Letters to the Editor

Letter: Change undeniable

May 14, 2014


To the editor:

More than people in any other rich nation, Americans are skeptical that climate change is a dire issue. Considered a future topic, the issue just moved firmly into the present last week with a new study titled the National Climate Report.

Released by a large scientific panel overseen by the government, the panel included representatives from two oil companies and is considered the most comprehensive to date. The assessment: Warming is already upon us. If gasoline, natural gas and coal emissions keep growing, it’s not the higher averages we will notice, it’s the extremes. The report highlights the pain with drought in California, melting in Alaska and flooding in Florida.

On Sunday, former GOP presidential candidate Jon Huntsman Jr. said, “Our approach as a party should be neither denial nor extremism … We aren’t inspiring much confidence among those who want an intelligent conversation … The fact is the planet is warming, and failing to deal with this reality will leave us vulnerable.”

The nonpartisan Citizen’s Climate Lobby supports a Revenue Neutral Carbon Fee and Dividend (a fee on fossil fuels at the source/all proceeds returned to citizens equally). We imagine Kansas representatives and senators co-sponsoring such a bill.


Bob Smith 3 years, 11 months ago

There's no paper over here. Would somebody pass me a carbon credit?

Ken Lassman 3 years, 11 months ago

Fee and dividend is very different from a carbon credit used in cap and trade. If a carbon credit is the toilet paper, then fee and dividend is the food that goes into the other end as it nourishes a healthy transition to renewables and reduced energy waste. I think I'll stop right there.

Brock Masters 3 years, 11 months ago

It makes no sense to deny climate change. The climate has been changing since the beginning of time. Ice age no ice age etc.

What is to be questioned is the primary cause of the change, man's contribution to it and how to reverse or slow it?

Some measures should be common sense. Don't put chemical discharge into our waters.

But whatever we do must be reasonable and be proven to have an impact on the problem.

Ken Lassman 3 years, 11 months ago

Humanity's role in climate change is as undeniable as the evidence that Topeka lies upstream: all you have to do to find out what is happening upstream is to sample the river downstream. Why do these comments all have a scatological component this morning? Guess it's because we're in deep doo-doo over our role in all of this.

In British Columbia, a carbon fee and dividend program has cut carbon emissions and stimulated the local economy. Since human activity-related carbon emissions are the primary cause of atmospheric warming, glacial mass/ice cap melting, ocean acidification and sea level rise and increased weather extremes, fee and dividend seems to be a pretty efficient way to address the issue. It's either this approach or increased regulations, and most economists like this kind of free market stimulus to reduce the amount of emissions we humans put into the atmosphere.

Mike Ford 3 years, 11 months ago

drag your feet until conservative denial wins....good plan.

Richard Heckler 3 years, 11 months ago

Among other things a news item I read this morning suggests that Climate Change is turning some of our fresh produce into junk food.

Climate skeptics like to point out that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere stimulates plant growth—suggesting that ever-growing fossil fuel consumption will lead to an era of bin-busting crop yields. But as I noted last week, the best science suggests that other effects of an over-heated planet—heat stress, drought, and floods—will likely overwhelm any bonus from CO2-rich air. Overall, it seems, crop yields will decline.

Higher CO2 levels caused a "significant decrease in the concentrations of zinc, iron, and protein" for wheat and rice.

The results: a "significant decrease in the concentrations of zinc, iron, and protein" for wheat and rice, a Harvard press release on the study reports. For legumes like soybeans and peas, protein didn’t change much, but zinc and iron levels dropped. For wheat, the treated crops saw zinc, iron, and protein fell by 9.3 percent, 5.1 percent, and 6.3 percent, respectively.

These are potentially grave findings, because a large swath of humanity relies on rice, wheat, and legumes for these very nutrients, the authors note.

In short, the era of climate change will hardly be the paradise of carbon-enriched bounty envisioned by fossil fuel enthusiasts. For a look at how farmers probably should adapt to these unhappy developments, see my 2013 profile of Ohio farmer David Brandt.

Con't - additional scary suggestions


Larry Sturm 3 years, 11 months ago

I have 2 questions why is it that right wing politicians know more about global warming than all the world scientists and they know more about education than the educators?

Scott Burkhart 3 years, 11 months ago

I have two questions; 1) Where do you get that all of the world scientists agree on climate change and 2) What makes educators experts on education? The results on education do not bear out this statement.

