Community Open House on Coal Exports

Thursday Night, there is a Community Open House to discuss the proposed addition of a coal terminal at Surrey-Fraser Docks. This one featuring City Officials, no less than 2 (two!) Members of Parliament, a Member of the Provincial Legislature, and and array of energy, health and environment experts.

I have already opined once on this topic, but it might be time for an update.

You might have heard about this issue. Local Candidate-in-Waiting James Crosty has been characteristically outspoken, the Quayside Community Board has raised concerns, as have the NWEP, and others during a recent public rally on the topic. Now, the City of New Westminster has officially opposed the project until come concerns are addressed.

In direct opposition to the City’s elected officials and the vocal portion of their customer base (but toeing the line of the Surrey Chamber), the New Westminster Chamber of Commerce just released a presser indicating their support for “environmentally sound coal shipments” – apparently unaware of the oxymoron contained within that phrase.

Nothing about the shipment of coal is environmentally sound. Simply put, this bituminous coal from Wyoming (Montana?) represents the dirtiest energy available to mankind, and is a small piece in the Global Climate Change Problem. This is not high-grade anthracite coal used for making steel that we can beat into ploughshares, this is scrubby brown coal that will be burned in a power plant somewhere in the far east to produce electricity or steam cheaper than the same energy can be produced by more sustainable means. The annual greenhouse gas and climate change implications of burning this much coal (not including the extraction or transportation impacts) will be equivalent to 200x the annual GHG output of the entirety of New Westminster – all the homes, businesses, cars and industry combined.

Port Metro Vancouver (the only legislative oversight body involved here, and therefore the party we are talking to when discussing this project) and Fraser Surrey Docks simply brush these greenhouse gas concerns away – the coal will not be burned here, therefore it does not count in “our” greenhouse gas accounting. This is the same argument being made by proponents of the Northern Gateway Pipeline and the Kinder Morgan Pipeline expansion. This argument is also used by Christy Clark at al. when talking about LNG exports, despite the fact the most damaging GHG impacts of that project will be released right here in BC, and not at the eventual burning site. Without getting too sidetracked by that particular lie- the central argument is ethically compromised.

A simile one could apply is the street drug trade. If one does not manufacture Crack Cocaine, and one does not smoke it, there is no reason we should restrict the business growth that comes from selling it. Hey- I’m just moving this stuff offshore (or off the sidewalk) to people who want it- I’m not responsible for where it goes! Why should we stop the job-generating resale of Crack Cocaine?

Another more direct comparison is to Canada’s asbestos industry. Canada banned the domestic use of asbestos decades ago because it apparently killed people. However, Canada has refused to ban the mining and export of the material to the Third World – even going so far as to lobby the UN from officially recognizing the scientifically-established cancer-causing properties of the material. The Harper Government(tm) was even willing to subsidize the industry in a couple of important Quebec ridings, until the newly-elected Quebec government shut that shit down.

Similarly, this crappy coal from Wyoming (Montana?) would never be burned to make electricity in BC, it is actually illegal for BC Hydro to burn this stuff because of the nasty environmental impacts. Yet, we are willing to transport it through our Ports, have it do it’s environmental and social damage elsewhere, and take our skim off the top. In this case, the skim is 50 jobs. Does that sound like an ethical approach to business? Does this sound like “environmentally sound coal movement?”

Much like the oil pipeline and LNG examples, the increase in coal export flies in the face of BC’s claims to be a “carbon neutral” province, or that because it has a neutered Carbon Tax, it is a leader in Climate Change Policy. Currently, According to the Government of BC oil, gas and coal represents much less that 2% of BC’s GDP and well less than 1% of employment – it is a minuscule portion of our true economy. Yet, we are being told that unfettered support for these industries is fundamental to the future or our Province’s economic survival. Some have suggested we are betting a lot on a pipe dream.

The reality is that these activities are threatening other sectors of our economy: fisheries, farming, forestry, tourism, manufacturing, etc. The Petro-economy is impacting our dollar which challenges all other industries, while the science-stifling required to support the industry is hurting our global competitiveness and global reputation. Climate change is threatening our salmon, and has already decimated our forests. We plan to displace farmland in order to provide electricity for carbon extraction and refrigeration, while depleting and fouling the water supply we need to keep agriculture viable in our interior valleys. This will, in turn, make us more dependent on food imports, push up healthcare costs, and turn SuperNatural British Columbia into something we may not recognize.

Of course, this isn’t all on Fraser Surrey Docks, or even Port Metro Vancouver. They are just the current  active front in a larger battle for the future of our Province’s economy, and the local focus in the discussion about the future of our planet’s climate. Are we going to become a hydrocarbon-exporting Province as our main industrial activity? Are we going to continue to ignore the global implications of our unsustainable business practices? Are we going to continue the drift from a world leader in Environmental Protection to an embarrassing laggard? Who the hell is making these decisions, and why?!

That is why this little port approval process is bringing together elected leaders from Municipal, Provincial, and Federal levels to lead a public discussion on what it all means.

I’m suggesting you show up. It should be interesting.

You can even watch it live on your computer at We truly live in the future, let’s start acting like it.

sunday! Sunday! SUNDAY!

I wrote a bit about this Surrey Fraser Docks coal issue a couple of months ago, but the issue (mostly, I think, due to the badger-like political ferocity of one James Crosty) keeps on rolling.

Several Municipalities up and down the Fraser have now taken, or are exploring, positions on this project, and even the Metro Vancouver Parks and Environment Committee discussed the issue at their last meeting. Coal terminals seem to be in the spotlight right now, with Port Metro Vancouver once again serving as whipping boy in the political discussion.

The Port might be getting concerned, as I was one of those randomly selected folk to take part in a phone survey “to determine local opinions about transportation issues in your community”. The survey was a short one, but had a couple of themes (with a short version of my answers):

What is the most important issue in your community? (Transportation)

Do you know much about Port Metro Vancouver? (yes, more than any healthy person should)

Do you believe international trade is important to your community? (a question so ambiguous, it is hard to answer)

Do you trust communications you receive from the Port? (This was an interesting one. I had to answer “yes”, as I don’t think the Port management are dishonest or secretive – I think they are misguided and irresponsible. They have not made it a secret that they want to turn ALR land into industrial land, or that they will continue to profit from an expanding hydrocarbon export business and will consider Climate Change impacts as somebody else’s problem)

Do you know about the Surrey Fraser Docks plan to move coal? (yes, see above)

Do you agree with moving commodities like coal and oil through our ports? (problem here’s is the use of the phrase “commodities like”. I support the moving of grain through our ports, grain is a commodity, is moved in bulk, and comprises mostly hydrocarbons – is that “like” Coal? I do not support the moving of coal for the reasons I outlined in my February post, and I determined this is really a question about coal, and answered no)

Be sure to look out for the results of this survey, as I have heard through Twitter that many people who have strong opinions on this project were asked to respond.

And if you were NOT called, but want to voice your opinion about the Coal Terminal proposal in Surrey, or even about the ethics of British Columbia ramping up coal production and export at the same time that atmospheric carbon dioxide is approaching 400ppm, you have an opportunity this Sunday.

