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2018 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming Digest #2

Posted on 14 January 2018 by John Hartz

Story of the Week... Opinion of the Week... El Niño/La Niña Update... Toon of the Week... Quote of the Week... Graphic of the Week... SkS Spotlights... Video of the Week... Report of Note... Coming Soon on SkS... Poster of the Week... SkS Week in Review... 97 Hours of Consensus...

Story of the Week...

 Exxon Ramps Up Free Speech Argument in Fighting Climate Fraud Investigations

The oil giant wants a court to block state investigations into whether it misled investors on climate change, while it continues to promote a degree of uncertainty.

 ExxonMobile Refinery

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced in 2015 that his office was investigating whether Exxon misled investors about climate change-related risks. Credit: Joel Sagget/Getty Images 

ExxonMobil turned the volume back up this week in its ongoing fight to block two states' investigations into what it told investors about climate change risk, asserting once again that its First Amendment rights are being violated by politically motivated efforts to muzzle it.

In a 45-page document filed in federal court in New York, the oil giant continued to denounce New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey for what it called illegal investigations.

"Attorneys General, acting individually and as members of an unlawful conspiracy, determined that certain speech about climate change presented a barrier to their policy objectives, identified ExxonMobil as one source of that speech, launched investigations based on the thinnest of pretexts to impose costs and burdens on ExxonMobil for having spoken, and hoped their official actions would shift public discourse about climate policy," Exxon's lawyers wrote.

Healey and Schneiderman are challenging Exxon's demand for a halt to their investigations into how much of what Exxon knew about climate change was disclosed to shareholders and consumers.

The two attorneys general have consistently maintained they are not trying to impose their will on Exxon in regard to climate change, but rather are exercising their power to protect their constituents from fraud. They have until Jan. 19 to respond to Exxon's latest filing.

Exxon Ramps Up Free Speech Argument in Fighting Climate Fraud Investigations by David Hasmyer, InsideClimate News, Jan 13, 2018 

Opinion of the Week...

Climate Change in My Backyard

New York Times Graphic

On Tuesday morning, half an inch of water fell in nearby Montecito — half an inch in five minutes. Even in the best of conditions, this pace could cause flooding. But it wasn’t the best of conditions. Last month, we endured the largest wildfire in California history.

For two and a half weeks straight, the fire burned closer every day. Air quality turned unhealthy and forced schools to close. Businesses had to shut their doors during the peak holiday season. The local economy was decimated. I moved out of my home for weeks, as did many others. But at least I had a home to return to. Hundreds of others lost theirs. Thousands more lost their livelihoods. As a climate policy researcher, I was seeing the consequences of climate inaction in my own backyard.

Life was just beginning to get back to normal when the rains came this week, hard and fast. The scorched land could not absorb the water, and so the mudslides began.

Climate Change in My Backyard, Opinion by Leah C Stokes, New York Times, Jan 11, 2018

Leah C. Stokes is an assistant professor of political science at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

El Niño/La Niña Update

January 2018 La Niña update: summiting the peak

Now that we are smack dab in the middle of winter in the Northern Hemisphere, the time of year when ENSO tends to have its more reliable impacts in the United States, it’s go-time for paying attention to what’s going on in the Pacific. And the latest CPC/IRI ENSO forecast says…[drum roll please]…La Niña is here to stay for this winter with a 85-95% probability before transitioning to ENSO-Neutral conditions during the spring.

Sidenote: Also, who is this person writing this post who is definitely not Emily? I’m Tom and I’m filling in for Emily this month (see footnote for Emily’s whereabouts). And just like a normal substitute teacher, don’t be surprised if I end this article early and just make you watch a video. So buckle up!

Sea Surface Temp Anomalies Dec 2017 NOAA

December 2017 sea surface temperature departure from the 1981-2010 average. Graphic by; data from NOAA’s Environmental Visualization Lab.

January 2018 La Niña update: summiting the peak by Tom Di Liberto, ENSO Blog, NOAA's, Jan 11, 2018 

Also see the Video of the Week section of this document. 

Toon of the Week...

2018 Toon 2 

Quote of the Week...

“If people demand iron-clad proof that humans are changing the climate, then we can’t react,”Gutzler* said. “But from my perspective, there has been such a mountain of evidence — to toss all that out because there are uncertainties would be choosing stupidity.”

UNM meteorologist says Southwest ‘on front lines … of climate change’ by Rebecca Moss, The New Mexican, Jan 6, 2018

*David Gutzler, Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences at University of New Mexico

Graphic of the Week...

These Climate Change Emojis Are Peak 2018

Climate Change Emojis 

When Marina Zurkow, an environmental artist and professor at New York University, embarked on designing a set of climate change-themed emojis, every little detail was intentional. She didn’t hold back one bit.

Released in October, the current Climoji sticker set, available for Apple and Android users, paints a pretty grim picture of what climate change looks like. The set includes emojis of dying, starved animals, pollution, extreme weather, and even drowning people—not exactly a hopeful outlook, but that was kind of the point, said Zurkow.

“We felt like one of the big problems is people don’t call climate change what it is,” Zurkow told Earther. “People don’t connect to the outcomes of a lot of anthropogenic destruction that we all participate in a really everyday way.?” 

