Peter Gleick Provides an Example of Alarmed Activism

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.

Otis White

Picture by Otis White

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?


8 responses to “Peter Gleick Provides an Example of Alarmed Activism

  1. Well, I would have been inclined to title this post, “Gleick provides yet another example of his hyperactive alarmism” 😉 But that aside …

    Geick’s ignominious 12-day “lapse of judgment” was tantamount to murder of the truth, with malice aforethought – perhaps conjured up during his 10 days of immediately preceding silence of “consideration”.

    Let’s face facts. Prior to his 2012 Valentine’s Day Massacre attempt, Gleick’s primary** claim to fame was that of one who wrote a “review” of a book he clearly had not read. In short, Gleick was nothing but a little pisher in the Big Green Pond.

    [** He did have a bit-part in l’Affaire Wagner, circa Aug. 2011]

    And, notwithstanding his self-declared pretensions to the contrary, he probably still is! I don’t doubt for a moment that he is, well, green with envy. Consider the following:

    The Pacific Institute, the little fiefdom that Gleick co-founded in 1987 (with the encouragement – and possibly help of – the late, great communicator, Saint Stephen of Stanford, who still holds an In Memoriam position on the Pacific Institute’s Advisory Board) has an annual operating budget that is less than half that of The Heartland Institute. At least according to their respective 2010 Form 990 “Return of Organization Exempt From Income Tax” filings.

    We all have lapses of judgment (well, all except me, of course!) But how many have been known to stretch them out for twelve (count ’em, 12) days?! I almost feel a song parody coming on … “On the first day of Gleikenschpiel, the p[h]isher gave to me / An E-mail so very fact-free”. But I digress …

    If Gleick had a functioning moral compass, at any point during his 12 day phishing expedition, he could have chosen to pull in his nets, turn his boat around, so to speak, head back to port, ‘fess up to his dastardly deeds and beg forgiveness of those he fully intended to wrong. But, for reasons perhaps known best only to himself, he chose not to change course – at any point along the way.

    This was no mere momentary “lap(se)”. It was a Grand Tour Marathon, which bears no small resemblance to Lance Armstrong’s magnificent feats of deception.

    Gleick, the phishing pisher par excellence, opted for (what his green with envy little heart evidently hoped would be) a “big splash” – which succeeded in “drowning” any semblance of responsible journalism on the part of those he’d hooked and hoodwinked: Revkin, Goldenberg, Hickman and Black.

    In light of the above, if I were at your keyboard, Tom, I would not hold my breath waiting for Gleick to acknowledge that his “fears … are unfounded” or to “rework [his] arguments accordingly”.

  2. “Delicate climate”…..what an interesting way to describe a system that has lasted billions of years, moves gigatons of water around the globe as vapor, liquid and ice, has a dynamic range of well over 100 degrees (f), develops storms of over 200 mph, etc. etc. etc.
    So now we know Gleick is not only a creep and a crook, he is a kook as well.

  3. Let’s review –

    There are a number of ways to move oil over land. Pipeline, train or truck.

    The difference between moving oil from canada by diesel powered train rather then pipeline is about $3/barrel or less then 10 cents/gallon.

    Obviously not enough to influence vehicle purchasing decisions or vehicle usage…but definitely enough to influence the amount of oil being burned hauling oil by train(more).

    It’s actually quite depressing to see truly dedicated environmentalists being so easily manipulated by various industrial concerns into supporting things that actually make their concerns worse rather then better.

    It’s even more depressing that some of these people have Phd’s.

    • The other thing about trains vs. pipelines is that trains create much more pollution, spill much more oil, and can and can do spill it in very sensitive areas, like people’s yards or croplands.
      The climate kooks and enviro extremists offer little but faux issues with ineffective solutions to those non-problems.
      Gleick, besides being a slimeball crook and unethical twit also manages to demonstrate climate kookiness rather well.

  4. “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).”

    Two thirds of the increase has occurred in the last 30 years of the last 100?

    That’s not linear, Tom. Do the algebra. Linear would be 30% of the increase happening in the last 30 years of the last 100 …

    “Perhaps most significantly, temperature rises have stalled since 1998”

    Still hanging your hat on the most extraordinary El Niño ever recorded? Yes, individual events can swamp the signal. This says nothing about the true trend, nor does natural variation refute the basic physics underlying climate science or challenge the consensus view that equilibrium sensitivity to a doubling of CO2 is about 3C. Nor does the fact that the sun’s been quiet for a decade. A quiet sun and a decade dominated by La Niñas has led to less warming, big surprise. CO2, while currently the major driver in the warming trend we see, is not the only driver of global climate. The sun does have an impact.

    • Welcome, dhogaza.

      Most of the increase did not come in the last 30 years of the past 100. It came in two short sharp periods, the second of which ended in 1998, which is why it is a period of interest.

      I’m quite aware of the dangers of cherry picking and I’m not trying to calculate a trend using 1998 as a starting point. My usage of the year 1998 for calculations is based on the fact that CDIAC calculates that one-third of all human emissions in history have occurred since 1998. As temperatures have not reacted dramatically to strong forcing in a short period I make the point that this cannot be used as evidence of higher sensitivity.

      I agree with you that CO2 is not the only driver of climate. Some of us on the Lukewarmer side have been repeatedly making that point for more than a decade, usually in the face of heated opposition.

  5. I’ve nothing against “lukewarmers” – indeed it might be said that I’m one myself, as are most informed (and we are most informed, compared with the “opposition”) sceptics. GHGs most certainly play a role in keeping this planet in a liveable condition, one which it maintains without any involvement from us. Anyone who thinks that we’re drastically changing the climate is, in effect, saying it’s the flea that controls the behaviour of the dog. Atmospheric scientists all but ignore the role of the oceans, which have a heat capacity thousands of times that of the atmosphere and act as a huge modulator on atmospheric excursions. We’re told that simultaneously, the oceans are absorbing vast quantities of CO2 making them more “acidic”, and in warming, are releasing vast quantities of CO2 thus increasing the atmospheric concentration. Shurely shomething wrong here?

    What I most object to in the so-called “debate” is being lectured to by the likes of Gleick and Mann on topics they know little about. I’d warrant, and without any attempt at self-aggrandisement, that I know more about “climate” and the GHE than either of them. A proportion of “Joe public” (including journalists) seems to think that being a “scientist” somehow confers an all-seeing eye and encyclopaedic knowledge on anyone described as such.

    I’d say 0.8 degrees in a century isn’t much. The fuss is all created by climate models which have a high sensitivity to CO2 forcing and water-vapour “feedback”, and surprise, surprise, they produce “projections” which show the climate has a high sensitivity to CO2 concentration and water-vapour feedback. Whodathortit?

    • Hi MostlyHarmless

      You may know more about climate or the GreenHouse Effect than I do–possibly even more than Gleick. Don’t know about Mann. And I’d wager that you don’t know as much as someone like James Hansen, a political opponent of my position but someone who I respect, even when he gets handcuffed. Maybe even because he gets handcuffed.

      Obviously 0.8C hasn’t hurt us much, if at all, so far. Where’s the Off Switch? If we can turn it off now, I’m with you.

      I agree with you about the tail wagging the dog, a metaphor I’ve used too frequently. I agree with Roger Pielke Sr. that ocean heat content is the proper metric to use for measuring what’s happening in this debate. As for the operation of the world’s great carbon sinks, I think we’re all pretty clueless about that–see what Freeman Dyson writes.

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