I encourage you to drop by and learn where the conversation is going on this topic:

The Wrong Tool for the Job

Yeah, the Pacific Carbon Trust is crap.

It is a poorly conceived and brutally executed waste of taxpayers’ money, invented and mismanaged by a government that is either willfully corrupt or stunningly incompetent. But that doesn’t mean Anthropogenic Global Warming caused by the burning of carbon at a rate that the planet’s biosphere cannot buffer is not an issue that Governments need to take immediate measures to address.

I was amongst those whinging about the Pacific Carbon Trust years ago, and I was frankly shocked to see how close the Auditor General report paralleled my criticism of the program. The gist, repeated ad nauseum by my strange political bedfellow at the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, is that cash-strapped cities and school districts are forced to pay money to Encana and other multi-national corporations to do things they would have done anyway, to create the illusion that Government operations were “carbon neutral”.

There was some flawed thinking from the onset, even if there were good intentions. Creating incentives to reduce the carbon impact of government operations was a good idea. Putting a price on carbon use is also a good idea. Causing government operations that cannot meet “zero carbon” goals to invest in offsetting activities may also a good idea, if well executed. Forcing every government entity to buy their carbon offsets from the same “Crown Corporation” run by entrenched kleptocrats was a terrible idea.

Giving these government entities access to a within-the-Province, one-stop-shop offset isn’t in itself a bad idea, but forcing them to purchase their offsets from that singular entity changes the game. The entity no longer has to compete on the burgeoning global carbon market. It knows it has buyers (actually, the more Government policy discouraged other carbon reductions, the more customers it will have!), it’s only problem is finding sufficient sellers to fill the need. That is not a healthy way to run any market. This is the same flawed market that makes it a bad idea to allow “free enterprise” to run a health care system: when your customer can’t say no, why provide a quality product or price your product fairly?

Well, I guess it works for the Mafia. but who wants to be their customer?

Worse, Municipalities that had their own internal carbon-reduction projects could not use their own carbon-offset money to fund them. For example, let’s imagine the New Westminster School Board decides to build one of their schools (stick with me here!) to be truly carbon neutral – ground-source geothermal with ATES, solar thermal water heating, and non-fossil electricity. That will cost more (up front, anyway) than running a gas boiler, but will result in real greenhouse gas reductions. At the same time, they are still burning carbon for their vehicle fleet and in their older buildings, so they need to buy offset credits. The School Board are not permitted, by law, to apply the cost of implementing those carbon savings from their new school to offset the carbon produced by their own legacy systems. They must instead buy those credits from the Pacific Carbon Trust.

That’s asinine.

This is nothing new, this has been going on for quite a while, and people much smarter than me have been saying for quite some time that the Pacific Carbon Trust is a piss-poor way to manage government carbon offsetting. Only now, when there is a hugely unpopular government heading for a wood-chipper election and the Auditor General report on the Pacific Carbon Trust Comes out, does the media pay any attention to the fiasco.

Unfortunately, much of this criticism from “conservative” parts of the conversation suggests that this is an example of how the entire idea of pricing carbon, from carbon taxes to offsetting schemes to the very idea of reducing emissions is a waste of time and “hard earned” taxpayers money.
Nothing could be further from the truth.

Some go so far to point out that “prominent environmentalists” like Dr. Mark Jaccard are highly critical of the Pacific Carbon Trust, without making clear that Dr. Jaccard argues vehemently that we need to be doing more, not less, to deal with our greenhouse gas output, and the Pacific Carbon trust is not a failure primarily because it cost the taxpayers money, but because it failed miserably to do the thing we were paying for it to do.

(side point – calling Dr. Jaccard a “prominent environmentalist” is about as ignorant as calling Albert Einstein a “noted physics advocate” or Rene Leveques a “well-known Nordiques Fan”. Dr. Jaccard is a highly respected Nobel Prize winning scientist whose research has global impact and whose area of study is the one topic the Canadian Taxpayers Federation is most ignorant of- Economics.)

So let’s make things clear: anthropogenic global warming is still happening. Actually, it is happening faster than we in the scientific community expected. The IPCC worst-case scenario projections for atmospheric carbon, surface temperatures, ice loss, ocean temperature and pH changes, and sea level rise have all been exceeded in the last 5 years. the economic and societal costs of this are going to be monumental unless we do something really soon to manage the issue.

The Pacific Carbon Trust may be the wrong tool for the job, but this doesn’t mean the job no longer needs to be done!

Climate keeps on changing

There have been a couple of intersecting stories recently relating to how our Federal Government is dealing with the science of Anthropogenic Global Warming.

Cynics say they are doing nothing about it, but I counter they are taking a strong, nuanced, and multi-faceted approach to the issue; one common to theocratic Petro-States the world round.

They are lying to the public, and then making sure no-one on their payroll can call them on the lie.

First the lie part.

You might remember last month when that most Orwellian of federal officials, Minister of “Environment” Peter Kent, suggested that Canada is making real progress, and is already half way to meeting our 2020 Greenhouse Gas targets as set out in Copenhagen Accord in 2009.

The Copenhagen target was based on emissions we put out in 2005. Here is the Government’s own data on GHG emissions (in Million tonnes of CO2 equivalents):

2005 (the date upon which targets are hung): 740 Mt
2010 (the most recent data provided by the government): 692 Mt
2020 (the target): 607 Mt

Now, I’m a geologist, which basically means I’m not so good at math, but I’m pretty sure 692 is NOT half-way between 740 and 607. But it gets worse.

Reading through the Ministry of Environment report, you can see that much of the reduction up to 2010 is a result of the recession that hit in 2008 (which I don’t see the Harper Government taking credit for…). Much of the rest is a result of this little nugget:

“ For the first time, the contribution of the land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF) sector to achieving Canada’s target is included in our projections.”

So, they have fudged the numbers going forward to include landuse changes. That may be a valid way to count net GHG impacts, but introducing it halfway through makes it look like something has changed when, in reality, nothing has!

Even with this fudging and the fortunate (in hindsight) global recession, the report does not project that Canada will meet its target of 607 Mt by 2020. See Table ES-1 where it shows emissions since 2010 have been creeping back up after the recession, and we will be putting out 720 Mt per year in 2020. This is a 2.7% decrease from 2005 numbers, but not half-way to 607 Mt. Not even close.

Of course, the problem with telling lies is that someone might call you on it. It is one thing if this is a political opponent (you can dismiss it as partisan bickering, who in Politics “owns” the truth?). It would be something different if those people work for the Government, especially if they are the people who collect this data. So in true theocratic Petro-State style, the Harper government has a three-prong attack against science:

First you stop new science from happening:
Then you stop existing scientists from talking.
Then you limit access to historic science.

Eventually, the facts hit the memory hole, and there is nothing to stop the buddies who funded your unlikely rise to power from re-writing the laws of the land for a singular, psychotic, self-destructive purpose.

How long can this go on?

In which Coal gets the best of me.

I have a sneaking suspicion I might be very bad at politics.

