Grifter Michael Shellenberger’s “Apology” for climate science is predictably making the rounds on right wing and white supremacist media outlets, much like Michael Moore’s recent career-ending movie mishmash.
Neither will have an impact on the climate debate, or solutions.

Michael Tobis has penned the best response yet in Real Climate.

Real Climate:

Guest commentary by Michael Tobis

This is a deep dive into the form and substance of Michael Shellenberger’s promotion for his new book “Apocalypse Never”. Shorter version? It should be read as a sales pitch to a certain demographic rather than a genuine apology. 

Michael Shellenberger appears to have a talent for self-promotion. His book, provocatively entitled “Apocalypse Never” appears to be garnering considerable attention. What does he mean by that title? Does it mean we should do whatever we can to avoid an apocalypse? Does it mean that no apocalypse is possible in the foreseeable future? For those of us who haven’t yet read the book (now available on Kindle), Shellenberger provides an unusual article (at first posted on Forbes, then at Quillette and the front page of the Australian) which appears less a summary than a sales pitch, an “op-ad” as one Twitter wag put it. 

It’s called “On Behalf Of Environmentalists, I Apologize For The Climate Scare”. In short, Shellenberger lands clearly on the naysayer soil. Not much to see, everyone. Cheer up, carry on, these are not the droids you’re looking for.

FEW PEOPLE KNOW THAT THE MOON IS MADE OF CHEESE

In support of this insouciance, Shellenberger offers twelve “facts few people know”. Most of the points are defensible to some extent, and most of them raise interesting topics. A main purpose of this article is to provide references to the relevant discussions. But in going through it, it’s worth keeping an eye on the rhetorical purposes of the items, which appear a bit scattershot, and to the rhetorical purpose of the list, which might appear rather obscure.

Clearly labeling the list “facts that few people know” implies that all these points unambiguously refute common beliefs that are widely. And the “apology for the climate scare” indicates further that these beliefs are widely held by a supposedly misguided community of “climate scared”. A defender of the list, Blair King suggests that “[Shellenberger] identified false talking points used repeatedly by alarmists to misinform the public and move debate away from one that is evidence-based to one driven by fear and misinformation”. That does seem to be a fair reading of the stated intent of the list, but it just doesn’t ring true as a whole. 

Speaking as a verteran “climate scared” person, the items don’t seem especially familiar. It’s hard to imagine a conversation like this:“Gosh, climate change is an even bigger threat to species than habitat loss.”“I know, and the land area used for producing meat is increasing!”As Gerardo Ceballos said: 

This is not a scientific paper. It is intended, I guess, to be an article for the general public. Unfortunately, it is neither. It does not have a logical structure that allows the reader to understand what he would like to address, aside from a very general and misleading idea that environmentalists and climate scientists have been alarmist in relation to climate change. He lists a series of eclectic environmental problems like the Sixth Mass Extinction, green energy, and climate disruption. And without any data nor any proof, he discredits the idea that those are human-caused, severe environmental problems. He just mentions loose ideas about why he is right and the rest of the scientists, environmentalists, and general public are wrong. 

What causes the strange incoherence of these “facts few people know”? At the end of this review I’ll propose an answer. Meanwhile, I will consider several questions regarding each item:

  • VALIDITY Is the claim unambiguously true? Unambiguously false? Disputed?
  • RELEVANCE TO CLIMATE Is the claim directly relevant to climate concern/”climate scare” or is it more of interest to tangentially related environmental issues?
  • SALIENCE Is the contrary of the claim widely believed by environmental activists? Does widespread belief in the claim contribute materially to an excess of climate concern?
  • IMPLICATION What is the rhetorical purpose of the question?
  • REALITY To what extent is the rhetorical purpose justified?
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Max Boot in the Washington Post:

Why is the United States the only wealthy country where novel coronavirus cases are hitting new highs while elsewhere the virus is being contained? A lot of it has to do with the rejection of science by many on the right. A Gallup survey reports that while 98 percent of Democrats reported wearing a mask outside the home, only 66 percent of Republicans did. The same denialism extends to other important issues: A Pew survey reports that 75 percent of Democrats regard climate change as a top policy priority, compared with only 25 percent of Republicans.

President Trump — who rejects his own government’s warnings about global warming and keeps insisting that the coronavirus will “miraculously” disappear on its own — is more a symptom than the cause of the problem. The right’s reign of unreason long predates his presidency.

