firm needs 100 volunteers to attend and participate in a rally in front of the British Consulate/Embassy in Midtown Manhattan on the East Side on Wednesday, January 30, 2013 at 12 noon. The event is being held in order to protest wind turbines that are being built in Scotland and England. Your participation will be to ONLY stand next to or behind the speakers and elected officials/celebrities that will be speaking at the rally.

“Volunteers” will each get $20. That’s the going rate in New York City for a closely held political principle.

See screenshot here.

Will they make their own signs?


Most Americans like clean energy. So when conservatives wage campaigns against clean energy initiatives, they have typically resorted to fronting astroturf groups and paying fake protesters to generate noise.

Needing 100 anti-wind protesters by next week and apparently unable to find them, a mysterious firm advertised a “quick and easy $20″ on Craigslist. According to the ad, the only thing the “volunteers” would need to do for their pay is “stand next to or behind the speakers and elected officials/celebrities” at a rally against a wind turbine project in the UK.


The Independent:

A secretive funding organisation in the United States that guarantees anonymity for its billionaire donors has emerged as a major operator in the climate “counter movement” to undermine the science of global warming, The Independent has learnt.

The Donors Trust, along with its sister group Donors Capital Fund, based in Alexandria, Virginia, is funnelling millions of dollars into the effort to cast doubt on climate change without revealing the identities of its wealthy backers or that they have links to the fossil fuel industry.

However, an audit trail reveals that Donors is being indirectly supported by the American billionaire Charles Koch who, with his brother David, jointly owns a majority stake in Koch Industries, a large oil, gas and chemicals conglomerate based in Kansas.

Millions of dollars has been paid to Donors through a third-party organisation, called the Knowledge and Progress Fund, with is operated by the Koch family but does not advertise its Koch connections.

Robert Brulle, a sociologist at Drexel University in Philadelphia, has estimated that over the past decade about $500m has been given to organisations devoted to undermining the science of climate change, with much of the money donated anonymously through third parties.

This month’s video for the Yale Forum on Climate Change and the Media.

I stopped by Jeff Masters’s southeast Michigan home in early January, on a day that happened to be a record breaker for high temperatures  – just before a misbehaving jet stream snapped the upper midwest into a deep freeze.  The small spring-fed lake nearby made a great back drop for talking about what’s been happening in the historic watershed year of 2012, and what we can expect in 2013.

For more context, I added in pieces of conversations I’ve had recently with Katharine Hayhoe and Mike Mann – as well as my  favorite Republican Meteorologist, Paul Douglas.

1980: Cronkite on Climate

January 23, 2013

Perhaps if the late Senator Paul Tsongas had lived, more progress could have been made by now.

More instructive history for those that still think climate change started as a UN plot in 2006.

For more historical perspective in video, see below:

Read the rest of this entry »

One of the most important realizations of the past year for climate scientists was the impact that ice free waters in the arctic are having on the jet stream – which drives the weather we’ve come to expect as “normal” here in the temperate latitudes.

Paul Douglas of Weather Nation sheds more light on the interplay between climate warming and weather impacts that we all feel.

 “I agree with you, I want to do it, now make me do it.” – attributed to Franklin Roosevelt

Call me a sap. I believe Obama.

Like just about everyone reading this, I’ve been more than disappointed at the opportunities squandered in the past 4 years.

In retrospect, it would have been smarter for Obama to prioritize climate rather than health care early in his administration. But no one predicted the virulent racist wave that the Republican party enthusiastically whipped up, and the opposition’s willingness, in a national crisis, to kill off green shoots of recovery rather than allow any progress a “socialist Kenyan” could take credit for.

doubledipIn the face of highly successful disinformation campaign based around stolen and cherry picked emails, and back to back seasons of unusually fierce winter weather in a double dip La Nina, I think the President’s team looked at the polling and the filibuster-driven stonewall in congress, and opted for a stealth strategy on climate, based on encouraging low carbon solutions.  I believe we’ve already begun, and will continue to see, positive results from Recovery Act investments in renewable technology and infrastructure.

Sure, I would have liked it if he’d campaigned more visibly on the climate issue.  I get it that, in the campaign calculus, the coal fields of Western Pennsylvania and southeastern Ohio were double weighted.  The President and his team gauged, accurately it turns out, that, like it or not, the issue was not taken seriously by the mainstream media, who continued until Superstorm Sandy’s landfall to define The Most Important Issue of the Millennium as a sideshow for “climate people”.