I just don’t see the issue with the coal terminal proposal in Surrey. Worse: I see a big issue with the coal terminal proposal in Surrey  but I don’t see that issue being meaningfully addressed in the current debate about the coal terminal proposal in Surrey, because I seem to care about the one issue few others seem to be concerned about.

For those who don’t leaf through the back pages of the Record or the NewsLeader, or don’t spend their evenings reading through reams of the reports attached to Council minutes (…which makes me curious about why such a person would be reading this… ehrm… Hi Mom!), the story thus far is thus:

Right across the river from New Westminster are Fraser Surrey Docks, you can see the ships and large blue cranes operating from the Quayside boardwalk. They move containers, logs, bulk agricultural products, steel, and assorted cargo on and off of boats and on and off of trucks and trains. Now they want to move coal off of trains onto barges. And apparently, some people are concerned about this for a variety of wrong reasons.

There is a lot of info about this proposed operation available here , including maps, diagrams, and the answers to most of the questions you might have. This will not be a situation like the Delta Port or Neptune Terminals in North Van, where there are large piles of coal being shuffled around. The plan is to move the coal directly from the trains to the barge, and ship it to a deep-sea transfer facility up on Texada Island, then to China. The on-site stockpile will (it appears) be small, and be under one of those big plastic Quonset hut style shelters.

From the looks of the Council Report and the newspaper stories, the local and regional concerns can be summed up as: the health effects of coal dust; increased diesel emissions from boats and trains; the risk related to coal spills into the river; and the general noise and view impacts for Quayside residents.

Most of these issues seem well addressed by the application. The plan is to do all the coal movement with covered conveyors and to use dust abatement measures that are industry practice in urbanized areas. These measures are notably more stringent than those currently used for the bulk agricultural products they move now- that yellow dust sometimes visible from the New West side of the river. Also, this new coal transfer activity will take place at the west end of the terminal, more across from the gi-normous Annacis Island Car Terminal where they unload thousands of cars from those gi-normous car carrier ships than across from the Quayside. The barges, during loading, will be more than 2 km downstream from the Quayside residents who have expressed the most vocal alarm about the project.

The risk of significant spill from the dock or the barges is small, but obviously not nil. That said, compared to moving many other cargoes (especially liquid fuels), coal is relatively stable and fairly easy to contain and clean up in the event of a spill. It would be a very bad day for the salmon in the river if that happened, no doubt, so there is some area to explore here for the local municipalities and agencies like FREMP, clearly an area for more discussion.

The elephant in the room, however, is hardly mentioned in these discussions. According to the Council Report, this coal facility is being planned to move up to 8 Million Tonnes of coal a year that (when burned) will generate about 48 Million Tonnes of CO2 annually. To put this in perspective the same Council meeting had a presentation on the City’s Community Energy and Emission Plan, which would see New Westminster’s 82,000 residents in the year 2030 producing less that 240,000 Tonnes of CO2 annually.

Not to put too fine a point on it: if both of these plans see the light of day this single port terminal will be directly responsible for 200 times the greenhouse gas emissions of the entire community of New Westminster!

So all of our energy conservation actions in the City, all of our appropriate, responsible, intelligent changes we are taking in the City – the sacrifices we are facing, investments we are making, even a few hard choices we may need to take, for all the right economic, ethical, and environmental reasons, will be meaningless in light of the impacts of that coal terminal.

This all arrived at the same time that this month’s Walrus Magazine arrived in my mailbox, with a remarkable piece written by New Westminster’s own Dr. Marc Jaccard that talks about his personal arc from academic to IPCC member to policy adviser to Stephen Harper’s minority government to Nobel Prize winner to being placed in the back of a paddy wagon by the RCMP for protesting the movement of coal through Canada’s ports. It is a great read, as Dr. Jaccard asks himself (and causes us to ask ourselves) what he was doing about the single most important environmental issue of our generation.  This from a guy who has dedicated his life to studying the problem, understanding the science and the economics, and bent the ear of some of the most powerful people in the world. Yet in the end, he felt he was not doing enough, and direct action was the only way he was going to be able to live with himself, or answer to his grandchildren for what we are doing now.

Yeah, I am contradicting myself again. I recently complained that unsustainable shark harvesting as not really being a City issue. This is not strictly a municipal issue, and the Port seems to think the “big issue” of Climate Change impacts is not even Port jurisdiction. This issue, I think, its too important for every single jurisdiction to not take it on. A 450ppm world will not be comfortable for those people living on the Quayside.

The Port is wrong. They are profiting in the trade of a commodity that is causing global catastrophe  It is killing people, and they are part of that supply chain that supports that. For them to say “Hey, we just move the stuff, not up to us to question what we move – none of our business!” is morally bankrupt. We don’t burn Coal in BC, for good reasons, but we are comfortable exporting it to places that do. How is this different than our unethical asbestos trade?

Much more than a few people concerned about how the noise of an operating port 2 km from their waterfront home will impact their property values, I think we need to be asking ourselves why we are supporting the rapid extraction and combustion of coal in the year 2012? And if burning that coal is OK with us, if folks profiting from its burning is OK with us, if the biggest concerns we have about this is the noise of distant conveyors or dust on the horizon, why the fuck are we even bothering with a Community Energy and Emission Plan!?

Sorry for the potty mouth, Mom, but it had to be said.

On the trash fires of our future.

The expansion of Waste-to-Energy plants is creeping back into the news again, and people in New Westminster had better pay attention. I almost forgot all about it, but yesterday I got a letter in the mail from MetroVancouver telling me about the ongoing selection process for new garbage burners:

This is probably because I was involved actively in the long drawn-out public engagement process for Metro Vancouver’s Integrated Solid Waste Resource Management Plan, where the public across the region were vocally opposed to increased trash incineration. MetroVancouver nonetheless barged ahead, and got the plan through the Minister of Environment with waste-to-energy a major component in the plan.

Notably, it took a change in Provincial Ministers of Environment to get it through. The folks in the Fraser Valley are strongly opposed to those of us upwind burning our trash and dumping the air pollution into their air quality index, and the ever-awesome Barry Penner couldn’t sign off on the plan for fear of pitchforks at his Chilliwack office. So when Terry Lake (who, as best I can tell, is a smart, well considered guy – one of the few very bright lights in the current BC Liberal caucus) took over the Environment file, he was far enough removed from the Valley to sign it off.

During the earlier consultations, and pretty much ever since whenever anyone is unwise enough to ask me, I have made my position on Trash Incinerators very clear: they are an unsustainable way to manage solid waste, and an unsustainable way to generate electricity. Importing hydrocarbons from China to burn for electricity is no different if those hydrocarbons are in the form of coal or in the form of plastic bits that happened to have travelled through a WalMart before we burn them. The atmosphere can’t see the difference: fossil carbon is fossil carbon. This shouldn’t be a NIMBY issue- I don’t want a trash incinerator in New Westminster, and I don’t want one in Surrey, or Langley or Gold River.

However, not all WTE plants are trash incinerators. There is one operation currently ramping up just across the river in Richmond that is a better example of how we can more sustainably manage a large portion of our waste stream. The system is just starting to come on-stream, but represents what is (in my opinion) a much more sustainable path for WTE.

