Posts tagged ‘climate change’

Finally, I Wrote A Semi-Clever Headline

I am the worst headline-writer ever.  Most of my posts have titles like "update on climate debate."  However, I finally wrote one at Forbes I kind of liked.  I wrote last week about Steve Zwick's article hoping to assign the catastrophic costs of climate change to those ill-intentioned skeptics.   He has walked that back a bit, at least the invective about letting people's house burn down, and I have some additional comments in response.

A Vivid Reminder of How The Climate Debate is Broken

My Forbes column is up this week.  I really did not want to write about climate, but when Forbes conctributor Steve Zwick wrote this, I had to respond

We know who the active denialists are – not the people who buy the lies, mind you, but the people who create the lies.  Let’s start keeping track of them now, and when the famines come, let’s make them pay.  Let’s let their houses burn.  Let’s swap their safe land for submerged islands.  Let’s force them to bear the cost of rising food prices.

They broke the climate.  Why should the rest of us have to pay for it?

The bizarre threats and ad hominem attacks have to stop.  Real debate is necessary based on an assumption that our opponents may be wrong, but are still people of good will.  And we need to debate what really freaking matters:

Instead of screwing around in the media trying to assign blame for the recent US heat wave to CO2 and threatening to burn down the houses of those who disagree with us, we should be arguing about what matters.  And the main scientific issue that really matters is understanding climate feedback.  I won't repeat all of the previous posts (see here and here), but this is worth repeating:

Direct warming from the greenhouse gas effect of CO2 does not create a catastrophe, and at most, according to the IPCC, might warm the Earth another degree over the next century.  The catastrophe comes from the assumption that there are large net positive feedbacks in the climate system that multiply a small initial warming from CO2 many times.  It is this assumption that positive feedbacks dominate over negative feedbacks that creates the catastrophe.  It is telling that when prominent supporters of the catastrophic theory argue the science is settled, they always want to talk about the greenhouse gas effect (which most of us skeptics accept), NOT the positive feedback assumption.  The assumption of net positive climate feedback is not at all settled -- in fact there is as much evidence the feedback is net negative as net positive -- which may be why catastrophic theory supporters seldom if ever mention this aspect of the science in the media.

I said I would offer a counter-proposal to Mr. Zwick's that skeptics bear the costs of climate change.  I am ready to step up to the cost of any future man-made climate change if Mr. Zwick is ready to write a check for the lost economic activity and increased poverty caused by his proposals.  We are at an exciting point in history where a billion people, or more, in Asia and Africa and Latin America are at the cusp of emerging from millenia of poverty.  To do so, they need to burn every fossil fuel they can get their hands on, not be forced to use rich people's toys like wind and solar.  I am happy to trade my home for an imaginary one that Zwick thinks will be under water.  Not only is this a great way to upgrade to some oceanfront property, but I am fully confident the crazy Al Gore sea level rise predictions are a chimera, since sea levels have been rising at a fairly constant rate since the end of the little ice age..  In return, perhaps Mr. Zwick can trade his job for one in Asia that disappears when he closes the tap on fossil fuels?

I encourage you to read it all, including an appearance by the summer of the shark.

Climate Bait and Switch

Cross posted from Climate Skeptic

This quote from Michael Mann [of Hockey Stick fame] is a great example of two common rhetorical tactics of climate alarmists:

And so I think we have to get away from this idea that in matters of science, it's, you know, that we should treat discussions of climate change as if there are two equal sides, like we often do in the political discourse. In matters of science, there is an equal merit to those who are denying the reality of climate change who area few marginal individuals largely affiliated with special interests versus the, you know, thousands of scientists around the world. U.S. National Academy of Sciences founded by Abraham Lincoln back in the 19th century, all the national academies of all of the major industrial nations around the world have all gone on record as stating clearly that humans are warming the planet and changing the climate through our continued burning of fossil fuels.

Here are the two tactics at play here:

  1. He is attempting to marginalize skeptics so that debating their criticisms is not necessary.  He argues that skeptics are not people of goodwill; or that they say what they say because they are paid by nefarious interests to do so; or that they are vastly outnumbered by real scientists ("real" being defined as those who agree with Dr. Mann).  This is an oddly self-defeating argument, though the media never calls folks like Mann on it.  If skeptics' arguments are indeed so threadbare, then one would imagine that throwing as much sunlight on them as possible would reveal their bankruptcy to everyone, but instead most alarmists are begging the media, as in this quote, to bury and hide skeptics' arguments.  I LOVE to debate people when I know I am right, and have pre-debate trepidation only when I know my position to be weak.
  2. There is an enormous bait and switch going on in the last sentence.  Note the proposition is stated as "humans are warming the planet and changing the climate through our continued burning of fossil fuels."  I, and many other skeptics, don't doubt the first part and would quibble with the second only because so much poor science occurs in attributing specific instances of climate change to human action.  What most skeptics disagree with is an entirely different proposition, that humans are warming the planet to catastrophic levels that justify immensely expensive and coercive government actions to correct.  Skeptics generally accept a degree or so of warming from each doubling of CO2 concentrations but reject the separate theory that the climate is dominated by positive feedback effects that multiple this warming 3x or more.   Mann would never be caught dead in public trying to debate this second theory of positive feedback, despite the fact that most of the warming in IPCC forecasts is from this second theory, because it is FAR from settled.  Again, the media is either uninterested or intellectually unable to call him on this.
I explained the latter points in much more detail at Forbes.com

Post-Modern Science

Would Copernicus and Galileo have been right to lie about the nature of the solar system if that lie prevented the undermining of the Catholic Church, which most everyone at the time felt to have substantial positive benefits?

I think the answer for most of us is "no."  Science is about finding the truth, and the effects of those truths on social and political institutions are what they are.

But we have now entered the era of post-modern science, where writers on scientific ethics now conclude that its OK for scientists to lie as long as they are on the right team

James Garvey, a philosopher and the author of The Ethics of Climate Change has written a defence of Peter Gleick at the Guardian:

What Heartland is doing is harmful, because it gets in the way of public consensus and action. Was Gleick right to lie to expose Heartland and maybe stop it from causing further delay to action on climate change? If his lie has good effects overall – if those who take Heartland's money to push scepticism are dismissed as shills, if donors pull funding after being exposed in the press – then perhaps on balance he did the right thing. It could go the other way too – maybe he's undermined confidence in climate scientists. It depends on how this plays out.

