Global Warming: Man or Myth?

Scientists can also wear their citizen hats

NM Energy Secretary Harrison Schmitt Frozen in Denial

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Watch Schmitt calling himself "true 'denier' of human caused global warming" (March, 2009)

 Full clip may be viewed at

New Mexico governor Susana Martinez (R-NM) has picked self-described climate denier Harrison Schmitt to run the state’s Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department (EMNRD). 

Update (02/10): Harrison Schmitt Withdraws from Nomination

According to the EMNRD website:

The present-day Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department consists of seven divisions and employs approximately 415 people at 48 different work sites around the state. 

Our Department goals are:

  • to make our state a leader in developing reliable supplies of energy, and energy efficient technologies and practices, with a balanced approach toward conserving our renewable and non-renewable resources;
  • to protect the environment and ensure responsible reclamation of land and resources affected by mineral extraction;
  • to be effective in leading our state in growing healthy, sustainable forests and managing them for a variety of users and ecologically sound uses; and
  • to improve the state park system into a nationwide leader that protects New Mexico’s natural, cultural and recreational resources for posterity and contributes to a sustainable economy statewide.


A New Mexico where individuals, agencies and organizations work collaboratively on energy and natural resource management to ensure a sustainable environmental and economic future.


To position New Mexico as a national leader in the energy and natural resources areas for which the Department is responsible.

How is Schmitt going to deliver on this promise IF HE CANNOT READ A GRAPH and HE DENIES WELL-SUPPORTED CLIMATE SCIENCE?

Schmitt submitted a paper to NASA in 2009 which was filled with physical nonsense. In it, he stated, “Artic (sic) sea ice has returned to 1989 levels of coverage.”  Mark Boslough, a physicist and computational modeler and an adjunct professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences at University of New Mexico, wrote in the Sante Fe New Mexican newspaper:

”I wrote to him, politely pointing out that this was not true, and directing him to the data from the National Snow and Ice Data Center (the ice extent in 2009 had not recovered, and as of this writing is at an all-time winter low). He responded, but never made the necessary correction. Anyone can make a mistake, but scientific integrity requires that authors own up to mistakes and fix them.”

Below is the NSDIC Arctic sea ice extent plot that is very well-known because it is well-publicized.  Of course, Schmitt must have looked at this same graph when he made his statement.  Did he not see that well-defined downward trend line?  If he did not view the data, then why mention it in his NASA paper?

NSIDC Arctic Sea Ice Extent Downward Trend

NSIDC Arctic Sea Ice Extent Downward Trend

Schmitt might also have seen this longer-term plot from NSIDC:

Arctic Sea Ice Extent Since 1953

Arctic Sea Ice Extent Since 1953

For even more data Schmitt could have viewed this NSIDC page.

Update (02/08): A letter from the NSIDC now appears in the Santa Fe New Mexican rebutting Schmitt’s incorrect claim:

“Based on these facts, it would be incorrect to suggest that 2009 represented a recovery of Arctic sea ice to 1989 levels.”

Schmitt could also have viewed this very-well publicized plot of Arctic sea ice volume:

Arctic Ice Volume Trending Downward (PIOMAS)

Arctic Ice Volume Trending Downward (PIOMAS)

Or perhaps he could have viewed the image below that shows a decline in Arctic sea ice thickness.  This data includes declassified submarine data since 1958.

Arctic Sea Ice Thickness Since 1958 (Kwok & Rothrock, 2009)
Arctic Sea Ice Thickness Since 1958 (Kwok & Rothrock, 2009)

In his NASA paper, Schmitt concludes:

”Those who observe the natural, economic, and sociological aspects of climate change see no evidence indicating that human activities have influenced global climate. Actual observations show that climate varies in response to natural forces and that human burning of fossil fuels has had negligible if any effect over the last 100 years.”

Also, in his paper, Mr. Schmitt makes many other claims that are unsupported by fact, including: (Click links for the correct science)

  1. CO2 is saturated and cannot cause more warming
  2. Water vapor is the most powerful greenhouse gas
  3. It’s El Nino
  4. It’s the sun
  5. It’s cosmic rays

Of course, there is overwhelming evidence for human-caused global warming, and that is why there is an overwhelming scientific consensus.