Harvest Power takes the organic wastes that people across the Lower Mainland put into our curb-side “green bins”, plus a fair amount of commercial food waste, and turns it into electrical power. This is a multi-step process:

  • Organic wastes are ground up to reduce size of the stinky bits; 
  • The resultant muck is placed in percolator cells, where warm water is dripped through in a low-oxygen setting, drawing a hydrocarbon-rich “tea” out the bottom;
  • After about 10 days, the volume of solids in the percolator cells are significantly reduced and the decomposition slows right down, so these solids can be mixed with woody waste and sand to make a rich organic compost for farms, gardens, municipal lands;.
  • The “tea” is directed to digester vessels, where specialized bacteria is used to further decompose the tea of longer-chain hydrocarbons down to methane;
  • The methane can then be burned to spin a turbine and create electricity;
  • The resultant by-products are the biosolids in the compost, CO2 from the burnt methane, and water vapour.

There are several ways this differs from the Burnaby Trash Incinerator. The most significant difference is that the carbon going into the system is biospheric carbon- that is carbon that has been very recently removed from the atmosphere and trapped in organic compounds by plants, and not fossil carbon. So no plastics or fossil carbon are going through this process. The CO2 emissions are 100% non-fossil fuel.

A second bonus of this process is that it relies on the separation of plastics from organics. This should be the first goal of any modern Solid Waste plan, because plastics are generally recyclable unless they are too contaminated with organics. Even for the plastics we cannot recycle, landfilling is much more sustainable and safe if the putrescible wastes and liquids are removed before burying the wastes. Dry, clean plastic going into a landfill will remain stable for centuries- it won’t leach metals, it won’t generate methane or nasty volatiles, it actually represents the only proven, demonstrable, and practical form of long-term carbon sequestration that engineering has yet provided to us.

However, to make landfills effective carbon sinks, we need to get the greasy, wet, “stinky” organics out of the landfill. They make the landfill less sustainable, and cause otherwise stable plastics to break down into less inert materials. That there are better things to be done with organics that do not involve the unsustainable burning of fossil fuels is really just a bonus.

Unfortunately, much of the discussion of waste-to-energy that Metro is running these days is less public than the Integrated Solid Waste Resource Management Plan was (despite the letter I got in the mail). The media reports are also unclear, as demonstrated in these two quotes came from the same story I linked to above:

“Ross said a key question is whether a new incinerator is built in Metro Vancouver or at an out-of-region site.”


“Meanwhile, Metro is currently calling for prospective partners to table their credentials and what type of waste-to-energy technology they’d use.”

So is the debate currently only “location of an incinerator”, or are other technologies aside from incinerators being considered?

I sure hope it is the latter, because that will make the difference whether many of us will support WTE in our community, or even the idea of shipping our waste to other communities to be made into energy.

All the Good News that Fits

Proving that there are two ways to look at any story, it has been interesting to watch the news coming out of this recent report by the International Energy Agency.

The story on the CBC, that bastion of left-wing thought, was positively glowing for the future of oil and gas. The US will be the world’s largest hydrocarbon producer by 2020, and completely energy independent by 2035. The only problem they forsee for Canada is that we will be producing so much oil and gas in Canada in the next decade that we will outstrip our ability to burn it or export it.

Few stories, however, talked about the other half of the IEA report. I pick a few relevant quotes from the Executive summary:

“Taking all new developments and policies into account, the world is still failing to put the global energy system onto a more sustainable path. Fossil fuels remain dominant in the global energy mix, supported by subsidies that amounted to $523 billion in 2011, up almost 30% on 2010 and six times more than subsidies to renewables.”

So we are pulling too much carbon out of the ground, too fast, and government policies are specifically designed to mainline this unattainable status quo, not working to fix the inherent problem with this.

What inherent problem? How about these quotes:

“Successive editions of this report have shown that the climate goal of limiting warming to 2 °C is becoming more difficult and more costly with each year that passes. No more than one-third of proven reserves of fossil fuels can be consumed prior to 2050 if the world is to achieve the 2 °C goal. Emissions correspond to a long-term average global temperature increase of 3.6 °C.”

Now compare this to the most “alarmist” of IPCC predictions, and you can see that the International Energy Agency is predicting something like twice the warming than the average of the IPCC models over the next 4 decades. Yet this part didn’t even make the news.

We can pull more carbon out of the ground that we know what to do with, and we know doing that will cause unintented catastrophe. Its like we have some kind  of Obsessive Compulsive Oil Extraction Disorder.
Note – we don’t have to leave that carbon in the ground forever. The climate change thing isn’t about how much gas, oil and coal we burn, it is about the rate at which we burn it. To avoid catastrophe, we don’t need to stop using hydrocarbons, we need to slow down until the biosphere can catch up, or until we invent some sort of practical and realistic sequestration technology (which the IEA notes we are not actually inventing anywhere near fast enough). If we leave it in the ground, it will always be there. It is already so valuable for everything from plastic to chemicals to medicine that it is frankly baffling that we still waste so much of it on simple combustion – but that’s another whinge.

So we have a choice- we can rush to exploit the Bitumen Sands faster than we can burn and export it, or we can do it slowly, keep as much in the ground as long as possible, and extract more value out of every tonne of carbon extracted.

If we take the fast-and-cheap route, we will run out faster, make less per tonne, and threaten the most expensive infrastructure we have – our coastal cities (see New York and Venice). Not to mention the homes of hundreds of millions of people, and entire marginal ecosystems. Then we will leave the future generation the problem of abandoning those cities or investing massively in energy-intensive plans to save them- after we have already spent all of the easy money and burned off all of their cheap energy.

Try explaining that to your children, who I assume you hope will be alive in 2050, even after you are in the ground. That is why Anthropogenic Global Warming isn’t a science problem or a political problem, it is an ethical problem.

Thinking about Oil Exports

The Provincial NDP have come out strongly against the Northern Gateway Pipeline.

Before anyone accuse them of just following the crowd to see where it is going, then rushing out front to make it look like they were leading all the time, they have also provided a 6-point argument for why they do not support Enbridge.

Most of the points are ones you have heard before from other radical foreign-funded environmentalists like me (full disclosure: I spent two years receiving paycheques from the Illinois State Department of Natural Resources): risk of tanker spills, risk to inland waterways, GHG impacts, etc. One argument, however has always led to interesting discussions with people I talk to whom I consider “environmentalists”.

“The NGP provides few long-term, sustainable economic benefits for B.C., and forgoes value-added economic activity involving upgrading and refining in Canada”

As a reflex, I support this argument. Selling off as much of a finite resource as quickly as possible without first squeezing out as much value from that resource as possible seems like a really bad idea. Perhaps the only worse idea is to sell off a sustainable resource at a rate that makes it unsustainable and at the same time not first squeezing out as much value from that resource. But this argument hides another deeper argument that is harder for many on both sides of the political spectrum to get around.

First, it is interesting to look at the oil numbers. Canada (according to the CIA factbook) produces about 3.3 Million barrels of oil per day (Mbbl/d), but consumes the equivalent of 2.2 Mbbl/d in oil products. Although we export about 2.0 Mbbl/d, we import about 1.2 Mbbl/d.

