Vermont State Climatologist: Why Is That Link Still There?
Update - May 20, 2010: The Fraser Institute document link has been removed from the VSC page. Mission accomplished.
On Monday, November 2, 2009, I was directed to the Vermont State Climatologist (hereafter referred to as VSC) Home Page by a comment posted on the climate blog Open Mind. I was shocked to see a link to a Fraser Institute document titled Understanding climate change – Fraser Institute listed prominently on the VSC page. The images below show the page as of May 1, 2010 and is the same as I saw it on November 2, 2009.
I was shocked because the Fraser Institute is a well-known front group for oil and other interests that have waged a misinformation campaign against climate science.
I have already documented this organization on my Global Warming Denial Machine page and there are many others who have done the same. See:
Fraser Institute – DeSmog Blog
Fraser Institute – Sourcewatch.org
Fact Sheet: Fraser Institute – Exxonsecrets.org
Fraser Institute – Wikipedia
The most notorious document by the Fraser Institute is Independent Summary for Policymakers (ISPM) published on Feb. 5, 2007, just after the release of the IPCC AR4 Summary for Policy Makers (2007). The Fraser Institute’s politically-motivated ISPM was filled with many errors and has been thoroughly debunked. See:
Independent Summary for Policymakers – Sourcewatch.org
Fraser Institute fires off a damp squib – Realclimate.org
Understanding climate change is essentially a shortened version of the ISPM. It is quite obvious that Fraser Institute is intentionally misleading the public about climate change and is being well-funded by oil and others interests to do so.
VSC: WHY IS THAT LINK THERE?
The Vermont State Climatologist is Lesley-Ann Dupigny-Giroux, Ph.D.; Associate Professor with degrees in climatology, GIS, hydrology, and physical geology. It seemed odd to me that she would have the Fraser Institute link on her page let alone as the first link in her list of “Climate change articles & resources”.
I sent the following email to her on November 2, 2009:
I am very curious why the first Web link on your home page listed under the category Climate change articles & resources is to a Fraser Institute document that is filled with very misleading and incorrect information regarding the current state of climate change science.
The link in question is: http://www.fraserinstitute.org/COMMERCE.WEB/product_files/Understanding_Climate_Change_2008.pdf
Do you support the conclusions of this document which are contrary to the conclusions of the overwhelming majority of experts?”
After eight days with no response I alerted her Chair to the issue via email and also spoke with the Chair via phone. It appeared that Dr. Dupigny-Giroux did reply to my initial email but my college’s email server treated Vermont’s mail server as spam so her reply did not reached me. Dr. Dupigny-Giroux’s email was forwarded to me eventually by her Chair. Dr. Dupigny-Giroux’s reply appears below (emphasis mine):
“Dear Dr. Mandia
Thank you for taking the time to contact both my Chair (Dr. Meghan Cope who I have copied on this reply) as well as myself about the PDF document from the Fraser Institute.
The document was chosen for its explanation of the key elements of the climate system. I have been working with a student all semester of the upgrade and redesign of the Vermont State Climate Office website. This will include the addition of other projects that I worked on (e.g. the new EPA climate change website), the re-arrangement of matrials(sic) and the provision of the contextual background for certain pages, including the climate change and climate science literacy information.
Again, thank you for your concerns. Dr. Cope and I wish you a successful end of the semester.
Dr. Lesley-Ann L.P. Dupigny-Giroux”
What? How can a climatologist state that the Fraser Institute document “was chosen for its explanation of the key elements of the climate system”? Furthermore, there was no mention that she intended to remove the offending link.
My reply to her and her Chair:
“Dr. Dupigny claims that “The document was chosen for its explanation of the key elements of the climate system.” As I have stated previously, the Fraser Institute document is specifically designed to MISLEAD the general public about the current scientific consensus regarding climate change. The Fraser Institute has a long track record of this type of misleading information.
I can only conclude that this document was not carefully screened before being added to the site or that Dr. Dupigny does not support this consensus. I am sorry that this may sound undiplomatic but I can see no other choice. The fact that the link STILL appears after I have alerted you both about its dubious nature, makes me wonder. It takes a few seconds to remove a link. It is important that our students and the general public not be misinformed about this vital issue.”
