A recent favorite talking point of climate deniers spreads to other flim-flammers.


During an impromptu news conference on Saturday, Coach Bill Belichick reiterated the New England Patriots’ innocence in what has become known as Deflategate.

On at least two occasions as he lectured reporters about the physics of a football’s natural weight loss, Belichick qualified his description of the process with the disclaimer “I am not a scientist.”

Charles Liu is a scientist — an astrophysics professor at the College of Staten Island, part of the City University of New York. Liu, an associate with the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan, is also an avid football fan, and after listening to Belichick’s explanation, he concluded, “It’s a cop-out.”

“Just because you’re not a scientist does not mean you can’t know what to do,” Liu said. “It’s kind of like saying, Well, I see somebody about to burn down your house, but since I’m not a firefighter, I don’t know whether I should stop them or not.”

At issue are the game balls the Patriots provided for last Sunday’s A.F.C. championship game; 11 of the 12 balls, which by rule are inspected and verified by the referee before kickoff, were later mysteriously underinflated by about 2 pounds per square inch, according to an ESPN report on the N.F.L.’s investigation.

Does this sound like what we hear on Fox News or what?

Belichick explained that “atmospheric conditions” might have caused the change. But Liu said, “Barring any very unusual natural situations, you just can’t get the ball down 2 p.s.i., from 12.5, by natural causes.”

“You could have inflated the ball in a sauna and then brought it out and it was cold and rainy, and then yes, you could drop 2 p.s.i.s that way,” he added. “Or if a ball was leaking, that it wasn’t quite full.”


Now – India

January 26, 2015


Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Indiais ready to expand its use of renewable energy as a way to reduce greenhouse gas pollution, a signal that his government is moving toward joining an international deal on global warming.

After a meeting with U.S. PresidentBarack Obama in New Delhi, the prime minister said that his nation along with all others has an obligation to act on reducing the fossil-fuel emissions blamed for damaging the climate.


The remarks represent a shift in India’s tone on global warming. It previously emphasized the historical responsibility of industrial nations for creating the problem, and the Indian government has been ambiguous about whether it will adopt domestic targets for reducing greenhouse gases. Modi’s comments suggest he’s ready to work with Obama on a deal in Paris in December that would for the first time require all nations, rich and poor alike, to restrain emissions.

“When we think about the future generations and what kind of a world we are going to give them, then there is pressure,” Modi said in a news conference with Obama on Sunday. “Global warming is a huge pressure.”


President Obama and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced on Sunday that the two countries will work together to fight global climate change, laying out a set of goals that the two countries hope “will expand policy dialogues and technical work on clean energy and low greenhouse gas emissions technologies.”

While not a concrete emissions reductions agreement like the one Obama reached with China this past November, the deal includes efforts to cooperate on reducing emissions of fluorinated gases, invigorate India’s promotion of clean energy investment, and partner to reduce the debilitating air pollution that has plagued many of India’s cities.

The agreement also emphasized that the countries would “cooperate closely” for a “successful and ambitious” agreement at the Paris climate talks at the end of the year. During that conference, 196 nations are expected to meet and tentatively agree a course of action to respond to climate change. It is widely considered the last chance for a global agreement that could feasibly keep the rise in global average temperatures under 2°C.

“India’s voice is very important on this issue,” Obama said at a press meeting on Sunday, the Times of India reported. “Perhaps no country could potentially be more affected by the impacts of climate change and no country is going to be more important in moving forward a strong agreement than India.”

As ThinkProgress reported last week, there was very little expectation among analysts that the U.S. would achieve a deal like the one it achieved in China, wherein the country would actually pledge to reduce its overall carbon emissions. In the China deal, the U.S. committed to cut its emissions 26 to 28 percent below their 2005 levels by 2025 and China agreed to get 20 percent of its energy from non-fossil-fuel sources by 2030 and to peak greenhouse gas emissions that same year. Many said that it would be unfair to expect India — the world’s third largest carbon emitter behind the U.S. and China — to announce a similar target, considering the hundreds of millions of rural poor.

