George Will: wrong about climate change

george will

Mark Sorenson and I just published an op-ed in response to George Will’s misguided essay denying global warming.  Not anthropogenic global warming, but simply global warming.  He argued on Oct 4 in the WaPost (and countless other papers around the country) that the warming has plateaued.  Sadly, he is wrong.

Will picked up on an equally incorrect story, by the usually on target Andrew Revkin who runs the DotEarth blog.

Revkin said “temperatures have been relatively stable for a decade”…The plateau in temperatures has been seized upon by skeptics as evidence that the threat of global warming is overblown. And some climate experts worry that it could hamper treaty negotiations and slow the progress of legislation to curb carbon dioxide emissions in the United States.” (link)

But there is no “plateau”.  The global temperature has continued to increase even during the last decade.

We have been blogging about (and attempting to correct) this for over a year (here, here, and here) as have many other bloggers and environmental writers including the NASA climate scientists who run the Real Climate web site (here). Their most recent article very succinctly debunks the “plateau” argument.  They include the graphic below, based on the NASA GISS dataset of global land and sea surface temperatures:


Global temperature according to NASA GISS data since 1980. The red line shows annual data, the larger red square a preliminary value for 2009, based on January-August. The green line shows the 25-year linear trend (0.19 ºC per decade). The blue lines show the two most recent ten-year trends (0.18 ºC per decade for 1998-2007, 0.19 ºC per decade for 1999-2008) and illustrate that these recent decadal trends are entirely consistent with the long-term trend and IPCC predictions. Even the highly “cherry-picked” 11-year period starting with the warm 1998 and ending with the cold 2008 still shows a warming trend of 0.11 ºC per decade (which may surprise some lay people who tend to connect the end points, rather than include all ten data points into a proper trend calculation). - from

Where’s the recent cooling or plateau you ask?  Nowhere in fact.

Below is a graphic of global temperature trends from five databases between 1999 and 2009.  They are all positive, i.e., no cooling, no plateau.  Note the hadcrut data (the green line)(the HadCRUT3v  data are developed in part by the Hadley Centre of the Met Office which is the UK’s National Weather Service and by the CRU ) displays the shallowest slope, yet the slope is still positive.

There is an incorrect meme in the blogosphere that this widely used dataset, unlike the NASA data (the rss  line in the graph below), does show a decline or at least a plateau.  But in fact it doesn’t:


It is well known that the Hadley data tend to run cool due to missing observations from the Arctic, one of the places on earth that have warmed the most (i.e., the Hadley HadCRUT3v  data tend to underestimate global warming – read the full explanation on RealClimate here).

The Met Office has posted a seemingly clear statement titled Climate change fact 2; temperatures continue to rise, in an attempt to make it clear that their data do not indicate warming has stopped.

Take another look at the Hadley data plotted below. The red line is the monthly temperature anomaly (deviations from a baseline) and the green line is the fitted curve beginning in 1999 (an intense El Nino year and the warmest year on record).  Note, again, there is no cooling or plateau.


The people coming to the conclusion that the earth is warming based on the Hadley data are not doing any type of trend analysis (or listening to the Hadley Centers interpretation).  They are instead simply drawing a line from the peak in 1999 to the dip in late 2008.  This is bogus for three reasons: (1) it is cherry-picking (picking the data to make a point, i.e., biased), (2) not a legitimate way to do a trend analysis (you can’t just ignore what happened in between the beginning and end points), and (3) it is totally irrelevant anyway!  It just doesn’t matter what happened last year or what happens next year.  The issue at hand is the effect of humans on climate not on day-to-day or year-to-year weather.  It is the long-term trend (see the graph below), that began over a hundred years ago, that we are concerned about.  (Can you see now why this whole issue – over the simple fact of whether the earth is even cooling – is driving scientists bonkers!)


Finally, as we point out in our op-ed; “According to NASA, the hottest ten years since 1880 (when continuous instrument records begin) have occurred since 1996, and the planet’s temperature is still increasing.”  You can see the current ranking (for what it’s worth) here.

To recap, we can see the data don’t show a plateau or a cooling trend and the British government even says their Hadley data don’t show a plateau or a cooling trend.