Dr. Dupigny-Giroux’s response:
“As Dr. Cope clearly pointed out in her message, I am in the midst of redesigning the entire VTSCO website. I would like to reiterate that I shall be addressing your concerns at that time.”
VSC: WHY IS THAT LINK STILL THERE?
Of course, I was not satisfied with that response. Climate change science and scientists are under attack and we certainly do not need our State Climatologists’ Web sites assisting the anti-science crowd by prominently listing Fraser Institute documents! I then contacted Nolan Doesken, President, American Association of State Climatologists. I alerted him to the issue. He described Dr. Dupigny-Giroux as “a gifted and motivated climate educator with a strong desire to improve climate literacy at all levels.” Well, the Fraser Institute document sets climate literacy back so I had trouble understanding his sentiments.
My reply to Mr. Doesken:
“The bottom line is that the link is still there and it should never have been there in the first place. I would accept that perhaps Dr. Dupigny did not carefully read the document before posting because we all make mistakes in haste. However, she has told me in an email that “The document was chosen for its explanation of the key elements of the climate system.” I suppose one might equate that argument to the following comment from the hypothetical Vermont State Evolutionist: “I chose to use the document from the Intelligent Design University because there are parts of this document that show key aspects of evolution.” I can only conclude that the Fraser Institute document is supported by Dr. Dupigny. A link takes less than one minute to be removed. It is a shame – there are so many worthy documents that could be used instead that are not designed to undermine the science.
Before we speak, I ask you to view the Fraser Institute’s: Understanding Climate Change: Lesson Plans for the Classroom available at: http://www.fraserinstitute.org/researchandpublications/publications/6819.aspx
The lesson plans are experts pieces of propaganda and include many of the oft-debunked arguments such as: CO2 lags not leads temperature, intense debate about the role of CO2 in global warming, human emissions are a fraction of natural emissions, carbon cycles are not well understood, models are unreliable, etc. These lessons are being sent to our children! These folks have no shame and are willing to sacrifice our children’s future to save a few bucks today.
I am used to seeing propaganda like that of the Fraser Institute on ideologically-driven Web sites but not on an academic site, especially one from the State Climatologist of Vermont. If our own scientists are being fooled, then how can we defend out children from this pseudo-science?”
The last I have heard from Nolan Doesken is November 12, 2009. He stated that he would look into the matter but apparently it was not that important to any of those involved but me. Six months ago I alerted the VSC that she had a piece of anti-climate science consensus prominently displayed on her site. Six months ago she claimed to be redesigning the site and the site is still the same.
As we all know, it was about one week later (November 19th) that the e-mail hack referred to as Climategate was the top news story. And, as we all know, those that refute the scientific consensus tried to spin Climategate as an indictment against all of climate science and its scientists. Furthermore, I blogged about the fact that Climategate Coverage was Unfair & Unbalanced. One would think that the VSC would be very sensitive to preserving the good name of climate scientists around the world by removing a blatantly anti-consensus document from her site. So, again I ask:
VSC: WHY IS THAT LINK STILL THERE?
The VSC claims that Understanding Climate Change “was chosen for its explanation of the key elements of the climate system.” Strange. Why would the VSC use a document from a well-known denialist organization instead of a climate science document from a well-known scientific body such as some of those I list in my Suggested Reading on Climate Change page:
- IPCC 2007 FAQ
- EPA – US Climate Change Indicators Report (April 2010)
- Synthesis Report from the Climate Change Congress 2009
- Frequently Asked Questions About the Science of Climate Change 2008 Update
- Climate Change: What Does It Mean for Our World?
- Surface Temperature Reconstructions for the Last 2,000 Years
Or, she could have referred readers to Realclimate.org’s Start Here page which lists many such informative pages divided into sections labeled: For complete beginners, Those with some knowledge, Informed, but in need of more detail, and Informed, but seeking serious discussion of common contrarian talking points.
Given all of these other choices, one has to think that Understanding Climate Change by Fraser Institute must be an example of world-class easy-to-read climate science literature! Unfortunately, and I bet you guessed it, the document is far from that status.
VSC: WHY IS THAT LINK STILL THERE?
