Inhofe's alternate reality

"I don't think that anyone disagrees with the fact that we actually are in a cold period that started about nine years ago."

Um...okay. I guess that's true if your definition of "anyone" excludes every single scientific agency that concerns itself with climate indicators and those of us who actually look at them. A good dose of boring old real reality from the Union of Concerned Scientists follows:

In response to a question during an ABC News / Washington Post interview today about recent heat waves and record temperatures, Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) said, "I don't think that anyone disagrees with the fact that we actually are in a cold period that started about nine years ago."

Cold period? Not quite. "In fact, climate scientists disagree with Senator Inhofe's statement," said Brenda Ekwurzel, a climate scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

According to NASA, 2009 was the second hottest year on record and the past 10 year average was the hottest on record, Ekwurzel pointed out. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, meanwhile, concluded that the first six months of this year are the hottest on record globally. Scientists project that 2010 is on track to be the hottest year on record, unless Pacific ocean conditions drive down surface temperatures.

Sen. Inhofe, who has long questioned the evidence of human-induced climate change, receives a large portion of his campaign funding from the oil and gas industry, which donated $437,000 to his campaign this cycle. The electric utility industry, meanwhile, donated $208,000. Koch Industries, which funds front groups that also deny the reality of climate change, is Inhofe's top contributor. It has donated $40,000 to his campaign.

Climate contrarians have been losing traction lately. Their baseless conspiracy theories about climate scientists have been contradicted by a number of independent reviews and average global temperatures continue to remain high. Last week, advocates for addressing climate change assembled a symbolic ice sculpture depicting a globe and the phrase "climate deniers" near the Senate. It quickly melted.


I have to confess to having been hopeful that a new record for global temperature would put an end to the "Cooling Stopped" meme, but maybe that was just my own alternate reality....


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The real question is how come the ABC/WP interviewer didn't nail his ears to the wall? Are politicians in America allowed to spout the most unmitigated nonsense without the news media pouncing 'GOTCHA!!'.

Kiwiiano: The short answer is: Yes, yes they are. Our media kind of sucks.

We allowed all our media to be bought by multinational corporations. Most of whom have a bit of an interest in ensuring climate change isn't taken seriously. They're also desperately afraid of "turning off" viewers. Pouncing on Inhofe when he's being stupid (Which is always) would mean the people that think like him might get angry and change the channel.

We gave up journalism and telling the truth for the illusion of fairness and balance.

By JThompson (not verified) on 23 Jul 2010 #permalink

Now that its summer and heatwaves are the order of the day, it appears the denialists are losing ground.

But when winter comes, and the record-setting blizzards strike once again, the public, who can't distinguish weather from climate, and who don't understand that record-setting blizzards are also a predicted effect of global warming, will shift back towards believing the deniers.

Then next summer, when the heatwaves and hurricanes crank up again, they'll believe in global warming for six more months, and so it goes.

Until the scientific community can get it through to the public that a blizzard can be an effect of warming, this is how it will be.

The point that has to be hammered home by the climate science educators is that weather is not climate, and extreme weather of all types - heatwaves AND blizzards, droughts AND floods - can all be effects of AGW.

When those ideas are successfully planted in the public awareness, I think we'll see a jump in progress against the denialist industry.

And the scientific community must be very vocal and clear that there is widespread agreement that AGW is real and needs immediate action.

We have to hammer these two points home, or else concede the debate to the denialists. Which would be a shame, because they are wrong, and them winning has disastrous consequences for wide swaths of not just humanity, but all kinds of life on the planet.

We gave up journalism and telling the truth for the illusion of fairness and balance.

Yep, in today's news what any idiot off the street says is just as valid as what the experts say. Nevermind what the facts say. They don't have much of a story if they can't produce a controversy.

Now wait a moment everyone. Imhofe's comments might be a clue as to what planet he's really from.

Might I suggest Eris, even if its only a dwarf planet.

Any record year just gives the deniers a new starting date for their next "Global cooling since..." meme.

By Turboblocke (not verified) on 24 Jul 2010 #permalink

They don't have much of a story if they can't produce a controversy.