George Will’s WaPost colleague Ezra Kline has a great article explaining all this (again) to Will and millions of other AGW skeptics:

Will, whether he knows it or not, is relying on temperature measurements out of the U.K. Met’s office. Will thinks they show a “plateau” in global warming. Here’s what the Met says: “The rise in global surface temperature has averaged more than 0.15 °C per decade since the mid-1970s. Warming has been unprecedented in at least the last 50 years, and the 17 warmest years have all occurred in the last 20 years. This does not mean that next year will necessarily be warmer than last year, but the long-term trend is for rising temperatures.”

Brad Johnson, a climate blogger who does spend his days immersed in this stuff, writes that Will’s thesis is “pinned on an ambiguity of the English language. Just as the Yankees are a winning team but did not win their last game, global warming is terribly real even if 2008, one of the hottest years in recorded history, was cooler than 2007.” As Johnson explains, global warming is not shorthand for “every day will be hotter than the next everywhere on the planet.” It is shorthand for the observation that an “anthropogenic increase in greenhouse gases into the atmosphere is amplifying the natural radiative forcing of the troposphere’s temperature,” thus creating a general trend toward higher temperatures. The year-to-year variability that forms the basis of Will’s column is not a challenge to this theory. It is built into it.   [the Global Climate Models that have forecasted long-term warming over the next several centuries actually predict lots of year-to-year variability and even short-term declines, read about this here]

Is there a chance Will will issue a correction?  This is a matter of fact after all, not simply an opinion of political interpretation.  Will the WaPost Ombudsman suggest such a correction?  Or the editorial page editor?  This isn’t the first time Will has made demonstrably incorrect misstatements about global warming in his column  (see an account of his last run in with “facts”  here and a compilation of all the articles debunking his arguments here).  And in the past he and the WaPost editorial page editor haven’t been willing to make corrections or to even discuss the factual accuracy of his pieces rejecting that the earth is even warming.

Although I am more or less liberal and Will is a conservative (in the traditional, non-neo-conservative sense) I often find his arguments at least well-reasoned and sometimes insightful.  I even agree with him sometimes and he has more than once changed my mind.  But jeez, how can a guy who understands the Federal tax code and baseball get himself so confused about climate change?  I do not think he has ulterior motives or is in anyway corrupt.  I also don’t think he comes from this position out of ideology-he is usually, but not always, a skeptic, even of conservative ideology.  I suspect he is just getting bad information from the wrong places. Although, ironically, this time he was misled by the New York Times and moreover, by a highly respected enviro-journalist.

But I suspect Will has other sources.  As many have pointed out, the “the earth is cooling” and “global warming has plateaued” memes are taking over the blogosphere.  There are also passages in Will’s op-ed that are suspiciously similar to another recent op-ed by house member Joe Barton. Somebody is probably distributing briefings with talking points for climate change skeptics:

…to achieve the Waxman-Markey legislation’s 83 percent baseline reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by the year 2050, we will have to reduce the CO2 output in the United States to the level that we had back in 1910.  – Barton

The U.S. goal is an 80 percent reduction by 2050. But Steven Hayward of the American Enterprise Institute says that would require reducing greenhouse gas emissions to the 1910 level. – Will

The link to our op-ed in the Raleigh NC based News & Observer is here.  My co-author Dr. Mark Sorensen is a biological anthropologist at UNC.  We are co-teaching a class for non-majors on global change: From the Equator to the Poles: Case Studies in Global Environmental Change.  Dr. Carol Arnosti, a biogeochemist in my department assisted with the piece and is also an instructor in the class.

One question that keeps coming up in our class is why so few americans believe in Anthropogenic Global Warming (< 50% by some estimates).  The students have come up with a number of good explanations.  One is that the public – e.g., their parents – is so frequently misinformed, i.e., lied to, by widely respected authorities in the media such as Will. As Ezra Kline put it (link):

All this might be fine, if not for the credibility Will has by virtue of his column. But people who are reading Will’s column at their breakfast table and are not otherwise immersed in this debate might find Will’s thinking convincing, unaware that the points he’s raising have been continually and convincingly rebutted, and that his read of the evidence sharply differs from those of the scientists who are actually collecting and analyzing the evidence. That would be a shame.

