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WWU Prof Easterbrook on Global Warming

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Local professor Dr. Don Easterbrook has an article featured today on the website, "Watts Up With That." Don writes about global climate changes and traces temperatures over the past 10,000 years.

Dr. Easterbrook is a Professor Emeritus of Geology at Western Washington University here in Bellingham. When I minored in geology back in the late 1960s for my degree from Western, Don was chair of the department. He is an easy-to-meet guy, open, and friendly. I took geomorphology from him, which is the study of how landscapes are created.

Don is called a climate "skeptic." That is, he does not buy the current popular belief that humans, and the excessive carbon dioxide we are putting into the atmosphere, is the primary cause of global warming. Indeed, along with most climate skeptics, he believes the global temperature is not even particularly warm. He has predicted the climate may even cool for the next 10 or 20 years, and will not rise significantly over this century. Don is now nationally known because of his scientific credentials and because he is in the minority of scientists on the anthropogenic global warming scenario.

Don's article is oriented toward a factual presentation of temperatures, with a rhetorical question at the end asking why we look for other than natural causes for the rise in global temperatures.

Ice cores taken from the Greenland ice cap allow us to trace yearly temperatures for over 100,000 years. They show our present 30 years of warming is very insignificant when compared to warming and cooling periods over the centuries. In the Middle Ages, the normal yearly temperature in North America and Europe was probably higher than it is now. Rome rose and flourished during a 500 year warm period like our own. But in 1977, scientists - and climatologists in particular - thought we may be entering a new ice age.

The link just below this article accesses Don's article and I've added a link to a short video which supports Dr. Easterbrook's article and gives a visual impression of the ice coring process.

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About John Servais

Posting Citizen Journalist • Fairhaven, Washington USA • Member since Feb 26, 2008

John started Northwest Citizen in 1995 to inform fellow citizens of serious local political issues that the Bellingham Herald was ignoring. With the help of donors from the beginning, he has [...]

Comments by Readers

Larry Horowitz

Jan 24, 2011

Dr. Easterbrook asks, ?If so many much more intense periods of warming occurred naturally in the past without increase in CO2, why should the mere coincidence of a small period of low magnitude warming this century be blamed on CO2??

Certainly, it?s a fair question, but it underscores the fact that global warming is just the tip of the iceberg.  There are many issues intertwined with CO2, the burning of fossil fuels (including gasoline, fuel oil, coal and natural gas), and the deforestation of our planet.

Entrepreneurs and master traders see limiting CO2 as a lucrative market.  Environmentalists see it as another reason to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and protect our forestland.  Steady-Staters, who understand that peak oil is in our rear-view mirror and who promote a steady state economy, recognize that a planet with finite resources cannot generate unlimited population or economic growth. 

We need to take a more holistic approach in dealing with the world?s most critical problems.  Solutions designed in a vacuum won?t provide long-lasting results.

So many of our problems are inter-related, including rapid climate change, peak oil, economic collapse, species extinction, global water crisis, etc.  Who is looking at the big picture?


David Marshak

Jan 25, 2011

Easterbrook concludes, “Temperature changes recorded in the GISP2 ice core from the Greenland Ice Sheet show that the magnitude of global warming experienced during the past century is insignificant compared to the magnitude of the profound natural climate reversals over the past 25,000 years, which preceded any significant rise of atmospheric CO2.”

He’s correct about the above.

Then he asks, ” If so many much more intense periods of warming occurred naturally in the past without increase in CO2, why should the mere coincidence of a small period of low magnitude warming this century be blamed on CO2?”

The way that science works often is that someone articulates a theory, based on analysis or reasoning or intuition or, once in awhile, a dream?and then scientists observe phenomena to see if the theory is supported by data in the world.

The global warming/climate change theory was articulated several decades ago. So, far, on the whole, the data seem to support it. And Easterbrook acknowledges that there is warming.

It really doesn’t matter what caused warming and cooling in the past, because we are not living in those conditions. Given the character of the atmosphere in 1900 or even in 1950, we are experiencing a significant change, with every indication so far of an intensification of that change in coming decades. These are the data that are in play now.

The way science works is that if you state a theory which contains a causal relationship between two phenomena?and the theory’s prediction is enacted in the physical world, the epistemology of science acknowledges a causal relationship between those two phenomena, until the causation is disproven by other data.


John Servais

Jan 25, 2011

Yes, David.  And perhaps a close look at the ice core record is that very “data” that will disprove the “causation” as you put it.  This goes to the nubbin of the debate - what data supports which theories.  And what is needed is honesty by scientists about the data.  Today that honesty is being questioned.

I think you present a too loose theory of how science works.  You narrowly draw that one theory is supported by some data - while ignoring that other theories might also be supported by other data.  The tone and thrust of your comment has much in common with what I have read the past several years about global warming.  And is what caused me to start questioning the basis of the man made global warming.  I’m a liberal tree hugger and two years ago would not have dreamed of ever doubting the man made theory.  But writing like yours is so blatantly twisted in its efforts to support the man made concept that I am now a skeptic.


Larry Horowitz

Jan 25, 2011

Certainly, correlation does not imply causation.  The belief that correlation proves causation is a logical fallacy.  That being said, I personally believe the point is moot, for the reasons I proposed earlier.

Regardless of whether man-made CO2 is causing global warming (or even climate change in general), the burning of fossil fuels will eventually end when we run out of fossil fuels, and the deforestation will eventually end when all forests have been denuded. 

Before that happens, life may become so miserable that global warming and other climate changes may be insignificant in terms of the overall misery index.  In the interim, CO2-as-the-cause-of-global- warming will be used by those who hope to profit from a cap-and-trade scheme and those who hope to convince the rest of us to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels.

Is there any question that we need to change the way we treat our natural capital ? both resources and sinks?  Continuing to treat non-renewable resources - like oil, natural gas, and coal - as income rather than capital is simply ludicrous and is akin to spending funds from your retirement account and believing you?ve increased your net worth.  What will we do when these resources are gone?

The exploitation of our renewable resources - like forests and fertile soil - faster than they can be replenished must also be abandoned.  Not to mention the enormous amount of crap we deposit in the earth?s rapidly shrinking sinks.

We need a holisitic solution that addresses the necessity of a clean, renewable and inexpensive energy source not dependent upon a centralized distribution system.  We need to understand that we cannot have infinite growth on a finite planet and resolve to consider the scope of our economy and our population size in light of those limitations.  We need to internalize all costs of production (local externalities) to prevent the unintended and uncompensated spillover effect of market-based transactions that ignore the adverse impacts on those not party to the transaction itself.  And we need to establish firm limits on all pervasive externalities that are slowly, but increasingly, killing the ecosystem that supports life.

Would it be a good idea to reduce man-made CO2?  Sure.  Will simply reducing CO2 make much difference in the long run if a holistic solution is not implemented?  What do you think?


David Marshak

Jan 26, 2011

Hi John,

Here’s your characterization of my comment: “But writing like yours is so blatantly twisted in its efforts to support the man made concept that I am now a skeptic.”

Could you please explain to me what you see in my comment that is “so blatantly twisted”? To me, this seems like intensely emotional language in response to
what is a simple description of the relationship among theory, data, and claims of causation within the scientific enterprise.