Given Schmitt’s position as a denier of well-understood climate science, it was hardly surprising that Joseph Bast, President of the Heartland Institute, wrote an article (January 31) in the Sante Fe New Mexican calling on Dr. Boslough to apologize to Schmitt.  In that article, Mr. Bast was quite “economical with the truth” – true to form for the Heartland Institute which is no friend of accurate climate science information.

In 2009, Schmitt resigned from the Planetary Society writing:

“The ‘global warming scare’ is being used as a political tool to increase government control over American lives, incomes and decision making. It has no place in the Society’s activities.  As a geologist, I love Earth observations. But, it is ridiculous to tie this objective to a ‘consensus’ that humans are causing global warming in when human experience, geologic data and history, and current cooling can argue otherwise.”

Schmitt really distances himself from reality with those statements.  If the government wished to control our lives, why would it create a problem that is very difficult to resolve while simultaneously making no movement to enforce that control?  Congress has made no real progress toward an energy policy and we are importing more fossil fuels than ever while increasing our carbon emission rates.  Global cooling?  How does Schmitt think that the hottest decade on record means cooling?  How does global cooling add heat to the oceans and melt surface ice at increasing rates?

Below is a letter of mine published in the Santa Fe New Mexican that explains why New Mexicans should be very concerned about global warming:

Recently letters to the editor from Ronald Wells (01/31) and Joseph L. Bast (01/31) claim that humans are not the primary cause of the modern day global warming. Every international academy of sciences disagrees.

Basic physics that has been known for over a century tells us that adding heat trapping gases such as carbon dioxide will cause the planet to warm. Not surprisingly, the oceans and atmosphere are rapidly warming and ice is rapidly melting.

Climate change is increasing risks for many stakeholders. According to the New York Times (08/08/09), military and intelligence experts warn that “climate-induced crises could topple governments, feed terrorist movements or destabilize entire regions”.

The insurance industry accepts the scientific evidence. In 2008, Ernst & Young and Oxford Analytica interviewed more than 70 industry analysts from around the world to identify the emerging trends and uncertainties driving the performance of the global insurance sector over the next five years. Number one in their list was climate change.

Health officials conclude that a warming climate and extreme weather patterns are projected to spread and increase infectious diseases such as Dengue fever, Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, encephalitis, and others.

A warming climate will have a significant impact on water supplies in the coming decades. A recent report by consulting firm Tetra Tech for the Natural Resources Defense Council, found that more than 1,100 counties — one-third of all counties in the lower 48 — will face higher risks of water shortages by mid-century as the result of global warming. More than 400 of these counties will face extremely high risks of water shortages and many of these are in New Mexico.

Government officials expect that our southern borders will face increased rates of immigration due to the expected severe droughts that will also be experienced by our southern neighbors.

It is time to move the conversation away from the cause of climate change where there is no legitimate scientific debate to discussing how we can best minimize and adapt to the changes we see today and the bigger changes expected in our future. New Mexico residents will bear the burden of climate change before many other US states.

When scientists tell us this:

Scientists Tell Us This
Scientists Tell Us The Earth is Round (NASA)

We should be concerned if Harrison Schmitt tells us this:

Is Harrison Schmitt Telling Us This?
Is Harrison Schmitt Telling Us the Earth is Flat? (

Now that Schmitt knows the truth, will he rethink his position, will he retract his claims, and will he apologize to the people of New Mexico for misleading them?


More coverage:

Written by Scott Mandia

February 7, 2011 at 6:40 am

Posted in Uncategorized

24 Responses

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  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by free energy4u, Scott A Mandia. Scott A Mandia said: NM Energy Secretary Harrison Schmitt Frozen in Denial […]

  2. […] Go here to read the rest: NM Energy Secretary Harrison Schmitt Frozen in Denial « Global … […]

  3. Brilliant! Need more of this kind of clear accountability (could use a lot less of the snarky, ad-hominem attack at the ending though).

    Michael Cote

    February 7, 2011 at 8:40 am

    • Michael,
      I found no ad hominem attack at the ending. As you likely know well, ad hominem is diversionary criticism of the man, not the message. Calling someone out for what he has said is no ad hominem. Scott seems to be asking a simple question. It is direct and tough, but it is not a sideways attack on Schmitt’s character unrelated to his pronouncements he passes off to the people of New Mexico as science.

