Media, Politics, and Climate Change, a Response to Wang and Hausfather

Wallace Manheimer

In the January issue of FPS, Seaver Wang and Zeke Hausfather presented their response, Climate change: Robust evidence of causes and impacts, to my essay in the October issue, Climate change, media perceptions and misperceptions. Their critique was considerably longer than my essay. I certainly realize that my essay was controversial and likely would trigger a response.

The goals of my essay were modest. It was certainly not to resolve the climate dilemma or controversy. I am a professional scientist with more than 50 years of experience. However, I am not a climate scientist and am in no position to take on Wang and Hausfather, who are obviously experienced climate scientists, regarding the details and subtleties of climate science. That role is for extremely qualified climate experts like Dick Lindzen (youngest person elected to NAS), William Happer (leading member of NAS), Roy Spencer and John Christy (in charge of the NOAA/NASA/UAH space based temperature data collection), Patrick Moore (originator of Greenpeace, resigned when he thought it became too extreme), Judith Curry (former chairwoman of the earth an atmospheric science department at GA Tech), Ivar Giaever (Nobel Prize winner in physics, resigned from the American Physical Society because of its stand on climate change), Fred Singer, (retired professor University of Virginia, designed many of the space based instruments used for environmental measurements), Freeman Dyson (long time scholar at Princeton Institute of Advanced Studies, probably the greatest physicist who has NOT won a Nobel Prize), and many, many others, who are perfectly capable of taking them on and have done so in many arenas. While it is obviously impossible here to go through their arguments here, Dick Lindzen summarized it well:

“What historians will definitely wonder about in future centuries is how deeply flawed logic, obscured by shrewd and unrelenting propaganda, actually enabled a coalition of powerful special interests to convince nearly everyone in the world that CO2 from human industry was a dangerous, planet-destroying toxin. It will be remembered as the greatest mass delusion in the history of the world- that CO2, the life of plants, was considered for a time to be a deadly poison.”

My goal was to emphasize the media and politicians, how both get it so wrong, how they abetted this ‘shrewd and unrelenting propaganda’. It certainly was not to resolve the climate controversy. The media’s job is to present an unbiased view of a scientific dilemma of which they have little understanding. Instead they present only one side, pretending the other side either does not exist, or is corrupt. One does not have to be a climate scientist to examine climate data. A great deal of data from reliable sources is available on the Internet; it is not only for the high priests of climate science. It is available to anyone, anywhere, any time. The media should routinely be examining it. If they did, they would get a much more balanced view.

This Internet data shows the claims of imminent disaster are, at the very least, controversial, they are certainly not settled science; more likely it shows that they are bogus. My essay, and many others pointed this out, the media and politicians ignore it. I certainly stand by all of the data in my essay, data from very reliable sources (i.e NOAA, IPCC, EPA, NASA, UAH, National Hurricane Center, National Weather Service, congressional testimony, but more on NOAA ground based temperature data shortly). The data is presented in a way that anyone can understand, there is no need for a climate expert to guide us. Furthermore, I would say that these journalists, politicians, and even scientists who ignore actual data are members of a long and dishonorable tradition of ‘chicken littles’. The sky is always falling, whether cooling, warming, overpopulation, acid rain, crop erosion, famine, dead oceans, dead great lakes, …. They have nearly always been wrong. Here are two links:

My essay concentrated only on the media and politics, and the implied role of the research community, not on the details or subtleties of climate science. For instance, Wang and Hausfather say “The research community neither suggests total cessation of fossil fuel use…” Are they suggesting that politicians, media and some scientists do not suggest exactly this? Seriously? Have they looked at the media lately? Watched TV news? Have they watched any Democrat presidential debates or read any of their campaign web sites? Many of these candidates are absolutely certain that we must terminate fossil fuel use in about 10 years. And these people are serious candidates for president! Where did they get these ideas if not from the research community? That is where they say they got them. For instance, here is a quote from Bernie Sander’s 2020 campaign web site:

“The scientific community is telling us in no uncertain terms that we have less than 11 years left to transform our energy system away from fossil fuels to energy efficiency and sustainable energy, if we are going to leave this planet healthy and habitable for ourselves, our children, grandchildren, and future generations.”

If Wang and Hausfather’s claim is true, that the research community does not suggest a cessation of fossil fuel, somehow their message got garbled on the way to the media and politicians.

