(UPDATE: Added Subject Line to Memo Header)
December 15, 2013
Subject: Concerns about Upcoming Series Years of Living Dangerously
From: Bob Tisdale
To: James Cameron, Jerry Weintraub, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Daniel Abbasi, Joel Bach, David Gelber, Solly Granatstein, Maria Wilhelm
CC: Jessica Alba, Mark Bittman, Don Cheadle, Matt Damon, America Ferrera, Harrison Ford, Thomas Friedman, Michael C. Hall, Chris Hayes, Olivia Munn, M. Sanjayan, Ian Somerhalder, Lesley Stahl
Dear Executive Producers of Years of Living Dangerously:
I am writing to you as the executive producers of the upcoming ShowTime series Years of Living Dangerously to express a few concerns. I have also carbon copied the persons you currently list as starring in the shows.
The overview of the series on your website begins (my boldface):
YEARS of LIVING DANGEROUSLY is global warming like you’ve never seen it before. Coming to SHOWTIME in April, this multi-part television event tells the biggest story of our time: climate change and the impact it’s having on people right now in the US and all over the world. Over the course of eight episodes, we’ll report on the crippling effects of climate change-related weather events and the ways individuals, communities, companies and governments are struggling to find solutions to the biggest threat our world has ever faced.
In other words, you’re trying to link recent weather events around the globe to increased emissions of manmade greenhouse gases. There are two basic problems: one is based on science; the other is how the series will be perceived by the public.
THE SCIENTIFIC ASPECT
Please refer to the recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change: Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation, also known as the IPCC SREX report. Many of the points you’re attempting to make in Years of Living Dangerously contradict the IPCC findings. More on this later.
Please also refer to the testimony by three members of the climate science community who testified at the U.S. House Subcommittee on Environment held on December 11, 2013: A Factual Look at the Relationship Between Climate and Weather:
- Dr. John R. Christy, Professor and Director, Earth System Science Center, NSSTC, University of Alabama in Huntsville
- Dr. David Titley, Director, Center for Solutions to Weather and Climate Risk, Pennsylvania State University
- Dr. Roger Pielke Jr., Professor and Director, Center for Science and Technology Policy Research, University of Colorado
Of the three, Dr. Pielke Jr. presented the most data, using a series of self-explanatory illustrations, which follow (please click on the illustrations to enlarge):
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So the claims you appear to be trying to make in Years of Living Dangerously about global weather-related disasters–including hurricanes, global tropical cyclones, floods, tornados and drought–are not supported by data.
Much of Dr. Titley’s testimony was about sea level. However, there is a recent study that puts sea level rise into perspective.
Sea levels have climbed 100 to 120 meters (about 330 to 390 feet) since the end of the last ice age, and they were also 4 to 8 meters (13 to 26 feet) higher during the Eemian (the last interglacial period) than they are today. (Refer to the press release for the 2013 paper by Dahl-Jensen, et al. “Eemian Interglacial Reconstructed From a Greenland Folded Ice Core”.) Whether or not we curtail greenhouse gas emissions (assuming they significantly affect climate at all), if surface temperatures remain where they are (or even if they resume warming, or if surface temperatures were to cool a little in upcoming decades), sea levels will likely continue to rise. Refer also to Roger Pielke, Jr.’s post “How Much Sea Level Rise Would be Avoided by Aggressive CO2 Reductions?” It’s very possible, before the end of the Holocene (the current interglacial), that sea levels could reach the heights seen during the Eemian—4 to 8 meters (13 to 26 feet) higher than they are today. Some readers might believe it’s not a matter of if sea levels will reach that height; it’s a matter of when.
Thermal expansion is a major component of sea level rise, and the warming of the oceans is also reflected in sea surface temperature and ocean heat content data. But ocean heat content data for the past 55+ years and satellite-era sea surface temperature data both indicate that naturally occurring processes are responsible for that warming. I have been presenting and discussing this for 5 years. An introduction to the natural warming of the global oceans can be found in my illustrated essay “The Manmade Global Warming Challenge” (42MB).