Given the fear, that I shared, of the  terrible consequences of a Tea Party presidency, and worse, a Tea Party Supreme Court, I can understand the decision to soft pedal the issue, and send mushy signals on the Keystone pipeline – to avoid giving traction and talking points to the Fox News crowd in the face of an imploding Republican candidate.

Meanwhile, in the background, public opinion slowly evolved.   Pounded by a steady barrage of extreme events, cold, hot, wet, dry, – the message of climate change began to sink in – and the unsettling awareness that extremes of all sorts were now the new normal, brought on by anthropogenic changes to the atmosphere. A prominent denier told me candidly that what he feared most was public reaction to extreme events – and those events have just kept on coming.

Read the rest of this entry »


Mark Boslough in Huffington Post:

Benjamin Franklin, the first American Ambassador to France, was both a statesman and a scientist. On September 3, 1783 he co-signed the Treaty of Paris at the Hotel d’York, in which the British acknowledged the American Colonies to be free and independent States, ending the American Revolution.

Franklin’s political eye was focused, but his scientific eye was attentive too. All was not well in the French countryside, where one of the worst environmental calamities of modern history was just beginning to unfold. That summer was the hottest on record, and a mysterious “dry fog” had settled across Europe. The combination of heat and air pollution was too much for the weak and elderly. Mortality spiked among farm workers and laborers across the continent.

According to British naturalist Gilbert White, “the sun, at noon, looked as blank as a clouded moon.” When rising and setting, it was “particularly lurid and blood-coloured.” The heat was so intense that meat went bad the day after it was butchered, and swarms of flies made life miserable.

The seeds of climate science in America were very possibly being planted as Franklin observed the changes 200+ years ago. Conditions went from bad to worse as Europe and North America were plunged into a deep freeze that winter. In its first peacetime year as an independent nation, the United States had to contend with more extreme weather than the colonies had ever experienced. New England suffered a record below-zero weather streak. The Mississippi River froze as far south as New Orleans. Ice appeared in the Gulf of Mexico.

Other parts of the world were also in trouble. Monsoons in Africa and India were extremely weak, and rain barely moistened the African Sahel. Agriculture collapsed in the Nile Valley leading to mass starvation. Volney, the French historian, wrote, “Soon after the end of November [1784], the famine carried off, at Cairo, nearly as many as the plague; the streets, which before were full of beggars, now afforded not a single one: all had perished or deserted the city.” Within a year, Egypt had lost a sixth of its population.

Franklin watched this extreme weather with great interest and concern. In December, 1784, he presented his ideas in a paper entitled “Meteorological Imaginations and Conjectures.” He described the dry fog, even though he was uncertain of its source, “During several of the summer months of the year 1783, when the effect of the sun’s rays to heat the earth in these northern regions should have been greatest, there existed a constant fog over all Europe, and great part of North America.” He observed the effect the fog had on the sun’s rays: “They were indeed rendered so faint in passing through it, that when collected in the focus of a burning glass, they would scarce kindle brown paper. Of course, their summer effect in heating the earth was exceedingly diminished.”

He drew some important conclusions: “Hence the surface was early frozen. Hence the first snows remained on it unmelted, and received continual additions. Hence the air was more chilled, and the winds more severely cold. Hence perhaps the winter of 1783-4 was more severe, than any that had happened for many years.” Franklin was arguably the first American scientist to recognize the sensitivity of climate to changes in radiative forcing, and to propose that the Earth can respond in a way that reinforces the change (now known as ice-albedo feedback).

As it turns out, one of Franklin’s guesses about the source of the fog was right. It wasn’t a meteor, but an Icelandic volcano. On June 8th, three months before he was to sign the Treaty of Paris, a series of explosions unknown to most of the world had opened a fissure along the Laki crater, beginning the largest terrestrial eruption of the last millennium, and spewing dust, ash, and sulfuric acid into the air for many months.

Recent computer models have shown that the Laki eruption cooled the northern hemisphere’s land masses by about 2° to 6° F. This led to the extreme harsh winter, diminished the land-sea temperature contrast, weakened the Asian and African monsoons, and reduced water and food supplies in the most vulnerable parts of the world.