David Marshak

Jan 26, 2011


I agree with your overall analysis and conclusions.

You are right to say that correlation does not prove causation. But, scientists, both physical and social, consider implications between cause and effect all the time. Implication is often the first step toward investigating a causal theory in the physical sciences. And in the social sciences, no one ever really “proves” anything. Every “proof” of causation is a correlation at a high or very high degree of statistical probability.


Larry Horowitz

Jan 26, 2011


My primary concern with the whole global warming debate is that the ultimate winner may very well walk away with the door prize on the Titanic.

Earth?s ship is sinking, and global warming is simply one of many canaries in the coal mine.  As a species, we have violated virtually every natural law conceivable.  A war with nature is not winnable. 

Our economic system has never considered the concept of scale.  How large can the global economy grow given the finite limits of a planet whose circumference stopped expanding eons ago?  We are on the verge of using up our entire allotment of non-renewable resources, and we are destroying our renewable resource capital as well. 

By ignoring these critical problems for decades, we find ourselves in a predicament that cannot be solved, but only managed.  When will we start managing our predicament?

As I see it, many of these problems revolve around energy.  Once again, I?ll provide a link to a white paper on potential breakthrough energy technologies.  Some of these technologies have already made it to market, one of them by a company in our neighboring state of Idaho.  If anyone with a physics and electrical engineering background is reading, perhaps they?ll chime in:



David Camp

Jan 26, 2011

John - whether anthropogenic activities contribute 10% or 60^ or whatever portion of the warming trend we are living in, and whether or not this is a 100-year, 1000-year, or 10,000 year warming event, I’m concerned that very greedy and short-sighted people who profit from unsustainable fossil fuel extraction to the detriment of the planet are promoting their own vested profit interest by paying vast sums to discredit the idea and/or the proponents of anthropogenic global warming.

Prof Easterbrook’s data demonstrates the wide swings which have occurred in global climate, without any assistance from the oil industry! However, I’m more concerned with the SPEED of the change and the increasing randomness of climatic events, and their necessary effect: causing the mass migration of humans to avoid bad conditions and seek better ones. There are now so many of us on the planet that these mass movements may be greater than any others in history - to make the 12 million folksdeutsche who fled eastern Europe after the soviets occupied it in 1945 look like a family hike. COnsider this - a sea level rise of 8 feet reduces the farmable area of Bangladesh by over one-third. WHat will the government of India do faced with 30 or 40 million starving Bangladeshes whose homes and farms are now below sea level?

I think we are in a favorable place in North America. But as Larry correctly pointed out, we must overthrow and abandon a central tenet of our mammonic religion - that perpetual growth is achievable, let alone a good thing.


Tom Pratum

Jan 26, 2011

As a scientist myself, I agree almost completely with what David M. has said. Yes, the temperature of the earth does appear to have changed significantly up and down in over the relatively distant past. However, scientific modeling, based on current understanding of all of the dynamics that go into our climate, indicates that CO2 will cause the earth to warm, and that the indicated warming is similar to what has been observed over recent years, as CO2 has risen.

CO2 continues to rise - should we not be alarmed (as David C also alludes to)? Or should we listen to one of our “merchants of doubt” (to use a phrase from a recent work)? Easterbrook presents one scientific argument that is not really relevant to what we should - in my opinion - be concerned about.

I also must say that I completely agree with Larry - really, let’s get off this fossil fuel train before it is too late.


John Servais

Jan 26, 2011

Two issues are continuously conflated into one issue. 

1.  What is the cause of global climate changes - and specifically, should we be alarmed about the temperature rise these past 30 years?

2. Is excessive pollution being pumped into our atmosphere something that should be reduced, regardless of whether it has any impact on climate? 

It seems many feel that unless a looming catastrophe is facing us that people will not make changes that are of benefit to us.  So a linkage is found between air pollution and climate change - and the global warming is then heralded as the end of the world.  This false linkage is seen as necessary to motivate change and thus justified.

Read the posts and note that all say we need to reduce pollution.  Nothing I wrote suggests otherwise.  Yet if one does not agree with linkage between pollution and climate change then one is condemned.

For 100,000 years the climate has changed much more than it is now - and yet these writers are saying that the past 100 years is somehow different.  The facts do not support them.  Climategate - the leaked emails from the world center promoting man made climate change - showed that the scientists falsified the facts.  Indeed, a careful following of the science shows bad science in gathering data and then modifying it further to serve the goal of exaggerating climate warming. 

Not one comment has attacked the credibility of the 100,000 year history that Dr. Easterbrook wrote of.  Note all these comments attack motives, and show an anger at “greedy persons”.  They mix up their anger and concepts of right living with scientific causes of global climate changes.

Pollution is bad and should be reduced for many reasons.  Saving the world is not one of them.  Mr. Pratum may be a scientist, and I might inform him that I worked in the Air Force Weather Service for years.  I do have an understanding of what I write.  And I’m a liberal and green - but I still believe we need to be honest with our science regardless of what the conclusion are.


Larry Horowitz

Jan 26, 2011


Unfortunately, I agree with your basic premise:  Enough of us will not change unless we face a looming catastrophe.  Perhaps that explains why most ? if not all - civilizations eventually perish.  By the time we recognize the predicament we?re in, it?s too late.

Considering our current dilemma, I believe global warming is just one of many potential catastrophes.  Is it possible the linkage between man-made CO2 and global warming is false?  Yes, I believe it is.  Do I believe that will matter in the long-run?  No, I don?t.

Many of our planet?s life support systems - not to mention the global economy - are in tatters.  Besides rapid climate change, we face severe shortages of many critical non-renewable resources, a global water crisis, insufficient arable land, and species extinction.  At any time, we may drown, starve, die of thirst, or become so poor we cannot provide basic necessities. 

What?s sad is that our predicament was predicted years ago by so many ?visionaries?.  Two of my favorites are economist E.F. Schumacher, author of ?Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered? and Herman Daly who wrote ?For the Common Good: Redirecting the Economy Toward Community, the Environment and a Sustainable Future.?

The looming catastrophes are clear to see for anyone who looks, as are solutions that would allow us to manage our predicament, if not solve our problems.

So, will we perish because of our failure to act?  Probably. 

In the meantime, rather than argue whether the link between man-made CO2 and global warming is true or false, perhaps our time would be better spent contemplating our failure to act when our predicament is so clear.

Are we experiencing learned helplessness?  Is there an invisible hand (or some powerful force) preventing us from acting in our own best interest? 

Why do we fail to act when it?s so obvious we should?


Tom Pratum

Jan 26, 2011

Gosh John, I seem to have offended you - I didn’t mean to do that. I certainly respect your opinion, and wouldn’t mean to imply that you don’t know what you are talking about - you are merely giving your opinion and I do respect that. However, you are not qualified to comment on global climate models - nor am I. However, I trust the scientific community that works on these issues. You apparently don’t trust them, and that is certainly your right. If you don’t trust them then there is really nothing to take their place…... just your own unqualified opinion….


John Servais

Jan 26, 2011

Tom - no insult taken.  None given - at least not intentionally. 