We agree and essentially made the same point at the end of our op-ed:

Given the clarity and relative certainty of the science and the scale of the potential social and economic impacts, why do newspapers publish articles denying climate change is happening? Social commentators like George Will certainly have freedom of speech and a general license to express their opinions on the editorial page. But would newspaper editors publish essays denying other major threats to humanity? Imagine an editorial arguing that cancer, poverty, HIV-AIDS or genocide don’t exist and are merely the product of a well-orchestrated scientific hoax. In some countries, you actually do see such lies in the media. To Americans, this seems crazy, which is what the rest of the world thinks when they read denials about global warming in our newspapers. To everybody else, climate change is something they are already experiencing and are trying to find solutions to, rather than just another talking point in a never-ending culture war.

Maldives President Calls Underwater Meeting

The Maldives cabinet ministers are planning to hold a sub-aqua session to ratify a treaty calling on other nations to curb their greenhouse gas emissions. Some ministers are learning to dive for the first time for this special meeting and will be using hand signals and whiteboards to communicate underwater.

Maldivians only contributed 2.4 tonnes of greenhouse gases per capita in 2005 in comparison to Australia at 18.7 and the USA at 19.9 (source: World Resources Institute). Even considering their small contribution, Maldivians still aim to be a carbon neutral country in just 10 years – something our Australian politicians should consider as they play politics with our proposed Emissions Trading Scheme and Renewable Energy Target Bills that will only ratify a fraction of this effort. A rise in sea level between 18 and 59 centimeters will cause the Maldivians to look for refuge in neighbouring countries such as Sri Lanka, India or Australia.


Members of the Maldives cabinet pose with their scuba instructors near the capital Male training for a meeting 6 metres beneath the ocean surface.

Online Reefs (Part I): Climate change and ‘Survival of the Fittest’ among coral-algal symbiosis

Here is a video i’ve just uploaded that pieces together a fascinating presentation given by Dr Todd LaJeunesse at Heron Island Research Station earlier this year as part of the Coral Reef Targeted Research meeting. Todd is a great speaker, and the presentation (a little under 30 minutes in length) is a great watch for anyone interested in coral reefs under climate change. This is the first of a series of videos and lectures that I am currently editing and uploading on coral reefs and climate change – watch this space over the coming weeks. Also, see more of Todd’s work over at the The Symbiosis Ecology and Evolution Laboratory.

“You can’t change world by wearing sandals”


“You can’t change world by wearing sandals”

True enough.

The quote is from Michael O’Leary, Chief Executive Officer of the Irish airline Ryanair.

He has quite a lot to say about climate change, whether it is real and what we should and shouldn’t do about it.  Is he representative of superrich business executives, AKA white men in suits?  Just a crackpot irishman?

Most the quotes are from a Daily Telegraph interview by Alice Thomson.  Thanks to George Marshall at Climate Denial who writes great essays about why we just don’t believe.

“I listen to all this drivel about turning down the central heating, going back to candles, returning to the dark ages. You do that if you want to. But none of it will make any difference. It just panders to your middle-class, middle-aged angst and guilt.”

I don’t think the advice of a bunch of UN scientists should be taken as gospel truth. Human breathing is one of the biggest problems as far as I can see, so why don’t the environmentalists just shoot all the humans.”

“These hairy environmentalists go to the health store to buy their organic strawberries flown in from South Africa. Why aren’t they whacking a huge tax on bananas and grapes from half way round the world?  Why don’t they eat British turnips all winter if they want to save air flights. Because they can’t live without their scallops from Chile.”

I do share Michael’s loathing of lefty hypocrisy.  And Environ Hero Bill McKibbon (and many others) make the same point, arguing that we all need to start consuming locally grown foods.

“They [CND “nutters” in the 1970s] banged on about being against nuclear war, well we all were. But the point is you can’t change the world by putting on a pair of dungarees or sandals. You need to look at the real culprits and begin negotiations with them.”