Still a developing country, climate change stands to impact India more severely than other parts of the world, according to the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. India also has a particularly bad air pollution problem — a recent World Health Organization report found that India has 13 of the 20 most polluted cities in the world with the capital, Delhi, being the most polluted of all. The report also found that Delhi had six times the level of airborne particulate matter considered safe. Another investigation found that the levels could be up to eight times higher in heavily trafficked corridors.

Here, my recent video on China’s motivations for joining a climate agreement with the US – perhaps the most historic achievement of the Obama administration. Too little? At this point we’ll take what we can get.


he United States and India agreed on:

  • Enhancing Bilateral Climate Change Cooperation: President Obama and Prime Minister Modi, stressing the importance of working together and with other countries on climate change, plan to cooperate closely this year to achieve a successful and ambitious agreement in Paris. Read the rest of this entry »

From the Abstract – “Potential Antarctic Ice Sheet retreat driven by hydrofracturing and ice cliff failure”:

In response to atmospheric and ocean temperatures typical of past warm periods, floating ice shelves may be drastically reduced or removed completely by increased oceanic melting, and by hydrofracturing due to surface melt draining into crevasses. Ice at deep grounding lines may be weakened by hydrofracturing and reduced buttressing, and may fail structurally if stresses exceed the ice yield strength, producing rapid retreat. Incorporating these mechanisms in our ice-sheet model accelerates the expected collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet to decadal time scales,

Ars Technica:

It has been a bit of a head scratcher. Records of sea level during the last few million years tell us that there have been some warm periods where sea level may have been as much as 20 meters higher than it is today. When fed the conditions that prevailed at the time, however, our computer models of ice sheets haven’t been able to reproduce such a swelling of the ocean.

The models can simulate that much sea level rise, but it requires temperatures much higher than were seen during those warm periods. Realistic losses of ice from Greenland and the fragile, western part of Antarctica (the West Antarctic Ice Sheet) could only provide something in the neighborhood of 3 to 10 meters of sea level rise. That leaves 10 to 17 meters for the East Antarctic Ice Sheet—the largest and most stable ice sheet—to chip in. Convincing the miserly East Antarctic Ice Sheet to be that generous with its contents isn’t easy, which is why the models required such high temperatures.

So what are the models missing? Penn State’s David Pollard and Richard Alley, and University of Massachussetts, Amherst’s Robert DeConto had an idea for something to try. Two things to try, really. They added a pair of physical processes to an ice sheet model that weren’t simulated previously. The first was hydrofracturing. When water reaches the ice sheet from rain or ice melt at the surface, it fills crevasses in the ice.

If they’re filled to a great enough depth, the water pressure forces the crevasse to open even deeper—that’s termed hydrofracturing. The other process results from the simple fact that a sheer cliff of ice can only be so tall before it collapses under its own weight—a condition not encountered in too many places today.

One place it does occur is where floating glaciers calve large icebergs. These occur on the coastal outlet glaciers at the edges of ice sheets that are the most vulnerable to warming. The glacier thins towards its outer edge, and at some point it grows thin enough that it begins to float. The point at which it floats off the bottom is called the “grounding line”—from there out to the end of the ice is called an ice shelf. Ice shelves that grind against the shore (think of it floating in a bay or fjord) act to hold back the flow of ice behind them. These shelves gradually melt from below as they float in their seawater bath. But they can also melt from above and shed large bergs of ice at their outer edge.


Map shows where Ice sheets are grounded to bedrock below sea level


Both hydrofracturing and cliff failure can increase the shedding of icebergs from shelves, hastening their demise and uncorking the glacier behind them. Once these things happening near the grounding line, though, they can really accelerate its retreat if it’s in an unstable configuration where the ground surface drops as you head inland. (Significant portions of Antarctica match that description.) Once you start retreating in that situation, the glacier may have to retreat a long way to find a stable position again.

Read the rest of this entry »

Above – continuing part 4 of our interview with Glaciologist Eric Rignot at the American Geophysical Union conference in December, 2014, San Francisco.  Last thursday’s post of Part 3 is going pretty viral, so check that if you have not.