Referring again to the recent House hearing, part of Dr. Christy’s testimony was about wildfires. He presented the above graph, showing that in 2013:
The year is well below average as shown in the graphic to the above (data from the National Interagency Fire Center http://www.nifc.gov/fireInfo/fireInfo_stats_totalFires.html).
I’ve added a linear trend to the data in the following graph to show that wildfires are showing a slight decline since 1985.
In your trailer for Years of Living Dangerously, Jerry Weintraub states:
The world is changing, and it’s all because of global warming, I think.
When data do not support your thoughts, it’s time to change your thoughts. That’s why I became skeptical of human-induced global warming.
Dr. Christy also presented a graph that showed how poorly climate models simulated tropical atmospheric temperature anomalies at the height of the mid-troposphere. The differences between the models and the observations are very easy to see in that graph.
Basically, Dr. Christy discussed how poorly climate models simulate tropical temperatures of the mid troposphere because all of the predictions of catastrophes are based on models. Plain and simple: If climate models cannot simulate the recent past, they cannot be used to predict the future.
Further to this, over the past few years, I have discussed and illustrated quite plainly in numerous posts at my blog Climate Observations and at the award-winning science blog WattsUpWithThat how climate models cannot simulate surface temperatures (both land and ocean), precipitation, or hemispheric sea ice area. I have collected and expanded on those posts in my book Climate Models Fail. In it, I also presented numerous scientific research papers that expose the serious flaws in climate models. Those studies found that the current generation of climate models (CMIP5) used by the IPCC for their 5th Assessment Report are not capable of properly simulating:
- The coupled ocean-atmosphere processes of El Niño and La Niña, the largest contributors to natural variations in global temperature and precipitation on annual, multiyear, and decadal timescales. (Recall that the 1997/98 El Niño was determined to be the cause of extreme weather around the globe. For years we heard that every weather event was caused by El Niño or La Nina. Not long thereafter that shifted to greenhouse gases…solely for political reasons.)
- Responses to volcanic eruptions, which can be so powerful that they can even counteract the effects of strong El Niño events.
- Precipitation — globally or regionally — including monsoons.
- Cloud cover.
- Sea surface temperatures.
- Global surface temperatures.
- Sea ice extent.
- Teleconnections, the mechanisms by which a change in a variable in one region of the globe causes a change in another region, even though those regions may be separated by thousands of kilometers.
- Blocking, which is associated with heat waves.
- The influence of El Niños on hurricanes.
- The coupled ocean-atmosphere processes associated with decadal and multidecadal variations in sea surface temperatures, which strongly impact land surface temperatures and precipitation (drought, floods, rainfall rates, etc.) on those same timescales.
Until the climate models are able to simulate those factors, the claims about present and future weather that you are trying to make in Years of Living Dangerously are nothing more than groundless conjecture. If you should happen to refer to climate models in any of your episodes to support your claims, then the series will be viewed as science fiction by those who understand how poorly climate models perform.
SPECIFIC STARS AND EPISODES
BroadwayWorld lists the stars and the topics they cover in their article Matt Damon & More to Explore Climate Change in Epic Showtime Docu-Series YEARS OF LIVING DANGEROUSLY. The following are comments about a few of them.
Mark Bittman (food journalist, author, and New York Times columnist) shoots two pieces: he explores rising sea levels and The Aftermath of Super Storm Sandy, with a focus on Union Beach, New Jersey; and, in an investigation that takes him all across the country, he tries to determine just how clean natural gas is.
Chris Hayes (MSNBC’s All In) shoots two pieces involving Super Storm Sandy: a U.S. congressman comes face to face with climate change when extreme weather hits close to home; two Far Rockaway families endure the winter following the destructive storm.
I have addressed misleading arguments about Hurricane Sandy in a number of blog posts. See here, here and here. In summary, for the extratropical portion of Sandy’s Storm Track (24N-40N, 80W-70W or basically the North Atlantic adjacent to Florida and northward to New Jersey):
- Sea surface temperature anomalies there have decreased, not increased, since the Great New England Hurricane of 1938. See the graph here.