This week marks the 95th anniversary of the Scopes Monkey Trial — the most famous battle of the early 20th century between science and religious fundamentalism. The story is well told in Edward J. Larson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning account, “Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America’s Continuing Debate Over Science and Religion,” which is even more timely now than when it was published in 1997.

On July 10, 1925, high school science teacher John T. Scopes went on trial in Dayton, Tenn., for teaching Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. While “Modernist” (liberal) Protestants and most Catholics and Jews had accepted evolution as a manifestation of God’s design, conservative evangelicals known as “fundamentalists” insisted that God had created the earth in six days and denied that mankind is related to monkeys. At the urging of the fundamentalists, Tennessee passed a law forbidding the teaching of evolution. The prosecution of Scopes was a test case contrived by the town fathers of Dayton to put their sleepy burg on the map.

They succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. Two of the most famous orators in America volunteered to try the case — William Jennings Bryan, a former secretary of state and three-time presidential candidate for the prosecution, and Clarence Darrow, “attorney for the damned,” for the defense. About two hundred reporters flocked to Dayton to cover the carnival-like proceedings, which were broadcast on radio and filmed for newsreels, and later inspired the play and film “Inherit the Wind.”

The culmination of the trial was Darrow’s July 20 cross-examination of Bryan — a populist on economic issues but a conservative on social ones — about whether he took the Bible literally.

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Amazon Watch:

The murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor have catalyzed a seismic and long-overdue shift in support for the Movement for Black Lives and to defund the police. At the same time, the climate justice movement has finally begun to gain momentum because of the increasing recognition that overcoming our environmental crisis requires addressing and confronting racism. The case of Chevron’s criminal mistreatment of indigenous and rural peoples in Ecuador’s Amazon provides a perfect example of the degree of systemic racism that we must dismantle to be able to hold corporate polluters fully accountable for their illegal and unethical actions.

The overt racism exhibited by Chevron towards Amazon communities in Ecuador helps explain why it has yet to clean up the 16 billion gallons of toxic waste it deliberately dumped into the northern Ecuadorian Amazon between 1964 and 1990, home to over 30,000 indigenous and rural Ecuadorians. But the corporate criminals at Chevron are not the sole culprits. As with the institutionalized system of racism in the U.S., there is complicity within the courts, law enforcement, and in this case even the media.

The ultimate expression of this systemic racism towards the people of Ecuador is the fact that Chevron – even after admitting its environmental crimes in the Amazon – continues to ignore the Ecuadorian court ruling against the company. Our justice system was built this way. This is not the first or last time a corporate polluter will escape justice because of the political and legal influence and loyalty they have been able to buy. This judgment found Chevron had deliberately dumped billions of gallons of toxic waste into the rainforest, devastating indigenous communities and killing scores of people from cancers and other oil-related diseases. It has been upheld on appeal by four layers of Ecuadorian courts, including its constitutional court. Chevron has vowed never to pay the judgment even though it fought to have the case tried in Ecuador and had accepted jurisdiction there.

If we melt Greenland, there’s always Mars.

AFP:

An animation based on images taken by the ESA’s Mars Express showcases the 82-kilometre-wide Korolev Crater on Mars. Located in the northern lowlands of the Red Planet, south of the large Olympia Undae dune field that partly surrounds Mars’ north polar cap, this well-preserved impact crater is filled with water ice all year round. The crater’s floor lies two kilometres below its rim, enclosing a 1.8 km thick domed deposit that represents a large reservoir of non-polar ice on Mars.

Houston Chronicle is a good keyhole to peer into the heart of America’s energy industry.

Houston Chronicle:

BIG SPRING, Texas — Driving through the Permian Basin while on vacation, I couldn’t help but notice an industrial landscape that presages the future of the oil and gas industry.

New drilling rigs were far and few between, while most of the pumpjacks were idle, their horsehead noses no longer dipping down to pull crude from the ground. Towering above them, stretching into the distance, wind turbines spun by the hundreds, generating electricity for Texas’ big cities.

Then I stopped in Lamesa, where Southern Power maintains 410,000 photovoltaic cells generating enough power for 26,000 homes. That’s when it struck me, Texas’s premier oilfield may have a lot of oil, but it has limitless wind and sunlight. Where would you place your bet?