Here, Dr Rignot addresses the “slight distrust” that some groups actively promote in regard to science and scientists.

Below, Bill Maher asks a question a lot of us have – What’s wrong with listening to scientists?
Head vise warning on the contributions of the Wall Street Journal’s climate denying Bret Stephens.  More evidence, if you needed any, of the impenetrable, hermetically sealed logic loop that is climate denial among so-called “conservatives”.


In the Looking Glass world of climate denial politics, this is what progress looks like.  Recently, several leading contenders for the Republican nomination for president have begun to pry themselves loose from the grasp of anti-science elements that have dominated that party’s processes for the last 4 years.

Conventional wisdom has moved to “it’s real, we’re causing it, we need to do something” – and even the far right wing has to recognize the reality of the science, and moreover, the wider public recognition of that fact.  We’re watching them begin to twist themselves through a very narrow passage between shameless pandering and acknowledging painful reality.
In doing so, they reinforce the mainstream science, and make themselves look even more out of touch.
(apologies, muddy video midway thru is in the original upload from Mediaite)

Newly minted Tea Party Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa delivered the official (of five) GOP responses to the President’s State of the Union Address this week.
Above, her take on climate change.

And Bill Maher’s take(down):


I’ve pointed out that Senator James Inhofe, the new Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, is to Climate Denial what Strom Thurmond was to civil rights.

Climate denying members of congress need to be held accountable for their no-longer-in-the-basement Crazy Uncle.

Mainstream media has been slow on the draw to take apart climate denial talking points, and has for too long pursued a “false balance” approach to the climate issue – but a number of indicators seem to show that is changing.

If you’ve been following the blog this week, you know that key presidential hopefuls are beginning to hedge their climate denial positions, obviously in the face of changing poll numbers, and continued indicators of planetary change that cannot be ignored.
The fact that the long-somnolent media is awakening to the issue probably will be a factor as well.
Above, Time Science editor Jeffrey Kluger goes after Inhofe, much like CNN’s Jake Tapper did in an interview not long ago. (below)

Read the rest of this entry »


Jia Zhangke’s short film for Greenpeace East Asia depicts the effects of air pollution in northeast China, a region frequently blanketed in dangerous levels of air pollution. ‘Smog Journeys’ traces two familes from two different backgrounds; one a mining family in Hebei province, and the other a trendy middle class family in Beijing. Both face a similar fate.

More evidence that the Chinese people are acutely aware of the damaging effects of coal burning, and pollution in general – a key driver of the recent agreement on Greenhouse gases between the US and China – discussed in my recent video, below.

Read the rest of this entry »

In the wake of President Obama’s emphatic call for action on climate change in his State of the Union Address, and clear polling numbers showing new public concerns about climate – GOP presidential hopefuls are taking steps to obfuscate their anti-science records.
Mitt Romney told reporters that after believing the scientists in 2010, then mocking the scientists in 2012, he now is back to believing the scientists.
In an interview with WBUR Boston, he elaborated.

“I’m one of those Republicans who thinks we are getting warmer and that we contribute to that,” he said of climate change, charging that federal leaders have failed to enact global agreements needed to tackle the problem.

His evolving platform comes as he works to reshape his image after consecutive presidential defeats. Romney spent little time talking about poverty, the middle class or climate change in a 2012 campaign in which opponents cast him as an out-of-touch millionaire. But in public and private conversations in recent weeks he has focused on poverty, perhaps above all, a dramatic shift for the former private-equity executive.

UPDATE: Not all Republicans are buying it. Conservative Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin tweeted thusly:


Now, one of Romney’s potential opponents, Marco Rubio, has morphed his widely ridiculed “I’m not a scientist” message to, “We can’t ignore the scientists but..”, in an interview with Katie Couric of Yahoo News, above.

One key problem these folks are going to have is their Crazy Uncle in the Basement, Senator Strom..I mean James Inhofe, the 80 year old incoming chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, who hopes to use his new seat as a platform to spew climate denial nonsense on the Senate floor.  Science literate voters should make sure that every member of the Republican party be held responsible for the disinformation campaign mounted by one of their most senior colleagues.