Post-modernism has been quite fashionable in the social sciences for decades, but this entry into the hard sciences is new and disturbing. For reference, here is the Wikipedia entry on post-modernism

In its most basic form, postmodernism is an intentional departure from the previously dominant modernist approaches such as scientific positivismrealismconstructivismformalismmetaphysics and so forth. In a sense, the "postmodernist" approach continues the critique of the Enlightenment legacy, fundamentally seeking to challenge the traditional practices and intellectual pillars of western civilization just as the Enlightenment challenged tradition, theology and the authority of religion before it.

Postmodernism postulates that many, if not all, apparent realities are only social constructs and are therefore subject to change. It emphasises the role of language, power relations, and motivations in the formation of ideas and beliefs. In particular it attacks the use of sharp binary classifications such as male versus female, straight versus gay, white versus black, and imperial versus colonial; it holds realities to be plural and relative, and to be dependent on who the interested parties are and the nature of these interests. It claims that there is no absolute truth and that the way people perceive the world is subjective.

"Fake but accurate" is a good example of post-modernist thinking.

Heartland Documents: Whose Biases are Being Revealed Here?

I could not resist commenting on the brouhaha around the stolen Heartland Institute documents in my column at Forbes.  The key one that is the "smoking gun" now appears to be fake.  I wrote in part:

One reason I am fairly certain the document is fake is this line from the supposed skeptic strategy document:

His effort will focus on providing curriculum that shows that the topic of climate change is controversial and uncertain – two key points that are effective at dissuading teachers from teaching science.

For those of us at least somewhat inside the tent of the skeptic community, particularly the science-based ones Heartland has supported in the past, the goal of "dissuading teachers from teaching science" is a total disconnect.  I have never had any skeptic in even the most private of conversations even hint at such a goal.  The skeptic view is that science education vis a vis climate and other environmental matters tends to be shallow, or one-sided, or politicized -- in other words broken in some way and needing repair.  In this way, most every prominent skeptic that works even a bit in the science/data end of things believes him or herself to be supporting, helping, and fixing science.  In fact, many skeptics believe that the continued positive reception of catastrophic global warming theory is a function of the general scientific illiteracy of Americans and points to a need for more and better science education (see here for an overview of the climate debate that does not once use the ad hominem words "myth", "scam" or "lie").

The only people who believe skeptics are anti-science per se, and therefore might believe skeptics would scheme to dissuade teachers from teaching science, are the more political alarmists (a good example was posted today right here at Forbes, which you might want to contrast withthis).  For years, I presume partially in an effort to avoid debate, certain alarmists have taken the ad hominem position that skeptics are anti-science.  And many probably well-meaning alarmists believe this about skeptics (since they may have not actually met any skeptics to know differently).  The person who wrote this fake memo almost had to be an alarmist, and probably was of the middling, more junior sort, the type of person who does not craft the talking points but is a recipient of them and true believer.

At the end I make a sort of bet

 If the strategy memo turns out to be fake as I believe it to be, I am starting the countdown now for the Dan-Rather-esque "fake but accurate" defense of the memo -- ie, "Well, sure, the actual document was faked but we all know it represents what these deniers are really thinking."  This has become a mainstay of post-modern debate, where facts matter less than having the politically correct position.

But in the first update I note the winner may already be delcared

Is Revkin himself seeking to win my fake-but-accurate race?   When presented with the fact that he may have published a fake memo, Revkin wrote:

looking back, it could well be something that was created as a way to assemble the core points in the batch of related docs.

It sounds like he is saying that while the memo is faked, it may have been someones attempt to summarize real Heartland documents.  Fake but accurate!  By the way, I don't think he has any basis for this supposition, as no other documents have come to light with stuff like "we need to stop teachers from teaching science."

More Great Moments in Climate Science

We lost track of a caribou herd, so since we can't find it, we will just tell the press it was destroyed by climate change.   (Happily the herd has been found, right where it always was, so we won't have to see caribou heads on our diet coke bottles).

I joke about this but it is really a serious statement about the quality of science and science journalism that there was really a big climate-related panic over the disappearing caribou a couple of years ago.   This is climate science in a nutshell - make a measurement error, assume the faulty data is real, and then without evidence blame the changing data on climate change.

(Update:  Yes, I actually spelled caribou herd "heard" in the original.  I am a big believer there is no such thing as a single metric for intelligence, but that there are multiple intelligences of various sorts.    We can argue about the other kinds, but I clearly did not get much of the spelling and proof-reading sort.

Well, It's Good to Have That Settled

Via Junk Science

In “Capitalism vs. the Climate“, [Naomi] Klein rants against “the deniers” but makes this admission:

The deniers did not decide that climate change is a left-wing conspiracy by uncovering some covert socialist plot. They arrived at this analysis by taking a hard look at what it would take to lower global emissions as drastically and as rapidly as climate science demands. They have concluded that this can be done only by radically reordering our economic and political systems in ways antithetical to their “free market” belief system. As British blogger and Heartland regular James Delingpole has pointed out, “Modern environmentalism successfully advances many of the causes dear to the left: redistribution of wealth, higher taxes, greater government intervention, regulation.” Heartland’s Bast puts it even more bluntly: For the left, “Climate change is the perfect thing…. It’s the reason why we should do everything [the left] wanted to do anyway.”

Here’s my inconvenient truth: they aren’t wrong. [Emphasis added]

It's Hard To Change Corporate DNA

Especially when the government is doing all it can to damp the forces of evolution and extinction.  Via Mickey Kaus

Dysfunctional–or at any rate, not-functional-enough–corporate cultures are hard to change. That would include both the culture of the Old GM and that of many of its suppliers. Obama should have been more skeptical about “New GM’s” ability to turn itself around with its same old workforce and same old union

I warned of something similar long before GM was rescued by Bush and Obama:

But things change.  Sometimes that change is slow, like a creeping climate change, or sometimes it is rapid, like the dinosaur-killing comet.  DNA that was robust no longer matches what the market needs, or some other entity with better DNA comes along and out-competes you.  When this happens, when a corporation becomes senescent, when its DNA is out of date, then its multiplier slips below one.  The corporation is killing the value of its assets.  Smart people are made stupid by a bad organization and systems and culture.  In the case of GM, hordes of brilliant engineers teamed with highly-skilled production workers and modern robotic manufacturing plants are turning out cars no one wants, at prices no one wants to pay.

Changing your DNA is tough.  It is sometimes possible, with the right managers and a crisis mentality, to evolve DNA over a period of 20-30 years.  One could argue that GE did this, avoiding becoming an old-industry dinosaur.  GM has had a 30 year window (dating from the mid-seventies oil price rise and influx of imported cars) to make a change, and it has not been enough.  GM’s DNA was programmed to make big, ugly (IMO) cars, and that is what it has continued to do.  If its leaders were not able or willing to change its DNA over the last 30 years, no one, no matter how brilliant, is going to do it in the next 2-3.