I want to trust the scientific community.  I can read their stuff and understand what they are writing.  From that I do not imply that I am qualified to do their research.  However, I do feel confident to read them with a critical attitude and not with an accepting reverence.  I do expect them to make sense and follow the facts.  When I think they are wrong then I’m not shy. 

There are sooo many examples of the scientific community getting something totally wrong and an “unqualified” person getting it so right.  We all should feel free to question scientists and insist the explain themselves fully.  If they do not then we should question their results.  I always think of Alfred Wegener - whom I read as a young guy in the 1950s - when he was considered a kook.  There are many other examples. 

Larry - thanks for seeing what I was trying to communicate.  My best response to your question is that we need to be truthful and our leaders need to be truthful.  The elites really do doubt the ability of regular people to understand issues and to make the right decisions.  As such the elites continue to frame almost every issue there is into a distorted scenario that they will motivate people.  Religion, work, education, art, sports, science - almost everything.

When honesty is used, people have always surprised and baffled the elites with correct action.  One of the very best examples is the 1970s oil crisis.  We all knew we needed to conserve gas in our cars.  So we did - all across America.  And the leaders of government and industry were aghast.  They never thought it would happen - and so they rewarded us by raising taxes and relaxing their efforts.  Our gas saving upset the balance of exploitive industries and governments that depended on our consuming great qualities of oil. 

I don’t think the world is on a downward slope any more than it was in past times of crisis.  We need to be honest with each other.  This one of the motivations for this website - to provide a place for dialog between real people on most any subject.


Larry Horowitz

Jan 26, 2011


Perhaps you are right ? that the world is not ?on a downward slope any more than it was in past times of crisis.?  Indeed, I hope you are.  But my gut tells me otherwise.

So much of our lives revolves around access to affordable energy.  The entire industrial economy requires it, not to mention agriculture.  While the existence of global warming ? and its cause ? can be debated ad nauseam, there seems to be little doubt that peak oil is in our rear view mirror.  In many ways, we have either reached or have overshot the planet?s carrying capacity.  This hasn?t been the case during past crises.  Peak oil is just the beginning, as many predict ?peak everything? within the next century.  While you and I may not live another hundred years, we must consider the legacy we leave. 

The difference between today?s predicament and yesterday?s problems - I believe - is in scope and scale.  We have reached the point where we do make a dent in the planet?s ability to sustain us.  Critical mass has been reached.

Again, I unfortunately agree with your premise that our ?leaders? have not been honest with us.  Within the last hour, I received an automated email from G. Edward Griffin, author of ?Creature from Jekyll Island: A Second Look at the Federal Reserve.?  Griffin is introducing a new release by Cuban-born historian Servando Gonzalez, ?Psychological Warfare and the New World Order: The Secret War Against the American People.?  Gonzalez writes about the mother of all conspiracy theories, which ties into your observation.  Are we being told white lies or really dark ones?  Are the ones who create these lies benign or malevolent? 

There?s an interesting story I?ve read from at least three different sources about JP Morgan and Nikola Tesla, which ties into David Camp?s concern about ?very greedy and short-sighted people who profit from unsustainable fossil fuel extraction to the detriment of the planet.?  As G. Edward Griffin likes to say, in the history of mankind ?conspiracies have been the rule rather than the exception.?

Of course, each person prefers their own conspiracy theories, so I won?t elaborate.  If you should find the time, I highly recommend Griffin?s ?Creature? and suspect Gonzalez?s ?PSYWAR? will be equally interesting and enlightening.


Tip Johnson

Jan 27, 2011

I am concerned not just about carbon, but also the sulfur common to fossil fuels.  These are now thought to play a major role in acidification of the oceans.  We can survive the ocean’s rise and fall, but it’s death would be truly catastrophic.

I can’t say with certainty to what extent anthropomorphic sources are responsible for measurable warming and acidification, but it does seem silly. If we are sufficiently concerned about atmospheric levels to prioritize technologies that can sequester carbon, how does it make sense to base our economy on burning the already sequestered stuff?

For me, it’s about system balance and the precautionary principle.  We don’t need all the data to be indisputable and have one final answer.  In a complex, multi-variate, non-linear system, the data may always have quirks and a single answer ever elusive.  But we can always strive toward sensible balance within system Earth.  For instance, If we are going to burn sequestered carbon, we might think twice about deforesting the planet.

Humans are not yet very good at accepting a systems paradigm of freedom within constraints.  This seems to me to stem from inequitable economic and political models that leave a vast majority with basic needs unfulfilled, while a few exploit the resources and take advantage of demand.

As a good friend once said, “You can destroy anything if it will make a buck.”

Earth First! And then we’ll destroy the other planets?


David Camp

Jan 29, 2011

John, you wrote:

“Not one comment has attacked the credibility of the 100,000 year history that Dr. Easterbrook wrote of.  Note all these comments attack motives, and show an anger at ?greedy persons?.  They mix up their anger and concepts of right living with scientific causes of global climate changes.”

I can’t leave this unchallenged - you quoted my comment about “greedy persons”, which I prefaced with my take on the uncertainties of global warming and its causes. No conflation - the point I was making, perhaps a little opaquely, was that the deceptive and misleading PR campaign to attack the science of AGM is almost entirely funded by the oil and coal industries.

To say that their motives are not pure is to state the obvious. Now I seriously doubt that you are arguing duplicitously with the intent to deceive. However, your arguments support the positions of those who are. A lot of the static you are getting is coming from this: why are you the friend of my enemy?


John Servais

Jan 29, 2011

David - to put is succinctly - I am a liberal.  I seek the truth and make decisions based on the best I can find. If the facts lead one way, then I go there. 

If corporations have dirty motives, I don’t care.  What amazes me about my liberal friends is they - you - seem way too concerned with something maybe benefiting large corporations.  The anti-business and anti- big corporations that is so pervasive tends to blind many to what are the facts.  Your whole comment tip toes around whether or not the Easterbrook’s article is correct.  You seem horrified it might be correct - and thus it might support those dirty bastardly corporations.  You end by asking if I - horror of horrors - am a friend of large corporations. 

This is the old tribal politics still at work.  I don’t buy it. The question is - is Easterbrook’s narrative a truthful description of the temperature and ice core record?  Or has he distorted that record - as Manning did with the hockey stick graph?  We need to construct our climate analysis one step at a time.



Jan 29, 2011

Speaking of deceptive and misleading PR campaigns; you would enjoy pulling back the covers and seeing who Al Gore et al are sleeping with!!


Larry Horowitz

Jan 29, 2011


I appreciate your desire to get to the bottom of the global warming debate.  Perhaps you can explain why?

As I see it, regardless of the diagnosis, the recommended treatment is the same.  Is it possible that by the time scientists actually ?agree? - assuming they EVER will - our window of opportunity will have already closed?  Some things just cannot wait for scientific consensus.  Getting caught up in the debate is simply wasted energy (pun intended).

Is there any doubt that CO2 ?contributes? to the greenhouse effect?  Even if the burning of fossil fuels isn?t the sole cause of increased temperatures (in fact, even if the burning of fossil fuels has absolutely no impact on climate), would anyone seriously recommend that we simply continue on?  Do we even have that option?  Quoting scientist Tom Pratum, ?let?s get off this fossil fuel train before it is too late? - assuming it?s not already too late.

