Heartland logic: More people have heard of Fidel Castro than Michael Mann, therefore global warming is false.

This is a guest post from Narahani.


Or is happening and is good for you, or has stopped happening, or is caused by CO2 but only a little, or is about to reverse due to lots of yet-to-be-discovered negative feedbacks, and clouds. And anyhow, peas and water lilies love CO2 so ramping it up to 1000 ppm would be fantastic. The logic is dizzying.  

And yes, Joe Bast repeated his widely criticized statement equating people who support action to limit climate change with "murderers, tyrants, and madmen," declaring that the fact that more people have heard of Fidel Castro than Michael Mann proves his case.

Heartland Institute came to Washington this week to tout their second major effort to discredit the IPCC with a hefty volume ("over 1000 pages!" they keep boasting). This one advertises the benefits of carbon dioxide to plants. The first volume trotted out a long list of well-debunked theories including the old standbys: there is no consensus, "solar cyclicity" is about to cause cooling, and conversely, warming in occurring but will be less than predicted by the IPCC.

Tuesday's press conference featured Heartland's standard cast of characters: Joe Bast, Craig Isdo, Fred Singer, and Ken Haapala. Bast introduced the event, describing Heartland as a "free enterprise think tank". He pointed at their two massive volumes placed strategically in the middle of each of the three tables, declaring that they "prove without a doubt that there is no consensus," and "prove the IPCC is wrong." The presenters took every opportunity to effuse that the tomes are  "over 1000 pages long" and cover "1000's of peer reviewed papers." fat tomes

Fred Singer led off by showing a favorite climate denier image by Roy Spencer that purports to demonstrate that "all the models are wrong." The graph shows a tiny and difficult to measure sliver of the global system, the mid-troposphere in the mid-tropics, to compare models and selected data.  Even though the supposed errors have been well explained (http://sks.to/troposphere; Thorne, et al.) deniers continue to show this picture, undoubtably because in the real world the models have actually done a remarkably good job of predicting global temperatures

Singer was followed by economist Ken Haapala who complained that the U.S. government is spending too much money on climate-related programs. He railed about $22.5 billion in the 2013 expenditures, which includes $6B to support development of clean energy technologies. He failed to mention our estimated $14-50B in annual fossil fuel subsidies. 

Finally, Craig Idso used carefully selected data to promote his theory that the benefits of increasing CO2 will overwhelm any dangers of global warming. Of course, it's no news to scientists that many plants grow faster when given more CO2.  Scientists also know, as does anyone who has ever planted a garden or cared for a potted begonia, that plants have ideal temperature ranges, need nutrients and water, and are attacked by pests. Plants are living things and their health cannot be predicted by pointing at one factor. In short, like us, plants live within our global ecosystem and are dependent on the functioning of all its parts. 

The most encouraging thing about this press conference was its tiny audience. By my count, the 8 am room was occupied by:

A rerun at 9 am attracted even fewer people, most of whom were so dubious of Heartland's claims that the organizers closed the session early to cut off the stream of inconvenient questions.

The tiny turnout showed that most people give this nutty fringe the attention it deserves.  

Unlike the Heartland crew, most intelligent people of all political stripes look at the world the way it is, not as they wish it to be. Ideological lenses do not bring science into clearer focus.  When smart people recognize the state of the world, they begin to look for solutions. Solutions to the climate crises demand creative and innovative thinking from across the political spectrum.  The dismal turnout on Wednesday shows that while the Heartland club is peering down the wishing well, the rest of the world has moved on to the real challenge of finding solutions.


Thorne, P. W., Lanzante, J. R., Peterson, T. C., Seidel, D. J., & Shine, K. P. (2010). Tropospheric temperature trends: history of an ongoing controversy. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change, 2(1), 66–88. doi:10.1002/wcc.80 http://www.arl.noaa.gov/documents/JournalPDFs/ThorneEtAl.WIREs2010.pdf (open access)  "It is concluded that there is no reasonable evidence of a fundamental disagreement between tropospheric temperature trends from models and observations when uncertainties in both are treated comprehensively."

Fossil fuel subsidies: http://priceofoil.org/fossil-fuel-subsidies/http://www.oecd.org/site/tadffss/

Posted by Guest Author on Wednesday, 16 April, 2014

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