Scott Burkhart 3 years, 11 months ago

Ken, would it make any difference to you if I could produce an exhaustive list of renowned scientists, scientists that are respected by their peers in their own fields of science, that say the notion of man made climate anything is ridiculous? I didn't think so. That's how I feel about "the agreement." Below is a sampling of the list I can produce in defense of my position. This sampling contains physicists, astrophysicists, climatologists, research scientists and the list of accomplishments of these people are without impunity. I feel this list is a formidable as any you could produce in your defense. Freeman Dyson, Richard Lindzen, Nils-Axel Mörner, Garth Paltridge, Peter Stilbs, Philip Stott, Fritz Vahrenholt, Khabibullo Abdusamatov, Sallie Baliunas, Tim Ball, Robert M. Carter, Ian Clark, Chris de Freitas, David Douglass, Don Easterbrook, William M. Gray, William Happer, Ole Humlum, Wibjörn Karlén, William Kininmonth, David Legates, Anthony Lupo, Tad Murty, Tim Patterson, Ian Plimer, Arthur B. Robinson, Murry Salby, Nicola Scafetta, Tom Segalstad, Fred Singer, Willie Soon, Roy Spencer, Henrik Svensmark, George H. Taylor.

James Howlette 3 years, 11 months ago

Would it make any difference to you if your list is bunk? It is overly broad in defining the expertise of the individuals (natural sciences in general vs climatology) and is overly broad in defining opposition to climate change. It contains a list of people who have expressed some sort of doubt to some aspect of the scientific consensus, which is, by definition, a list much smaller than that of the scientists who agree with the consensus on climate change. Less than a dozen of these doubts have made their way into actual peer-reviewed literature in any meaningful way, since that requires the burden of scientific rigor and not just shooting your mouth off to some magazine.

Ken Lassman 3 years, 11 months ago

I got really excited that you might be really providing grounds for a real conversation, Scott, when you said you were going to provide a list of scientists who "are without impunity. I feel this list is a formidable as any you could produce in your defense."

But alas, your argument has every indication of being yet another fine example of the "Gish Gallop" strategy: "The Gish Gallop is the debating technique of drowning the opponent in such a torrent of small arguments that their opponent cannot possibly answer or address." In this spirit, your list includes people like the infamous Fred Singer, who has been a mercenary scientist who has defended the Big tobacco and polluting industries with his testimony denying a link between passive smoke and cancer, air pollution and cancer, CFCs and the Ozone Hole and who knows what else. Then there's Willie Soon, who testified that climate change is a hoax to the Kansas legislature, masquerading as an independent scientist who just happens to get monies from the Koch brothers, the American Petroleum Institute and Exxon. After he got a paper published in the Climate Research journal, 4 out of 10 of the editorial board resigned in protest.

Let me poke around your list a little more....I started with going to Science Direct, the "leading full-text scientific database offering journal articles and book chapters from more than 2,500 journals and almost 20,000 books." and wha? No citations whatsoever for Chris DeFreitas, Richard Lindzen, Garth Paltridge and Khabibullo Abdusamatov? And Peter Stilbs is an expert in electrophoresis which has what to do with climate science? Tim Ball is a mycologist (studies mushrooms) last published in 1976?

Roy Spencer is a legitimate scientist, although his attempts at explaining why climate change isn't really a big deal is based on manipulations of the data in ways that are easily refuted. An example of his sloppy rationales can be found here: http://www.skepticalscience.com/roy-spencer-catholic-online-interview.html

William Happer is a physicist with no publications in the climate profession since his expertise is in radiation physics. His collaboration with Spencer has been picked apart here: http://www.skepticalscience.com/happer-spencer-global-warming-continues.html

I could go on with this exercise, but with so many tainted names included, I see little reason to continue to look for the gems in the mud, if there are any. But instead of looking at the people, I challenge you to look at the ideas that they are discussing, and show me exactly where you think the data, the analysis or the conclusions that the peer reviewed papers used by the AAAS in their summary statements are incorrect. Until you can show me the flaws in these papers, and provide me with a more viable alternative explanation I must once again conclude that you are just stating your personal opinion and nothing else.

Scott Burkhart 3 years, 11 months ago

Ken, I find your reply predictable. How do you feel about Yale360? Do you find them a credible, investigative source? If so, I would offer an interview that does a good job of summing up my objections to the flawed investigative techniques of the current "man made climate change" proponents.

Ken Lassman 3 years, 11 months ago

Yes, I'm very predicably ignoring mercenary scientists-for-hire who are not published and respected leaders in the field, who are coming up with exactly the opposite conclusions as the rest of the climatological community. Why do I ignore their conclusions? Because their criticisms typically involve manipulation of data, cherry picking and/or misunderstanding of the issues they are critiquing.

But I'm game to look at anything you want to share, as Yale360 has provided much useful information on the topic, and hopefully the interview will get us to discuss the meat of the issues. So by all means, provide me with a link!