I am grateful that you have introduced this topic on your NWCitizen blog; but getting bogged down in a debate that has no chance of bearing fruit is pointless. 

Wouldn?t it be better that the dialogue focus on what we can do ? indeed, what we must do?


John Servais

Jan 29, 2011

Larry - I’ll respond to each of your paragraphs.

First.  Actually, there is no intention to “? get to the bottom of the global warming debate.”  The desire or intention was to see if anyone could provide a factual basis for not accepting the facts in Easterbrook’s article.  Whether his article is in general true or a distortion of the ice core record.  Regardless, it is only one small part of all the facts we need in order to understand what may or may not be happening with our climate.

Second graph.  As I see it, we need a diagnosis before we can apply treatment.  That seems basic to anything.  Else we may aggravate a problem or ignore treatment that actually would do good.  I reject the sky is falling down attitude towards every problem. 

Third.  Yes, there is serious doubt about CO2 contributing substantially to greenhouse warming.  No, I would not endorse the excessive burning of fossil fuels - and find it sad that you would even imply that I might link the lack of CO2 causing catastrophic warming with a disinterest in a clean environment.  There are also all the other pollutants.  We should reduce pollution. 

If I were to cite the human endeavor most damaging to earth, weather and human interests, that endeavor would be the deforestation of the world.  This is continuing - and we have evidence with it causing the degradation of societies for thousands of years.  The balance of the oceans is another - as we pollute and also do mass fishing that wipes out so much.  CO2 may be number 3 or even 10 on our list of bad things.  While there is concern about these others, there is not the panic I see about CO2. 

Scientists have a record going back decades of not being honest in their researches and in their reports.  We put too much reverence in the name “scientist”.  They need to be held accountable like any other profession - and when they lie then they should be called out by other scientists.  Sadly, like most professions, there is cover up instead of self policing.

Fourth.  The subject has been months in consideration for introduction here.  Any writer with this website can post an article and allow comments.  You, Tom Pratum - or another.  I am open to a guest article on this broad subject of climate change.  Debate is bogged down on this subject nationally and internationally.  We should continue to discuss.  It would help if global warming partisans would look critically at the facts being presented and would respect those who disagree with them.  One commenter has already raged at me in private emails and says he will never post here again. 

And finally, we can all live “greener”, to use the current fad word.  I find it hilarious to listen to a super greenie lecture others and then fly off to Europe for a vacation - bringing their dog with them in a special compartment.  The dog uses up as much energy on that flight as a lifetime of writing on both sides of scrap paper.  And the dog puts a lot of CO2 into the atmosphere on those flights.

To add - our American culture has used guilt to motivate people since the Puritans arrived.  Intelligent and educated leaders distort the facts and perceived reality of issues in order to put guilt on people.  If you are not successful, then it is your “fault”, not an economy and government that allows only a few to prosper, to suggest only one example.  Now on pollution, the elite are creating a false end of the world fear in order to guilt everyone into polluting less.  I think we should pollute less because that is right and it is how we can care for our world and environment and leave a good world for future generations.  That is enough motivation for me.


Larry Horowitz

Jan 29, 2011


I am sorry that a commenter has raged at you in private emails and has chosen to never post again.  That is unfortunate.

But I want you to know that I did not imply that you might ?link the lack of CO2 causing catastrophic warming with a disinterest in a clean environment.?  I have re-read (and re-re-read) my previous comment, and it?s not clear why you might have thought I did.

It was my understanding that you were interested in getting to the bottom of the global warming debate because of your earlier comment (on 1/26 @ 7:48 pm) in which you asked, ?What is the cause of global climate changes - and specifically, should we be alarmed about the temperature rise these past 30 years??  When you posed that question, I presumed you were interested in the answer.

As far as getting a diagnosis as to what is causing global climate changes, I maintain that scientists will never agree ? or at least not in time to implement treatment.  More than likely, the cause is so complex and fluid, it is beyond our scientists? ability to diagnosis.  Considering the fact that many scientists have hired themselves out as mercenaries, the debate / battle will likely rage on long past the point of no return.  In short, I don?t we believe we have the luxury of waiting for a reliably accurate diagnosis ? and I don?t believe we?ll ever get one.

There are things we can do now, several of which you mentioned.  We can limit, if not stop, deforestation.  We can drastically reduce pollution and mass fishing.  But, most importantly, we need to develop a clean, renewable, and inexpensive source of energy.  I firmly believe there are breakthrough energy technologies already being researched that will have greater impact than any of the other alternative energy sources.  The Orion Project has described many of these in their white paper.  Once again, I?ll provide a link to the Orion Project?s website.  Perhaps one of our gentle readers will actually take a look at their report and add their thoughts here.



John Servais

Jan 29, 2011


Your second sentence of the third graf gave the impression - at least to me - that you linked the two. To wit, it says “Even if the burning of fossil fuels isn?t the sole cause of increased temperatures, why would anyone continue burning them?”  Why link the two issues in the same sentence with conditionals if there is no linkage?  Anyway, my response was towards the words, not the author.

Yes, in the larger issue, we want to know what causes global change.  But this article by Easterbrook is focused on only one factual element in the larger question.  The paragraph was trying to do what I have tried to do repeatedly in this thread - separate out discussion of a fact from the larger issue.  I think that if the facts, as Easterbrook puts forth, are true then some see this as weakening the argument for CO2 being the primary cause of global warming.  Maybe yes, maybe no - but first we need to establish whether Easterbrook is playing fast and loose with data or whether his article is accurate. 

If Easterbrook’s article is accurate, then I would ask why is it not a major explanation of global climate change - including the warming we have experienced since about 1977?  But we can’t seem to get any agreement on the facts, and so cannot get into a discussion of competing causes. 

I don’t think we can say that scientists will never agree.  They can insist on high standards for honesty.  And many of the CO2 catastrophic warming scientists are taking in lots of money for their work - and it is legitimate to suggest they are serving a paymaster as much as to suggest for those who question global warming. 

I agree with you - that clean energy is available to us if we want it.


Paul deArmond

Jan 31, 2011

Zombie Arguments Ate My Brain

Climate denial.  It’s like a return of the Zombie arguments.  They eat your brain and they will not die.  Knocked down time and again, they rise from the dead and lurch around the landscape murmuring, “Braaaaains.  Braaains.  Brrraaaains. Must eat braaaaaaains.”

These are the standard denialist rhetorical flim-flams for going boldly where no rational human has been.  The list is long:  Truthers, Intelligent Designers, Creationists, John Birchers, LaRouchies, 2nd Amendment Insurrectionists, Holocaust Deniers, New World Order paranoids, etc. ad nauseum.

How’s it work?  In this case, it’s pretty simple.  First of all, set up a false authority.  Here it’s Don Easterbrook.  He’s not an atmospheric scientist, he’s a retired geologist.  So he’s got some expertise when it comes to pulling things out of the earth and analyzing them.  However, it’s not his work here, it’s somebody else’s.  Don’s a nice guy, but he’s not a climatologist and he’s not publishing in peer-reviewed journals.