      Don Shelby

      February 7, 2011 at 1:20 pm

  4. […] This is…problematic, and people are increasingly catching on: ….climate bloggers Scott Mandia and John Cook both have posts this morning about a 2009 paper on climate models that Schmitt […]

  5. […] Prof Mandia […]

  6. […] in the New Mexico state government has added a twist to the story. For more, see here: Desmog Blog Prof Mandia NOAA Arctic Report Card The Carbon Brief HuffingtonPost  «First<3047484950Similar […]

  7. Delightful summary, and I’ll make use of the links to the data sources. However, I have a small disagreement over the effectiveness of one of your arguments. You say:

    “If the government wished to control our lives, why would it create a problem that is very difficult to resolve while simultaneously making no movement to enforce that control?”

    I think the denialists have no trouble answering this question by saying that people like them, and Schmitt, standing up to the “conspiracy” is what prevents the left from imposing and enforcing their control. The question you pose is one that hardens their opinion.

    (FYI: I’m still engaging local denialists my trench in the climate wars)



    February 7, 2011 at 11:55 am

  8. Excellent writeup of this Harrison Schmitt matter, and thanks for writing that letter. (What is the publication status?)

    Mandia: The letter was published Tuesday.

    A matter calling for investigation is, how does a person like Dr Schmitt, educated in the finest schools of the land, and is in possession of a clearly outstanding intelligence, fall into such a multiplicity of weird beliefs, of which anthropogenic climate disruption denial is but one? How about mining ³He on the moon to use as fusion fuel? How about that nexus between Soviet Communism and environmentalists? I doubt immensely his being in the pay of the Koch brothers, or that he might be an eminence noire stooging for some fossil fuel powers.

    I love the flattened Earth picture, but I feel it is inappropriate as used here. But that last line, calling for an apology is entirely appropriate.

    David F Collins

    February 7, 2011 at 1:53 pm

  9. Regarding my comment yesterday: according to a 2011/02/07 review of «The Starship and the Canoe» by Eric Steig & Ray Pierrehumbert, the matter has been studied by author Kenneth Brower. Dealing with Freeman Dyson rather than Harrison Schmitt, different individuals, but the question is the same.

    I suppose education and intellectual brilliance are no guarantors of wisdom. I think of my late mother-in-law who had but a third grade education and never learned English but was one of the wisest people I ever had the privilege of knowing.

    David F Collins

    February 8, 2011 at 9:55 am

  10. […] also Scott Mandia, Chris Mooney, Charlie Petit, Lou Grinzo, Richard Littlemore, Tim Lambert (suitable title: […]

  11. […] field day with Bast’s explanation, with commentary in the Huffington Post, Skeptical Science, Scott Mandia’s blog, and one of Peter Sinclair’s masterful videos “How to Pick a Cherry (Twist like […]

  12. […] prof Scott Mandia, in a brutal blog about Schmitt’s true denying: Below is the NSDIC Arctic sea ice extent plot that is very […]

  13. […] Schmitt’s recent claims, in particular, his demonstrably innacurate claims about arctic sea ice,  became the focus of attention from a number of scientists, journalists, bloggers and citizens. […]

  14. […] Prof. Scott Mandia […]

  15. […] Prof. Scott Mandia  Print This Post _qacct="p-157_wZdwZyET2";quantserve(); Copy this link for the trackback URL […]

  16. […] Op-Ed page war over Schmitt’s crackpot science broke out in the Sante Fe New Mexican last week, and the […]

  17. […] NM Energy Secretary Harrison Schmitt Frozen in Denial Share this:TwitterFacebookDiggStumbleUponEmailRedditLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. […]

  18. […] Harrison Schmitt who is a self-described denier of human-caused climate change. Apparently this expert cannot see a downward sloping line in ice extent that my 7 year old just identified on this computer. […]

  19. […] claims). Soloman’s silliness is taken apart easily by Tamino on his blog. Harrison Schmitt has made this claim as well. It’s simple cherry picking your data, and a huge no-no when it comes to real […]

  20. […] claims). Soloman’s silliness is taken apart easily by Tamino on his blog. Harrison Schmitt has made this claim as well. It’s simple cherry-picking your data, and a huge no-no when it comes to real […]

  21. […] claims). Soloman’s silliness is taken apart easily by Tamino on his blog. Harrison Schmitt has made this claim as well. It’s simple cherry picking your data, and a huge no-no when it comes to real science. When you […]

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