“We will go from 40 to 80 million passengers in the next few years. We will take them off British Airways and the other old carriers who are flying gas-guzzling, ancient aircraft and pack them into fuel-efficient planes. So Ryanair will be saving the environment — not that we care much.”

Fine with me.  Just do the right thing, even if it is for the wrong reasons.   But seriously, reducing fossil fuel use usually makes sense for business.  Right?

Coping with Commitment

UBC climate scientist Simon Donner published a gloomy paper a few months ago in PLoS One titled “Coping with Commitment: Projected Thermal Stress on Coral Reefs under Different Future Scenarios” link to the paper

The paper is the most sophisticated analysis to date of how climate change will increase the frequency of mass coral bleaching.  It is a step forward from Ove’s pioneering work on the same topic in his classic paper “Climate Change, coral bleaching and the future of the world’s coral reefs” (see two of the key figures from Ove’s review below).  In it, Ove reviewed the history and mechanisms of coral bleaching and made predictions about how the frequency of bleaching will increase as the oceans warm and high temperature anomalies become more and more frequent.

Screen shot 2009-10-10 at 9.26.17 PM

Simon took the next step by modeling the future frequency of bleaching under different IPCC scenarios (Fig 4 below). The depressing thing is how little difference there is among them, including between the very optimistic B1 scenario and the pessimistic (if more realistic in my view) A1b scenario.  [ I find the naming and assumptions of these scenarios somewhat confusing and I plan to post a guide to them in the near future.  For now consult the wikipedia article about them here or look at the draft notes I made based on that article below].

Methodology/Principal Findings/Conclusions: This study uses observed sea surface temperatures and the results of global climate model forced with five different future emissions scenarios to evaluate the “committed warming” for coral reefs worldwide. The results show that the physical warming commitment from current accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere could cause over half of the world’s coral reefs to experience harmfully frequent (p≥0.2 year−1) thermal stress by 2080. An additional “societal” warming commitment, caused by the time required to shift from a business-as-usual emissions trajectory to a 550 ppm CO2 stabilization trajectory, may cause over 80% of the world’s coral reefs to experience harmfully frequent events by 2030. Thermal adaptation of 1.5°C would delay the thermal stress forecast by 50–80 years…Without any thermal adaptation, atmospheric CO2 concentrations may need to be stabilized below current levels to avoid the degradation of coral reef ecosystems from frequent thermal stress events.

Donner used existing SST anomaly forecasts (coupled atmosphere-ocean CGMs) to model the future frequency of bleaching under different IPCC emissions scenarios (Fig 4 below).  SST anomalies and the probability of coral bleaching were estimated in each of 1687 0.5° x 0.5° grid cells.  Coral reef scientists use “Degree Heating Months” (DHMs), among other metrics, as an indication of accumulated thermal stress experienced by a coral colony or population. The metric is based on both magnitude and duration of a temperature anomaly. See the NOAA tutorial on the related Degree Heating Weeks metric here and on coral bleaching thresholds here. DHWs are measured and reported in real time by the NOAA Coral Reef Watch Program.  These bleaching thresholds are based on the well-documented fact that tropical corals are highly sensitive to anomalously high temperatures and live within ~ 1° C of their upper thermal tolerance.

DHW figure from the SW Pacific from the NOAA coral reef watch program.

Satellites only measure the temperature of the “skin” of the ocean, yet provide a surprisingly good estimate of the temperature of the bottom, where the corals are, at least in shallow depths, i.e., < 8 m. For example, we compared satellite-based SST measurements with data from temperature loggers on the ocean floor on nine reefs on the GBR and found a good match, with R2 values ranging from 0.90 to 0.96 (Selig et al. 2006 – if you are interested, this paper can be download here).

The results are presented in terms of probabilities or frequencies of DHM values in excess of the upper bleaching threshold. GCMs are best suited to describe the evolution of the statistical properties of the climate system over time (e.g. bleaching events per decade), rather than the specific state of the climate at a particular moment in the future (e.g., bleaching event occurs on Jan 31, 2036). Therefore, studies of the effect of climate change on discrete events like mass coral bleaching or heat waves typically translate the time series of occurrences of the events into a time series of frequencies or probabilities.