Young people see the writing on the wall, choosing to turn their backs on oil and gas during the current oil and gas bust to find more stable careers, my colleague Sergio Chapa reports. Corporate executives are following suit.

British oil giant BP’s decision to sell its petrochemical units is perhaps the most revelatory. For years, BP and other oil and gas boosters have claimed the future of the industry rests in selling chemicals, coatings and plastic in a world that no longer wants to burn fossil fuels.

For just as many years, though, environmentalists have complained about pollution from chemicals and plastic. Consumers from America to Zimbabwe want more reusable and sustainable packaging. Plastics manufacturers promise to recycle more and consume less oil and natural gas.

If BP’s CEO Bernard Looney believed that selling petrochemicals would sustain his huge corporation’s profit margins, he would not have sold those businesses for $5 billion. Neither would his board of directors write off $17.5 billion in oil and gas assets due to temporarily low prices.

The most telling indication of BP’s loss of faith in oil and gas is found in the corporation’s annual Statistical Review of Energy. This year, the company’s analysts stopped measuring energy demand in millions of metric tons of “oil equivalent” and started using exajoules, a unit of measurement for energy of any kind.

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Above, Jessica Woycehoski is a resource planner for CMS Energy, Michigan’s largest utility and the 10th largest in the US. Problems for natural gas were becoming evident even 2 years ago when I interviewed her.

Natural Gas in the age of Covid-19 is looking more and more like coal did about a dozen years ago – that is, what was once considered a slam dunk no-brainer for additions to the grid, now reveals glaring weaknesses and contradictions.

I posted yesterday about a cancelled gas pipeline on the East Coast – that developers attributed to increasing uncertainty in the gas world.
I’ll continue to post the bread crumbs that lead me to believe we are seeing an unraveling of natural gas, about a decade sooner than even optimistic renewable fans might have predicted.

Fundamental quandary: Gas is and has been, for a decade, too cheap for frackers to make money. If they start charging enough to make a profit, the renewables, and increasingly, battery storage, will eat them alive.
Any new developments that add more layers of doubt just make investors more skittish.

Stay tuned.

Reuters:

LONDON (Reuters) – Prospects for nearly half of the world’s projects to build infrastructure for exporting liquefied natural gas have faltered in recent months, amid rising concerns about climate change, public protests and delays due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to a report published Tuesday.

Out of 45 major LNG export projects in pre-construction development globally, at least 20 – representing a capital outlay of some $292 billion – are now facing delays to their financing, researchers at Global Energy Monitor found. 

That marks a stark shift by investors away from what many had considered a promising fuel market, already buffeted by slower growth in demand, rising competition from renewable energy technologies and opposition over the industry’s climate-warming emissions. 

The vice president of the European Investment Bank said the report underlined the unacceptable risk of investing in LNG assets.

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Nitrous Oxide – more powerful than methane.

Nature Reviews:

Soils are sources of the potent greenhouse gas nitrous oxide (N2O) globally, but emissions from permafrost-affected soils have been considered negligible owing to nitrogen (N) limitation. Recent measurements of N2O emissions have challenged this view, showing that vegetated soils in permafrost regions are often small but evident sources of N2O during the growing season (~30 μg N2O–N m−2 day−1). Moreover, barren or sparsely vegetated soils, common in harsh climates, can serve as substantial sources of N2O (~455 μg N2O–N m−2day−1), demonstrating the importance of permafrost-affected soils in Earth’s N2O budget. In this Review, we discuss N2O fluxes from subarctic, Arctic, Antarctic and alpine permafrost regions, including areas that likely serve as sources (such as peatlands) and as sinks (wetlands, dry upland soils), and estimate global permafrost-affected soil N2O emissions from previously published fluxes. We outline the below-ground N cycle in permafrost regions and examine the environmental conditions influencing N2O dynamics. Climate-change-related impacts on permafrost ecosystems and how these impacts could alter N2O fluxes are reviewed, and an outlook on the major questions and research needs to better constrain the global impact of permafrost N2O emissions is provided.

