A striking resemblance between testimony for Peabody Coal and for Ted Cruz

In a recent congressional hearing, Ted Cruz (one of the leading candidates for the Republican presidential nomination) first asked us to follow the science, and then misused and abused the very science he reportedly admires. The contrarian scientists that were invited to testify are members of a shrinking tribe that every year has to work harder to deny the clear evidence of a human-caused warming world.

Those scientists were William HapperJudith Curry, and John Christy. They argued that the Earth isn’t warming (or has slowed its warming) or that satellite temperature measurements are the best way to measure the Earth’s temperatures. In fact, satellites don’t measure temperature at all, but these witnesses didn’t mention that fact. 

Additionally, the satellite measurements that they showed are from the middle of the troposphere, high in the atmosphere (not at the surface). Finally, the contrarians declined to emphasize that the synthetic satellite temperature data have been wrong for years. The upper part of the atmosphere (stratosphere) is cooling as a result of the increased greenhouse gases while the lower layer (the troposphere) is warming. If any measurements of the stratosphere bleed into the measurements of the troposphere, it can cause a cooling bias.

I had the (dis)pleasure of testifying at a hearing in Minnesota where William Happer also testified. He, Roy Spencer, and Richard Lindzen all made errors in their testimony that were repeated at the Cruz congressional hearing. At the Minnesota hearing, these contrarians were representing Peabody Energy – the world’s largest private sector coal company.

They focused on high-altitude temperatures in the tropical part of the globe (near the equator) rather than temperatures at the surface or in the oceans. But it gets even worse – they combined two sets of satellite data into a single curve when in reality, satellite temperature measurements differ by as much as a factor of four depending on whose data you use! 

The figure below is nearly identical to Figure 9 Exhibit 2 in Richard Lindzen’s direct testimony, and similar to Figure 3 in Exhibit 2 to Roy Spencer’s Direct Testimony. You can see the schedule for the testimony here and access the filed court documents. My rebuttal testimony is available here and my surrebuttal ishere. Climate scientist Andrew Dessler also testified at the hearing and his reports can be found here and here.


Image from Figure 4 Exhibit 2 of William Happer’s direct testimony (OAH Docket number 80-2500-31888, MPUC Docket E-999-CI-14-643).

As I wrote last year and submitted in my court filings, the table below shows the huge spread amongst various satellite measurements. Why didn’t the contrarians point this out? Why do they only use the coldest two datasets? Why didn’t Roy Spencer tell the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission that his work has been found to be wrong multiple times?

Po Chedley

Tropical mid-troposphere temperature satellite trend estimates from different groups using different diurnal drift correction approaches. From Po-Chedley et al. (2014).

Why does this Peabody Coal case in Minnesota matter? Well, the same arguments were made by Ted Cruz and his contrarian witnesses in December in Washington DC. You can watch the video here. You can read John Christy’s testimony here.You can read Judith Curry’s written testimony here. The similarity between this group of contrarian documents is shocking. It is almost as if portions of their testimony were cut and paste.

I am not really surprised the Ted Cruz would question climate science. And I am not surprised the well-known contrarians Judith Curry, John Christy, William Happer, Roy Spencer, and Richard Lindzen continue to question the mainstream expert consensus. I am not really surprised that some of these scientists are representing fossil fuel companies in litigation or hearings. What I am surprised about is that they are being so selective in presenting data and not telling the full story.

For instance, why don’t Roy Spencer and John Christy tell these judges and panels that they have had to revise their own temperature estimates several times over the past two decades when other scientists identified errors in their model? They originally claimed that the atmosphere was cooling, and now their data shows it is warming.

UAH adjustments

The University of Alabama at Huntsville lower troposphere temperature trend after each major revision to the dataset.

Why do these contrarians mislead by only showing some groups’ satellite temperature estimates while omitting others? Why do they neglect temperature measurements in the oceans and Earth’s surface where the warming is clear? Why do they falsely claim that there has been a halt or even a slowdown in overall global warming when no such halt or even slowdown has occurred, and in fact the warming is accelerating?

Why do some of these witnesses refer to their own publications after they were shown to be hugely in error, containing undergraduate-level math errors? Why don’t these contrarians and Ted Cruz tell us that the referenced satellite temperature recording team (Remote Sensing Systems) disagree with the way their dataset is being used?

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Posted by John Abraham on Wednesday, 20 January, 2016

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