So what if GM dies?  Letting the GM’s of the world die is one of the best possible things we can do for our economy and the wealth of our nation.  Assuming GM’s DNA has a less than one multiplier, then releasing GM’s assets from GM’s control actually increases value.  Talented engineers, after some admittedly painful personal dislocation, find jobs designing things people want and value.  Their output has more value, which in the long run helps everyone, including themselves.

The alternative to not letting GM die is, well, Europe (and Japan).  A LOT of Europe’s productive assets are locked up in a few very large corporations with close ties to the state which are not allowed to fail, which are subsidized, protected from competition, etc.  In conjunction with European laws that limit labor mobility, protecting corporate dinosaurs has locked all of Europe’s most productive human and physical assets into organizations with DNA multipliers less than one.

Environmental Animism

This is from an environmental writer who criticises climate skeptics as being anti-science:

I can't be the only one who thinks about how strange cancer is: It seems sometimes like a giant "dislike" button the heavens push when humans engage in behaviors we weren't built for, even seemingly natural things like sun-bathing — until you remember that Northern Europeans didn't, evolutionarily speaking, have a lot of sun to deal with.

This notion that somehow cancer is a punishment from Gaia for our high-technology and lifestyle choices and eating habits actually seems pretty prevalent among environmentalists.

The author, in reporting on some really interesting research about cancer as an independent parasitic lifeform rather than a disease, makes this statement:

The new view depicts cancer as a new species — one for whom our unhealthy lifestyles are a growth market. Humanity's radical manipulations of nature can create just this sort of unexpected power vacuum.

The first nine words of this graf do accurately reflect the gist of the article he is linking.  The rest is pure fantasy and supposition, his own biases applied to his reporting.  He pretends it came from the study, but of course no such thing can be found in the source.  But we don't need any proof, because we know that cancer and parasites and all other unhealthy things only began with the incorporation of Dupont. Thank God the black death did not come along today, or I am sure it would be blamed on Exxon.

PS- by the way, interestingly enough, there is a school of thought that the black death was made far worse by climate change, in this case global cooling and the end of the Medieval warm period.  In the 1330's, the end of the warm period brought wet and cold weather which killed crops and caused great famines, which may have weakened the population for the black death a decade later.

It is really, really funny sitting in on a Medieval history course and having the professor have to say things like, "I know this is not what you hear in the news, but in the Middle Ages, warmth brought prosperity and cold brought death."

Sorry, I Forgot What Century We Lived In

From the Jerusalem Post via Radley Balko

When the severed head of a wolf wrapped in women's lingerie turned up near the city of Tabouk in northern Saudi Arabia this week, authorities knew they had another case of witchcraft on their hands, a capital offence in the ultra-conservative desert kingdom.

Agents of the country’s Anti-Witchcraft Unit were quickly dispatched and set about trying to break the spell that used the beast’s head.

Saudi Arabia takes witchcraft so seriously that it has banned the Harry Potter series by British writer J.K. Rowling, rife with tales of sorcery and magic. It set up the Anti-Witchcraft Unit in May 2009 and placed it under the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice (CPV), Saudi Arabia's religious police.

"In accordance with our Islamic tradition we believe that magic really exists," Abdullah Jaber, a political cartoonist at the Saudi daily Al-Jazirah, told The Media Line. "The fact that an official body, subordinate to the Saudi Ministry of Interior, has a unit to combat sorcery proves that the government recognizes this, like Muslims worldwide."

Actually, we have something similar here, we just call it "climate change" instead of witchcraft.

The Dog That Didn't Bark

There may be something interesting coming out in the climate front over the next few weeks from CERN.

Years ago, a researcher named Henrik Svensmark developed a hypothesis that cosmic rays can seed cloud formation, and thus when there are more cosmic rays, there may be more clouds.  This is interesting because it may act as a sort of solar amplification.

Changes in the sun's output through varying solar cycles are measurable, but seem to some scientists to be too small to drive substantial temperature changes on Earth.  But a more active sun tends to blow cosmic rays away from the Earth, thus reducing their incidence.  Therefore, if a more active sun reduced cooling clouds, and a less active sun increased cooling clouds, this might explain a larger effect for the sun.

I have avoided discussing Svensmark much, since the evidence seemed thin, though several labs recently have confirmed his hypothesis, at least in the laboratory.  But Svensmark is definitely a topic among some climate skeptics.  The reason is that higher solar activity levels  in the second half of the twentieth century coincided with much of the 20th century warming that is blamed on manmade CO2.  Svensmark's theory, if true, might force scientists to apportion more of the historic warming to natural causes, thus reducing the estimated sensitivity of the climate to man-made CO2.

But apparently the CERN lab has been undertaking a substantial study to confirm or deny Svensmark's hypothesis.  The results have not been released, but skeptics are beginning to anticipate that CERN's work has confirmed the hypothesis of cosmic ray cloud seeding.  Why?  Because of the dog that did not bark, or rather was told not to bark.

Via Watts Up With That:

CERN Director General Rolf-Dieter Heuer told Welt Online that the scientists should refrain from drawing conclusions from the latest experiment.

“I have asked the colleagues to present the results clearly, but not to interpret them,” reports veteran science editor Nigel Calder on his blog. Why?

Because, Heuer says, “That would go immediately into the highly political arena of the climate change debate. One has to make clear that cosmic radiation is only one of many parameters.”

Skeptics are suggesting that had CERN disproved Svensmark, and thus protected the hypothesis that CO2 is driving most current warming, they would not have hesitated to draw exactly this conclusion in public.  Only a finding considered more consistent with the skeptical position would cause them to go silent, trying to avoid the taint from the politically correct intelligentsia that would come from even partially confirming a skeptic talking point.

I have to agree that Heuer's comments seem to telegraph the result.  I have read a ton of global warming related studies.  And every single one I have read that has ever published negative results vis a vis the hypothesis of catastrophic manmade global warming has felt obligated to put in a sentence at the end that says something like "but of course this does not in any way disprove the hypothesis of anthropogenic global warming and we fully support that hypothesis despite these results."  The absolute fear of becoming an outcast for coming up with the "wrong" result is palpable in reading these papers, sort of like the very careful language a report in Soviet Russia might have used to even mildly criticize some aspect of the state.  Of course, no such disclaimer can be found with narrow positive results - these are always immediately extrapolated  (in fact over-extrapolated in press releases) to be the final nail in the coffin proving once and for all that man is changing the climate in dire ways.

