More from my chat this week with Dr. Richard Rood at the University of Michigan Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic, and Space Science – soon to be renamed the Department of Climate and Space Sciences and Engineering.
Dr. Rood has a large audience online owing to his blogs at Weather Underground, and recent posts to the “Conversation” series. He’s got a new one this week.

The Conversation:

If you’re younger than 30, you’ve never experienced a month in which the average surface temperature of the Earth was below average.

Each month, the US National Climatic Data Center calculates Earth’s average surface temperature using temperature measurements that cover the Earth’s surface. Then, another average is calculated for each month of the year for the twentieth century, 1901-2000. For each month, this gives one number representative of the entire century. Subtract this overall 1900s monthly average – which for February is 53.9F (12.1C) – from each individual month’s temperature and you’ve got the anomaly: that is, the difference from the average.

The last month that was at or below that 1900s average was February 1985. Ronald Reagan had just started his second presidential term and Foreigner had the number one single with “I want to know what love is.”

These temperature observations make it clear the new normal will be systematically rising temperatures, not the stability of the last 100 years. The traditional definition of climate is the 30-year average of weather. The fact that – once the official records are in for February 2015 – it will have been 30 years since a month was below average is an important measure that the climate has changed.

Read the rest of this entry »

In the last few weeks, we’ve seen 2 astonishing announcements, one from the CEO of Royal Dutch Shell (RDS), and one from the Chairman of British Petroleum, acknowledging the problem of climate change, the need for a transition to carbon free energy, and advocating a price on carbon.
I don’t believe these announcements were unrelated – and I expect more developments in this story soon.
A friend has sent a link to a January 12 lecture from the VP for Carbon of Shell, Angus Gillespie.  I posted a short clip of Gillespie on a panel the other day, but here he goes in depth.  Worth a listen as he describes how not just at Shell, but at several major oil companies, there is already an internal carbon  price rolled into plans for any new venture.

This is done to ensure that every part of the organization understands that carbon pricing is coming, is inevitable, and even desirable, as is a transition to non-carbon fuels.


Strong and stable carbon pricing is an essential step to tackle the rising level of CO2 in the atmosphere. The RDS Chairman was present in New York during the recent UN Climate Summit and we were pleased to support the World Bank’s statement on carbon pricing. CCS fitted to power plants, could be a real game-changer, removing up to 90% of carbon dioxide emissions from power generation. CCS is critical to address climate change because it is the only technology that tackles the absolute level of CO₂ in the atmosphere. Other technologies improve efficiency and help to slow down the rate, but not the total volume of CO₂ in the atmosphere.

The stage is set for massive action on climate change –  a clear majority of Americans now see climate as a moral issue.

Below, a new poll by Reuters shows that two thirds of Americans believe their leaders are “morally obligated” to take action on climate.
Above, Climate Scientist Katharine Hayhoe states the case for  values-based communication when talking about climate – and I’ve interspersed here similar values based arguments from a variety of messengers.
Everything we’ve learned about science communication suggests that merely hearing the facts does not bring people around on the issue of climate change – what is most effective is connecting with people on an emotional level, a values level, as Dr. Hayhoe suggests, above.
Part of what is happening is that the planet itself is, for better or worse, now speaking clearly enough to amplify the message that scientists have been bringing.


A significant majority of Americans say combating climate change is a moral issue that obligates them – and world leaders – to reduce carbon emissions, a Reuters/IPSOS poll has found.

francisdove   The poll of 2,827 Americans was conducted in February to measure the impact of moral language, including interventions by Pope Francis, on the climate change debate. In recent months, the pope has warned about the moral consequences of failing to act on rising global temperatures, which are expected to disproportionately affect the lives of the world’s poor.

The result of the poll suggests that appeals based on ethics could be key to shifting the debate over climate change in the United States, where those demanding action to reduce carbon emissions and those who resist it are often at loggerheads.