- Lower troposphere temperature anomalies (temperature of the atmosphere at an altitude of about 3000 meters or 9800 feet) there show no warming since 1990. See the graph here.
- Relating to moisture in the air, the specific humidity (the ratio of water vapor to dry air—expressed in kilograms of water vapor per kilogram of dry air—at 2 meters above the surface) has not increased for the extratropical portion of Sandy’s storm track since 1990. See the graph here.
- Also relating to moisture in the air, the precipitable water (the amount of water in the column of atmosphere if all the water in that column were to be precipitated as rain) shows no trend there since 1985. See the graph here.
We’ve already discussed sea level.
Note: For associated discussions of Typhoon Haiyan see:
- Typhoon Haiyan Sea Surface Temperature Anomalies for Early Storm Track
- Tropical Cyclone Heat Potential – It’s All in the Presentation
- Games People Play
- Reality is Absent from Michael Mann’s Activist Article on Typhoon Haiyan
Don Cheadle (star of the Showtime series House of Lies) reports on the severe droughts in the Southwest, and sees if a town in Texas can rebound.
I suspect that when you were planning the show you were looking at drought maps from 2012. The November 2012 Palmer Drought Severity Index map follows.
Much can change in a year. The following gif animation presents the NOAA Palmer Drought Severity Index Maps from November 2012 through November 2013. (Source here.) It’s blatantly obvious that most of last year’s drought conditions in the Midwest are now gone and that the drought conditions in the Southwest have lessened. (You may need to click start the animation.)
Note: The September 2013 map was not available when I prepared the animation on December 14th.
(The idea for the animation comes from the post Romm’s Permanent Southwest Drought Disappears by Steve Goddard.)
Matt Damon (Elysium) examines the public health impact of heat waves as they sweep across Los Angeles and other cities around the globe.
The IPCC SREX report webpage was linked earlier. A link to the full report is here. On page 146, the IPCC writes (my boldface):
Kunkel et al. (2008) found that the United States has experienced a general decline in cold waves over the 20th century, with a spike of more cold waves in the 1980s. Further, they report a strong increase in heat waves since 1960, although the heat waves of the 1930s associated with extreme drought conditions still dominate the 1895-2005 time series.
Also, the Summary for Policymakers of the IPCC SREX report (here) states on page 7:
In many (but not all) regions over the globe with sufficient data, there is medium confidence that the length or number of warm spells or heat waves has increased.
The IPCC (here) defines “medium confidence” as “About 5 out of 10 chance” of being correct. In other words, the IPCC does not know if heat waves are increasing around the globe.
BroadwayWorld writes (my boldface):
Arnold Schwarzenegger (former Governor of California) treks deep into the forests of the American West, following a team of elite “Hot Shot” firefighters as they face what could be one of the worst fire seasons yet.
Curiously, in the Trailer for Years of Living Dangerously, Arnold Schwarzenegger states:
There is no wildfire season. We have wildfires all year round.
Some might think Arnold Schwarzenegger’s statement contradicts the BroadwayWorld article. Additionally, if we look again at the number of wildfires in 2013 from Dr. Christy’s recent testimony, (also linked here), 2013 will likely have one of the lowest total number of wildfires in the United States since 1985.
And last, BroadwayWorld writes:
Lesley Stahl (60 Minutes correspondent) travels to Greenland to explore the fate of the Arctic as global temperature increases melt the ice sheet at an unprecedented rate and unlock all sorts of new riches.
Just in case you’re not aware of this, there’s a recently study about the Greenland ice sheets by Briner et al. (2013) Amino acid ratios in reworked marine bivalve shells constrain Greenland Ice Sheet history during the Holocene. The press release Greenland’s shrunken ice sheet: We’ve been here before from the University of Buffalo SUNY is much less technical. They write:
BUFFALO, N.Y. — Think Greenland’s ice sheet is small today?
It was smaller — as small as it has ever been in recent history — from 3-5,000 years ago, according to scientists who studied the ice sheet’s history using a new technique they developed for interpreting the Arctic fossil record.