Analysis of Understanding Climate Change with Page Numbers Noted
Understanding Climate Science is a brilliant piece of propaganda that highlights climate science uncertaintites while minimizing or completely ignoring the near certainties. The document contains many misleading statements and many errors and is missing many key points of information. It appears that the author is a student of the tobacco industry executives that understood “doubt is out product”:
“Doubt is our product since it is the best means of competing with the ‘body of fact’ that exists in the minds of the general public. It is also the means of establishing a controversy.”
Or perhaps the author is a student of Frank Luntz, Republican strategist, who wrote the following:
“The scientific debate remains open. Voters believe that there is no consensus about global warming within the scientific community. Should the public come to believe that the scientific issues are settled, their views about global warming will change accordingly. Therefore, you need to continue to make the lack of scientific certainty a primary issue in the debate, and defer to scientists and other experts in the field.”
The author of Understanding Climate Science is Nicholas Schneider. He is a policy analyst with an M.Sc. in Economics! He has published no peer-reviewed scientific articles! Wow, talk about being low on the credibility scale. Any objective person should immediately be suspicious of material in this document. So…
VSC: WHY IS THAT LINK STILL THERE?
Emphasizing the Uncertainties While Minimizing the Well-Understood:
Pg. 8 – “Feedback processes are complex and are difficult to quantify… and in some cases may go in the opposite direction.”
Yes, there is uncertainty in the fast feedbacks, especially the lapse rate (-0.84 ± 0.26 W/m2/K) and cloud (0.69 ± 0.38 W/m2/K) feedbacks. When combining the water vapor feedback (1.80 ± 0.18 W/m2/K) and Surface Albedo (0.26 ± 0.08 W/m2/K) feedback there is high confidence that, overall, feedbacks are positive.
Pg. 9 – “…therefore changes in atmospheric water vapour are an important climate feedback, albeit one that is difficult to predict.”
Not true. The water vapor feedback is very well understood and it is strongly positive. See values above.
Pg. 11 – “The influence of greenhouse gases on climate is considered by the IPCC to be well understood, but the scientific understanding of all other factors ranges from medium to low.” and “While some of the largest forcings are well understood, scientists have a medium to low understanding of most of them.”
On this page Figure 4 shows an adapted version of Figure 2.20 from IPCC (2007). Compare both.
Now why do you suppose Understanding Climate Change cropped off the section that shows Total net human activities? Could it be that it shows the reader that even if the forcings are all on the low side of the error bars, there is still a net positive forcing?
Pg. 24 – “Overall, the IPCC notes that since its last report in 2001, model performance has improved, though errors and biases remain.”
Pg. 25 – Summary: Climate models are important for understanding and predicting possible climate changes, but the challenges of representing small-scale climate and weather processes, and the continued discrepancies between projected climate conditions and observations, are important limitations. Since models are used not only for projecting the future, but also for diagnosing the human influence on the current climate, it is important to understand their inherent uncertainties.
Here is what the IPCC really says (emphasis mine):
“There is considerable confidence that climate models provide credible quantitative estimates of future climate change, particularly at continental scales and above. This confidence comes from the foundation of the models in accepted physical principles and from their ability to reproduce observed features of current climate and past climate changes. Confidence in model estimates is higher for some climate variables (e.g., temperature) than for others (e.g., precipitation). Over several decades of development, models have consistently provided a robust and unambiguous picture of significant climate warming in response to increasing greenhouse gases.” (IPCC, 2007)
For more information about models and accuracy please visit my Climate Models & Accuracy page. So I ask again…
VSC: WHY IS THAT LINK STILL THERE?
Right off the bat in the Preface, Understanding Climate Change makes the following absurd claim:
“Understanding Climate Change is organized to largely follow the sequence of topics in the most recent IPCC report. The Fraser Institute also published a more detailed summary of the IPCC Report called the Independent Summary for Policymakers (ISPM), which serves as a longer and more technical summary than Understanding Climate Change. Readers can therefore refer to the full IPCC report (http://ipcc-wg1.ucar.edu/) and the ISPM (see http://www.fraserinstitute.org/ commerce.web/publication_details.aspx?pubID=3184) when they are interested in gaining a more detailed knowledge of any one topic area.”