The numbers look like this (Mbbl/d, all 2011 numbers):
Production:      3.289
Import:              1.192
Export:               2.001
Consumption:  2.151

Canada currently has 15 operating oil refineries, which combined total 1.879 Mbbl/d in daily refining capacity. This does not include “upgrade” refineries in Alberta and Saskatchewan; those turn bitumen into synthetic crude oil (syncrude), which must then go to another refinery to be made into useable product. Exporting syncrude is indistinguishable from exporting crude oil, carbon- and ecological-footprint aside. Three of those refineries are in the Maritimes, 2 in Quebec, 4 in Ontario, 1 in Saskatchewan, 3 in Alberta, and 2 in BC (including the Chevron refinery in Vancouver).

The point is that, even if all the refineries were to run at maximum capacity, we could not begin to refine all of the oil we produce here in Canada, we could not even refine enough to satiate our consumption needs. Hence, we need to import refined product, some of that potentially refined from the 60% of the oil we produce that goes offshore. With all the recent talk of China, most of the oil currently going out of Burrard Inlet is bound for California refineries, and most of those tank farms you see around Burrard Inlet (Shellburn in Burnaby, Ioco in Port Moody, Suncor on the northeast slope of Burnaby Mountain) are just storing oil products imported for the States to supply local demand.

Ideally, based on the NDP argument above, Canada would refine our own oil. We would at the very least build refineries to meet our domestic refined product demand, and potentially build enough that we could export the refined product to gain all the added value instead of the raw syncrude. We don’t do this, because the refineries belong, for the most part, to publicly traded multinational corporations. They will build and operate refineries where it is easiest and cheapest to do so, with lower labour costs, lower tax regimes, and softer environmental laws. What may be (agruably) in our national interest is most defintiely not in their best financial interest.

Canadian Refineries and capacity by ownership:
Imperial Oil (Exxon): 4 refineries totalling 503,000 bbl/d;
Suncor (formerly PetroCanada): 3 refineries totalling 360,000 bbl/d
Irving (a Canadian business): 1 refinery at 300,000 bbl/d;
Valero (Texaco): 1 refinery at 265,000 bbl/d;
Shell (Royal Dutch Shell): 2 refineries totalling 172,000 bbl/d;
Korea National Oil Company: 1 refinery at 115,000 bbl/d;
CCRL (a Sask. co-operative!): 1 refinery at 100,000 bbl/d;
Chevron Corporation: 1 refinery at 52,000 bbl/d;
Husky Energy: 1 refinery at 12,000 bbl/d.

So here is when my environmentalist friends start to get itchy collars: I suggest this scenario (recognizing it is highly unlikely). Let’s assume that the NDP win the next federal election, and just to piss off Alberta after all the efforts their guys have done to piss off the NDP over the previous 5+ years, they bring about Canada National Energy Program 2.0. Part of that program includes an end to raw crude exports, and an end to refined product imports.

The question for envrionmentalists concerned about all this export of raw crude: Would you support increasing refining capacity in Canada? Even if that meant doubling capacity in order to meet the demand from back in 2011? So, my sensible environmentalist friends, I ask you: would you support the building of oil refineries if it meant the end of oil imports for Canada, and the end of raw crude exports?

This might be a good question to ask the NDP.

Michael Mann in Vancouver

As part of the AAAS meeting in Vancouver last week, Dr. Michael Mann gave a talk for the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions. Not this Michael Mann , but this one.

You could Wiki this, but the short Bio is thus: Dr. Mann is a geophysicist and geologist who worked with a team of scientists who used a variety of proxy climate indicators (tree rings, coral growth patterns, ice cores, stalactite layers, etc.) to measure climate over the last 1000+ years. turns out the graph showed a sharp rise in temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere over the last 100 years. The graph was compelling enough, and the data robust enough, that I was included in the UN’s International Panel on Climate Change Third Assessment report.

Around that time, one of Mann’s co-workers used the expression “hockey stick” to describe the curve on the graph, borrowing the nickname from an older graph of atmospheric Ozone made by other scientists 20 years ago during another global atmospheric debate.

The graph was such a stark image, displaying our current situation in such clear terms, that is simply could not be left unaddressed by those who see Anthropogenic Climate Change as some sort of conspiracy.

Included in those people are several Canadians: Steve McIntyre ( a retired mining engineer) and Ross McKitrick (an economist) tried their hand at Climate Science and wrote a paper in a a fake science journal claiming the graph was the product of flawed science, and the battle for “Mann’s Hockey Stick” was on.
From the beginning of his talk, it is clear Dr. Mann is exactly what you would expect: a science geek, and a reluctant public figure. His speech was not polished or slick, the images not particularly compelling to a non-science audience, but it was an entertaining talk about how one guy doing proxy climate measurements can somehow become an enemy to some, just because he collected a little data on a topic that would become a political football.

In the last 10 years, this PhD Geologist who spends most of his time counting tree rings and teaching Earth Systems Science at Penn State, has had his e-mails stolen and publicized, Has been summoned to congressional hearings, investigated by his State Attorney General, been subject to academic kangaroo courts at his university, and accused of everything from perpetuating the “greatest hoax in the history of science” to outright fraud. Numerous investigations later, no-one has found any evidence of fraud or scientific misconduct.
But that doesn’t even matter, because one thing none of the people criticizing the “hockey stick” have done is collect any data that refutes it. They have instead spent so much energy and time trying to cast doubt on the veracity of the “hockey stick” that they have failed to acknowledge that there is an entire hockey league of sticks that are the same shape: measured atmospheric anthropogenic CO2, sea level change, ice extent, ocean temperatures, the list goes on.

In the end, Michael Mann is still a reluctant public figure (partly evidenced by his reluctance to take legal action against the people slandering him: he would rather just do science and find solutions). All he can do is keep reporting what he and other people doing the actual science have found. The scientific case is relatively straightforward; the greenhouse effect has been known for two centuries; we know human CO2 numbers are going up, and we know it is anthropogenic; we know earth has warmed more than 1 degree C over the last 100 years,and the trend is up. if you choose to ignore the thermometers, there are literally dozens of other lines of evidence: surface temps, permafrost loss, ocean stratification, and numerous observed biophysical reactions consistent with rapid warming. combine this with a distinct paucity of evidence against the trend, and it is remarkable anyone is still debating this.

The final point was one I have heard a lot recently: this is no longer a scientific debate, it is an ethical one. We need to make the ethical decision of whether we will burden the next generation and the one after with the unforeseen consequences of what we are doing today in the interest of Business as usual”. However, that’s s not a scientific question, it is a philosophical one. Once science has provided the data, what you do with it is not up to the Scientists.

Mann was quick to point out that the issue is not, as some suggest, the “politicization of science” (inherently, science is immune from politics, as its self-regulating mechanism will win out in the end), but the “science-ization” of politics, where a political position or immediate pragmatic need of a political group is mistaken for a scientific fact.