Global Warming Hype Process

Here is the current global warming hype process as it exists today:

  1. Identify a 2 or 3 sigma weather event.  Since there are 365 days in the year and hundreds of different regions in the world, the laws of probability say that some event in the tail of the normal distribution (local high, local low, local flood, local drought, local snow, local tornado, local hurricane, etc) should be regularly occurring somewhere.
  2. Play weather event all over press, closely linked as often as possible with supposition that this is due to manmade CO2.  If the connection to global warming is too outlandish to make with a straight face (e.g. cold weather) use term "climate change" or "climate disruption" instead of global warming.
  3. Skeptics will point to actual data that this event is not part of a long term trend, e.g. there is no rise in tornado activity correlated with 20th century rise in temperatures so blaming one year of high tornadoes on global warming makes no sense.    Ignore this.
  4. Peer reviewed literature will emerge 6-12 months later demonstrating that the event was not likely due to man-made global warming.  Ignore this as well.  Never, ever go back and revisit failed catastrophic predictions.
  5. Repeat

Last year's Russian heat wave is a classic example.  Here is an example of the hype and the tie to man-made global warming in Time.  And here, 12 months later, is the study saying that weather was just weather:

Reference
Dole, R., Hoerling, M., Perlwitz, J., Eischeid, J., Pegion, P., Zhang, T., Quan, X.-W., Xu, T. and Murray, D. 2011. Was there a basis for anticipating the 2010 Russian heat wave? Geophysical Research Letters38: 10.1029/2010GL046582.

Background
The authors write that "the 2010 summer heat wave in western Russia was extraordinary, with the region experiencing the warmest July since at least 1880 and numerous locations setting all-time maximum temperature records." And as a result, they say that "questions of vital societal interest are whether the 2010 Russian heat wave might have been anticipated, and to what extent human-caused greenhouse gas emissions played a role."

What was learned
The nine U.S. researchers determined that "analysis of forced model simulations indicates that neither human influences nor other slowly evolving ocean boundary conditions contributed substantially to the magnitude of the heat wave." In fact, they say that the model simulations provided "evidence that such an intense event could be produced through natural variability alone." Similarly, on the observation front, they state that "July surface temperatures for the region impacted by the 2010 Russian heat wave show no significant warming trend over the prior 130-year period from 1880-2009," noting, in fact, that "a linear trend calculation yields a total temperature change over the 130 years of -0.1°C." In addition, they indicate that "no significant difference exists between July temperatures over western Russia averaged for the last 65 years (1945-2009) versus the prior 65 years (1880-1944)," and they state that "there is also no clear indication of a trend toward increasing warm extremes." Last of all, they say that although there was a slightly higher variability in temperature in the latter period, the increase was "not statistically significant."

Not sure I find the computer model work comforting one way or the other but the complete lack of any observational trend seems compelling.

Getting Endorsed by Nazis

I often find that my worst enemy in an argument is actually someone trying to agree with me but for completely crazed and illogical reasons.  I call it "getting endorsed by Nazis," after the problem politicians face when they get endorsed by some really wacky fringe group.

I have to almost feel some sympathy today for global warming alarmists who have gotten a prominent new climate change spokesman:

Crazed cult leader Charles Manson has broken a 20-year silence in a prison interview coinciding with the 40th anniversary of his conviction for the gruesome Sharon Tate murders - to speak out about global warming.

The infamous killer, who started championing environmental causes from behind bars, bemoaned the 'bad things' being done to environment in a rambling phone interview from his Californian jail cell.

'Everyone’s God and if we don’t wake up to that there’s going to be no weather because our polar caps are melting because we’re doing bad things to the atmosphere.

If I had even the smallest desire to play such games, I might suggest that this would be a really fun article to Google bomb with some frequently-searched global warming phrase.

Bolivia Passes Law to Make Poverty Permanent

Via JoNova:

Bolivia is set to pass the world’s first laws granting all nature equal rights to humans. The Law of Mother Earth, now agreed by politicians and grassroots social groups, redefines the country’s rich mineral deposits as “blessings” and is expected to lead to radical new conservation and social measures to reduce pollution and control industry.

The country, which has been pilloried by the US and Britain in the UN climate talks for demanding steep carbon emission cuts, will establish 11 new rights for nature. They include: the right to life and to exist; the right to continue vital cycles and processes free from human alteration; the right to pure water and clean air; the right to balance; the right not to be polluted; and the right to not have cellular structure modified or genetically altered.

Controversially, it will also enshrine the right of nature “to not be affected by mega-infrastructure and development projects that affect the balance of ecosystems and the local inhabitant communities”.

“It makes world history. Earth is the mother of all”, said Vice-President Alvaro García Linera. “It establishes a new relationship between man and nature, the harmony of which must be preserved as a guarantee of its regeneration.”

Hmmm.  There is a big gap between thoughtful conservation and fetishism for the primitive.

Update:  By the way, the article says this is being driven by climate change already experienced in Bolivia.  I suppose it is possible that rainfall has changed, I don't have the numbers for Bolivia, but temperatures in the tropics have shown no trend up or down for decades.   Most of the warming the Earth has seen over the last 50 years (whatever the cause) has been in the Northern Hemisphere and in fact in the upper portions of the Northern Hemisphere.  Here are the temps for the tropics.   The spikes in 1998 and 2010 are El Ninos years.

When You Have A Hammer, Everything Looks Like A Nail

Via Tom Nelson, here is an article today at Grist about today's Tsunami's called "This is what climate change looks like"

So far, today's tsunami has mainly affected Japan -- there are reports of up to 300 dead in the coastal city of Sendai -- but future tsunamis could strike the U.S. and virtually any other coastal area of the world with equal or greater force, say scientists. In a little-heeded warning issued at a 2009 conference on the subject, experts outlined a range of mechanisms by which climate change could already be causing more earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanic activity.

"When the ice is lost, the earth's crust bounces back up again and that triggers earthquakes, which trigger submarine landslides, which cause tsunamis," Bill McGuire, professor at University College London, told Reuters.

When I look at events today, I think not of "climate change" but of "development".  Compare the casualties from today in Japan and Hawaii and the US west coast to those in, say, Indonesia.  Development saves lives through better construction, better communication, better early warning systems, and better transportation networks.   If one really wants to think about today's events in the context of climate change, think about the alarmists' proposed tradeoff between small and uncertain changes in the climate vs. almost certain reduction in development through climate-change programs.