Figure 4. Frequency distribution of the year in which the probability of severe mass bleaching events (DHM≥2°C-month) exceeds 20% for each the 1687 coral reef cells.

Figure 4 basically suggests that reefs are doomed, at least if any of the currently realistic scenarios come to pass.  But in a sense, that isn’t really news – people have been arguing for years that regulatory frameworks like Kyoto are not nearly enough and just a starting point.  The reality is that we need to quickly reverse CO2 accumulation and stay well below > 500 ppm.  (Or as Ove suggests in a recent post, get back to 350 ppm).

But one neat thing Simon did in his paper is compare the projected effects on bleaching frequency of different scenarios with and without a modest degree (1.5 C) of adaptation.  The differences between A1b and B1 are striking:


Figure 6. Frequency distribution of the year in which the probability of severe mass bleaching events (DHM≥2°C-month) exceeds 20% for each the 1687 coral reef cells.

With adaptation (which in this case includes acclimation, natural selection, shifts in species composition and local management actions) there is very little bleaching, at least in this century, under B1.  Is this a realistic degree of adaptation?  Maybe.  But this is being debated pretty intensively in the coral reef world.

Another question is how realistic the model assumption of coral recovery five years after a mass bleaching event is.  I think this is pretty optimistic.  But as Simon points out, that doesn’t affect the value of the scenario comparisons.


New ‘putrid’ Great Barrier Reef legislation from the ‘radical green extremists’


"Images captured by CSIRO show large plumes of terrestrial material following unconventional patterns and travelling quite fast as far as 65 to 130km, to the outer reef and, in some instances, travelling along the outer reef and re-entering the reef" (Febuary 2007 - click through the image for the CSIRO summary)

Protection of the Great Barrier Reef is usually a pretty contentious issue in Queensland. Just last night a law was passed in through parliment aiming to half the amount of pesticides entering the Great Barrier Reef lagoon from the catchments in under four years time. In order to achieve this, there needs to be significant change in farming practices, and those who fail to comply will face fines of upto $30,000. According to  Liberal National Party Member of Parliament Rob Messenger, it’s all a secret deal with the green lobbyists:

“If there was ever proof of an unprecedented level of corruption, it is this putrid piece of legislation”

According to the North Queensland Member of Parliament Shane Knuth:

“This issue of nutrients of farmers that are killing the Great Barrier Reef – the evidence of the scientists proves that it’s just a fable, it’s a myth”

“The Bligh Government’s approach in demonising farmers to seek to reward the radical green extremists.”

Fables and myths from radical green extremists? Really? Consider this: levels of herbicides on the Great Barrier Reef are toxic enough to induce bleaching in coralsalter seagrass function by inhibiting photosynthesis (with knock-on effect to dugong feeding areas), impact on the early life stages of corals (along with reducing their reproductive output), and cause severe dieback in mangroves (which act as nursery areas for juvenile reef fish). Oh, and levels of herbicides are now commonplace in sediments and seagrasses, across river mouths and inshore reefs on the GBR.

So what “evidence of the scientists proves that it’s just a fable, just a myth”? Certainly not a paper written earlier this year (“Agricultural lands are hot-spots for annual runoff polluting the southern Great Barrier Reef lagoon“) concluded that “…grazing lands contribute the majority of the long-term average annual load of most common pollutants”, and suggested that “improved land management targets, rather than water quality targets should be implemented to reduce GBR pollution”.

Arctic sea ice extent remains low; 2009 sees third-lowest mark


Figure 1. Arctic sea ice extent for September 2009 was 5.36 million square kilometers (2.07 million square miles), the third-lowest in the satellite record. The magenta line shows the median ice extent for September from 1979 to 2000.

The National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) released a press release yesterday about recent trends in Arctic sea ice.  Highlights include:

“At the end of the Arctic summer, more ice cover remained this year than during the previous record-setting low years of 2007 and 2008.” – relatively good news, sure to be seized upon by CC skeptics as evidence that AGW has “taken a break”, that the earth is cooling, etc.