To clarify Don Easterbrook’s relationship with Western Washington University, the geology department has made a formal policy statement on human-induced climate change.  http://geology.wwu.edu/dept/visitors/positions.shtml

Easterbrook’s no expert here.  Furthermore, he’s not a scientist in this article, he’s a polemicist doing popular science flackery for the Heartland Institute.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Heartland_Institute  First step accomplished:  get some heft behind the viewpoint you’re pushing, even if you have to make it up.

Second step, get some data.  It doesn’t really matter what the data is, just so there’s a lot of it.  It helps to make it look really scientific by graphing it.  Set up a big smoke screen of being really objective about this data.  A little slight of hand and nobody will notice the switcheroo if you do the setup right.  Make it sort of complicated so your reader will feel really smart that they are following along.

This is where John fell for the switcheroo:  hook, line and sinker.  Rose to it like a brook trout to a fly.  John’s subhead reads:  “Dr. Don Easterbrook looks at global temperature swings over thousands of years when CO2 remained constant.”

Sorry,  Wrong.  CO2 levels have varied historically and they have tracked global temperatures with varying amounts of lead and lag, but CO2 and temperature are related.  CO2 has not remained constant.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Co2-temperature-plot.svg

This is why Easterbrook doesn’t present any data about historical CO2 levels.  If he did, the rest of his polemic would fall apart.  Everything he has to say is about oxygen isotopes as northern hemisphere temperature proxies, not CO2.

So having planted the falsehood of constant CO2 (subtly, but it’s there:  John found it and embraced it) all sorts of bogus argumentation becomes possible.

But that’s not enough.  Gareth Renowden, author of “Hot Topic,” the first popular science book to examine global warming from a New Zealand perspective, was shortlisted for the Royal Society of NZ’s first ever Science Book Prize. The judges described it as “timely, lucid, and very readable”.  Gareth has a few things to say about Don Easterbrook’s chart.  Specifically, he says it is fraudulent.  http://hot-topic.co.nz/cooling-gate-easterbrook-fakes-his-figures-hides-the-incline/

The foundation of formal logic is that all propositions must be true.  With good logic, truthful propositions can lead to truthful conclusions.  False propositions are not allowed because they can lead to any implication, true or false.  There’s a strong burden on proponents to test their propositions.  It’s often shrugged off and this is why logic is subject to abuse.

The data Easterbrook presents shows only the variability of temperature—he’s got nothing to say about atmospheric composition except one instance of a 200 year period about 8,200 years ago.  Ok, climate is complex.  We knew that.  There are multiple causes of climatic change.  We knew that.  Or rather we know that, but Easterbrook seems to be arguing that CO2 is to be considered as a sole cause.  Nice straw man, but it sets up an argument that nobody is making and nobody should care if it gets knocked down.

The final rhetorical flourish at the end deserves a straight answer.  Easterbrook asks, “If so many much more intense periods of warming occurred naturally in the past without increase in CO2, why should the mere coincidence of a small period of low magnitude warming this century be blamed on CO2?”

Well, Don, if you look at the long record of CO2 concentration and don’t get involved in cherry picking data for premises that support your conclusion, you will see that there is a correlation over a longer time span than you concentrated on, so your premise is false.  By labeling this a “mere coincidence” you are begging the question.  Nice try, but I see what you did there.

CO2 is an influence on climate because the physics of long-wave infrared transmission by the atmosphere is an unalterable physical phenomenon based on physical constants and no amount of rhetoric, PR flackery or fraud is going to change that.  Climate is a complex system and there are many causes acting and interacting.  One of those causes at the present time is anthropogenic carbon dioxide.

There’s no real controversy here.  The baffle-gab thrown up by Fred Singer and his ilk would be shuffled off into tinfoil hat territory if not for the fifty years of heavy spending on misleading advertising and PR flackery by oil and chemical companies.  Fifty years of bullshit builds up to toxic levels and now we are harvesting the latest crop of brain-eating zombies spawned by this noxious compost.  As W.C. Fields said, “You can’t knock a sucker or smarten up a chump.”

There’s only controversy when there’s agreement on the facts and disagreement on the interpretation.  The infotainment media loves false controversy because it’s immortal and always good for getting some attention.  But it’s not a controversy and denial isn’t skepticism.

But it’s great fun.  Let’s do Creationism next.  Or maybe Sasquatch: Myth or Hoax?  Elvis:  Dead or Only Sleeping?  Lyndon LaRouche:  Rockefeller Stooge or Secret Royalist?  There are a lot of possibilities.  I’m sure it will get lots of comments and page views.


Some further reading:

Here’s a roundup of debunking the arguments being recycled by Watt’s Up With That http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2004/12/index/#Paleo

Remember all the denialism over ozone?  That was Fred Singer, too.  http://www.wunderground.com/blog/JeffMasters/comment.html?entrynum=1184&tstamp;=

Second hand cigarette smoke denialism? Singer again http://www.desmogblog.com/no-apology-is-owed-dr-s-fred-singer-and-none-will-be-forthcoming

And last but not least, Singer’s role with the Sun Myung Moon-financed Science and Environmental Policy Project (SEPP)  http://www.ucsusa.org/global_warming/science_and_impacts/global_warming_contrarians/global-warming-skeptic.html


John Servais

Jan 31, 2011

Well, Paul was certainly generous in his use of ad hominems.  And you can strip out two thirds of his post that is rant and still have the essence of his information.  But it is a fun and interesting read.

But he falls short.  He does not counter the extremes and patterns of temperature rise and fall over the past 100,000 years before any man made pollution.  He does not counter that the current 30 years of global warming are minor when compared to the 100k year record.

Paul points out that Don Easterbrook shows a “fraudulent” chart and provides a link to evidence.  The linked page discusses a chart that is not in Don’s article.  The link serves no purpose for discussion of this article.  Apparently in some other article, Don modified a chart and there is concern about that.  Indeed, in this article Don modifies the first chart of the three he uses, but he tell us he has done so.  No deception there.  However, Don does not attribute the other two charts and he should have.

Paul makes an early point about Easterbrook. Paul writes, “He?s not an atmospheric scientist, he?s a retired geologist.”  But when Paul cites Gareth Renowden for his criticism of Don’s graphs, Paul does not inform us that Gareth is also not an atmospheric scientist.  Nice double standard.  Nice omission.  That said, I think Gareth’s criticism is on target.  Don and Gareth have gone back and forth on Internet websites - and Paul’s links will help you there.  My point is - this is a legitimate debate.

For Paul to focus on CO2 is beside the point.  For whatever reasons, the world temperature varied widely before man made greenhouse gasses were a factor.  This leads to the legitimate question of whether humans are a large or very small factor in current warming. Paul has not countered that - regardless of his bombast, his calling me a sucker and his calling those who are skeptical as being brainless.  The base question is not “did CO2 vary” but “did temperature vary” over the past 100,000 years.

If CO2 increases drives up global temperatures, then we have had 100,000 years of CO2 increases and decreases due to natural causes that drove the temperature much higher and lower than we are seeing now.  I’ve no doubt that we humans are now adding to that total and that we should decrease our pollution.  But the argument that we humans are the primary cause is open to legitimate question.  There are several other very probable causes that would continue even if we cut our human emissions to zero this afternoon.  Solar as shown by the sunspots, earth’s various precessions, and other natural cycles.  We just do not know - and with the scientists fixated on human causes they may very well be missing the real causes.