This is baloney really. The only time they try to "produce a controversy" is when the facts are unfavorable to the right. Can you name a single recent example of the American media trying to "produce a controversy" that unfairly advantaged the left?

By Cladogram (not verified) on 24 Jul 2010 #permalink

In regards to inept media, the term you are all trying to find is "investigative journalism", journalists used to investigate stories and then publish the facts it does not exist anymore in this age of fast communication. They dont have time to do it, and not just in the US but in Oz as well.

In regards to Inhofe's comments i would not say we have had global cooling but i would say temps have not been rising as they have from 1970 to 2000, a investigative journalist would have known this but a parrot would not.

Yogi one,

You talk about the public not understanding and confusing a cold winter and warm summer (weather) with climate which is a fair point. My advise to you would be to stop telling people that "record-setting blizzards are also a predicted effect of global warming".

Simply because it is an oxymoron, if you tell someone who has just endured their coldest winter in say 30 years that it was caused by global warming then they will think you are an idiot. You/they need to rebadge the theory once again because if you say AGW will cause everything and everything happens then isn't it in fact just weather?

Inhofe was born in 1934, which is surprising really. We've now had 304 months where temperatures are above the relevant average for the 20th century. That's over 25 years - more than half of his adult life. Even if we had no theories about how or why we'd certainly take notice.

Crakar. I tend to agree with you about the name. My personal preference is for "climate disruption". It better represents the likely extreme weather events. As it happens, noone's going to change the name at this stage unless someone with the clout of a presidential speech writer like Luntz, the climate change man, chooses to call me and ask for my advice.

When I talk to others about climate change (I do like the term climate disruptions), I tell them that the changing climate leads to extremes - more hurricanes, hotter summers, and colder winters. I also describe climate change measurements as being like the stock market - only a fool deals with the day-to-day or even month-to-month changes in a stock price. The real trendlines are always in the 6mos to 1 year range (and longer for some companies), and to view the trendlines you must discount the extreme highs and lows and follow the overall trends.
Sometimes we can be too scientific for our own good when talking to the non-scientific public. We have to describe climate change science in ways that are easily accessible to the common folk (the salt of the earth, you know, morons) by using analogies that they are more familiar with.

Crackar, don't confuse lots of snow with cold temperatures. The atmosphere holds more water the warmer it is, so at about zero Celsius is the temperature where we would expect the most snow (ok this is over simplified, but still).

If an area warms from -20 to -5 it would not be surprising if the amount of snow increased, in fact in my oversimplified example it would be what one would expect.

And indeed measurements of the amount of water in the atmosphere show that it has gone up.…

Still not clear to me why more snow and rain is so life threatening. I just managed through several unusually cold winters with a few nasty snow storms and summers that were unusually cool. This summer is more like what I remember summer to be, hot and humid. In a big city snow is generally good as is rain, it cleans the air. Hurricanes are more of a burden and I am expecting perhaps one hurricane to hit my area in my lifetime, though the lack of hurricanes over the last 50 years does not really support that expectation. So what am I supposed to be so worried about?

RS. 'More snow and rain' wouldn't be life threatening if we could organise it like "This Perfect Day" - just have the system tuned so it rains every night between 1.30 and 4.00 am. Unfortunately, more rain and snow is predicted to arrive in more storms. Violent storms and the flooding that follows are life threatening.


If you have read any of my recent comments on other threads then hopefully you will understand what my concern is regarding climate change, and what we should all be concerned about.

Living in a big city, you probably don't care if it is a couple of degrees hotter in summer, or if you get a few more snowstorms. It might change your insurance premiums slightly, or it might make it harder to get to work or mean your electricity bill is a bit higher to run your air-conditioner, but so what, right?

But move out into the country and you are going to start to get a different picture. Changes in climate mean changes in where and when plants grow - and that means changes in agricultural crops. Crops that once grew in some areas may not grow there quite so well anymore. It means changes to rainfall and water security. It means changes in disease vectors. Rising ocean levels and temperatures affect coral growth and consequently where the fish are - and that means changes in your sushi and tinned tuna supplies. And it will mean people in poorer countries or those who rely on single industries such as fishing are going to have their whole lifestyle destroyed.

