In his second post since returning from his time-out for poor behavior, Peter Gleick shows us all why he must be an expert on water issues by writing some ill-informed commentary on climate change, proving he’s not an expert on that.
His topic is the Keystone Pipeline, which he opposes on symbolic rather than concrete grounds: “The Keystone XL Pipeline, considered in isolation, is not a game changing or planet-threatening project“, he writes. “But. Here’s my problem: when do we finally just say ‘no more'”?
What drives him to this difficult dilemma is what he writes beforehand. At the beginning of his post he writes, “Here is the reality: the burning of fossil fuels is the leading contributor of gases that are already changing the planet’s delicate climate, and the climate will continue to change in an exponentially increasing and worsening way unless we reduce emissions.“
And he is wrong in what he writes. And because he is wrong in what he writes he is compelled to advocate turning away from Canadian fossil fuel sources, not because it will make a difference to our fuel consumption or climate change, but because he thinks it necessary to make a symbolic protest–to draw a line in the tar sands.
The mistakes he made in what he wrote are echoed throughout the popular media coverage of climate change, so let’s look at them from a Lukewarmer perspective.
…”the burning of fossil fuels is the leading contributor of gases that are already changing the planet’s delicate climate…”
Burning fossil fuels is a major contributor of gases, true. But deforestation contributes a quarter of human CO2 and the production of cement another 5%. Fossil fuels are major, of course–but should not be considered in isolation. What we do regarding land use and land cover, our emissions of black carbon as both soot and aerosol–all of it must be taken together, something Gleick forgets.
The planet’s climate is hardly delicate. It can be moved, but at every measurement it seems clearer that it needs to be shoved, not just gently nudged. Our estimates of sensitivity are in the process of re-evaluation and the probable direction of any changes will be downards–in other words we may soon think the atmosphere is less delicate than before.
And the IPCC has been clear, as have other organizations–there is no link between weather occurrences and climate change to date. ““There is medium evidence and high agreement that long-term trends in normalized losses have not been attributed to natural or anthropogenic climate change.” (IPCC Report on Weather Extremes). All this talk of ‘the new normal’ and the default supposition that bad weather is due to climate change is not based on science–in my mind it is largely based on the failure of previous PR campaigns to push an NGO-led agenda for caps on emissions.
…”and the climate will continue to change in an exponentially increasing and worsening way unless we reduce emissions…”
This is absolute fantasy. Temperatures have climbed, true, but in a modest and linear fashion reaching a total warming of 0.8C over the past century (Wikipedia writes, “Since the early 20th century, Earth’s mean surface temperature has increased by about 0.8 °C (1.4 °F), with about two-thirds of the increase occurring since 1980). The same is true for sea-level rise, with a linear, not exponential, rise in sea levels that has averaged between 2 and 3 millimeters annually (Wikipedia notes “From 1950 to 2009, measurements show an average annual rise in sea level of 1.7 ± 0.3 mm per year”). Last year sea levels dropped. The frequency of strong hurricanes and tornadoes has dropped.
Perhaps most significantly, temperature rises have stalled since 1998–and during that period humanity has emitted one-third of all the greenhouse gases that we have ever emitted throughout history. This argues against climate changing in any method other than linear–at least due to our actions.
If Peter Gleick actually believes these untruths, it is no wonder that he is terrified of the future and wants to convince us all to make a dramatic stand against the Keystone Pipeline.
But given how easy it is to find the actual facts of the matter that prove his fears unfounded, I have to wonder if it would be possible to convince him. His mind appears to be made up.
It would almost be uncharitable to speculate on the possibility that he already knows the truth and wishes to convince the world of something that is not the case.
But then, someone who stole documents from an organization he opposes and who either forged or knowingly published a forgery of their strategy may not be best-placed to plead for charity regarding his motives.
Mr. Gleick, the peer-reviewed science and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change state plainly that the fears you express are unfounded. Can you acknowledge that and rework your arguments accordingly?