Paul makes a big issue of how Western’s Geology Department has distanced itself from Don - and I have reason to believe this is true.  However, it is unfortunate that they profs there remain quiet and do not get involved in this issue - whether here or on other websites.  If any reader knows of them getting involved, please let me know and I’ll post links. 

Paul has rants against Heartland and other issues which seems intended to embarrass anyone from admitting they have serious questions about the current causes of global warming.  The question remains - are Don Easterbrook’s article and graphs false and misleading or are they basically correct?  Is the ice core record a good indication of past temperatures and, if so, does that record show the temperatures as Easterbrook has presented them to us?


Larry Horowitz

Jan 31, 2011


I am protesting my own response in advance because I believe the global warming debate has become a ?he said / she said sideshow?.  Continuing to over-analyze each side?s argument is not conducive to the real work of implementing an action plan to deal with the most important fact:  In the not too distant future, there will be no more fossil fuels to burn and the whole point will be moot.  We had better begin figuring out how we?re going to meet our local and global energy needs, and we had better do it soon.

OK, back to Easterbrook?s conclusion, which in my opinion is a logical fallacy.  Easterbrook?s conclusion - that we cannot blame anthropogenic CO2 for recent global warming - is based on his primary finding:  That the profound natural climate reversals over the past 25,000 years PRECEDED any significant rise of atmospheric CO2.  His finding implies that climate changes over the past 25,000 years is not linked to - nor even correlated with ? levels of atmospheric CO2.  Is Easterbrook?s finding valid?

As Paul de Armond states in his comment, ?CO2 levels have varied historically and they have tracked global temperatures with varying amounts of lead and lag, but CO2 and temperature are related.?  Paul links to a chart labeled ?Temperature and CO2 Records?, which clearly demonstrates that temperature anomalies and atmospheric CO2 fluctuations ARE very closely correlated over the last 800,000 years.  Certainly, there are leads and lags, so it is not unusual for temperatures to rise or fall before or after CO2 levels move in the same direction.  The bottom line is that Easterbrook?s finding that CO2 and temperature are not linked is not supported by the data.

(Note that, when addressing Greenland temperature fluctuations over the past 500 years, Easterbrook claims that ?None of these [temperature] changes could have been caused by changes in atmospheric CO2 because they predate the large CO2 emissions that began about 1945.?  This is another logical fallacy because it assumes that the only changes in atmospheric CO2 are anthropogenic ones, i.e., caused by burning fossil fuels.  That assumption is clearly false.  The chart referenced above illustrates dramatic swings in atmospheric CO2 over the last 800,000 years, well before burning man.  You cannot conclude that atmospheric CO2 did not fluctuate simply because no one was burning fossil fuels.)

The critical question is neither ?Did CO2 vary?? nor ?Did temperature vary?? but ?Besides the burning of fossil fuels, why does atmospheric CO2 fluctuate so greatly??  Assuming that question can be answered, then ?What portion of the recent rise in atmospheric CO2 is attributable to anthropogenic causes??

Again, I object to his whole line of questioning.  Even if we arrive at an answer, so what?  Won?t our response be the same regardless?  Fossil fuels are being depleted and will likely be gone within the next century.  Let?s deal with that.  It is almost certain that man will burn every ounce of fossil fuel he can reasonable get his hands on, and nothing we do will stop him, short of making it unprofitable to do so.  The best strategy is to develop a competitively priced source of energy, one that is abundantly renewable (if not infinite) and clean.

Besides the obvious wind, solar and geothermal, the Orion Project has identified some very intriguing breakthrough energy technologies.  For the third time now, I?ll provide a link to their white paper.



Jack Petree

Jan 31, 2011

The discussion, pro or con, gets all wrapped up in a “he said, she said,” contest of facts.

The result is, almost no one pays much attention to thinking about what the facts might mean and what the actual impact of climate change might be.

For example, we spent much of the 70s, 80s and 90s obsessing about acid rain so, we managed steps to dramatically reduce SO2 emissions.  SO2, also emitted by volcanos, is a global coolant.  So, if we take steps to clean up huge volumes of the SO2 and it is a coolant, what would the expected result be?

Almost completely ignored in the discussion in terms of global warming is the “So what?” factor.

Significant warming may cause harm in some places and benefit in others.  What is the net effect?  If the climate warms will we, in general, be able to grow more food or less food?  Cold appears to result in the deaths of far more people per year than heat does. So, on balance, are we killing people by not encouraging warming in areas of the world afflicted by severe cold?  Maybe, maybe not.

It appears to me a lot more study is indicated regarding whether we might not actually want more warming or not.

Last, much of the dedication to the climate change/global warming arguments result in calls to restrict whatever our political boogyman of the day might be (oil companies, etc.)

Meanwhile, people who are passionate about the discussion won’t walk across the street to help encourage technologies capable of significant impact but not so sexy pedigrees.

For example, we used to incinerate our garbage in Whatcom County and produce power from it.  Power produced that way reduces fossil fuel use, saves landfill space and reduces toxic garbage down to an ash that can be neutrialized and made useful as building materials.

Now we invest hundreds of tons of greenhouse gas emissions each year putting the garbage on trains and shipping it off to some destination hundreds of miles away. 

Or composting.  The whole purpose of efforts like our “Clean Green” initiative for getting rid of yard waste is to put the waste into piles, boil the carbon out of it for emission into the atmosphere then put it on the soil as a low grade amendment.

Instead, we could do anarobic composting inside containers designed to off gas the resulting methane, put it into pipes for mixing with natural gas and burn it to, again, offset fossil fuel use.

Do we do any of that?

Nah… easier to ship our troubles off to someplace out of sight then go down and type out a blog entry telling everyone how concerned we are about warming.


David MacLeod

Feb 26, 2011

I’m very late to the party here, and am not sure anyone will even be reading this comment…

Paul’s unfortunate “ad hominems” aside, he really did his homework on this one, and his arguments are compelling, backed up with references, and which Larry sums up in his last comment. Bottom line is that CO2 levels correlate with climate change through history.

John claims that “But he [Paul] falls short.  He does not counter the extremes and patterns of temperature rise and fall over the past 100,000 years before any man made pollution.  He does not counter that the current 30 years of global warming are minor when compared to the 100k year record.”

As David Marshak pointed out in his very first comment, what caused the warming and cooling of the planet in the past is somewhat beside the point. Obviously, climate change in the distant past was not “anthropogenic”! However, climate scientists have provided evidence that recent climate change is largely caused by human activity. The evidence continues to pile up, leading to a very strong consenus. 

The WWU Geology dept. rightly points out: “Decades of scientific research have shown that climate can change from both natural and anthropogenic causes. The Geology Faculty at WWU concur with rigorous, peer-reviewed assessments by the National Academies of Science (2005), the National Research Council (2006), and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, 2007) that global climate has warmed significantly and that human activities (mainly greenhouse-gas emissions) account for most of the warming since the middle 1900s. If current trends continue, the projected increase in global temperature by the end of the twenty-first century will result in large impacts on humans and other species. Addressing the challenges posed by climate change will require a combination of adaptation to the changes that are likely to occur and global reductions of carbon dioxide emissions from anthropogenic sources.”