The consequences of climate change are far more wide reaching than just different weather conditions. It means ecosystem and agriculture changes. It means huge movements of people as their livelihoods are altered by lack of food or water (not just rising sea levels). It means tropical diseases become more prevalent in temperate zones. It means wholesale changes to the ecosystem as breeding seasons and flowering seasons change and animals are unable to find food supplies as life cycles that were once synchronised are no longer - with cascading impacts throughout the whole ecosystem.

We need to think about this people.

RS, it is not only total amount of rain which can be a problem but when the rainfall occurs. For example, only 35% of the available arable land was seeded this year on the Canadian Prairies because the rain came at the wrong time. Fields have to be reasonably dry to be worked on the prairies. Similarly, if it is too wet in the Fall the harvest will be delayed which means that frost damage will be more likely.

Thus adelady's term "climate disruption" is very apropos to farmers who depend on not just the right amount of rainfall but having it fall at the correct time.

By Ian Forrester (not verified) on 29 Jul 2010 #permalink

Mandas, i get that but that has been happening forever, when crops stop growing or are grown better elsewhere people move, they always did for thousands of years. And if we really want to help those in poor countries then economic development will help them a lot more quickly and with greater certainty. Economic development goes a lot further than competing temperature data. Animals had difficulty coping with urban sprawl and had to move, but seems like they are coming back, for better or worse. Again not life threatening, just life. I am not expecting to convince anyone of anything on this board but there are a lot of people with very different opinions of what is or isn't going on. Thank you for taking the time.

RS said:

when crops stop growing or are grown better elsewhere people move, they always did for thousands of years.

And just where will we move our agriculture to? Don't say "move it north". Have you heard of the Canadian Shield and muskeg? Thought not.

By Ian Forrester (not verified) on 29 Jul 2010 #permalink


Sure it has been happening forever - but only a few minutes reading will show you just how devastating it has always been to society. And one thing different now to the past is the level of stress the ecosystem is already under. Species are going extinct at unprecedented rates because of habitat destruction - add climate change and trophic collapse is certain.

You have highlighted the problem perfectly - people (and you are one of them) just don't get it about what is happening. As you have said, there are a lot of people with very different opinions - it's just that all the people who know what they are talking about DON'T have different opinions; they all agree. It's only those who don't know what they are talking about who think there isn't a problem.

Mandas between the two of us we have highlighted the problem. Some people, including you have very strong opinions about what needs to be done. Some have different opinions. My suggestion is you and your group do what you need to do to address the problems you see and if you are right that is great. But a political solution is not the answer. You cannot force me and others to do something we do not agree with. That is the wrong approach because if your solutions are wrong then we all go down, if you are right then you will achieve your desired end and should be congratulated. This can all be done respecting other people's liberty. I still think economic development should be emphasized so others can have the choices you and I have today, including the choice to do what ever you think is required to correct the weather/climate. Best of luck.


I think you are missing the point of my posts. I am not a climatologist nor am I a economist or a politician - I am a wildlife scientist.

I am not proposing what the solution to climate change should be. I have some opinions on the matter, but they are lay opinions only and do not and should not carry much weight. I also do not know exactly how much and how fast the climate will change - I leave that to people who are experts in the field, and I accept what they are telling me because they know and I don't. I do analyse what they are telling me to ensure it is both plausable and in accordance with proper scientific principles, and I am satisfied with the validity of what they say.

My field of expertise is in wildlife and associated ecosystems. I therefore can look at what has happened in the past, what is happening in the present, and take the advice from climatologists about the future and apply it to my field. And what I am seeing is extremely worrying. I have attempted to pass some of those concerns on to you and others, but what I am seeing and hearing are people who have absolutely no scientific expertise proclaiming that the scientists (myself included) are all wrong and that they (the 'inexperts') know better.

Can you even begin to understand how frustrating that can be? I don't know what you do for a living, but just imagine I was to walk into your place of work and proclaim that you are doing it all wrong, because I read an article somewhere written by someone who didn't know what they were talking about, and that they said you were involved in a conspiracy to lie and defraud and that you were hiding all the mistakes you were making in your job. Do you think for one second you might find that a little annoying? Do you think you might tell me to fuck off because you actually did know your job and I was in no position to criticise what I didn't understand?