Key Points:

  • Published studies suggest that permafrost-affected soils are a source of nitrous oxide (N2O).
  • Compared with measurements of carbon dioxide and methane fluxes, measurements of N2O fluxes in permafrost regions are sparse and lacking during the non-growing season, making the magnitude of N2O fluxes across the vast permafrost regions uncertain.
  • Permafrost-affected soils store large amounts of nitrogen, but only a fraction is in bioavailable form. Strong plant–microorganism competition causes a general nitrogen limitation in permafrost-affected soils, often preventing N2O production and release.
  • Plant-regulatory effects on the size of the soil N pool are important, and N2O-emission hotspots occur in barren ground features, especially permafrost peatlands.
  • Climate warming and associated permafrost thaw, and other disturbances, could turn permafrost regions into a globally relevant source of N2O, creating a non-carbon permafrost feedback to the global climate system.

I’ve had some inquiries about a new book being pushed by purported “Environmentalist” Michael Shellenberger, which he has promoted with an online piece titled “On Behalf of Environmentalists, I Apologize for the Climate Scare”.

In the puff piece on Forbes last week, Shellenberger put forth a number of bogus talking points, aimed to get him maximal uptake from the climate denial and fossil fuel apologist community – which worked. He’s been all over the media, much the way Michael Moore’s recent dumpster fire of a movie made the leftist grifter a new hero to the white supremacist crowd.
The centerpiece of his argument so far is a list of assertions that, if you’re the average Sean Hannity viewer, sound like they falsify environmental media memes, but in fact are largely bogus straw men, distortions, or outright lies.
Here’s the list.

  • Humans are not causing a “sixth mass extinction” 
  • The Amazon is not “the lungs of the world”
  • Climate change is not making natural disasters worse
  • Fires have declined 25% around the world since 2003
  • The amount of land we use for meat — humankind’s biggest use of land — has declined by an area nearly as large as Alaska
  • The build-up of wood fuel and more houses near forests, not climate change, explain why there are more, and more dangerous, fires in Australia and California
  • Carbon emissions are declining in most rich nations and have been declining in Britain, Germany, and France since the mid-1970s 
  • Netherlands became rich not poor while adapting to life below sea level
  • We produce 25% more food than we need and food surpluses will continue to rise as the world gets hotter
  • Habitat loss and the direct killing of wild animals are bigger threats to species than climate change
  • Wood fuel is far worse for people and wildlife than fossil fuels
  • Preventing future pandemics requires more not less “industrial” agriculture

Scientists who probably have a lot of better things to do spent the July 4th weekend going thru the list and clarifying.
The very long response thread is excerpted here, but I encourage anyone interested to go to the link, and bookmark it, if you think you’ll need it in some future post-Covid Thanksgiving dinner.

Climate Feedback:

The article by Michael Shellenberger was published in various media outlets, including Forbes, Zero Hedge, Breitbart, PJ Media, The Daily Wire, The Australian, and Quillette. The article has been shared more than 200,000 times on social media since it was published, according to Buzzsumo. Forbes unpublished the article on the same day it was published. In the article, Shellenberger, who is promoting a new book, outlines a series of claims about climate change. As the reviewers describe below, several of these claims are accurate or partially accurate. However, others are inaccurate and mislead readers by lacking context and cherry-picking data while overlooking other relevant scientific studies.

Specifically, Shellenberger claims that “climate change is not making natural disasters worse.” As the reviewers describe below, this claim is inaccurate and contradicts reports from the IPCC as well as numerous scientific studies linking anthropogenic climate change to temperature extremes, drought, precipitation patterns, and wildfires[1-4].

Shellenberger also claims that “Humans are not causing a ‘sixth mass extinction,’” which contradicts scientific evidence demonstrating that extinctions in animal species far exceed background extinction rates[5-9]. As described in Ceballos et al. (2015), “conservatively almost 200 species of vertebrates have gone extinct in the last 100 years.” This result contrasts with the estimated background extinction rate, which would take approximately 10,000 years for 200 vertebrate species to go extinct.

Scientists who reviewed this article also noted several misleading claims about wildfires, including “fires have declined 25% around the world since 2003,” and “The build-up of wood fuel and more houses near forests, not climate change, explain why there are more, and more dangerous, fires in Australia and California.” Although global burned area declined ~25% from 1998-2015, this is driven in part by non-climatic factors, such as clearing land for agriculture[10,11]. By conflating purposefully set fires and wildfires as well as climatic and non-climatic factors driving these fires, the claim relies on flawed reasoning to suggest that wildfires are not affected by climate change. These claims also contradict scientific studies showing that anthropogenic climate change has increased fire risk in the western U.S. and Canada[12-14].

