Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Coming Climate Panic

Should we arrest our best climate scientists? The denier fringe is calling for investigations and criminal charges. On today's Radio Ecoshock Show you'll hear one of the world's top scientists answer those charges. I'll digest the best from a stunning speech by Professor Richard B. Alley, at the American Geophysical Union annual meeting in San Francisco, in December.

Here is the link to a video of that speech.

Scroll down for much more on Richard Alley's speech, including a link to transcripts of the clips from this week's radio show, and notes to help non-scientists grasp the important new science.

But first: Ten years ago, the tipping point was whether we could stop climate change. Now, after years of inaction, the answer is no. The next tipping point is likely in human affairs, namely, will we be able to govern ourselves? Will our civilization survive the coming climate panic?

The coming climate panic. That's title of a work that just ricocheted all over the blogosphere. Let's meet the author, Auden Schendler.

[Auden Schendler interview, radio only]

I appreciate Auden Schendler's bravery putting out an SOS about delaying action on climate change. I disagree that cap and trade will actually save the planet - it's got corruption and cheating built right in, in my opinion, and in the European experience. A carbon tax that flows through to the citizens, as proposed by Dr. James Hansen and others, has a chance of actually working.

And I can't agree that the individual doesn't matter in this fight. Auden still believes governments could solve this problem. Copenhagen, and the simple record of increasing emissions no matter what government is allegedly in charge say otherwise.

Sure we should push governments, but I've consistently said that you and I, the citizens are the front line in the fight against climate change. We can and must:

- lead by example, cutting our own carbon emissions by at least 40% this year, and pointing toward energy self sufficiency. And no cheating with phony carbon off-sets.

- start connecting and organizing locally. Fossil energy supplies are limited, and we can't burn what we have. A local economy is the only way to survive well, or survive at all. Pay special attention to your food supplies.

- prepare yourself for emergencies. There are tough unstable times ahead. Have at least several weeks of food and water on hand. Plus other supplies to keep warm and safe. And prepare to help others in emergencies - the latest flood, storm, fires, heat waves. It's not enough to keep yourself or even your family alive. Get ready to help lots of folks.

- either dedicate hours a day to fight for sustainable energy in your community, or figure out where to move. Pure coal power won't last a decade. Industry won't locate there. Eventually, consumers will demand labeling not just about the contents of products - but the amount of pollution used to produce it. If you buy low-fat soup, you'll but low-energy manufactured products.

- my last point, as an individual, is DO NOT count on big governments for much at all. At every level, governments in North America, England, some European countries, and more, are really bankrupt. The growth economy is sputtering out it's last. Then we have to go for a stable state economy, or massive reductions, until the climate is stable, and until a more just distribution of wealth is achieved.

In his blog this week, the dour James Howard Kunstler writes:

"Our destination is an everyday economy where you rarely travel far from the place you live, where you have to make provision for you own health, your own old age, your own income, your own diet, your own security, and your own education. If you're really fortunate, some or all of these necessities can be obtained in conjunction with your neighbors in the place where you live -- but don't expect an increasingly mythical federal government to supply any of it. Expect a new and different way of organizing households based on extended families and kinship groups. Be prepared for agriculture to return to the foreground of everyday life, where farming is back at the center of the economy. Think about how you will cultivate your best role in a social network so the things you do will be truly valued by the other people who know you."

Find that under "The Futile Economy" January 4th, 2010 at

This is Radio Ecoshock. I'm Alex Smith. Look, it's winter. There is snow. It's cold. I can't believe the number of idiots who cite that as proof of the coming ice age, much less a damnation of climate change science.

Check out Joe Romm's "Experts: Cold Snap Doesn't Disprove Global Warming."

If we are really that stupid, and some of us are! - all future climate conferences should be held in August. I believe the next one comes up in May 2010 in Germany?

Climate is measured over decades at best. Heaven help us if we have two real winters in a row! The masses may give in to the loudmouth deniers, going back to energy gluttony, while supplies last. Then we're doomed.