“What’s really interesting about this is that on land, the atmosphere was warmest between 9,000 and 5,000 years ago, maybe as late as 4,000 years ago. The oceans, on the other hand, were warmest between 5-3,000 years ago,” said Jason Briner, PhD, University at Buffalo associate professor of geology, who led the study.
“What it tells us is that the ice sheets might really respond to ocean temperatures,” he said. “It’s a clue to what might happen in the future as the Earth continues to warm.”
If sea surface temperatures 3 to 5 thousand years ago were causing Greenland ice sheets to be smaller than they are today, then the current ice sheet size is well within the realm of natural variability.
The second problem that I see with the series Years of Living Dangerously is how it will be perceived by the public.
One of my initial thoughts about your project was that you’d gathered a group of celebrities to promote energy sources other than fossil fuels. So I looked at those of you listed at the end of the trailer as executive producers—the front line for overall project content and finances. Of course I recognized James Cameron’s and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s names, as would many persons. I discovered that Maria Wilhelm was a business associate of and advisor to Mr. Cameron. I’ve also heard of movie producer and studio executive Jerry Weintraub, and the names Joel Bach, David Gelber and Solly Granatstein are recognizable from 60 Minutes. But I have never heard of Daniel Abbasi, who is called a “climate-change expert” or “climate expert” at the Variety, HuffingtonPost announcements and in other articles about your project.
Now, I’ve been studying global warming and climate change for a couple of decades—first as a true-blue believer in human-induced global warming, then as a skeptic. Many of the persons you’ve listed as science advisors to Years of Living Dangerously at your website are easily recognized eco-celebrities: Robert Corell, Heidi Cullen, Charles H. Greene, James Hansen, Katherine [sic] Hayhoe, Radley Horton, Michael Mann, Michael Oppenheimer, and Joseph Romm. But, sorry to say, Daniel Abbasi was not familiar to me as a “climate-change expert”.
That led me to the December 3, 2012 blog post Showtime To Air Climate Change Series From James Cameron, Jerry Weintraub and Arnold Schwarzenegger by your advisor Joseph Romm. Blogger Romm writes (my boldface):
The project is executive produced by James Cameron, Jerry Weintraub, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, along with Emmy®-winning 60 Minutes producers Joel Bach and David Gelber, and climate expert Daniel Abbasi.
Once again we see “climate expert Daniel Abbasi”.
Further, Romm writes (my boldface):
Abbasi, the founder of GameChange Capital, a venture capital firm funding low-carbon solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, will work with the series’ investigative team to identify and spotlight the most promising ways to decelerate climate change.
GameChange Capital describes itself as:
…a private equity investment firm that provides startup and growth capital to companies offering scalable and profitable solutions to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.
Interesting. “Climate expert Daniel Abbasi” is actually “venture capitalist Daniel Abbasi”. That will obviously be exploited by those who have different opinions than you about climate change.
Granted, one of your production companies, Avatar Alliance Foundation, is a non-profit organization. I wasn’t able to determine if the others are non-profits as well. Nonetheless, sorry to say, no matter how you try to frame Years of Living Dangerously many persons will view it as a group of multimillionaires attempting to increase their fortunes by profiting from the misfortunes of others. Then again, if you as individuals or as a group are not profiting from Years of Living Dangerously, many persons will view it simply as a small group of very fortunate people attempting to influence politics by exploiting the pain and suffering of people here in the U.S. and around the globe, without the basic consideration that your proposals, for example, will likely cause millions of people less fortunate than you to be driven into fuel poverty—with no justifiable reason for doing so, since data do not support your assumptions. And there will be others who will see Years of Living Dangerously solely as tunnel-visioned millionaires failing to recognize that countless millions of people around the globe are in need of help, right now, adapting to weather-related catastrophes, which have always existed and will continue to exist in the future. Basically, for all of those viewers, Years of Living Dangerously will be perceived as nothing more than just another group of installments in the seemingly non-stop series of climate porn.
Climate Porn is the title of a February 21, 2007 article in Cosmos Magazine authored by Tom Lowe. He writes:
By doing what they do best, the media have taken hold of the climate change debate and placed it firmly in the public and political psyche. However, its predominantly gloomy spin does not appear to have had a significant affect on our day-to-day behaviour; for the majority of people it’s business as usual.