Partial Proof of My Thesis

Several years ago, I offered the following hypothesis to a reporter:

I would argue that the current obsession with small changes to trace levels of CO2 in the atmosphere has in fact gutted the environmental movement.  Nothing else is getting done. ... My prediction– 10-20 years from now, environmentalists are going to look back on the current global warming hysteria as the worst thing ever to happened to the environmental movement.

Here is an example of that effect.  A study comes out that says the following about the health of the Great Lakes:

The Commission is troubled by nearshore eutrophication, aquatic plant growth caused by excessive nutrients, which causes adverse effects on ecosystems, the economy, recreation, and human health.  The reemergence of algal blooms is likely due to multiple factors, including inadequate municipal wastewater and residential septic systems; runoff from increased impervious surface areas and agricultural row-crop areas; discharges from tile drainage which result in more dissolved reactive phosphorus loading; industrial livestock operations; ecosystem changes from invasive mussel species; and impacts from climate change which include warmer water and more frequent and intense precipitation and stormwater events.

Of these listed potential causes, only the last, climate change, is not addressed at all in the main study document, nor is addressing climate change on their list of recommendations, which in fact emphasize that solutions tend to be local.   In fact the tone of the study is that the causes are complex and poorly understood, but never again beyond this sentence is climate change mentioned or any evidence of increased precipitation or runoff presented.

One is left with the impression it was a toss-in on the list, included because climate change is "hot" and sexy and a magnet for funding and attention.  Certainly the report provides no other evidence or detail as to why it is included in the list.  Certainly any intelligent reader would understand that the climate change item was, at best, included to round out the possibilities of a complex and poorly understood problem, but that the study points to many of the other items on the list as more productive places to seek solutions.

So, given this, what do environmental reporters pick up?  Here is the headline environmental reporter Cameron Scott uses on his SFGate blog "the Thin Green Line":

Climate change threatens Great Lakes

Yep, he latched on to the last, least important item that is completely un-adressed by the main report.  By doing so, he is in effect helping to distract attention from the real causes that can be addressed and diverting attention to issues that are tangential at best.  The solution will likely involve better managing agricultural runoffs and dealing with municipal wastewater plants which are under-treating discharges.

This is why I say that the global warming hysteria will be looked back on as a dead time for the environmental movement, when obsession with trace amounts of CO2 either caused folks to lose attention on important issues, or even caused environmentalists to advocate for ecologically detrimental programs (e.g. biofuels).

Justifying Genocide as Green

I kid you not

So how did Genghis Khan, one of history's cruelest conquerors, earn such a glowing environmental report card? The reality may be a bit difficult for today's environmentalists to stomach, but Khan did it the same way he built his empire — with a high body count.

Over the course of the century and a half run of the Mongol Empire, about 22 percent of the world's total land area had been conquered and an estimated 40 million people were slaughtered by the horse-driven, bow-wielding hordes. Depopulation over such a large swathe of land meant that countless numbers of cultivated fields eventually returned to forests.

In other words, one effect of Genghis Khan's unrelenting invasion was widespread reforestation, and the re-growth of those forests meant that more carbon could be absorbed from the atmosphere.

Weirdly, the author equates cooling the Earth with "a glowing environmental report card?"  How did cold become green?

In fact, the world did substantially cool in the 14th century.  The previous 300 warm years had brought prosperity and growth to Western Europe, in fact the first population growth in Europe since as early as 300AD.  The commercial and intellectual regression that is often called the Dark Ages or the early Middle Ages (say 700-1000AD) is often attributed to a demographic collapse in Western Europe.  There are many who credit, at least in part, this collapse for the fall of the Western Roman Empire.

The years 1000-1300 saw a real recovery, the first population growth for hundreds of years, and a number of important (though to us prosaic) technological, intellectual and societal advances. There are several factors behind this boom, but a large one is the Medieval Warm Period, where we can find records of certain crops (e.g. grapes in England) being grown far north of where they can be even today.

The early 1300's coincided with the return of cold, wet weather to Europe.  Whether this is in part attributable to Genghis Khan's killing rampage, I can't say.  But the effects were clear.  The 1320's and 1330's saw a series of terrible harvests and resulting famines.   By the 1340's, much of Europe was hungry and malnurished, weakening the population for the arrival of some rats carrying Bubonic Plague.  Again, not a few historians have noted that the climate-change-induced famines of the early 1300's likely made the early plagues more virulent.

This world of failed harvests, starving, and plagues -- this is a greener world we should aspire to?

(HT:  A reader)

Did Your SUV Cause the Haiti Earthquake?

The other day, environmental blog the Thin Green Line wrote:

At the American Geophysical Union meeting late last month, University of Miami geologist Shimon Wdowinski argued that the devastating earthquake a year ago may have been caused by a combination of deforestation and hurricanes (H/T Treehugger). Climate change is spurring more, stronger hurricanes, which are fueled by warm ocean waters....

The 2010 disaster stemmed from a vertical slippage, not the horizontal movements that most of the region's quakes entail, supporting the hypothesis that the movement was triggered by an imbalance created when eroded land mass was moved from the mountainous epicenter to the Leogane Delta.

I have heard this theory before, that landslides and other surface changes can trigger earthquakes.  Now, I am not expert on geology -- it is one of those subjects that always seems like it would be interesting to me but puts me in a coma as soon as I dive into it.   I almost failed a pass-fail geology course in college because in the mineral identification section, all I could think to say was "that's a rock."

However, I do know enough to say with some confidence that surface land changes may have triggered but did not cause the earthquake.  Earthquakes come from large releases of stored energy, often between plates and faults.  It's remotely possible land surface changes trigger some of these releases, but in general I would presume the releases would happen at some point anyway.  (Steven Goddard points out the quake was 13km below the surface, and says "It is amazing that anyone with a scientific background could attempt to blame it on surface conditions.")

The bit I wanted to tackle was the Thin Green Line's statement that "Climate change is spurring more, stronger hurricanes."   This is a fascinating statement I want to attack from several angles.

First, at one level it is a mere tautology.  If we are getting more hurricanes, then by definition the climate has changed.   This is exactly why "global warming" was rebranded into "climate change," because at some level, the climate is always changing.

Second, the statement is part of a fairly interesting debate on whether global warming in general will cause more hurricanes.  Certainly hurricanes get their power from warm water in the oceans, so it is not unreasonable to hypothesize that warmer water would lead to more, stronger hurricanes.  It turns out the question, as are most all questions in the complex climate, is more complicated than that.  It may be hurricanes are driven more by temperature gradients, rather than absolute temperatures, such that a general warming may or may not have an effect on their frequency.

