The Environment

the space between black and white

Update on Willie Soon

After reading the comments in the NYT article, I decided to point out one more thing in the article. Nearly all commenters are saying the science is the science it’s not about the researcher, which I completely agree with, and that the NYT didn’t demonstrate the science was not good science (oh, come on).

I want to point out the following statements which were in the article,

Many experts in the field say that Dr. Soon uses out-of-date data, publishes spurious correlations between solar output and climate indicators, and does not take account of the evidence implicating emissions from human behavior in climate change.


Gavin A. Schmidt, head of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies in Manhattan, a NASA division that studies climate change, said that the sun had probably accounted for no more than 10 percent of recent global warming and that greenhouse gases produced by human activity explained most of it.


“The science that Willie Soon does is almost pointless,” Dr. Schmidt said.

This whole thing is NOT about the science. As aptly stated in the article Dr. Soon is engaging in political theater. Scientists are jumping the gun when they rebuke the NYT.

Answering the why question: Yet another climate denier bites the dust

The NYT published a piece today that focuses on Willie Soon, a Smithsonian employed scientist that publishes on the solar cycle and climate change. He has long denied that there were human inputs to climate change.

Greenpeace (send your extra donations to them) did a FOIA and guess what? Willie Soon made $1.2m for making industry supported claims, including scientific papers referred to as “deliverables” for corporate support.

As if that weren’t enough, take a look at these two statements made by Charles R. Alcock, director of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center,

“I think that’s inappropriate behavior,” Dr. Alcock said. “This frankly becomes a personnel matter, which we have to handle with Dr. Soon internally.”

and then later in the article,

Dr. Alcock said that, aside from the disclosure issue, he thought it was important to protect Dr. Soon’s academic freedom, even if most of his colleagues disagreed with his findings.

Since when is taking money from corporations to produce corporate directed findings about scientific freedom. Does he mean it’s okay to be corrupt?

And what’s up with the journals?? I mean it’s not like he is an unknown author with unknown controversies nipping at his heels.  From Naomi Oreskes,

“I think universities desperately need to look more closely at this issue,” Dr. Oreskes said. She added that Dr. Soon’s papers omitting disclosure of his corporate funding should be retracted by the journals that published them.

The Valley’s Prospects

One of my Ph.D. students just posted an op-ed in Zocalo. The piece was then picked up by the Fresno Bee and the Valley NPR. It is an honest and straightforward assessment of the problems of the much heralded SB 375, which can be summarized in one short phrase: the law didn’t require much.

The law’s concept was good, the law’s actuation was pitiful. One of the biggest mistakes, which I have talked about before, was the use of the per capita VMT reduction metric.  This metric is just plain stupid if what you want is to reduce total VMT (in other words, total GHG emissions). Moreover, it’s beyond pale that the ARB mandated regional reductions in VMT/capita on the order of the 10-16% – well within the uncertainly of the models producing these numbers.

VMT per capita. It’s the perfect non-metric: seems like it’s doing something and everyone and no one will make their targets!

Unjustified power grab or just a clean up?

Delaware online just posted an article about the litigation around the Chesapeake Bay watershed cleanup. The basic storyline is that a multistate agreement was signed in 2009 to clean up the watershed. In 2011, the American Farm Bureau Federation challenged the plan on the grounds it would have an economic impact (fertilizers tend to have effects on watersheds, not using them tends to effect crops).

Now I know nothing about power grabs, but the briefs in opposition to the federal ‘power grab’ have been filed by 39 largely Republican lawmakers, including,

Sens. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and David Vitter of Louisiana, the ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, signed onto the opposition brief, as well as Rep. Bob Goodlatte of Virginia, chairman of the House Committee on the Judiciary and Rep. Frank Lucas of Oklahoma, chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture.

Just the guys I want protecting me from the federal government. There have been a number of recent studies showing that the watershed has gradually improved over time, but there are still dead zones which affect the blue crab. Among the 6 states signing the agreement, West Virginia now opposes it…and they know all about protecting waterways.