Arctic-gate: Harrison Schmitt, self-described “denier” of human-caused global warming, pushes myth that Arctic sea ice has recovered “to 1989 levels”!
Now it turns out he denies not only the basic reality that the planet is warming and humans are a major cause — but he denies even more basic scientific observations in this collection of long-debunked denier talking points sent to NASA:
How long this cooling trend will persist remains to be seen; however, Greenland glaciers have been advancing since 2006, Artic [sic] sea ice has returned to 1989 levels of coverage….Schmitt here channels Groucho Marx: Who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?
First, it’s hard to be in a cooling trend when you’ve just had the hottest decade on record, the hottest 12-month period on record, and a calendar year that was tied with 2005 for the hottest on record in both the NOAA and NASA dataset. It’s pretty incredible, when you think about it, that a man that NASA put on the moon and brought home safely now denies basic NASA data!
Second, in his debunking post, physicist John Cook notes, “Greenland has been losing over 200 billion tonnes of ice per year.” Schmitt’s denier talking point is years old. In fact, a major newstudy in Environmental Research Letters reported in Science Daily reports, “2010 set new records for the melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet” — beating out the old record of … wait for it … 2007! The “exceptional” melt season stretched up to 50 days longer than average in some areas.
Third, and most absurd, is Schmitt’s claim that Arctic sea ice has recovered to 1989 levels! Readers know that is outrageous falsehood (see Arctic Death Spiral 2010: Navy’s oceanographer tells Congress, “the volume of ice as of last September has never been lower…in the last several thousand years”).
What follows is an extended excerpt (with charts) from Prof. Scott Mandia’s blog asking how Schmitt can head New Mexico’s Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department “IF HE CANNOT READ A GRAPH and HE DENIES WELL-SUPPORTED CLIMATE SCIENCE?”
Schmitt submitted a paper to NASA in 2009 which was filled with physical nonsense. In it, he stated, “Artic (sic) sea ice has returned to 1989 levels of coverage.” Mark Boslough, a physicist and computational modeler and an adjunct professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences at University of New Mexico, wrote in the Sante Fe New Mexican newspaper:
”I wrote to him, politely pointing out that this was not true, and directing him to the data from the National Snow and Ice Data Center (the ice extent in 2009 had not recovered, and as of this writing is at an all-time winter low). He responded, but never made the necessary correction. Anyone can make a mistake, but scientific integrity requires that authors own up to mistakes and fix them.”Below is the NSDIC Arctic sea ice extent plot that is very well-known because it is well-publicized. Of course, Schmitt must have looked at this same graph when he made his statement. Did he not see that well-defined downward trend line? If he did not view the data, then why mention it in his NASA paper?
NSIDC Arctic Sea Ice Extent Downward Trend
Schmitt might also have seen this longer-term plot from NSIDC:
Arctic Sea Ice Extent Since 1953
For even more data Schmitt could have viewed this NSIDC page.
The NSIDC’s data clearly shows that Arctic sea ice is decreasing and did decrease between 1989 and 2009 so Schmitt was wrong when he wrote that there was a recovery of Arctic sea ice to 1989 levels.
Schmitt could also have viewed this very-well publicized plot of Arctic sea ice volume:
Arctic Ice Volume Trending Downward (PIOMAS)
Or perhaps he could have viewed the image below that shows a decline in Arctic sea ice thickness. This data includes declassified submarine data since 1958.
In his NASA paper, Schmitt concludes:
”Those who observe the natural, economic, and sociological aspects of climate change see no evidence indicating that human activities have influenced global climate. Actual observations show that climate varies in response to natural forces and that human burning of fossil fuels has had negligible if any effect over the last 100 years.”Also, in his paper, Mr. Schmitt makes many other claims that are unsupported by fact, including: (Click links for the correct science)
Of course, there is overwhelming evidence for human-caused global warming, and that is why there is an overwhelming scientific consensus.
- CO2 is saturated and cannot cause more warming
- Water vapor is the most powerful greenhouse gas
- It’s El Nino
- It’s the sun
- It’s cosmic rays
Given Schmitt’s position as a denier of well-understood climate science, it was hardly surprising that Joseph Bast, President of the Heartland Institute, wrote an article (January 31, 2011) in the Sante Fe New Mexican calling on Dr. Boslough to apologize to Schmitt. In that article, Mr. Bast was quite “economical with the truth” -- true to form for the Heartland Institute which is no friend of accurate climate science information.
In 2009, Schmitt resigned from the Planetary Society writing:
“The ‘global warming scare’ is being used as a political tool to increase government control over American lives, incomes and decision making. It has no place in the Society’s activities. As a geologist, I love Earth observations. But, it is ridiculous to tie this objective to a ‘consensus’ that humans are causing global warming in when human experience, geologic data and history, and current cooling can argue otherwise.”Schmitt really distances himself from reality with those statements. If the government wished to control our lives, why would it create a problem that is very difficult to resolve while simultaneously making no movement to enforce that control? Congress has made no real progress toward an energy policy and we are importing more fossil fuels than ever while increasing our carbon emission rates.
Global cooling? How does Schmitt think that the hottest decade on record means cooling? How does global cooling add heat to the oceans and melt surface ice at increasing rates?
… Now that Schmitt knows the truth, will he rethink his position, will he retract his claims, and will he apologize to the people of New Mexico for misleading them?
– Scott A. Mandia, Professor of Physical Sciences at Suffolk County Community College, Long Island, NY. Mandia holds an M.S. Meteorology from Penn State University and a B.S. Meteorology from University of Lowell (now called UMass – Lowell). Mandia has been teaching introductory meteorology and paleoclimatology courses for 23 years.For some debunking of the Heartland Institute’s tortured effort to hide the decline in Arctic ice, see Cook and Peter Gleick who has this nice chart in his post “Misrepresenting Climate Science“:
For why New Mexicans will suffer more than most Americans from unrestricted greenhouse gas emissions, see here and “U.S. southwest could see a 60-year drought like that of 12th century — only hotter — this century.”