To beat this, we may need more reluctant scientists like Mann to take a more active part in the popular media, and provide the factual information we need to make rational decisions, informed by our ethics.
It’s the best hope we have to get past this strange, anti-science phase we are in right now in North American society.
Which is kind of what I think Neal Stephenson is getting into here:

Confessions of a Greenpeace Dropout Review – Part 6 – Fit the last.

As diligent readers are aware (Hi Mom!), I have been ploughing my way through Dr. Patrick Moore’s dissertation on “Sensible Environmentalism”. What started as a review turned into a lengthy criticism. This is the last fit of a 6-part essay, and it is worth reading it all if you want to learn about how Patrick Moore and his Greenwashing company use misinformation, self-contradiction, and frankly absurd ideas to market everything from coal mining to salmon farming as “Green Industries” You can follow these links:

Although this book is full of ideas with which I disagree, and many ideas that are just flat wrong, I always suspected Dr. Moore at the least came by his ideas honestly, or for the most pragmatic reasons. His debatable ideas on clear-cut logging (the best thing one can do for a forest!) and fish farming (the only way we could possibly save the native salmon!) likely rise form his history working as a logger and a farmer of fish. His call to end government subsidies for wind and solar, while at the same time making the use of ground-source heat pumps mandatory, may have to do with his promotion to Vice President of NextEnergy: “the Canadian leader in designing and marketing geothermal systems for the home!”

Or maybe those are coincidences.

However, in his discussion of Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW), Dr. Moore not only loses his remaining credibility, but loses any claim to being science-minded, skeptical, sensible, or an environmentalist. Coming from someone with the intelligence, training in science, and access to information that Dr. Moore is alleged to have, his arguments are so poorly thought-out, so anti-science, and so ill-informed, that it can only be the result of a disingenuous and callow disregard for the truth, and for the intelligence of his readers. I am going to waste a lot of words discussing this part of the book, because it is a microcosm of everything that is wrong with the current public discourse on AGW.

To get there, we have to first take a step back and talk about Duane Gish. Dr. Gish is a Young-Earth Creationist who met with some small fame holding public debates against scientists on the topic of Evolution. Dr. Gish brought to these his opinion that the Bible is literally true and that the Universe was created in a single 6-day fit about 8,000 years ago, in exactly the order that is written in Genesis. Clearly, this is a preposterous position to debate against a serious scientist with academic expertise in genetics, geology, astronomy, or, for that matter, physics or chemistry. That did not stop Dr. Gish. Paradoxically, audiences would quite often leave the debates feeling Dr. Gish had “won”. This is because he used a rhetorical technique that he wielded with such might and power that it now bears his name.

The Gish Gallop is a debating technique where one uses their allotted time to throw out such a large number of disconnected, unsupported, misrepresented or simply untrue “facts” that the opponent can only hope to refute one or two of them in their rebuttal time. After rebuttal, the Galloper ignores the countering points made by their learned opponent, and just throws out a new random pile of other points, or even the same ones slightly re-phrased, until the opponent is left to throw up their arms in frustration. It is less the shotgun technique than the M61 Vulcan technique.

The point is: for the Galloper, it is not important that you support any of your allegations with truth or data, or even if several of your allegations contradict one another – just keep shooting out stuff and let the poor bastard on the other side try to refute it all. To a general audience, one guy sounds like he has all the facts, the other guy can hardly refute any of them, so guess who wins? The Gish Gallop is well known by Creationist “debaters”, and has been adopted very successfully by people like Lord Monckton when discussing AGW. In skilled hands, it is an effective debating tool. It is also the mark of someone who knows that few of their actual arguments will stand to scrutiny on their own, so in that sense, it is the epitome of being disingenuous.

When I read Dr. Moore’s discussion of AGW, I couldn’t help but see Gish Gallop all over it. He, in turns, argues that it isn’t getting warmer, that warmer is better, that climate scientists lie, that scientists are incompetent, that most scientists don’t believe in AGW, that CO2 cannot cause warming, that the warming caused by CO2 is good for plants, that the ocean is not acidifying, that ocean acidification is good for corals, that human action can’t possibly impact the climate, that human activity might have prevented an ice age, that AGW will lead to more species, that sea level is not rising, that sea level rise is a good thing, that ice is not shrinking, that ice shrinking is a good thing…etc. etc. It is painful to read, mostly because it seems that Dr. Moore forgot that Gish Galloping does not work if those you are debating against have infinite time to refute each point one at a time.

Now I cannot hope to address each of his points here. Even given infinite time and near-infinite bandwidth, my patience to stupidity is not infinite, nor should yours be. So I am going skim the cream off the top of his Gallop, and allow you to find out for yourself if there are any curds below.

Dr. Moore’s discussion of AGW starts by suggesting there is no scientific consensus on AGW. This argument can be summed up into three Logical Fallacies: Argument from Incredulity, Argument from Authority, and Argument from Popularity.

The first argument is basically this:

“The subject of climate change… is perhaps the most complex scientific issue we have ever attempted to resolve. Hundreds, possibly thousands of factors influence the earth’s climate, many in ways we do not fully understand” pg. 330

This is a rather uncompelling argument. I hardly think measuring the basic energy flows of the earth’s atmosphere is all that more complex that, oh, I don’t know, tracking speed-of light particles with half-lives measured in the picoseconds at the Large Hadron Collider or unravelling the 3 billion base pairs in the Human Genome Project. Yeah, complicated, but hardly insurmountable, and with numerous lines of evidence from dozens of different disciplines pointing to the same conclusion, and a well-understood causation train, it is not really that big a scientific leap to conclude that increased CO2 output results in higher atmospheric CO2, which results in a stronger Greenhouse effect.

Argument two sounds like this:

“A comprehensive scientific critique of the IPCC’s findings… was signed by more than 31,000 American scientists and concluded, ‘there is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of…greenhouse gasses is causing or will cause catastrophic heating of the Earth’s atmosphere’. Clearly there is no overwhelming consensus among scientists on the subject of climate.” Pg 332

The 31,000+ name petition of which he writes is none other than the one generated by the venerable climate research foundation the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine. You need to follow that link to see what they are about, seriously, take a look. It is telling that Dr. Moore talks about their work, and provides lots of references to them in this chapter (more on that later), but he clearly recognized that linking to this source would not improve his credibility. This is what I mean by being disingenuous.

I know, that is a bit of an ad hominem (although, ad hominem is actually a valid rebuttal to Argument from Authority), so lets take a closer look at the 31,000 scientists. You can see from the Petition Project Site that, of the 31,000, exactly 39 self-declared as Climate Scientists. This in comparison to the 2,000+ Climate Scientists who took part in the IPCC Working Group that the Petition Project was a response to. Sounds like something close to a consensus there. What of the other 30,961 scientists? A random mix of biologists, geologists, computer scientists, chemists, engineers and medical doctors. Yes, more than 13,000 were trained in medicine or engineering (I know my podiatrist has strong feelings about Climate Change, but does his M.D. really represent authority on the subject?) The only selection criteria for this Petition Project is that you had to get at least a B.Sc. in some physical science field, or medicine, or engineering. To put that in perspective, there are, according to recent counts, at least 10 Million Americans who have received their B.Sc. in an applicable discipline since 1970. So the 31,000 represent about 0.3% of “American Scientists” the way the petition itself defines them. I dunno, 99.7% sounds pretty close to a consensus to me.