Third, the statement in question, as worded, is demonstrably wrong.  If he had said "may someday spur more hurricanes," he might have been OK, but he said that climate change, and by that he means global warming, is spurring more hurricanes right now.

Here is what is actually happening (paragraph breaks added)

2010 is in the books: Global Tropical Cyclone Accumulated Cyclone Energy [ACE] remains lowest in at least three decades, and expected to decrease even further... For the calendar year 2010, a total of 46 tropical cyclones of tropical storm force developed in the Northern Hemisphere, the fewest since 1977. Of those 46, 26 attained hurricane strength (> 64 knots) and 13 became major hurricanes (> 96 knots).

Even with the expected active 2010 North Atlantic hurricane season, which accounts on average for about 1/5 of global annual hurricane output, the rest of the global tropics has been historically quiet. For the calendar-year 2010, there were 66-tropical cyclones globally, the fewest in the reliable record (since at least 1970) The Western North Pacific in 2010 had 8-Typhoons, the fewest in at least 65-years of records. Closer to the US mainland, the Eastern North Pacific off the coast of Mexico out to Hawaii uncorked a grand total of 8 tropical storms of which 3 became hurricanes, the fewest number of hurricanes since at least 1970.

Global, Northern Hemisphere, and Southern Hemisphere Tropical Cyclone Accumulated Energy (ACE) remain at decades-low levels.

The source link has more, and graphs of ACE over the last several decades (ACE is a sort of integral, combining the time-average-strength of all hurricanes during the year.  This is a better metric than mere counts and certainly better than landfall or property damage metrics).

So, normally I would argue with alarmists that correlation is not causation.   There is no point in arguing about causation, though, because the event he claims to have happened (more and stronger hurricanes) did not even happen.  The only way he could possibly argue it (though I am pretty sure he has never actually looked at the hurricane data and simply works from conventional wisdom in the global warming echo chamber) is to say that yes, 2010 was 40-year low in hurricanes, but it would have been even lower had it not been for global warming.  This is the Obama stimulus logic, and is just as unsupportable here as it was in that context.

Postscript: By the way, 2010 was probably the second warmest year in the last 30-40 years and likely one of the 5-10 warmest in the last century, so if warming was going to be a direct cause of hurricanes, it would have been in 2010.    And yes, El Ninos and La Ninas and such make it all more complicated.  Exactly.  See this post.

Well, It Is A Much Stronger Greenhouse Gas than CO2

For those who remember the Penn & Teller show where they had people at an environmental rally sign a petition to ban dihydrogen monoxide (water), you may enjoy seeing some CFACT interns doing the same among delegates to the COP16 climate change conference in Cancun, with predictable results.  Its all about the science!  Its pretty funny that the interns seemed to go out of their way to always have a cup of water in their hand when they discussed the petition.

Science That Is Run Like a Soviet Election

News from the United Nations:

Robert Orr, UN under secretary general for planning, said the next Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report on global warming will be much worse than the last one.

Hmm, that kind of confirms what critics have been saying for years, that the IPCC has nothing to do with science.  Because, you see, to my knowledge the scientists of the next IPCC have not even started their work, but the UN leadership has already determined what the report will say.  Which is consistent with their process in the last go around, where the UN political guys crafted the management summary first, and then circulated it to the scientific teams with instructions to adjust their sections of the report to fit the pre-existing conclusion.

In the same article, we get more of the "accelerating" nonsense:

He said UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon would make it clear to world leaders in Cancun "that we should not take any comfort in the climate deniers' siren call."

"The evidence shows us quite the opposite-- that we can't rest easy at all" as scientists agree that climate change "is happening in an accelerated way."

Its not even clear what the value of the first derivative is for climate change, or even if such a metric has any meaning in the complex climate system where regional trends can easily be going in opposite directions.  But anyone who can tell you that we know the second derivative, or even its sign, is totally full of crap.

Never (except perhaps with shark attack scares which come and go) have I seen such a classic case of observer bias.   Certain events occur in the tail ends of the normal distribution.  Suddenly everyone claims that these events are happening with more frequency, mainly because they get reported with more frequency. I reported on a great example of this from a supposedly scientific government report here, where researchers mistook improved measurement of certain events as a real underlying increase in the number of such events.  Another example here.

Of course, 95 percentile events can't be, by definition, happening more frequently.  The only thing that can happen is the normal distribution can have its standard deviation increase.  Similar to the second derivitive argument above, I am not a statistician, but my sense is that the odds that we could detect a standard deviation shift in the distribution of weather events using just a few years of highly imperfect data, even if such an underlying shift existed, is really  really low.

Hope and Change, Sopranos Style

California state treasurer Bill Lockyer is urging public employee pension fund to divest itself of stocks of companies because of their support for a particular state ballot initiative.   Check that again - a sitting state official using his position in power to punish folks during an election campaign for their stand in that election.

"¦ state Treasurer Bill Lockyer, a former attorney general, urged the state's largest public employee investment funds to divest themselves of Valero and Tesoro stock.

Lockyer sent a letter to the public pension funds, known as CalPERS and CalSTRS, asking them to rid themselves of any stock connected to the refiners Valero and Tesoro. Lockyer charged the companies with attempting to constrain gasoline supplies in California to ensure profits for years to come "” and opposing the state's climate change law as a means to ensure that constraint.

"CalPERS and CalSTRS should not be investing in Texas oil companies that hurt the California economy, no more than they should invest in companies that spend millions of shareholder dollars to undermine California's environmental laws and the state's green energy industries and green tech jobs," Lockyer wrote.

Lockyer, a board member at CalPERS, is expected to ask the board tomorrow to divest Valero and Tesoro holdings during a meeting."

The Green Hell blog added:

It was also reported to this blog that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who views the global warming law as his signature accomplishment, kept Chevron out of the Proposition 23 battle by threatening the company with adverse tax measures.

Al Gore Meets Movie Gore: Climate Alarmism Jumps the Bandersnatch

I suppose one cold say that climate alarmism jumped the shark years ago.  But they have certainly moved to a new level, one for which there is not even a term, in this video.  This video has everything - the government school teacher politically indoctrinating the kids, followed by bloody gory death dealt out to the kids who refuse to toe the government line.  I am not kidding.