These Climate Change Emojis Are Peak 2018 by Yessenia Funes, Justice, Earther, Jan 11, 2018

SkS Spotlights...

Thanks for stopping by Earther, a destination for fearless news and analysis about our changing planet and the people who live on it.

Earther’s mission is to write impactful stories about how humanity is affecting life on Earth, and what that means for our future. We love geeking out over the weather, sharing the latest conservation success stories, and reminding you that climate change is very real. We strive to make Earther a friendly, inclusive site for everyone interested in the future of life on the Blue Marble, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation.

For more on our editorial ethos and values, check out Gizmodo Media’s Editorial Code.

We want your tips and your scoops! Please send them to:

Video of the Week...

The above video is embedded in:

January 2018 La Niña update: summiting the peak by Tom Di Liberto, ENSO Blog, NOAA's, Jan 11, 2018 

Reports of Note...

Assessment of the Potential Health Impacts of Climate Change in Alaska

Coming Soon on SkS...

  • Global warming is driving a migration crisis (John Abraham)
  • Flaws of Lüdecke & Weiss (Ari Jokimäki)
  • Scott Pruitt asked what's Earth's ideal temperature - scientists answer (Dana)
  • Analysis: How developing nations are driving record growth in solar power (Zeke)
  • New research this week (Ari Jokimäki)
  • 2018 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #3 (John Hartz)
  • 2018 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming Digest #3 (John Hartz)

Poster of the Week...

 2018 Poster 2

SkS Week in Review... 

97 Hours of Consensus...

97 Hours: James McCarthy 


James McCarthy's bio page

Quote derived from:

"[A]ll the professional societies of climatologists, meteorologists, oceanographers that have ever looked at this problem have made very consistent statements that climate is changing, it's changing in unusual ways, and the only way that change can be explained is as a result of human activities. Most people have no idea that something between 95 and 100 % of climate scientists completely agree with that statement." 

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Comments 1 to 6:

  1. "Exxon Ramps Up Free Speech Argument in Fighting Climate Fraud Investigations"

    It's hard to see where they are going with this, or why they think it would work. The Supreme court has long recognised that commercial speech is not fully subject to first amendment rights. (Refer "First Amendment to the United States Constitution" Wikipedia).

    It just looks like a desperate defence from a company with big problems. A company that allegedly hid a lot of things from shareholders and the public.

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  2. Exxon has been yelling "No Fire!" in a crowded theater (with no exits) that is, in fact, on fire.  Therefore, I claim the right to yell "Fire!" in a crowded theater that is not, in fact, on fire.

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  3. Norrism

    I am interested in yyour opiion as a lawyer.  

    My understandinng is that if Exxon lies to their customers and the general public they are allowed to say whatever they want because of freedom of speech.

    If they lie to their stockholders about how AGW affects their market value that is fraud and they can be legally punished.  

    It seems to me that the basic rule is you can lie to fool customers and hurt the public but you cannot lie to investors about their money.

    What do you think?

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  4. michael sweet @ 3

    As you know, I am a Canadian lawyer so commenting on US law is somewhat problematic.  I have already learned that libel laws in the US do not strictly apply as I believe they would in Canada to public figures. 

    But in Canada, although securities laws relating to offering securities to the public do provide more detailed protection to investors, the laws of misrepresentation do apply to the customers of a corporation.  However, the problem often comes down to the "damages" incurred by the customer which are probably, per customer, quite small.  That is why "class actions" have been allowed both in Canada and the US.  But this is a whole different ball game and I do not think this is the place to get into an analysis of this area of the law. 

    But whenever you claim "misrepresentation" you are first presented with proving that there was in fact a misrepresentation even before you get to the issue of damages.  I have not really followed the Exxon story as to what they said to the public and what they had in internal memos. 

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  5. New York prosecutor accuses Exxon of misleading investors on how it accounts for climate change risks:

    American law on securities offerings:

    "Both federal and state laws require companies conducting a securities offering to tell each potential investor all material information about the company, its principals, and the investment opportunity (including the risks of the investment) that a reasonable person would want to know in order to make an informed investment decision."

    "The offer and sale of many goods and services in the United States is governed by the market principle of "caveat emptor," which means "buyer beware.” This principle does not apply to the purchase or sale of securities."

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  6. Montecito CA looks to be quite a wealthy neighbourhood. It's more than obvious to anyone famirila with forces behind weather dynamics, that such violent event (1/2 inch of rain in 5 minutes after fires) is unprecedented and AGW has exacerbated its likelyhood severalfolds. Those residents do understand it, for sure. CA lawmakers also likely understand it, largely because they are hit by the event. But sadly, all REP in Congress together with their clown president, don't want to understand it (unless the disaster had hit themselves). I cannot wait until Americans wake up and vote them deniers-in-chief, out.

    Selfish human nature delays mitigation, e.g. literally no one in US cares about vulnerability of African nations. But this event shows that even wealthy can be vulnerable (and they have more monetary value to lose), so the experience may increase mitigation efforts in US and around the world, which paradoxically would be a good outcome.

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