Skeptics might want to check out Naomi Oreskes book “Merchants of Doubt,”

Larry’s point is well taken, that we need to look at the bigger picture of how all these problems of climate change, peak oil, and economic collapse are all related.  But I doubt we’re going to easily find a substitute to the incredible energy intensity of the ancient sunlight known as fossil fuels. The only sane response I see is to begin using much less, as suggested by Tip. Our future is to learn to live creatively with less and less available energy.

A fitting end to this discussion I think is a quote from a former Bellingham resident John Michael Greer (Paul may remember him from Fairhaven College?). Greer, now a prominent blogger on energy issues, states the following:

“Whether or not dumping billions of tons of CO2 every year from our tailpipes and smokestacks is the sole cause of this [climate] destabilization is really beside the point; if you happen to be sitting next to a sleeping grizzly bear, the fact that the bear may have its own reasons for waking up in a bad mood is not a good argument in favor of poking it repeatedly with a stick.”


David MacLeod

Sep 04, 2011

Re: “Easterbrook on the magnitude of Greenland GISP2 ice core data” (Jan 24, 2011)

John Servais wrote: “The question remains - are Don Easterbrook?s article and graphs false and misleading or are they basically correct?  Is the ice core record a good indication of past temperatures and, if so, does that record show the temperatures as Easterbrook has presented them to us? ”

OK John, I’m ready to answer head on: I have come to the conclusion that Easterbrook’s article and graphs are false and misleading.  The ice core record is a good indication of past temperatures, but that record DOES NOT show the temperatures as Easterbrook has presented them to us. The biggest error on Eastrbrook’s part is that what he is calling “present temperature” was the temperature in Greenland in 1855! Either he is being extremely sloppy, or he is being deceptive.  The 2nd largest error is that it is not appropriate to take a single ice core, no matter how good, and use it as a single proxy for the temperature record of the entire earth.

My previous response on this thread was mostly in response to the many excellent comments that were posted, rather than taking a good hard look at Easterbrook’s blog post itself. Yesterday, after reading two news articles discrediting other climate change deniers, I was reminded of this NW Citizen blog post from late January, and I came back to take a closer look.  I spent more time than I intended, sifting through numerous other web posts and rabbit trails, and found some important information that was not mentioned in any of the previous comments on this thread. 

The discussion on this thread has been extremely interesting, with important points made by each contributor. However, John kept coming back to a basic question about whether Easterbrook was providing a truthful description of the temperature and ice core record or if he was distorting that record. The question was repeated numerous times, but was never directly answered (though Paul de Armond came very, very close).  Most commenters were focused instead on what Larry Horowitz called Easterbrook’s logical fallacy in his conclusions, which I consider to be a very important point. 
But John kept bringing the focus back to this: “The desire or intention was to see if anyone could provide a factual basis for not accepting the facts in Easterbrook?s article.  Whether his article is in general true or a distortion of the ice core record.”

As I was looking into this, I ended up at the Hot Topic website, which I later realized was the same website Paul linked to, with discussion of the controversial graph Easterbrook had used in a previous post. It turns out that Gareth Renowden has deconstructed numerous Easterbrook articles, including the one under discussion here.  It is interesting that John didn’t find this information himself, as he did mention that “Don and Gareth have gone back and forth on Internet websites.”

It appears to me that Easterbrook has a habit of taking other peoples graphs, editing them to fit his message, and then referencing not the original graph maker, but the original source that the original graph maker used. Or at least it appears he has done this twice, first with the graph that Paul linked to, and second with the graph used in the article we are discussing. In this article he references “Cuffy and Clow” (mis-spelling Cuffey), but it appears that his graph is really based on the graph of the paleoclimatologist Richard Alley.  One of Alley’s references is “Cuffey, K.M., and G.D. Clow. 1997.” See Alley’s graph here: http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/paleo/pubs/alley2000/alley2000.gif

What Easterbrook apparently didn’t realize is that a convention in paleoclimatology is to use 1950 as the “present” date.  Alley’s data from GISP2 (Greenland Ice Sheet Project 2) has the last recorded data 95 years before present.  95 years before 1950 would be 1855.  Renowden checked with Alley, who confirmed 1855 as the last data set from GISP2.  I am perhaps being generous when I say Easterbrook didn’t realize this - it was pointed out as an error in a previous Easterbrook article, and yet he has continued to use this data to reflect present temperature.

So, when you look at Easterbrook’s conclusion (“Temperature changes recorded in the GISP2 ice core from the Greenland Ice Sheet show that the magnitude of global warming experienced during the past century is insignificant compared to the magnitude of the profound natural climate reversals over the past 25,000 years, which preceded any significant rise of atmospheric CO2…”), you have to ask, how can Easterbrook say anything about temperatures of the last 150 years if the only data he is considering ends in 1855?

The 2nd big error Easterbrook commits is using the GISP2 as a single proxy.  Let’s compare the words of Easterbrook, a retired geologist, with the words of Richard Alley, a working paleoclimatologist who has actually published in peer reviewed journals about the GISP2, and who is firmly convinced of human caused climate change.
Easterbrook: “Keep in mind that these are temperatures in Greenland, not global temperatures. However, correlation of the ice core temperatures with world-wide glacial fluctuations and correlation of modern Greenland temperatures with global temperatures confirms that the ice core record does indeed follow global temperature trends and is an excellent proxy for global changes.”

Richard Alley (published before the article referenced above, but relevant): “First off, no single temperature record from anywhere can prove or disprove global warming, because the temperature is a local record, and one site is not the whole world. One of the lessons drawn from comparing Greenland to Antarctica and many other places is that some of the temperature changes (the ice-age cycling) are very widespread and shared among most records, but other of the temperature changes (sometimes called millennial, or abrupt, or Younger-Dryas-type) are antiphased between Greenland and the south, and still other temperature changes may be unrelated between different places (one anomalously cold year in Greenland does not tell you the temperature anomaly in Australia or Peru). After scientists have done the hard work of working out these relations, it is possible to use one ice-core record to represent broader regions IF you restrict consideration to the parts that are widely coherent, so it is O.K. to plot a smoothed version of an Antarctic temperature record against CO2 over long times and discuss the relation as if it is global, but a lot of background is required.

“Second, although the central Greenland ice-core records may provide the best paleoclimatic temperature records available, multiple parameters confirm the strong temperature signal, and multiple cores confirm the widespread nature of the signal, the data still contain a lot of noise over short times (snowdrifts are real, among other things). An isotopic record from one site is not purely a temperature record at that site, so care is required to interpret the signal and not the noise. An extensive scientific literature exists on this topic, and I believe we are pretty good in the community at properly qualifying our statements to accord with the underlying scientific literature; the blogospheric misuses of the GISP2 isotopic data that I have seen are not doing so, and are making errors of interpretation as a result.”
The above quote is long enough, but I highly recommend reading the entire post, from Andrew Revkin’s Dot Earth blog at the NY Times: “Reality Check on Old Ice, Climate, and CO2”

You can check out the other Easterbrook errors pointed out on Hot Topic: “Core Blimey, Easterbrook’s At It Again”

So where does this leave us? What is the bottom line about what we can learn from GISP2 data? I guess I can’t help but quote Richard Alley two more times:
“So, using GISP2 data to argue against global warming is, well, stupid, or misguided, or misled, or something, but surely not scientifically sensible. And, using GISP2 data within the larger picture of climate science demonstrates that our scientific understanding is good, supports our expectation of global warming, but raises the small-chance-of-big-problem issue that in turn influences the discussion of optimal human response.”