Let’s compare the ISPM reports to the IPCC reports to see if they should be considered “comparable”:
|Credentials of Coordinator(s)||Scientists||Economist|
|# of Authors||450+ lead, 800+ contributing||10|
|# of Referenced Articles||Thousands||37|
|# of Countries that Endorse Document as Describing the Current State of the Science||130||0|
|# of Major Scientific Bodies that Support Conclusions of Report||ALL||None|
VSC: WHY IS THAT LINK STILL THERE?
Pg. 6 – Understanding Climate Change in the section Causes of Climate Change states:
“…or because of anthropogenic(human-caused) changes (e.g., large-scale modifications of the land surface and atmospheric composition of greenhouse gases).” and “During the last 100 years, anthropogenic factors have increased considerably. Large sections of continents have been deforested and cultivated, and various emissions to the atmosphere are associated with the growth of world population and industry.”
True but misleading. By describing land-use change first in both statements, the reader is led to believe that land-use changes are more important than increased emissions of GHGs. The IPCC (2007) states (emphasis mine):
“The primary source of the increased atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide since the pre-industrial period results from fossil fuel use, with land-use change providing another significant but smaller contribution.”
During the 1990s, the IPCC (2007) estimates that emissions of GHGs due to land-use change was about 22% of the total but there is a large uncertainty.
Pg. 7 – In the Summary of Causes of Climate Change, there is NO MENTION AT ALL OF AGW! Instead the reader is treated to:
“Over billions of years, as the earth has changed, so too has climate.”
Pg. 9 – In the Greenhouse gases section the reader sees:
“Carbon Dioxide – The level of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere has increased by 36% since the time of the industrial revolution, and is still rising due mainly to emissions from fossil fuel combustion.”
No mention that CO2 levels today are higher than the past 650,000 years and that an increase of 36% in a few hundred years is unprecedented? Wow! No mention of that 800 lb gorilla in the air.
Pg. 10 – “Historical reconstructions of solar activity show that the sun’s energy output has intensified since the 1700s, which explains at least some of the climate changes since then. A number of different reconstructions of solar output over the past four centuries are discussed in the IPCC report, with varying implications about the extent to which they can explain climate trends in recent history.”
Very misleading. Changes in solar radiation cannot explain the recent warming.
Pg. 13 – “Many weather stations continue to operate in cities or at airports, where the high concentration of buildings and human activities often causes these areas to be more than a few degrees warmer than the surrounding rural areas. This is called the urban heat island effect, and is not related to greenhouse gases. A series of studies in recent years presented evidence that as much as half the increase in the average of temperatures over land since 1980 can be attributed to a failure to fully correct for local urbanization and other land surface changes, as well as other data quality problems (de Laat and Maurellis 2004, 2006; McKitrick and Michaels 2004, 2007). In its recent report, the IPCC acknowledged these studies but dismissed the findings. However, the IPCC did not present any counterevidence.”
Not true in the least! The UHI and micrositing concerns have been studied at length. I have a page related to the topic called Fiction: Surface Temperatures are Unreliable (UHI). The fact of the matter is that satellite-inferred temperatures that do not use thermometers measure essentially the same rates of warming as surface thermometers. Ocean observations have no UHI and they also show similar trends.
The IPCC (2007) does discuss studies of UHI and the conclusion is:
“Urban heat island effects are real but local, and have not biased the large-scale trends. A number of recent studies indicate that effects of urbanisation and land use change on the land-based temperature record are negligible (0.006oC per decade) as far as hemispheric- and continental-scale averages are concerned because the very real but local effects are avoided or accounted for in the data sets used.”
Pg. 13 – “Climate models all predict that greenhouse gases should have their strongest effect in the troposphere over the tropics, a large layer comprising half the lower atmosphere. A variety of satellite series, as well as data from weather balloons, have failed to detect such a change.”
Not true and also misleading. The MSU satellite data considered by this document was tainted by including lower temperatures due to stratospheric cooling. However, one of the two satellite-based tropical tropospheric estimates (RSS) shows a trend of 0.18°C per decade which matches the other data sets. Models predict amplified warming in the tropical upper troposphere, not the tropical troposphere as a whole.