When I first saw it, I was sure it was a skeptic satire, ala Jonathon Swift's 'A Modest Proposal,'  and I am still afraid that this may be some elaborate put-on because the video and its message -- that skeptics need to be killed -- is so obscene.   But apparently, according to this article at the Guardian, it is totally for real and includes contributions from some fairly prominent artists, as well as funding from the UK government and the 10:10 program  (a plea to reduce carbon emissions by 10% per year, eerily with a name probably purposely similar to 9-11).

Our friends at the 10:10 climate change campaign have given us the scoop on this highly explosive short film, written by Britain's top comedy screenwriter Richard Curtis, ahead of its general release....

Had a look? Well, I'm certain you'll agree that detonating school kids, footballers and movie stars into gory pulp for ignoring their carbon footprints is attention-grabbing. It's also got a decent sprinkling of stardust "“ Peter Crouch, Gillian Anderson, Radiohead and others.  But it's pretty edgy, given 10:10's aim of asking people, businesses and organisations to take positive action against global warming by cutting their greenhouse gas emissions by 10% in a year, and thereby pressuring governments to act.

"Doing nothing about climate change is still a fairly common affliction, even in this day and age. What to do with those people, who are together threatening everybody's existence on this planet? Clearly we don't really think they should be blown up, that's just a joke for the mini-movie, but maybe a little amputating would be a good place to start?" jokes 10:10 founder and Age of Stupid film maker Franny Armstrong.

But why take such a risk of upsetting or alienating people, I ask her: "Because we have got about four years to stabilise global emissions and we are not anywhere near doing that. All our lives are at threat and if that's not worth jumping up and down about, I don't know what is."

The latter claim is hilarious.  Over the next four years, CO2 levels will likely increase, if they stay on trend, from .0392% of the atmosphere to .0400% of the atmosphere.  I would love to see these so-called science-based folks demonstrate how the next .0008% shift in atmospheric concentration triggers the point-of-no return tipping point.  In actual fact, the have just latched onto the round number of 400ppm and declared, absolutely without evidence, that this number (which the Earth has crossed many times in the past) will somehow lead to a runaway chain reaction.

Anyway, I have teased it long enough,  here is the video.  Beware -- there is gore (no pun intended) here worthy of a zombie movie.

Wow, its sure good that the world has decided that skeptics are the mindless, thuggish, anti-science side of this debate, because if that had not already been made clear, we might think that key climate alarmism groups had lost their freaking minds.  It will be interesting to see if this gets any play in the US media -- my guess is it will not.  Magazines are happy to spend twenty pages dissecting the motives of the Koch family in funding skeptic and libertarian causes, but environmentalists get a free pass, even with stuff like this.

Lubos Motl is all over this, and has mirror sites for the video if (or more likely when) the video gets taken down. This is one of those propaganda offers that are the product of an echo chamber, with a group of like-minded people all patting themselves on the back only to be surprised at the inevitable public backlash.

I have mirrored the video here in case it gets a youtube takedown.

Update: As a reminder, this is not satire.  It is made by a group of true believers.  It was funded and approved and released by a climate alarmism group, which paid top dollar (including UK taxpayer funds) for a large professional team of actors, writers, and directors.  All interviewed participants, including the first little actor blown up, have stated how proud they were of the film and its contribution to educating people on the need for immediate action on global warming.

For the last hour, I have sat and tried to think if, as a skeptic, I had wanted to make a satire critiquing the excesses of global warming alarmism, could I have made a better video.  The only thing that might have made it better would have been if the final button-pusher was someone famous like James Cameron or Bono, who after then pushed the button climbed on their Gulfstream jet to fly home.  But that's just a quibble.   I have changed my opinion.  This may be the greatest skeptic video ever, and the Koch family didn't even have to pay a dime for it.  Thanks 10:10.

Update #2: This movie reminds me of nothing so much as Tarantino's Inglorious Bastards.  It is clearly not reality, but the author's fantasy.  Tarantino fantasizes about a group of jews kicking ass on the Nazi high command and ending the war early.  10:10 fantasizes about blowing up skeptics, in a video that, amazingly, is more blood-spattered than Tarantino's.

Update #3: The group pulls the video with a classic "I'm sorry you guys are so easily offended" apology.

Update #4: Unsurprisingly, Joe Romm (in the italics in this post) goes to the kindergarten argument of "he started it," arguing that the video is just the flip side of the stuff skeptics are doing all the time.  In making  his pitch, he shows the mindset that allowed this stupid film to get made.

I am not sure exactly what comparable films skeptics have produced that are similar, and the only example he can cite is Anthony Watt's blog post comments on the shooting of an eco-terrorist.  I did not even go back and look at Watt's comments, but I generally think that lots of people are too gleeful when suspected criminals, who are innocent before the law, are gunned down by police.

Never-the-less, its seems a stretch to equate  the offhand comments in real time of an independent blogger with a film involving probably a hundred people (including those who commissioned it in the 10:10 organization), commissioned in an official and thoughtful act (after all this had to be months in the works), and funded in part by the British government.  He takes the opportunity of his team's screw-up to launch this broadside on people like me (in bold no less).

None of this excuses that disgusting video.  But the difference is that those who are trying to preserve a livable climate and hence the health and well-being of our children and billions of people this century quickly denounce the few offensive over-reaches of those who claim to share our goals "” but those trying to destroy a livable climate, well, for them lies and hate speech are the modus operandi, so such behavior is not only tolerated, but encouraged.

Is anyone else getting tired of this working definition that "hate speech" is any speech by people who disagree with me, because I have the best interest of humanity in mind so clearly those who oppose me hate the human race?

Note you can see this right in his statement -- "for those trying to destroy a livable climate."  That's absurd.  Does he really think anyone is trying to destroy a livable climate?  I could say that through CO2 controls he is trying to impoverish billions of poor people in lesser developed countries by halting development, but I don't think that is really his motive.  I think that is an outcome of what he advocates, just as he thinks an unlivable climate is an outcome of what I advocate, but I can distinguish between motives and assumptions, but he apparently cannot.   This attitude is EXACTLY what causes this kind of unfortunate video to be made -- it is only a small step from believing, as he says he does, that skeptics are "trying to destroy a liveable climate" to making a movie that jokes about killing them all (or, to be frank, to feeling justified in acts of eco-terrorism).

I encourage you to watch my climate video and decide if folks like me are trying to thoughtfully decipher nature or are engaging in hate speech.

Update #5: Funny -- Gillian Anderson, actress from the 10:10 video, warning of Y2K dangers.

