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Climate Hustle

Checking Ted Cruz's climate science denial howlers

Posted on 16 February 2016 by Guest Author

I have no clue how many climate science denial myths a Republican presidential candidate can fit onto the head of a pin, but given these zingers are generally huge it’s probably not that many.

But we do now have some clue how many myths one of those candidates, SenatorTed Cruz, can fit into an eight-minute diatribe. At least six.

When asked about climate change at recent hustings, Cruz has been delivering a stock set of answers from the Little Book of Climate Change Denial (not a real book).

At one such event in New Hampshire, the representative from Texas delivered a diarrhea-like splurge (sorry) of talking points, myths and cherry-picked factoids.

The world isn’t warming – check. This is all about government control – check. Scientists used to think an ice age was coming – check. Every pinhead contains an etching of Al Gore in a loving embrace with a dirty private jet – no check.

This is not to single out Cruz who, we understand, is currently second in national polls.

The Donald, currently leading in the polls for the Republican nomination, alsodenies the science of human-caused climate change. So does third placed Marco Rubio. It’s a hat trick.

We know already that denying climate science has become part of the Republican psyche in the United States, but every once in a while it’s worth pausing to remind ourselves just how nuts this situation has become.

These are people who fancy themselves as the leader of the “free world” but think every science academy in the world together with the world’s thermometers, tide gauges and glaciers are all engaged in an elaborate hoax.

Anyway, let’s have a look at Cruz’s Climate Clangers (this phrase is hereby released under a Creative Commons licence).

Antarctic ice

Cruz has been using a story from Christmas 2013 to try and make climate scientists look like idiots. He says:

… an exploration ship was sent down to Antarctica to document how the polar ice caps were melting. And the people who led this exception they believed the computer models that everything would be melted so they headed on down…. They had to go and be rescued because they got stuck in the ice.

Cruz is referring to the Australasian Antarctic Expedition, but it has been abundantly clear that the scientists did not think that “everything would be melted” because, as they wrote on their expedition website and Planet Oz has pointed out before, one of their tasks was to investigate why Antarctic sea ice was growing.

I asked Professor Chris Turney, of the University of New South Wales and who led that expedition, about Cruz’s remarks.

The Australasian Antarctic Expedition 2013-2014 made it clear from the start that we went pole wards to try and refine our understanding of why there is more sea ice in the south. We most certainly never ‘believed the computer models that everything would be melted’.

I fear Senator Cruz has confused which way is up. As I hope Senator Cruz is all too aware from his time chairing the US Senate Science and Space Sub-Committee, the Arctic is a large ocean surrounded by continents while Antarctica is a continental ice sheet surrounded by ocean. The two respond to climate change in quite different ways.

Since satellite observations began in the 1970s, the amount of sea ice in the Arctic has suffered a long-term decline and is now at an all time low. In marked contrast, the amount of sea ice surrounding the Antarctic continent has reached an all time high.

One thing we do know is as the world’s temperatures continue to climb, weather patterns around the planet are changing and some of the biggest changes are happening in the south. Stronger winds are shifting sea ice around the Southern Ocean, helping more survive the summer. But these winds are also causing a big change in ocean circulation that appear to be melting key parts of the continental ice, making surface waters less salty and therefore easier to freeze.

I’m sure Senator Cruz doesn’t need reminding that as scientists we’re trained to test ideas, not believe in them.

Another to have made the same claim about Turney’s expedition is conservative commentator Mark Steyn, who is currently being sued by climate scientist Michael Mann. Steyn made the exact same claim in an article in The Spectator.

Steyn was called to give evidence to a hearing of the US Senate’s science subcommittee, chaired by Cruz.

Next week, Steyn begins a speaking tour of Australia, sponsored by the “thinktank” the Institute of Public Affairs – the country’s prime pusher of climate science denial.

Satellites

When it comes to global temperature readings, Cruz has his laser vision set on the satellite data, which is showing slightly less warming than the temperatures on the ground (where we live, and grow stuff).

Cruz uses this data to claim that global warming stopped 18 years ago.

But even the senior scientist who looks after the satellite data that Cruz likes to cite, says the ground-based temperature measurements are more appropriate when it comes to climate change.

Cruz does not seem so keen to mention those various collections of land-based measurements, which show, for example, that 14 of the 16 hottest years on record have all happened since 2000.