Two-thirds of respondents (66 percent) said that world leaders are morally obligated to take action to reduce CO2 emissions. And 72 percent said they were “personally morally obligated” to do what they can in their daily lives to reduce emissions.

“When climate change is viewed through a moral lens it has broader appeal,” said Eric Sapp, executive director of the American Values Network, a grassroots organization that mobilizes faith-based communities on politics and policy issues.

“The climate debate can be very intellectual at times, all about economic systems and science we don’t understand. This makes it about us, our neighbors and about doing the right thing.”


Read the rest of this entry »

I was in Ann Arbor at the University of Michigan interviewing Ricky Rood the other day – and that’s the question I asked him.

Dr. Richard Rood is a former NASA Atmospheric Scientist now teaching at the University of Michigan Department of Oceanic, Atmospheric, and Space Sciences.
Simple, short, direct, shareable.

Errata, when Dr. Rood says “..the coldest place on the planet”, he is of course referring to “colder than normal”, not absolute temperature.

If you happen to be out this weekend looking to turn off for a couple hours, you could probably do worse.
Something here to offend everyone, and make you kind of hate yourself for laughing out loud.
Very meta and self conscious send-up of every James Bond trope, married with some of the most outrageous, over the top senseless violence you’re likely to see anytime soon.

The villain, it turns out, is concerned about climate change. Not sure what that means.


Yes, Dr Soon, its come to this.


5 years ago, climate deniers staged a fake “scandal” by hacking in to the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit, and selectively quoting stolen emails to a compliant and cooperative media.

We know that deniers will be trying all this year to disrupt the science and policy messaging leading up to the important November COP meeting in Paris.
This time, the media has been deviating  from the script, and instead, a leading climate denier, Dr  Willie Soon, has found himself under withering examination for accepting more than a million dollars from fossil fuel funders.  Of course, when real scientists get examined, as happened in the email affair, their case comes away strengthened.
Problem for Willie is, this “science” and pretend Harvard connections, don’t stand up.

Chronicle of Higher Education:

Years of using a Harvard nameplate to flog his insistence that polar bears are doing fine, and that sunspots might explain planetary warming better than the Industrial Revolution does, may finally have caught up with Wei-Hock Soon.

Mr. Soon, an astrophysicist at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, has endured a barrage of news reports this week detailing his acceptance of $1.2-million in support from energy companies and others hostile to government limits on fossil-fuel use. In response, the Smithsonian Institution announced plans to investigate whether he had properly acknowledged his political alliances.

“We’re very concerned to get to the bottom of this, and make sure we have all the facts,” W. John Kress, the Smithsonian’s interim under secretary for science, said in an interview on Tuesday.

The investigation threatens serious repercussions for Mr. Soon, commonly known as Willie. But it may raise an equally tough question for Harvard University, the Smithsonian, and arrangements for their shared astrophysics observatory: How did the scientist trade on Harvard’s name to gain a leading role in climate politics?

In a series of scientific-journal articles over the past decade, Mr. Soon has routinely listed himself as representing “the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.” In turn, various reports describing his activities and beliefs—often published by organizations dedicated to opposing government regulations—have short-handed his identification to “Harvard scientist.” Even The Harvard Crimson, the university’student-run newspaper, has referred to him that way.

The problem, according to Charles R. Alcock, a Harvard professor of astronomy who also serves as director of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, is that the “center” refers primarily to a shared set of physical facilities. Almost everyone working at those facilities, Mr. Alcock said, is either an employee of Harvard or an employee of the Smithsonian, a federally administered collection of museums and research centers.

“From a legal point of view,” he said, “there is no such entity as the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.” And Mr. Soon is employed only by the Smithsonian, Mr. Alcock said. “It’s always been that way. He has never had any Harvard appointment.”

There is an important point to understand about Dr Soon – according to the New York Times:

Read the rest of this entry »

Naomi Oreskes, author of Merchants of Doubt, on finding out that she was being attacked on the floor of the Senate by James Inhofe, the Strom Thurmond of climate denial.

The movie based on Oreskes book comes out next week.