As an aside, they seem to put a lot of emphasis on the scientific credibility of TV weather forecasters. I rest my case.

Ultimately, the Petition Project is a marketing exercise, not a scientific survey. It was a voluntary on-line sign-up, with no vetting of actual credentials. Luckily, a scientific analysis has been done, judging the opinions of climate scientists, other scientists, and the general public. It seems the consensus decreases the less people actually know about the climate and about science. Likely the Dunning-Kruger Effect. Which brings us to Argument #3.

This third argument is a general discussion of how the general public doesn’t believe in AGW. He quotes a bunch of public opinion polls indicating the “man on the street” does not believe in AGW. Or even that people don’t believe that other people believe in AGW, like that is relevant to the scientific certainty of the issue:

“ a poll taken by Ipsos Mori found 60 percent of Britons believed ‘many scientific experts still question if humans are contributing the climate change’. Clearly a majority of the British public does not believe there is a scientific certainty on the subject”. Pg 334.

Now, I hate to sound like a weedy academic elitist, but polling public opinion about the opinions of researchers is not really the best way to find scientific truth.

Do I really need to say that to a guy with a PhD?

Again, for perspective only, I can list things that a majority of Americans think, according to polls similar to the ones Dr. Moore cites, and you can decide if these are, therefore, scientific facts:
80% believe in the literal existence of angels;
78% believe Evolution by Natural Selection is false;
60% believe that Noahs Flood actually happened.
So much for the wisdom of the majority.

Soon after this, Dr. Moore’s honesty takes another dive. There is a bit of intellectual dishonesty that people often engage in, on both sides of this discussion: “cherry picking” data. This is a type of scientific fraud where you pick data that supports your theory, but disregard data that does not, without any justification for that dismissal. Aware of this concern, Dr. Moore says:

”I will try not to ‘trick’ the reader by cherry-picking timelines that support a particular bias” pg336

Then, on the bottom of the very same page he engages in this blatant piece of cherry picking:

”Since 1998 there has been no further warming and apparently a slight cooling” pg336

On… the… very… same… page. He also engages in timeline cherry picking in other areas, such as on Page 344, alleging “cooling” between 1940 and 1980 (when there was actually a slight slowing of the continued warming trend), but let’s concentrate on the first cherry pick, as it is very commonly heard in the Anti-AGW noise.

The grain of truth in that pile of bullshit is that 1998 was previously thought to be the year with the highest average temperature ever recorded by surface-based instruments since reliable instrument records began around the turn of the previous century. It is more commonly held now that 2005 and 2010 were both warmer, with the benefit of more robust analysis. The argument about 1998 vs. 2005 vs. 2010 is kind of irrelevant, though, seeing as how the nine of the hottest years recorded have happened in the last 10 years, with 1998 being the one outlier. Plain and simple: the world is getting hotter at a rate unprecedented in our recorded history, or in the proxy record (Tree rings, varves, coral layers, ice cores, etc.). Surface temperature logs are not the only effect that we measure that demonstrates AGW.

The importance of Rate of Change is a topic that Dr. Moore completely ignores. In 15,000 words on AGW, where he often mentions that the temperature has been warmer in the past (ironically putting trust in scientists who make assumptions about the earths temperature millions of years ago, but not trusting them when they suggest that it is warming now…. cognitive dissonance much?), he never mentions that the rate of temperature change is as important as, if not more important than, the actual amount of change.

This is strange, because Dr. Moore spends a bunch of time talking about how easy it will be for the planet’s species (including people) to react to climate change (after denying it exists). The scientific literature has been pretty clear in demonstrating that adaptation to natural epochal shifts in temperature is a normal part of the world’s ecosystems, but it is the century-scale shifts of multiple degrees that will cause most of the negative ecological effects of AGW. There is no way the boreal forests will have time to shift north if the planet’s temperature increases markedly over less than a century, to give a single example.

Dr. Moore even talks about how the planet was warmer 9,000 years ago by almost 3 degrees during the Holocene Thermal Maximum (which he actually lies about, since the HTM was a regional temperature trend driven by the recession of the Laurentide Ice Sheet, not a global trend, and it was only about 1.6 degrees warmer in areas than today.) but not notice that 3 degrees over 9,000 years is a much different thing than 3 degrees over 100 years. I suspect he is being deliberately obtuse here, or he just hasn’t read the science.

Or maybe he figures the researchers who spend their lives studying historic climates don’t know about the HTM, just like he assumes NASA doesn’t know how to locate or read thermometers. This is the basic accusation he makes against NASA and NOAA. On Page 337 he purports that the Urban Heat Island Effect is causing us to observe increasing temperatures due to local effects only (blithely assuming the scientists at GISS and NASA, who I note are able to put a freaking temperature probe into orbit around Jupiter – haven’t thought about this little detail).

Then on Page 345 he accuses NASA of deliberately removing the “colder” thermometers (an accusation of scientific fraud that has no actual data to support it, and nonetheless has been proven false) to lead to a false conclusion about current temperature trends. He is conveniently avoiding mentioning the myriad of other ways we measure the earth’s temperature aside from the surface thermometer record, such as ocean temperature, satellite observations, and dozens of proxy techniques.

With his scientific credibility tied to Ecology, Dr. Moore, should know more about plants than he is letting on. Perhaps this points to his lack of Masters research, and his apparent lack of academic publishing after his PhD (which was a study on mining policy and local tidal effects). So when he states that the measured increase in atmospheric CO2 is good for plants – and uses some ridiculous horticultural greenhouse studies to support his argument – it is hard to give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he knows not what he thinks.

Dr. Moore (taking cues from other climate change deniers) takes the argument to the most ridiculous extreme on Page 352, suggesting that if human society and the industrial revolution hadn’t come along to produce all of this CO2, then plants probably would have died out from lack of CO2 (wait, didn’t he, few pages earlier, argue that most of the CO2 increase was natural? Yikes).

While it is true that in a hydroponic greenhouse system where there is an infinite supply of all nutrients available to plants, CO2 (which is not plant “food”, but is more plant “air”, to correct the allegory) may become a limiting factor in growth. In this case, adding more CO2 may hasten the growth rate of plants in that very specific, tightly controlled environment. Of course, this translates nada to the real world outside of greenhouses or basement pot farms. The reason for this, as Dr. Moore surely knows, was well understood in the 1800s, when Liebig developed his Law of the Minimum.

Like most biological ideas form the 1800s, this makes perfect sense to even the uneducated in the subject today. Plants require a suite of nutrients to grow: CO2, water, nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, calcium, etc. Liebig demonstrated, using fertilizers, that their growth is limited by one “limiting nutrient”. That nutrient in nature is usually either water or nitrogen (or, more specifically, the ability of soil bacteria to fix nitrogen). This makes sense to animals too, if you are deprived of water and carbohydrates, no amount of oxygen in the world is going to keep you alive for very long. In reality, increasing atmospheric CO2 enough to dramatically raise atmospheric temperatures will have a negligible effect on plant growth rates, and if it did, it would likely dramatically increase demand for nitrogen in the soil – already the limiting factor for most commercial farming. Even this response is likely to be short-lived and have severe negative repercussions. Don’t take my word for it. And certainly don’t take Dr. Moore’s.