The reviewers who analyzed this article rated its overall credibility to be low. In their comments below, the scientists evaluate many of these claims and describe how they are inaccurate or mislead readers by contradicting available evidence or using scientific data out of context.

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And gas..

The Covid Crisis has become a critical moment for the oil and gas industry, as many observers, including moi, feel like we may have accelerated peak oil consumption, and created significant new barriers for the natural gas industry.

Bismark Tribune:

A federal judge has ordered the shutdown of the Dakota Access Pipeline while a lengthy environmental review is conducted of the project opposed by environmentalists and the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.

The move was requested earlier this year by Standing Rock and three other Sioux tribes in the Dakotas who fear environmental harm from the oil pipeline and sued over the project four years ago. North Dakota officials have said such a move would have “significant disruptive consequences” for the state, whose oil patch has been hit hard in recent months by falling demand for crude amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Standing Rock Chairman Mike Faith said the tribe is trying to prevent a potential environmental disaster should the line leak.

“For the tribe’s sake, it is good news,” he said of Monday’s ruling. “I think for downstream users, it’s good news also.”

The $3.8 billion pipeline built by developer Energy Transfer has been moving Bakken oil to a shipping point in Illinois for three years. But U.S. District Judge James Boasberg, who is overseeing the lawsuit, in March ordered the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to complete a full Environmental Impact Statement. The question of whether the pipeline would be shut down in the meantime had lingered since.

As big, maybe bigger news:

New York Times:

Two of the nation’s largest utility companies announced on Sunday that they had canceled the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which would have carried natural gas across the Appalachian Trail, as delays and rising costs threatened the viability of the project.

Duke Energy and Dominion Energy said that lawsuits, mainly from environmentalists aimed at blocking the project, had increased costs to as much as $8 billion from about $4.5 billion to $5 billion when it was first announced in 2014. The utilities said they had begun developing the project “in response to a lack of energy supply and delivery diversification for millions of families, businesses, schools and national defense installations across North Carolina and Virginia.”

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Above, Varshini Prakash, the executive director of the Sunrise Movement, recaps her participation in the Joe Biden Climate Coalition over recent months. She is “cautiously optimistic”.

New York Times:

In recent weeks, supporters of Mr. Biden and of Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, his chief rival in the Democratic presidential primary race, have met privately over Zoom, part of several joint task forces that the two contenders established to generate policy recommendations on core domestic priorities, and to facilitate party unity. After two months of those conversations, task force members representing both camps say they have finalized a set of ambitious, near-term climate targets that they hope Mr. Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, will incorporate in his platform.

“I do believe we were able to make meaningful progress,” Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democrat of New York, who headed the climate panel with former Secretary of State John Kerry, said in an interview last week. Representative Donald McEachin of Virginia, a Biden ally who was also on the task force, called it a “collaborative process” that developed wide-ranging policies.

Still, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, who has previously clashed with Mr. Bidenover his approach to combating climate change, struck a note of caution.

“Now, what he does with those recommendations, ultimately, is up to him,” she said. “And we will see what that commitment looks like.”

Mr. Biden, the former vice president, last year proposed a $1.7 trillion plan aimed at achieving 100 percent clean energy and eliminating the country’s net carbon emissions by 2050.

But how he responds to the task force’s recommendations — and whether progressives in the group walk away feeling heard — will test his campaign’s ability to navigate an issue of great importance to ascendant forces in the Democratic Party.

“The work of the task forces has been collaborative and productive, and Vice President Biden looks forward to reviewing their full recommendations,” a campaign spokesman, Jamal Brown, said in a statement. As for Mr. Biden’s approach to the issue, Mr. Brown said, “As president, Biden will take immediate action to address the urgency of the climate emergency and create good-paying jobs that provide a chance to join a union, which is especially important now as tens of millions of Americans are out of work.”

In recent weeks Mr. Biden has made a number of overtures to climate activists. He has increasingly linked environmental issues to racial justice, and he said at a recent climate-focused fund-raiser that, if elected, in his first 100 days as president, he would send Congress “a transformational plan for a clean energy revolution.” Last week he announced the formation of an advisory council focused on mobilizing climate-focused voters.

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