Field of Science

Climate Change Reconsidered - again

TPP is honored to have selected to receive a copy of a Summary for Policymakers, Climate Change Reconsidered II: Biological Impacts (2014), a publication from NIPCC (Nongovernmental International Panel of Climate Change), not to be confused by the UN’s IPCC and their recent report on climate change.  The publication is a gift to TPP from Joseph L. Bast, President of the Heartland Institute (cost $8.95).  According to Joseph’s accompanying letter, “These findings disagree sharply with the alarmist findings of IPCC. As a trustee charged with safeguarding the finances of your institution and ensuring the integrity of its educational offerings [TPP’s alter ego served on his university’s foundation board for a decade], you should be well-informed on this controversial issue.  If your faculty is telling students “the science is settled” on climate change, and if your institution is spending millions of dollars on “sustainability” projects in the name of battling global warming, you should be crying foul.”

Wow!  Well, TPP will take a few minutes to examine this report and discuss it with colleagues and friends, and faithful blog readers too. 

This is a classic of denialism (others aren't so slick), and no one does it better than the Heartland Institute.  Without a bit of skepticism, without the experience to be able to spot the differences between science and phony science, without knowing enough science, you could be easily fooled. 

First, the Heartland Institute exists to obfuscate, confuse, and counter science, and they are good at it, the best corporate money can buy.  They figured out their basic tactic denying that smoking caused any health problems. Now Heartland is funded by ExxonMobil, American Petroleum Institute, and the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, all of whom are concerned that efforts to limit greenhouse gases might cut into their bottom line. 

Second, how can you know this publication is denial BS?  A good part of this document’s message is that carbon dioxide is good for the environment and makes plants grow better.  If you look at the references, and bear in mind this is just a summary and probably not the full set of reference (they say thousands), you see something curious.  The four sources about CO2 and plants were published in 1902-1904, 1918, 1978, and 1983, and because they are included in the summary they must be really important ones.  Absolutely no studies are referenced that were done since scientists started to wonder and worry about climate change and carbon dioxide. That tells you a lot right there. One of the best, and only, long term studies of carbon dioxide and tropical tree growth was published in 2003 in the USA’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (Clark, D.A., S.C. Piper, C.D. Keeling, and D.B. Clark. 2003. Tropical rain forest tree growth and atmospheric carbon dynamics linked to interannual temperature variation during 1984-2000. PNAS 100(10):5852-5857.), and if this study isn’t cited (or any of the 28 papers published by the principle authors (the Clarks) since 2003 then the publication is not an honest survey of  the biological impacts of carbon dioxide. 

Third, Heartland is very good at telling half a story. Increased carbon dioxide does increase photosynthesis and plants grow faster. But the other half of the story is that as the temperature goes up, so does photorespiration, and plants lose more fixed carbon, and at the same time, the rate of photosynthesis slows down such that the might be a tipping point.  Another recent report shows that enhanced carbon dioxide reduces the nutritional value of vegetation, so in light of that, the NIPCC’s conclusion that “The evidence is overwhelming that it [increased carbon dioxide concentration] has and will continue to help plants thrive, leading to …more food for a growing human population”, seems a bit over optimistic, and TPP remains under whelmed by the evidence presented.

So, that’s the short version, but without question this publication will fool lots of people and make for lots of press by those (and the politicians they've bought) whose fiscal interests are threatened by possible actions to slow global warming. 


Tomas Rees said...

So how come you were honoured with this gift? Wondering who, exactly, they are mailing this guff out to.

The Phytophactor said...

As I said, my alter ego was on a university foundation board as a faculty rep, but on the same mailing list as the other trustees, who are largely successful professionals and business types.

Dan Pangburn said...

Broad science skill allows one to challenge the ‘science’ and ‘peer review’ as possibly being just more propaganda towards a political agenda. Unfortunately, much of ‘peer review’ of papers on climate science has morphed into an academic club approving each other’s work.

The Phytophactor said...

Is this the excuse Heartland uses for not publishing?

Dan Pangburn said...

NATURAL phenomena drove all of the reported average global temperature anomalies since before 1900. The correlation is 95% and uses only two drivers. CO2 change is not one of them. Search using key words AGW unveiled to see the simple analysis.

The Phytophactor said...

Was going to send Dan to a web-site about GW denialism, but he's already been there and left the exact same comment. So for everyone else, here's a link to graph showing you how many of over 2250 publications representing over 9000 authors reject human causation as a major component of global warming. But you know when you're so busy trolling, it's so hard to keep up with the literature.