The hottest year on record was 2015, but 2016 will give that a run for its money.

Climate science deniers don’t like land-based measurements because they go through various corrective processes. Some think scientists are doing this deliberately to fiddle the numbers and show warming. Conspiracy time.

Yet Cruz and others are apparently ignorant of how scientists have to do far more fiddling around with data from satellites.

For an excellent explainer on all this, watch this Yale Climate Connections video.

This Yale Climate Connections video explains the problems in getting “temperature” readings from satellite data.

1970s cooling

This one is an oldie but a goodie.

Cruz has been telling people that in the 1970s “you had Liberal politicians and scientists who were talking about global cooling” and how we were “headed to another ice age”.

While it’s true that a few scientists were writing about possible future cooling, a review of research appearing in academic journals found that between 1965 and 1979 there were more than six times as many papers saying the world was warming. Only seven academic papers in fifteen years were predicting cooling.

Cruz goes on to criticise scientists because they then “repackaged their theory” when the evidence suggested they were wrong.

But to suggest that scientists should not change their mind when presented with evidence fundamentally challenging their ideas is a supremely odd idea.

Climate science is like a religion

Another favourite of climate science deniers is to suggest that climate science is a religion.

Cruz likes this line too, and seems to be suggesting that someone’s views should not be driven by a religious belief.

Seems good advice. Guess who said this?

Life, liberty, and property, the fundamental natural rights of man are given to every one of us by God, and the role of government fundamentally is to protect those rights.

They changed the name

In New Hampshire, Cruz told an audience:

Anyone noticed in the last two or three years the terms magically changed? It had been global warming and then suddenly it became climate change.

Ooh. Conspiracy? Not really. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel onClimate Change (my emphasis) was formed in 1988. Was that “two or three” years ago?

Click here to read the rest from Graham Readfearn

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Comments

Comments 1 to 7:

  1.   Deliberatley taking science out of context has to be a concern for any serious person appealing for political capital. I would expect this weakness to be prayed upon by way of forcing an extended debate on the matter.

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  2. It may surprise Ted Cruz to discover that a variety of Antarctic sea ice metrics have taken a terrible tumble this (Southern Hemisphere) summer.

    Messrs Monckton, Soon and Legates also seem remarkably reluctant to discuss this perhaps surprising turn of events:

    http://GreatWhiteCon.info/2016/02/for-life-on-earth-ice-is-not-generally-a-good-thing/

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  3. What record shows 14 out of the hottest 16 years have been since 2000? I've asked this before, but never got an answer. I usually follow NASA GISS at http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/tabledata_v3/GLB.Ts+dSST.txt . Based on its Jan - Dec anomalies, all 15 years of the 21st Century would make the list of the hottest 16 years. 1998 is the one and only 20th Century year on the list, where it tied for the 7th hottest year.

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  4. #1
    I hate grammer nazis with a passion.  That said, the statement that Ted Cruz is "praying" upon the scientific weakness of the USA political right is a rather humerous pun.  It highlights the unwillingness of many USA Southern Evangelicals to accept good science at face value.

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  5. Tamino (article here) has listed evidence that Antarctica's sea ice was much larger in the first half of the 20th century than at present: " These sources indicate considerably greater southern ice extent than at present, a conclusion which is supported by other studies (de la Mare 1997, Nature, 389, 57; Jones 1990, J. Clim., 3, 1193)."  He then performs a reconstruction of Antarctic sea ice extent:  Southern Hemisphere sea ice extent (10^6 km^2)

    Looks like a substantial collapse occurred between 1940 and 1975.  Is it possible that by 1975 the sea ice had 'nowhere to go but up'?

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    Moderator Response:

    [PS] Image resized in accordance with comments policy.

  6. ..a negative feedback mechanism!

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  7. knaugle@4 It's probably better to stay away from grammar etc as it leaves one open to humorous comment.  Humerus is the long bone from shoulder to elbow. Although that said, it may well be your use of humerus, of which the funny bone is part, was a clever play on words.

    The views on climate change of the current leading candidates for a republican POTUS may well change as the percentage of Republican voters accepting AGW is steadily increasing.  It seems probable however that Ted Cruz' comment on the rescue of the exploration ship will hit home because the  crew did need to be resued and it is unlikely many voters will pursue the matter beyond that.

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