But wait; “September sea ice extent was the third lowest since the start of satellite records in 1979, and the past five years have seen the five lowest ice extents in the satellite record.” OK, put the champagne away…

And to make the dire state of the Arctic clear; “We still expect to see ice-free summers sometime in the next few decades”  “ice extent was still 1.68 million square kilometers (649,000 square miles) below the 1979 to 2000 September average”  “Arctic sea ice is now declining at a rate of 11.2 percent per decade, relative to the 1979 to 2000 average”  “ice extent was still 1.68 million square kilometers (649,000 square miles) below the 1979 to 2000 September average (Figure 2). Arctic sea ice is now declining at a rate of 11.2 percent per decade, relative to the 1979 to 2000 average (Figure 3).”  – Bummer.


Figure 3. September ice extent from 1979 to 2009 shows a continued decline. The September rate of sea ice decline since 1979 has now increased to 11.2 percent per decade.

6 October 2009

Arctic sea ice extent remains low; 2009 sees third-lowest mark

At the end of the Arctic summer, more ice cover remained this year than during the previous record-setting low years of 2007 and 2008. However, sea ice has not recovered to previous levels. September sea ice extent was the third lowest since the start of satellite records in 1979, and the past five years have seen the five lowest ice extents in the satellite record.

NSIDC Director and Senior Scientist Mark Serreze said, “It’s nice to see a little recovery over the past couple years, but there’s no reason to think that we’re headed back to conditions seen back in the 1970s. We still expect to see ice-free summers sometime in the next few decades.”

The average ice extent over the month of September, a reference comparison for climate studies, was 5.36 million square kilometers (2.07 million square miles) (Figure 1). This was 1.06 million square kilometers (409,000 square miles) greater than the record low for the month in 2007, and 690,000 square kilometers (266,000 square miles) greater than the second-lowest extent in 2008. However, ice extent was still 1.68 million square kilometers (649,000 square miles) below the 1979 to 2000 September average (Figure 2). Arctic sea ice is now declining at a rate of 11.2 percent per decade, relative to the 1979 to 2000 average (Figure 3).


Figure 2. The updated time series plot puts this summer’s sea ice extent in context with other years. The solid light blue line indicates 2009; the dashed green line shows 2007; the dark blue line shows 2008, the light-green line shows 2005; the solid gray line indicates average extent from 1979 to 2000, and the gray area indicates the two standard deviation range of the data.

Sea surface temperatures in the Arctic this season remained higher than normal, but slightly lower than the past two years, according to data from Mike Steele at the University of Washington in Seattle. The cooler conditions, which resulted largely from cloudy skies during late summer, slowed ice loss compared to the past two years (Figure 4). In addition, atmospheric patterns in August and September helped to spread out the ice pack, keeping extent higher.

The ice cover remained thin, leaving the ice cover vulnerable to melt in coming summers. Scientists use satellites to measure ice age, a proxy for ice thickness. This year, younger (less than one year old), thinner ice, which is more vulnerable to melt, accounted for 49 percent of the ice cover at the end of summer. Second-year ice made up 32 percent, compared to 21 percent in 2007 and 9 percent in 2008 (Figure 5). Only 19 percent of the ice cover was over 2 years old, the least in the satellite record and far below the 1981-2000 average of 52 percent. Earlier this summer, NASA researcher Ron Kwok and colleagues from the University of Washington in Seattle published satellite data showing that ice thickness declined by 0.68 meters (2.2 feet) between 2004 and 2008.

NSIDC Scientist Walt Meier said, “We’ve preserved a fair amount of first-year ice and second-year ice after this summer compared to the past couple of years. If this ice remains in the Arctic through the winter, it will thicken, which gives some hope of stabilizing the ice cover over the next few years. However, the ice is still much younger and thinner than it was in the 1980s, leaving it vulnerable to melt during the summer.”

Arctic sea ice follows an annual cycle of melting and refreezing, melting through the warm summer months and refreezing in the winter. Sea ice reflects sunlight, keeping the Arctic region cool and moderating global climate. While Arctic sea ice extent varies from year to year because of changeable atmospheric conditions, ice extent has shown a dramatic overall decline over the past thirty years. During this time, ice extent has declined at a rate of 11.2 percent per decade during September (relative to the 1979 to 2000 average) (Figure 6), and about 3 percent per decade in the winter months.