Pg. 13 – “The North Pole has experienced the greatest surface temperature increase in recent years, while there has been no measured increase at the South Pole over the last few decades. For the Southern Hemisphere as a whole, the trends from both land-based and satellite-based data are only about one-half to one-third as large as those in the Northern Hemisphere.”
Misleading. As noted by the IPCC (2007) the southern hemisphere shows a smaller trend because the surface is mostly ocean which does not change temperature as quickly as do the continents. This difference is accurately projected by IPCC models.
Pg. 14 – “There is little evidence of a strong, long term change in precipitation patterns, either globally or regionally.”
False or misleading at best. The IPCC (2007) concludes:
- Increased precipitation over land in north of 30°N since 1900 [AR4 3 ES, 3.3.2, FAQ 3.2]
- Decreasing precipitation in the tropics since the 1970s [AR4 3 ES, 3.3.2, FAQ 3.2]
- Substantial increases in heavy precipitation events [AR4 3 ES, 3.3.2, 3.8, FAQ 3.2]
- Increased drought, especially in the tropics and sub-tropics, since the 1970s [AR4 3 ES, 3.3.4, FAQ 3.3]
Pg. 15 – “The available data imply an increase in the average temperature measured at the earth’s surface over the last 150 years, but not consistently over time or equally in each region. There is evidence that temperature data collected over land at the surface are affected by modifications to the land surface, especially over the last 25 years. Temperature data measured by weather satellites show less change over that interval, especially in the tropics where climate models predict the strongest warming. There seem to be no strong long term trends in precipitation patterns, although there is considerable regional change and variation over years and decades. Overall, the lack of reliable long-term records of extreme and rare events such as heat waves, intense storms, cyclones, and tornadoes often makes assessing trends difficult.”
As clearly shown above, these statements are incorrect, misleading, or missing key information.
Pg. 16 – “However, the IPCC notes that sea ice thickness is one of most difficult climate variables to measure. A study by NASA scientists, published after the IPCC report, concluded that cyclical patterns in the Arctic Ocean circulation, rather than global warming trends, explain many of the recent changes seen in the far North (Morison et al. 2007).”
Incorrect and misleading. Sea ice thickness is declining. It may be difficult to measure precisely but the trend is down with great certainty. The Morison et al. paper is not a paper about sea ice thickness! It is a paper about ocean bottom pressures. In fact, the authors conclude:
“Since the 1990s, some trends, such as decreasing ice extent, have continued in spite of a relaxation of the AO to lower levels, and they raise concerns that global warming is driving the Arctic to an ice-free state.”
Pg. 16 – “In summer 2007, sea ice in the Arctic Basin fell to its lowest level since 1979, but by January 2008 had fully recovered to its 1979-2000 average.”
The deception here is barely disguised. Of course in the summer/fall there will be lowest sea ice extent due to the greatest melting during the warmest months. And of course, January will feature a return of sea ice due to much colder weather. The author is comparing apples to oranges and is exhibiting classic cherry-picking by choosing a single month in a single year while ignoring the long-term decreasing trend in sea ice extent.
Pg. 17 – “Data have been collected for relatively few glaciers worldwide…regional patterns are complex, and there are places where glaciers have been advancing in the past decade. The thickness of the glacier on top of Mount Kilimanjaro has not changed much over the 20th century, although the ice is retreating at the vertical walls. Solar radiation has been identified by the IPCC as the main driver of this decrease.”
Misleading. An honest assessment of glacial extent would state that there are hundreds of glaciers being monitored and 90% of these worldwide glaciers are retreating. Many of the few glaciers that are advancing are suffering volume/mass loss. Solar radiation is NOT the cause of recent glacial melt for most glaciers – AGW is.
Pg. 18 – “The average temperature of the global ocean between the surface and the top 700 meters is estimated to have risen by 0.10ºC between 1961 and 2003. High rates of warming were observed between 1993 and 2003, but the IPCC notes that since 2003, the oceans have started to cool.”
False. The IPCC does NOT state oceans are cooling since 2003. Furthermore, papers included in the IPCC (2007) were dated 2005 or earlier to make the cutoff submission date. Even if 2004 and 2005 are considered, two years does not come close to defining a trend. The current data shows a long-term increase in ocean heat content which the IPCC (2007) does state.