Idiotic is the word that comes to mind when Dr. Moore starts talking about sea ice. He ignores all of the data currently available (on the very website he cites!) that demonstrates that Arctic Sea Ice is continuing to decline in mass, not recovering from 2008 levels as he implies on page 359. He takes one graph from the Cryosphere Today, claiming it shows no reduction in sea ice, yet fails to cite this graph from the same page, or this one, or this one from Antarctica. He also falsely claims that

“Our knowledge of the extent of sea ice in the Arctic and Antarctic began in 1979, the first year satellites were used to photograph the polar regions on a continual basis” Pg 359

This is stunning ignorance. Sea ice was measured by mariners for hundreds of years prior to 1979, and even longer by Inuit. There are also ice cores (which tell us the age of any single piece of sea ice), and dozens of analysis techniques that can be applied to arctic sediments such as varving of sea-floor sediments around arctic deltas, palynology records, arctic flora and fauna growth patterns, and other techniques to trace back the history if ice on both poles. This is another Argument from Personal Astonishment. I don’t know if you noticed, but we know there was ice over Georgia Straight 15,000 years ago, even when we don’t have satellite photos to prove it!

One has to wonder about his ability to do basic journal research when reading his discussion of ocean acidification. On pages 361-362, after quoting a paper by Orr et al that states “Between 1751 and 1994 surface ocean pH is estimated to have decreased from approximately 8.179 to 8.104 (a change of -0.075)”, Dr. Moore replies writing:

”One has to wonder how the pH of the ocean was measured to an accuracy of three decimal places in 1751 when the concept of pH was not introduced until 1909”

Well, one does not have to wonder, because one actually cited the actual freaking scientific paper! All one has to do is read the paper one cited. If one does that, though, one finds the paper cited by Dr. Moore contains no such quote! The quote seems to have been lifted from the esteemed scientific journal Wikipedia, as it appears in the introductory paragraph on the Wikipedia entry on “Ocean Acidification” , although with less precise numbers (which further erodes part of Dr. Moore’s original whinge, doesn’t it?)

Clearly, Dr. Moore didn’t even bother to read the papers he mis-quotes, nor did he bother to read the papers that Wikipedia cited as the source of the quote, because that paper from JGR explains that ocean-atmospheric gas exchange can be very accurately determined if you know the chemistry of the ocean and atmosphere, and a bit about temperatures (all of which can be currently measured from proxies, such as sediment cores, carbon and oxygen isotopes, and coral ring growth). Just because pH hadn’t been discovered, doesn’t mean it didn’t exist. Gravity existed before Newton, you nitwit.

Can we all agree that the days if citing Wikipedia in any discussion about anything other than Wikipedia is irrelevant? It is the internet equivalent of citing the Encyclopaedia Britannica while writing our grade 9 reports on Argentina – the teacher didn’t like it then, and they wouldn’t accept it now. But Dr. Moore cites Wikipedia no less than 12 times during his discussion of AGW.

This crappy citation rigour is, unfortunately, a trend continued during Dr. Moore’s brief Gish Gallop on pages 345-346 to how scientists used to predict a new ice age was coming, providing two excellent references: Spiked Online and something called ZombieBlog. I wonder if their scientists signed the petition.

Yet another argument from Dr. Moores’ personal incredulity is to question if the increases in atmospheric CO2 are actually man made, or just a natural trend; after all, CO2 has been higher in the past.

“Many scientists assume that human emissions of CO2 from burning fossil fuels are the main cause of this [observed] increase [in atmospheric CO2 since 1958]. Some scientists question this assumption.” Pg 336.

This is such an important point of contention, he raises the question rhetorically a few pages later:

”Is CO2, the main cause of global warming, either natural or human-caused?” pg 338

Except this is not an assumption made by scientists, nor is it a rhetorical question, it is an observable phenomenon. Atmospheric scientists can differentiate CO2 from natural and anthropogenic sources, using carbon isotopes . It is pretty clear from isotope analysis that the observed increases in atmospheric CO2 during the 20th century are dominated by fossil fuel burning. If  “some scientists question this assumption”, they need to come up with some data to support their point. They haven’t.

There are other topics of scientific illiteracy in this book, but at some point they are coming on so fast and so erratically, that response would be futile. Pure Gish Gallop Gold. Dr. Moore’s profound lack of understanding hydrology leads him to opine that glaciers don’t do anyone any good (Pg357). He suggests a warmer world is better because… wait for it… people like warm weather and can freeze to death when it isn’t warm enough (Pg340). Since wetlands are so good for migratory birds, what’s the problem with rising Sea Levels (pg366)? After a while, throwing this terrible book against the wall was causing me repetitive strain disorders.

Speaking of repetitive strain, Dr. Moore also jumps into “Climategate”. The book first makes a passing reference to this alleged scandal early in his discussion of AGW:

“in November 2009…thousands of emails, leaked or hacked from the Climate Research Unit of the University of East Anglia in the U.K. shocked the climate change community. These revelations were quickly dubbed ‘Climategate’” p337

After a paragraph introducing the topic, Dr. Moore Gish Gallops off to talk about the Copenhagen Conference, causation vs. correlation, polar bears, climate changes over time, etc. for 7 pages, before mentioning “Climategate” again in another stand-alone paragraph

“…the revelations of ‘Climategate’ in November 2009 … clearly showed that many of the most influential climate scientists associated with the IPCC have been manipulating data…”pg 344

There is another drive-by mention a page later, where he at least mentions there were inquiries in to the “scandal” (but fails to mention the scientists were exonerated in all inquiries, and many newspapers were forced to retract their stories previously written about the “scandal”. After no less than 22 pages of random garble on a variety of unrelated topics, Dr. Moore once again raises the topic of “Climategate”, in perfect Gish Gallop technique: if you mention it enough, the words will stick, even if you don’t make a convincing case.

It is actually this fourth mention of “Climategate”, 368 pages into his 390 page book, where Dr. Moore cements the case that he was not interested in the truth. He actually repeats the basest accusations of “Climategate”, the ones that forced reputable newspapers and media outlets to retract the story once they were found to be false. He dismisses the three separate independent inquiries in to the scandal that exonerated the scientists as “whitewashes”. He very clearly did not read the “damning” emails in context, nor did he read the results of the inquiries into the scandal. The only newspaper he cites is the Telegraph of UK, the only one not to retract its “Climategate” reporting.

He also accuses the journals Science and Nature as having “a marked bias in support of human-caused climate change”. It is apparent he is talking about the magazines, but he may as well say the same thing about actual nature (which keeps reacting predictably to a warming planet) and actual science (which keeps finding more evidence of AGW).

Sorry, Dr. Moore. No “Sensible Environmentalist” can continue to ignore both science and nature, and maintain their credibility.

My final review? Don’t read this book. It will make you dumber.