Ken Lassman 3 years, 11 months ago

Hm....Scott, still waiting for your link to the interview that summarizes your objections to the science behind the conclusion that humans are changing the chemistry of the atmosphere enough to change the climate, the ocean's acidity, the sea level and the rest. Maybe it doesn't exist after all....

Scott Burkhart 3 years, 11 months ago


Sorry, I had not revisited my comments for a while and had not seen your reply. Please don't be condescending. My concerns are as legitimate as those on the "other side."

This is an interview with Freeman Dyson. Everyone in the scientific community poo poos him as a scientific "Ron Paul", if you will. A perfect skeptic. He was there at the beginning at Oak Ridge, TN, when climate studies really started to take off. He brings up some very valid arguments. The most compelling is that the climate models do a beautiful job of telling us about past and present climate, they cannot "predict" climate because some the data being inputed is, at best, an educated guess. Especially the data on clouds and their role in the atmosphere. The perfect example of this is the flatlining of global temperatures for the last decade and a half. This was not predicted by all of the models that were crying doom. You must admit that this can give anyone rise to question the entire modeling method that currently exists. At any rate, this man is one of the great scientists of our time. He might not be an expert in climatology but he is an expert in the "scientific method" and sheds common sense on the subject.

Ken Lassman 3 years, 11 months ago

Well, I can't believe I just spent considerable time reading over the article, making an in-depth critique of the issues at hand, complete with links, and, when I hit the "post reply" button it disappeared altogether. How frustrating that the JW has such crappy software that I've experienced this probably a dozen times over the years.

I'm not going to spend nearly the same amount of time as I did the first time, but here are the main highlights of what I said before losing it: -Yes, Freeman Dyson has the scientific chops to be taken seriously, unlike many of the other folks you posted earlier, even tho he himself admits that he's not a climatologist and has spent maybe 1% of his time thinking about it. The gist of his critique is about the models used in climate modeling, particularly in the predictive aspects, as they are based on fluid dynamic models put out by the GFDL that don't incorporate some very important smaller components of the system like the role of clouds, as well as other components of the carbon cycle such as the living biosphere which is capable of changing the atmospheric dynamics through its ability to absorb more CO2 as the CO2 increased in concentration in the air.

These things may be true about the General Circulation Model (GCM) by itself, but it is most commonly coupled with other components that model the ocean, sea ice, land use, etc. It is not clear at all that Dyson is aware of how much the models have evolved, both in the ability to incorporate new and paleo observational data on all aspects of the climate, and how the CMIP5 models used in the latest AR5 IPCC report has great promise to provide even more precise and probable predictions. There is no doubt that there are numerous uncertainties and unknowns, but that is why the models are run over and over with different sets of assumptions, resulting in a range of possibilities, but limited in range nevertheless. Furthermore, the more we find out, those bracketed assumptions are replaced with formulas that describe the dynamics, not just mimic the observations. The more this is done, the better predictive value the model has.

Dyson's latest interviews state that he is neutral on the subject of climate change, not a denialist. By neutral, he is neutral about the extent of the warming that is taking place and will take place, and does not deny that warming is occurring. Here's a link to the interview: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/05/06/freeman-dyson-podcast_n_5248626.html

I could go on, but I've already spent too much time on this. I'll continue the discussion if you show additional interest and indicate that you would actually look more closely at the evidence that climate change is occurring and humans are largely responsible. But if you aren't, then I won't waste either of our time presenting information that you would refuse to even consider.

Scott Burkhart 3 years, 11 months ago

Thank you for the thoughtful reply, Ken. I might have questions later for you.

Chris Golledge 3 years, 11 months ago

"1) Where do you get that all of the world scientists agree on climate change" Multiple, independent, peer-reviewed research studies. Google Scholar is your friend. That, and the fact that Arrhenius proposed over 100 years ago that our burning of fossil fuels would warm the planet, and no one has shown him to be wrong since.

Before you go off on peer review, let me correct a common misunderstanding; peer review does not mean "truth". Peer review means that some other researchers in the field to agreed that what you wrote is not complete BS. So, here is a simple logic test for you, if passing peer review means 'probably not BS', what does not passing peer review mean?

3 years, 11 months ago

To Scott B. Because it's an inaccurate self assessment complex that happens when one completely overestimates one's abilities. They really believe themselves. And all of the time. There is a psychiatric name for it but I can't remember what it is. Very difficult to treat. It's an illness, therefore, that is abundant and can become unbearable in any given society and is the causation, historically speaking, of many a revolution.

Richard Heckler 3 years, 11 months ago

Right now, somewhere in the United States at a secret meeting between billionaire-funded pressure groups and Big Oil, plans are being made for another misinformation campaign about renewable energy.