Update #6: I guess this was inevitable, but all the rats in the 10:10 ship are claiming that they had no idea what the video would be like and were appalled when they saw it.  Right.  An organization funds a major film production, including any number of high profile participants, and no one asked to see a script, screened the video before release, or even asked for some kind of written treatment of the concept?  Yeah, right.   No one in the 10:10 organization or who funded the video even peeked at it before it was released to the entire planet?  This is so utterly lame but will probably be enough of a fig leaf for most of the media to hide behind and allow them not to follow up on a video whose basic premises they likely agree with.

On the Radio Today

I will be on the radio today between 3-4 Arizona time (6-7pm Eastern time) talking about climate change.  Folks in Arizona can find it at 1100AM or listen streaming here.

Sheriff Arpaio Meets Al Gore

Not since the Reese's Peanut Butter Cups have there been two great populist tastes that go so great together.  In an amazing bit of fact-free scare mongering gauged to panic everyone across the political spectrum, Michael Oppenheimer (embarrassingly a professor at my alma mater) manages to combine demagoguing against Mexican immigration with climate alarmism

Climbing temperatures are expected to raise sea levels and increase droughts, floods, heat waves and wildfires.

Now, scientists are predicting another consequence of climate change: mass migration to the United States.

Between 1.4 million and 6.7 million Mexicans could migrate to the U.S. by 2080 as climate change reduces crop yields and agricultural production in Mexico, according to a study published online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The number could amount to 10% of the current population of Mexicans ages 15 to 65.

The proceedings of the NAS has become a joke of late.  Roger Pielke Jr responded:

To be blunt, the paper is guesswork piled on top of "what ifs" built on a foundation of tenuous assumptions. The authors seem to want to have things both ways -- they readily acknowledge the many and important limitations of their study, but then go on to assert that "it is nevertheless instructive to predict future migrant flows for Mexico using the estimates at hand to assess the possible magnitude of climate change"“related emigration." It can't be both -- if the paper has many important limitations, then this means that that it is not particularly instructive. With respect to predicting immigration in 2080 (!), admitting limitations is no serious flaw.

To use this paper as a prediction of anything would be a mistake. It is a tentative sensitivity study of the effects of one variable on another, where the relationship between the two is itself questionable but more importantly, dependent upon many other far more important factors. The authors admit this when they write, "It is important to note that our projections should be interpreted in a ceteris paribus manner, as many other factors besides climate could potentially influence migration from Mexico to the United States." but then right after they assert, "Our projections are informative,nevertheless, in quantifying the potential magnitude of impacts of climate change on out-migration." It is almost as if the paper is written to be misinterpreted

I thought this response was instructive

Philip Martin, an expert in agricultural economics at UC Davis, said that he hadn't read the study but that making estimates based solely on climate change was virtually impossible.

"It is just awfully hard to separate climate change from the many, many other factors that affect people's decisions whether to stay in agriculture or move," he said.

The same exact statement, by the way, could be made as to the relationship of climate change to the single variable manmade CO2 without reference to the myriad of other factors that affect the complex climate system.

When Funding Battles Trump Mission

Some Federal agencies are able to maintain their mission over many decades without much change from administrations that come and go.  The National Park Service is a good example.

Other agencies, in the desire to get funding, constantly recast their mission based on whatever flavor of the month is hot.  Here was one example I cited before, from the NIH, which, amazingly, managed to recraft its mission in the context of climate change to make itself more immediately relevent to the Obama folks:

Remember, the point of this all is not science, but funding.  This is basically a glossy budget presentation, probably cranked out by some grad students over some beers, tasked to come up with scary but marginally plausible links between health issues and climate change.   Obama has said that climate is really, really important to him.  He has frozen a lot of agency budgets, and told them new money is only for programs that supports his major initiatives, like climate change.  So, every agency says that their every problem is due to climate change, just as every agency under Bush said that they were critical to fighting terrorism.  This document is the NIH salvo to get climate change money, not actual science.

I have worked with the US Forest Service for years as a private operator of many of their recreation sites (for whatever faults they might have, they have been an early innovator on privatization -- without it, they could never have kept all their recreation sites open given their budget constraints).  The USFS has always had a mission challenge.  They are specifically tasked with balancing five missions -- Environmental preservation, timber, minerals extraction, recreation, and ... I can't remember the other one.  Grazing maybe.

In practice, this has meant of late that whatever interest groups among these five who are willing to spend the most time in court are able to shape the USFS mission in their direction, and in practice this has meant environmental groups.  As a result, Timber, the main source of USFS funding (from private timber fees) has pretty much been killed in the USFS, creating a funding crisis.  With their very logical timber mission gone, the only thing the USFS is unique at is recreation, as it is (surprising to many people) the largest recreation organization in the world.  However, this seems to be next on the environmentalists' target list.

So I suppose it is no surprise that the US Forest Service has decided to abandon any sense of long-term mission and simply glom onto whatever is the pet issue of the current administration.  For this year, they have latched onto climate:

The Forest Service has issued a national road map for responding to climate change, along with a performance scorecard to measure how well each individual forest implements the strategy.The new blueprint outlines a series of short-term initiatives and longer-term projects for field units to address climate impacts on the country's forests and grasslands.

"A changing global climate brings increased uncertainties to the conservation of our natural resources," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement. "The new roadmap and scorecard system will help the Forest Service play a leadership role in responding to a changing climate and ensure that our national forests and grasslands continue to provide a wide range of benefits to all Americans."

The last sentence could be rewritten as "we will continue to do everything we have done in the past but relabel as much as we can as having to do with climate change."

I can only speak to the recreation component, but this is the largest recreation organization in the world.  In some sense this new mission is roughly equivalent to the National Park Service hypothetically announcing in the Bush administration that it was going to focus on the war on terror.  In many areas of the USFS they, at their own admission, have years or decades of deferred maintenance.  From watching them at close range, they very clearly don't have the resources to handle the missions they have already taken on, and so it is going to dedicate its resources to this:

Immediate assessment actions include providing basic and applied science to help managers respond to climate change, conducting workshops, utilizing national monitoring networks, furnishing more predictive information, developing vulnerability assessments, tailoring monitoring and aligning service policy and direction.

Longer-term assessment will focus on expanding the agency's capacity for assessing the social impacts of climate change, implementing a genetic resources conservation strategy and fortifying internal climate change partnerships.

To the extent that some of this means "monitor forest health," I thought the organization was already doing that.  As to the value of the rest of this stuff?  Forgetting for a minute if the work should even be undertaken, under what possible allocation of expertise in the Federal bureaucracy does "assessing the social impacts of climate change" fall under the purview of the Forest Service?