I will briefly comment on a few of Wang and Hausfather’s assertions. Commenting on all 18 of them would obviously not be appropriate, other than to reiterate that I stand by the data quoted.

The NOAA ground-based temperature graphs deserve a bit of explanation. Figure 1 of my essay was a NOAA graph of world temperature showing a plateau between about 1998 and 2014. Unfortunately, NOAA has presented changing and contradictory measurements. For 15 years, their measurements showed a constant world temperature. Then, (whoops!); after 15 years of their original graph and methodology, they reconsidered. There is no temperature plateau after all, but only a constantly rising temperature, a temperature graph much more pleasing to their political bosses at the time. So which NOAA graph does one use, the one that for 15 years stood the test of time with little controversy; or the new one which generated enormous controversy, with congressmen demanding answers, and with NOAA refusing to present the new methodology? I used the original, believing it is more likely correct. It is still featured prominently on a Google Images search. This author believes such a NOAA U turn represents a serious problem for the agency. A further discussion of this is in Sec 6.6 of, and also see Jeff Tollefson, Nature News October 28, 2015, climate-records-1.18660

However these NOAA measurements ultimately shake out, Wang and Hausfather are correct in one assertion. There was a strong el nino in about 2016 which did indeed give a temporary spike in world temperature which was absent in my graph. Some of my correspondents have interpreted this as greatly accelerated climate change. However, this is not the case; as soon as the el nino receded, the temperature quickly relaxed, but back to a somewhat higher value. This is apparent in both the ground-based and space-based measurements. Figure 1 shows confirming data from the UAH space-based measurements.

graphic 1

Figure 1: Space-based temperature measurements from UAH up to December 2019 showing the effect of the strong el ninos around 1998 and 2016. These were the hottest years. It also shows that once the el nino receded, temperature also relaxed.

Figure 2 shows basically the same thing, this graph from the EPA and showing several different measurements.

graphic 2

Figure 2. Worldwide temperature as measure both ground-based, space-based, and with high altitude balloons 1900-2015. Averaging over peaks and valleys, this temperature has been about constant since about 1998.

Neither of these graphs indicate a climate emergency, at least in the view of this author.

Glaciers have definitely been receding for past 200 years. Some Internet sources claim the melt has increased since 1960, when CO2 began to be added to the atmosphere, others do not. In either case, the science is certainly not settled. An example of the latter, from Penn State University is in Figure 3:

graphic 3

Figure 3: One measurement of the length of glaciers as a function of year. This graph shows no acceleration of melting after 1960 when CO2 began to accumulate in the atmosphere.

In my original submission for the October 2019 FPS essay, was a map of the glacier edges in Glacier Bay AK at various years. This is an example of one well documented glacier, whose shrinkage was fastest well before 1960. Perhaps it is typical. It was deleted to shorten the manuscript. Figure 4 is that map provided by the US Geological Survey.

graphic 4

Figure 4: The red lines are positions of the glacier edges at various years. In about 1780 when Captain Vancouver sailed there, entire bay was impassable. Virtually all of the melting took place before 1907, well before additional CO2 in the atmosphere could have played any role.

Wang and Hausfather deny that Mooney (my reference 3) made a claim of a 30-foot ocean rise. Here is the headline of Mooney’s article:

“At this rate, Earth risks sea level rise of 20 to 30 feet, historical analysis shows”

Finally, if Wang and Hausfather really believe fusion, solar, wind or carbon capture can make any sizeable impact in the next 10, or even the next 20 years, as they indicate in their Claim 18, I would say that they are living in a dream world. The facts are simple and undeniable, these ‘sustainable’ sources cannot, for at least the next 20 years, replace fossil fuel on anything like the scale and price necessary for powering civilization; no matter what their proponents and publicists claim. As Richard Feynman said regarding the Challenger disaster:

“For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled.”

See the first two sections of where the experience with, and potential of ‘sustainable’ energy is carefully documented. It also shows the tens of billions of dollars the world’s tax payers each year shovel into climate science and related subsidies, dollars that certainly finance a ‘coalition of powerful special interests’. It is a refereed paper in a very prestigious journal. In fact, the referee insisted on including this analysis.

Eliminating or greatly reducing fossil fuel in the next 20 years would cause worldwide poverty and starvation for billions. There is no disputing this. It would cause the end of civilization as we know it. It would create a world holocaust.

These contributions have not been peer-refereed. They represent solely the view(s) of the author(s) and not necessarily the view of APS.