This is not about respecting liberty or having the freedom to make choices. There are always restrictions on what we cannot or cannot do, and we suffer the consequences if we make the wrong choices. The only problem is, if YOU make the wrong choices about climate change, it won't be just you that suffers, it will be the whole world.

How about you and others of your ilk start to respect the expertise of people who have studied and researched these things for decades, and have built on the work of others who have done similar work. Stop reading the opinions of no-nothings and those with an agenda.

You know - just like you would expect others to respect your knowledge and expertise.

Mandas...may I ask more about your work? I'm not questioning it at all--instead I'm also a wildlife scientist and also deal with their associated ecosystems, and this quote by you,

I therefore can look at what has happened in the past, what is happening in the present, and take the advice from climatologists about the future and apply it to my field. And what I am seeing is extremely worrying. I have attempted to pass some of those concerns on to you and others, but what I am seeing and hearing are people who have absolutely no scientific expertise proclaiming that the scientists (myself included) are all wrong and that they (the 'inexperts') know better.

really resounded with me. Most of my work has been in the far north (Ontario), and in the south-central Yukon, working in boreal forest, boggy lowlands and alpine tundra. What I know from the past, what I'm seeing now, and what the possible outcomes will be also worries me.

And when dealing with people who, without any benefit of decades of experience, training, tell us we're wrong (e.g. Bjorn Lomborg) but manage to make schoolboy errors in their assertions I just want to say, "Fine, we're all f***ed but that's ok because we're too stupid a species to be allowed to continue".

We need to form a support group. At meetings we'll all recite that Edward Abbey quote that starts, "One final paragraph of advice: do not burn yourselves out. Be as I am - a reluctant enthusiast...." :-)

And just where will we move our agriculture to? Don't say "move it north". Have you heard of the Canadian Shield and muskeg? Thought not.

Having just returned from two months working in the Hudson Bay and James Bay lowlands, I can assure anyone who thinks the boreal forest, bogs, and fens are suitable for agriculture that you are quite quite mistaken.

By Daniel J. Andrews (not verified) on 30 Jul 2010 #permalink


Nice to hear from you. I work for an Australian Government department, largely in an administration and policy capacity, working with the state government National Park services. I also do some field work - not as much as I would like admittedly - to support my administration role, and at the moment I am working on rehabilitation of degraded areas and the reintroduction of native species. There is a large national park (Flinders Ranges NP) just north of where I live which has had an ongoing program to reduce invasive animal and plant species and to 'restore' a number of displaced species (the yellow footed rock wallaby is an iconic species that was near extinction in the region). It's fascinating work, but I am of the view that this particular project (and several others like it) need to change direction.

My concern is that we have to continually intervene with pest control programs, because when we remove pests (feral goats are a perfect example) the habitat acts as a sink and we get a continual immigration from the grazing lands which border the park. While we can try and suppress the numbers there (and the farmers do assist by herding the goats on their lands for sale to abbatoirs) the goats always return to precull levels very quickly. I am trying to get approval to do a limited field trial to reintroduce the dingo ('native' dog) to the region in an attempt to restore some of the trophic balance and have an ongoing natural control mechanism. Its a highly political and emotionally charged issue, so its a difficult proposition to get through the powers that be. But I live in hope.

Because I work in a policy area, we get a lot of information from the state NPWS authorities on the state of the parks and some of the changes that are occuring as a result of invasive species, habitat degradation and observed and predicted climate change. The whole thing is just frightening. Its obvious to anyone wtih even the most limited observation skills that the trends for many plant and animal species is towards extinction - with little prospect of being able to be recovered. And I know from my own work the effects on the whole ecosystem of what can happen when you remove one or a number of species or when an introduced species changes the balance. And there is a lot that we don't know - the ecosystems are just too complex to be able to make hard predictions. But its pretty obvious that the consequences can be devastating - not just for the parks in question, but for surrounding grazing areas as well. I just wish a few more people would start to undertsand and accept this. Its pretty scary stuff.