Pg. 20 – “Atmospheric CO2 levels tend to rise and fall with changes in temperature. The CO2 levels, however, do not start to rise until several hundred years after temperatures increase, which suggests that CO2 increases responded to temperature changes, but were not the cause of the initial temperature increase.”
Misleading. The CO2 Lags T argument is a common one used by climate change contrarians. The argument is moot in today’s climate. See: CO2 Lags Temperature
Pg. 22 – “Compared to its 2001 report, the IPCC’s 2007 report made less definitive claims about whether the Northern Hemisphere is warmer now than during the medieval era. This section of the report continues to be the subject of intense debate.”
False. The IPCC (2007) concluded:
“The warmest period prior to the 20th century very likely occurred between 950 and 1100…The evidence currently available indicates that NH mean temperatures during medieval times (950–1100) were indeed warm in a 2-kyr context and even warmer in relation to the less sparse but still limited evidence of widespread average cool conditions in the 17th century”.
More importantly, the IPCC (2007) also concluded:
“Paleoclimate information supports the interpretation that the warmth of the last half century is unusual in at least the previous 1300 years.”
There is not “intense debate” within the scientific community that today’s climate is warmer than that of the MWP. Most temperature reconstructions using many varied proxies shows that the MWP was not warmer than the past several decades.
Pg. 22 – “…some natural temperature records do not match known instrumental temperature changes in recent decades.”
Very misleading. It is likely that this claim is based on the well-known and well-studied tree-ring divergence problem. Tree rings since 1960 do not track well with actual measured temperatures. Tree rings do match well with thermometers and temperature proxies before 1960.
At a recent Congressional hearing regarding climate change, Dr. Chris Field, an ecologist at the Carnegie Institution of Washington and co-chair of the “Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability” chapter of the forthcoming IPCC report, discussed physical and biological indicators that allow scientists to infer that climate change is happening. Out of 29,436 independent temperature e indicators extending back at least 20 years examined, 94% of trends in physical systems (e.g. glaciers) and 90% of trends in biological systems (i.e. budburst) were consistent with a rapidly warming climate.indicators extending back at least 20 years examined, 94% of trends in physical systems (e.g. glaciers) and 90% of trends in biological systems (i.e. budburst) were consistent with a rapidly warming climate.
Pg. 25 – “Despite much research, the range of climate sensitivity estimates has not changed much over the past few decades.”
True but actually strengthens the argument for positive feedbacks! Climate sensitivity is the term used to describe the equilibrium global surface air temperature change due to a doubling of CO2 from 280 ppm (pre-Industrial Revolution) to 560 ppm. It is usually given as a oC change per W/m2 forcing. According to the IPCC (2007): “climate sensitivity is likely to be in the range 2 to 4.5oC with a best estimate of about 3oC, and is very unlikely to be less than 1.5°C. Values substantially higher than 4.5oC cannot be excluded, but agreement of models with observations is not as good for those values.”
Climate sensitivity cannot be measured directly but estimates can be made by observing climate change in the past or from short-term changes caused by volcanic eruptions. Beginning in the 1960s early climate models showed a sensitivity in the range of 1.5 – 4.5oC. Current models show a range of 2.1 – 4.4oC. This confirms that model simulations of climate feedbacks are quite robust. The lower value of climate sensitivity of 2oC is fairly well constrained which means that if emissions are not stabilized very soon, significant global warming is inevitable. Only the upper bound is uncertain. So the question again…
VSC: WHY IS THAT LINK STILL THERE?
When asked, the VSC stated Fraser Institute’s Understanding Climate Change:
“was chosen for its explanation of the key elements of the climate system.”
I think it is pretty clear that statement fails every credible test. The VSC chose to link that document first thus assigning it the most merit. She was alerted to the fact that Fraser Institute has a long history of waging a misinformation campaign against climate science. The document was written by an economist. The document is described as a shortened version of the Independent Summary for Policymakers (ISPM) which is essentially a collection of incorrect, misleading, and missing information that can only be described as deliberate. It takes less than one minute to remove the link. She has had six months to do so.
Please comment and tell me what you think is going on here? Why is that link still there?