The alarming way in which climate change is presented to the public was referred to recently by a leading U.K. think-tank as ‘climate porn’. It has been described as unreliable at best and counter-productive at worst.
See Lowe (2006) Is this climate porn? How does climate change communication affect our perceptions and behaviour? and Ereaut and Segnit (2006) Warm Words – How are we telling the climate story and can we tell it better?
Some will conclude you’ve fallen into the same trap…the failings of which were discussed 7 years ago.
At the beginning of your Trailer for Years of Living Dangerously, James Cameron used the “99 doctors” analogy. Because George Clooney had used the same argument in a recent interview, I wrote in that letter to Black and Clooney:
Let me ask: Would you see a podiatrist or a proctologist for a sore throat?
The climate science community, under the direction of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), has only been tasked with determining whether manmade factors, primarily carbon dioxide, could be responsible for the recent bout of global warming, and what the future might bring if the real world responds to projected increases in manmade greenhouse gases in ways that are similar to climate models. They were not asked to determine if naturally caused, sunlight-fueled processes could have caused the global warming over the past 30 years, or to determine the contribution of those natural factors in the future—thus all of the scrambling by climate scientists who are now trying to explain the hiatus in global warming. Refer to the IPCC’s History webpage (my boldface):
Today the IPCC’s role is as defined in Principles Governing IPCC Work, “…to assess on a comprehensive, objective, open and transparent basis the scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant to understanding the scientific basis of risk of human-induced climate change, its potential impacts and options for adaptation and mitigation…”
It is not the IPCC’s role to understand the scientific basis for naturally caused climate change, which the Earth has experienced all along. As a result, even after decades of modeling efforts, climate models still cannot simulate naturally occurring ocean-atmosphere processes that contribute to global warming or stop it. So a “doctors” example falls flat because it relies on experts whose understandings of climate are extremely limited in scope.
The climate science community and their models cannot explain and simulate the halt in surface temperature warming. (See Von Storch, et al. (2013) “Can Climate Models Explain the Recent Stagnation in Global Warming?”, and Fyfe et al. (2013) “Overestimated global warming over the past 20 years”.) If they can’t explain the halt, they can’t explain the prior warming.
And let me rewrite the closing of that post here:
I suspect many of you are open minded, but you haven’t really examined or been introduced to the fatal flaws in the hypothesis of human-induced global warming. Are you willing to research and discuss this topic? I have presented data and climate model outputs for the past 5 years, and I’ve discussed what I’ve found.
A prime example: because the warming of land surface air temperatures are primarily a response to the warming of sea surface temperatures, the current generation of climate models (CMIP5) has to double the observed rate of warming of the surface of the global oceans over the past 30+ years in order to have land surface temperatures in the models warming at rates that are close to the observations.
The models have to double the rate of warming of the surface temperatures of the global oceans! That atrocious, especially when we consider the decades and billions of dollars wasted by the climate science community chasing a fatally flawed hypothesis…all under the direction of the political entity known as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Data and climate model outputs are available to the public, in easy-to-use formats, through a number of sources. Most of my blog posts are also cross posted at the award-winning science blog, WattsUpWithThat, which is the world’s most-viewed website about climate change and global warming. I’ve also presented my findings in my ebooks. Please feel free to ask questions at my blog. I believe I can show you that climate models do not support the hypothesis of human-induced global warming. You may even come to understand the models contradict it.
In closing, I want to thank many of you for your efforts in disaster relief and other charities. But more time and money needs to be spent in proactive efforts to help developing nations create infrastructures, warning systems, evacuation plans, temporary storm shelters, etc., so that people around the globe are capable of moving out of harm’s way.
Cleaning up the Earth a little bit with solar panels and windmills is not going to stop rising sea levels, or tropical cyclones, or wildfires, or droughts, or floods, etc. Alternative energy sources will also not stop property losses and death tolls associated with weather-related natural disasters. Helping people and communities to respond safely and to adapt in better ways, however, will.
Enjoy your holidays.