Meanwhile, in between ads for "clean coal," a talking head on cable news is getting ready to parrot industry talking points with a fact-free rant about global warming.

In their war against the evidence provided by independent science, our opponents never rest.

Union of Concerned Scientists http://www.ucsusa.org/global_warming/

Scott Burkhart 3 years, 11 months ago

Yes, Richard, there is a secret meeting. We have it all mapped out. We are thinking about a misinformation campaign about misinformation. The topics include; Clean Coal, No Black Lung Here. Acid Rain; Your Windshield Has Never Been Cleaner. Climate Change; Everybody Was Complaining About the Weather Anyway! and......wait for it.... Richard Heckler; What Does He Not Know and When Did He Not Know It?

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 3 years, 11 months ago

I can't understand how anyone could deny that the climate is changing. You might want to be wimpy and irresponsible enough to not want to take credit for the change, but the change is happening regardless.

What advantage is there to continue using nonrenewable energy, pollution or not? Think of how long oil and coal resources would last if we instead got most of our energy from solar and wind? If every building has solar panels, we might still have to have that coal burning plant to supplement power, but we wouldn't be using it in the volumes we do now, so the coal will last longer and there will be less pollution. Why not build solar panel factories in coal country to give jobs to miners, because we wouldn't need to send as many people down into those dirty old mines. We wouldn't need pipelines, because gas guzzlers could be replaced by electric cars, powered by those solar panels and wind power. Why use up our resources so quickly? Are you not concerned about our future generations? People whined about forcing car companies to lower their emissions and raising the gas mileage on cars, but guess what? They did it. I realize that the rich oil and coal people would not have as much money. Sure they won't be able to leave as much money to their grandchildren, but at least their grandchildren will be able to breathe. You can't eat, drink and breathe money.

Leslie Swearingen 3 years, 11 months ago

Ah, Dorothy, but the very rich will be able to still do those things because they will buy good food, clean air and clean water. That is to say they will have air scrubbers, water purifiers and get their food from special greenhouses or farms. Life will go on for them with little or no disruption.

Bob Smith 3 years, 11 months ago

"...Science regresses if it becomes intolerant of criticism. At the beginning of her reign, Queen Elizabeth I of England spoke words of tolerance in an age of religious strife, declaring that she had no intention of making windows into men’s souls. Unlike religion, science is not a matter of the heart or of belief. It exists only in what can be demonstrated. In their persecution of an aged colleague who stepped out of line and their call for scientists to be subject to a faith test, 21st-century climate scientists have shown less tolerance than a 16th-century monarch. There is something rotten in the state of climate science." http://www.nationalreview.com/article/378011/science-mccarthyism-rupert-darwall

Ken Lassman 3 years, 11 months ago

Science has institutionalized criticism into the scientific method itself, so I have no idea why this author says that climate science is intolerant of criticism. Every peer reviewed journal submission is sent out for peer review, i.e. respected and vetted scientists who are known for their sound skills review those submissions. The reviewer's job is to shoot down the methodology, the data and the conclusions, and only after it has gone through this process and any issues are resolved is a paper accepted for publication.

The summary conclusions of organizations like the National Academy of Sciences, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Geophysical Union are founded on the mountain of peer reviewed articles that go through the processes I've just described. For an example of this, check out the climatenexus link I provided Scott in a comment earlier in this discussion thread. The author you quote either is ignorant of the amount of criticism that these papers go through or is deliberately misleading. Neither motive makes their critique a valid one.

James Howlette 3 years, 11 months ago

I disagree that science is always tolerant disagreement. Plenty of radical new ideas were scoffed at when first introduced, but you can't claim that just because everyone disagrees with you, you must be some sort of radical genius. People would also disagree with you if you were just plain wrong.

Ken Lassman 3 years, 11 months ago

I can't disagree with that! ;>)

The fact that criticism is a fundamental part of the scientific method makes it a fundamentally conservative undertaking that makes it very slow to accept radically new ideas. But it is a system where reason is likely to prevail in the long run, The fact of human induced climate change was not initially widely accepted not because many of the concepts and processes concerning the concept of greenhouse gases were not well understood; it was because of the complexity of the atmosphere, the carbon cycle, biogeochemical sinks and fluxes and the rest made it difficult to understand how it all came together. Just as with our trying to figure out whether the universe is expanding at a rate fast enough to continue to expand, expand then shrink, or tear itself apart depends on collecting sufficient data, and so it is with the climate. Now that data is pouring in from all quarters concerning humanity's impact on the climate, the climatological community has overwhelmingly concluded that the evidence is clear and now it's time to move on to the questions about what to do about it, if it is not too late to avoid the largest changes, etc.

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