What the heck, let's get back to skiing. Joe Romm, the climate demi-God blogger at has a feature on the future of skiing this week. Published on January 6th, 2010, it's titled "Can U.S. skiing be saved?"

In the blog, a guest writes:

"Take Aspen, for instance. The resort is already seeing a gradual increase in frost-free days and warmer nights, according to Mike Kaplan, CEO of Aspen Skiing Company, and aspen trees are dying off in large numbers. A study by the Aspen Global Change Institute forecasts that if global carbon emissions continue to rise, Aspen will warm by 14 degrees by the end of this century—giving it a feel similar to Amarillo, TX."


I started covering this story back in 2006, with a podcast called "Can Winter Sports Be Saved?" That mp3 got thousands of downloads, and still goes out by the hundreds every month. In it, I interviewed a rep from Whistler-Blackcomb, the super Canadian ski resort where the 2010 Olympic downhill events will be held in February. Not much has changed since that time, except emissions are worse, and the climate warmed faster. Let's give it a listen now.

[audio only]

That was an interview from one of my early Radio Ecoshock podcasts in 2006, still chilling today.

Find all our past programs and features, as free mp3 downloads, at our web site,


In the recent attacks on top scientists, let us take the case of Richard B. Alley. He is the Evan Pugh Professor of Geosciences, at Penn State University. Alley is a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union, and a member of the National Academy of Sciences. His popular book about ice cores is called "The Two Mile Time Machine."

Alley was expected to give one of the best speeches of the 2009 annual meeting of the AGU - and he did not disappoint. I'm going to give you a short digest of that hour-long Bjerknes Lecture to the AGU in San Francisco in December, with a transcript of the quotes.

Professor Alley begins with the attack:

"I said these were interesting times. This is a copy of an email that was sent to my administration [at Penn State] by an alum [alumni, former grad of Penn State], and said alum copied me on this, so I believe I am fair. The alum asks for certain personnel changes to be made, and I have just put in the ones that relate to me.

So for what it's worth, Dr. Alley's work on CO2 levels and ice cores - now I don't actually do that but I talk about it - OK Dr. Alley's work on CO2 levels and ice cores has confirmed that CO2 lags Earth's temperature. This one scientific fact alone proves that CO2 is not the cause of the recent warming.

I continue to mislead the scientific community. There should be prompt response (getting rid of me), I have "crimes against the scientific community, Penn State, the citizens of this great country and the citizens of the world" that "must be dealt with severely" because of my "shameful" activities."

[laughter from the audience][applause]

"So there'll be a wanted poster which will be up here somewhere, but the thing which is fascinating, and we'll come back to, is that this email has in it a logical fallacy which is evident on casual observation. And I think it's worth our understanding at some level, how polarized the world is, how easy it is for someone to misunderstand our science, if they aren't fully within it, the amount of education, the amount of outreach, the amount of clarification, that we have to make, to get from this to a proper scientific understanding."

In fact, the former Penn State grad calls for "an investigation into...Dr. Alley's activities [that] will... start prior to the end of this year."

Later in this program, we'll follow Professor Alley as he explains the denialist bugaboo of carbon dioxide lagging temperature rise in climate history. In excerpts from this important speech, we'll learn more about the scientific history of our planet, and it's atmosphere.

As we will learn, this was part of a concerted effort against climate scientists at Penn State, including the famous "hockey stick" graph creator, Michael Mann, and others.

The Bjerknes Lecture is one of the keynote speeches to the American Geophysical Union annual meeting each year. Named after a famous Arctic researcher, Professor Bjerknes - Penn State's Professor Richard B. Alley received the award, and gave his speech at the December 2009 meeting in San Francisco, for his work teaching the history of Earth's past climates.

The title of the speech was "The Biggest Control Knob, Carbon Dioxide in Earth's Climate History".

I have made a transcript of the excerpts used in today’s show – likely the only print version from the speech so far.


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