NSIDC Lead Scientist Ted Scambos said, “A lot of people are going to look at that graph of ice extent and think that we’ve turned the corner on climate change. But the underlying conditions are still very worrisome.”


Kwok, R., and D. A. Rothrock. 2009. Decline in Arctic sea ice thickness from submarine and ICESat records: 1958–2008, Geophys. Res. Lett., 36, L15501, doi:10.1029/2009GL039035.

A key message, and one that Steve Sinclair explained in his awesome video that you can watch here, is that the thickness of arctic sea ice remains very thin, as this graphic depicts:


Figure 5. These images compare ice age, a proxy for ice thickness, in 2007, 2008, 2009, and the 1981 to 2000 average. This year saw an increase in second-year ice (in blue) over 2008. At the end of summer 2009, 32 percent of the ice cover was second-year ice. Three-year and older ice were 19 percent of the total ice cover, the lowest in the satellite record.

Update: just noticed that Andrew Revkin has a slightly more optimistic impression of the NSIDC press release and findings than I did.

Climate denial crock of the week video: arctic melting

Another great video by Peter Sinclair, this time addressing confusion (to put it charitably) over changes in arctic sea ice, an issue we have covered repeatedly here on CS, e.g., here, here and here.


See the NYT series on Arctic melting here and go to the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) here and check out their Sea Ice Index site here.   This is a great and easy to use resource that includes daily sea ice images, ice trend graphics, etc. You can choose the  month you want to look at and make your own plot!  Fun!


Meet Billy Causey; video interview with a coral reef conservation pioneer


Billy Causey is the Southeast Regional Director for the National Marine Sanctuary Program of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Billy managed National Marine Sanctuaries in the Florida Keys since 1983, when he became the Manager of the Looe Key National Marine Sanctuary. As the manager of this marine protected area he developed the education, science and enforcement programs and sustained an interagency partnership between the state and federal governments. He served as the Superintendent of the 2900 square nautical mile Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary from August 1991 to September 2, 2006, when he assumed his current position. Billy has been the lead National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) official in the development of the management plan for the Keys Sanctuary, including development of this nation’s first comprehensive marine zoning plan. He led efforts to establish the largest network of fully protected areas in the continental US.

In the interview below from the Yale Forum on Climate Change, Billy discusses the impacts of climate change on reefs in the Fl Keys and elsewhere.


Also see the article in the Yale Forum on the new US Federal research program (or at least plans for one) on ocean acidification, by Mark Schrope, a freelance science writer who frequently covers coral reefs, global change and related environmental issues.  Mark also wrote another recent article for the Yale Forum on reefs here.

“Chilling message from wear-nothing activists to do-nothing politicians”

Slightly old news, but I just came across this piece from Greenpeace featured on BBC News. US Artist Spencer Tunick encouraged 600 people to on the Aletsch Glacier in the Swiss Alps  in the name of climate change. Here is Greenpeace’s take on the event:

An emergency provokes extreme responses: human beings in danger will abandon social niceties, etiquette, and the norms of acceptable behaviour to raise an alarm any way they can when lives are in danger. Today, six hundred people shed their clothes on a glacier in the Swiss Alps to bodily cry out for help against a planetary emergency: global warming.
Without clothes, the human body is vulnerable, exposed, its life or death at the whim of the elements. Global warming is stripping away our glaciers and leaving our entire planet vulnerable to extreme weather, floods, sea-level rise, global decreases in carrying capacity and agricultural production, fresh water shortages, disease and mass human dislocations.

If global warming continues at its current rate, most glaciers in Switzerland will completely disappear by 2080, leaving nothing but valleys and slopes strewn with rock debris. Over the last 150 years, alpine glaciers have reduced in size by approximately one third of their surface and half of their mass, and this melting is accelerating. The Aletsch Glacier retreated 115 meters (377 feet) in a single year from 2005 to 2006.

Read more here (or check out a whole bunch more pictures here), and be sure to take a look at the French Greenpeace take on nudist vineyards (“Saving the wines of France from climate change“)