And to put it all in context (Renowden quote of Richard Alley http://hot-topic.co.nz/easterbrooks-wrong-again/):
“Whether temperatures have been warmer or colder in the past is largely irrelevant to the impacts of the ongoing warming. If you don?t care about humans and the other species here, global warming may not be all that important; nature has caused warmer and colder times in the past, and life survived. But, those warmer and colder times did not come when there were almost seven billion people living as we do. The best science says that if our warming becomes large, its influences on us will be primarily negative, and the temperature of the Holocene or the Cretaceous has no bearing on that. Furthermore, the existence of warmer and colder times in the past does not remove our fingerprints from the current warming, any more than the existence of natural fires would remove an arsonist?s fingerprints from a can of flammable liquid. If anything, nature has been pushing to cool the climate over the last few decades, but warming has occurred.”

Hot Topic articles on Don Easterbrook:
“Cooling Gate: Easterbrook Fakes His Figures, Hides the Decline” (May 21, 2010)

“Cooling Gate: Easterbrook Defends the Indefensible” (May 25, 2010)

“Easterbrook’s Wrong Again” (Jan. 4, 2011):

“Core Blimey - Easterbrook’s At It Again” (Jan. 26, 2011)


Larry Horowitz

Sep 04, 2011

David, thanks for addressing John’s primary question as to whether Easterbrook’s article and graphs are false or misleading.

I would like to reply to a statement you made in your Feb 26 comment:
“But I doubt we?re going to easily find a substitute to the incredible energy intensity of the ancient sunlight known as fossil fuels.”

Although you’ve placed so many conditions on your statement that it’s difficult to disagree, I feel strongly that our future depends on our ability to tap into the universe’s sole ingredient: energy.  Everything in the universe IS energy; in fact, the entire vacuum / plenum is teething with it.  Should we lack the ingenuity to extract energy from this plentiful source, then we’ll have no one to blame but ourselves when fossil fuels are depleted.

As a nation, we spend billions on senseless wars which many believe are necessary to maintain our supply of reasonably priced oil. 

By contrast, it has been estimated that an inexpensive, clean, and infinitely renewable source of energy can be developed with an investment of less than one billion dollars on a “Manhattan” style project focused on energy.

You claim, “The only sane response I see is to begin using much less, as suggested by Tip. Our future is to learn to live creatively with less and less available energy.”

I believe there is another ‘sane response’.  Invest a billion or so on the promising breakthrough energy technologies already identified by Steven Greer, Tom Bearden and John Bedini.

For the fourth time, here’s a link to the Orion Project’s white paper on breakthrough energy technologies:



David MacLeod

Sep 04, 2011

Hi Larry,
Thanks for the response.  It seems that this is getting a little off topic, but I did look at the Orion Project link. I am sorry, but I am going to be very slow to believe any over unity or perpetual motion machines are going to save our bacon. This is because I agree with Greer that the 2nd law of thermodynamics is “the most ironclad of all the laws of physics.” 

Yes, energy is very abundant in our universe, but most of it is very dilute and dispersed, unlike the concentrated energy found in fossil fuels. Even if some fantastic alternative energy source were available to be implemented today, there would be years to build infrastructure for it.

Instead of trusting in some unproven technology, I think we need to begin now to deal realistically with the situation at hand, which includes climate change, energy resource scarcity, economic instability, and an addicted to growth culture reaching limits on a finite planet.

To me, planning for energy descent is the logical course, even as we continue research and development of energy alternatives.


Larry Horowitz

Sep 07, 2011


It appears to me that the overarching problem we face is that of ?overshoot?, in which earth?s human population grows beyond the planet?s capacity to sustain human life AT THAT LEVEL.  I?m certain you are familiar with the Club of Rome?s ?Limits to Growth? and its ?30-Year Update?.  Both of these seminal books suggest we have stretched earth?s ?sources? and ?sinks? to their limit.

One of these ?sources? is energy, a subset of the overshoot problem.  For sure, our supply of fossil fuels is running out, not to mention the adverse impacts of burning fossil fuels.  On the other hand, I am convinced there is an unlimited supply of clean energy that can be tapped inexpensively.  Will this solve our overshoot problem?  Absolutely not!  Climate change, food production, pollution, and depletion of other (non-energy) resources are still difficult - if not impossible - challenges to overcome.

However, if we focus our conversation on energy resource scarcity, I believe that problem can be solved ? both cleanly and inexpensively.  Doing so may also improve our pollution and climate change problems as well.  The challenge will be to research and develop these technologies before it?s too late.  Given that challenge, I certainly understand your desire to plan for energy descent.  But we should still face that challenge head on by investing in the research and development necessary for implementation.

While I respect Grand Archdruid John Michael Greer, his understanding of complex physics is no match for people like John Bedini and Tom Bearden who work with this stuff daily and have successfully invented and patented products requiring an extensive understanding. 

Tom Bearden has addressed the issue of ?perpetual motion? and ?second law of EQUILIBRIUM thermodynamics?.  Regarding ?perpetual motion?, Bearden explains:

?These ?free energy from the vacuum? [EFTV] systems do not violate the situation re ?perpetual motion? because Newton?s first law of motion is actually the law of universal perpetual motion.  Simply read it and think.  If I place an object into a state of motion or at rest, it will remain (perpetually and continually) in that state of motion indefinitely (forever), unless and until an external force comes along and interacts on the state of motion or rest, changing it.? (1)

Regarding the ?second law of EQUILIBRIUM thermodynamics?, Bearden explains:

?No ?second law of equilibrium thermodynamics? is violated because the described [EFTV] systems are NONEQUILIBRIUM systems with respect to their ongoing interaction with the virtual state vacuum.? (1)

(Note that the second law of thermodynamics applies only ?from a state of thermodynamic equilibrium.? (2)(3)  Equilibrium is often considered a closed system while non-equilibrium is considered an open system.  Consider a sailboat without wind with a sailboat powered by wind.)

David, I certainly understand your resistance to the new EFTV paradigm.  You are in good company.  But before you accept other people?s conclusions, perhaps you?ll do some investigation of your own.

Perhaps the most logical approach is the two-pronged one:  Prepare for the worst (energy resource scarcity and energy descent) and work towards a solution (clean, renewable, and affordable energy extracted from the universe?s infinite supply).

(1)  Letter from Tom Bearden to ?New Scientist? dated Sep 12, 2010

(2)  Second law of (equilibrium) thermodynamics

(3)  Thermodynamic equilibrium


Will Middlebrooks

May 07, 2013

The problem I find with Dr. Easterbrooks’s claim here is that his research is based on ice cores from only one location in Greenland.  Basing an entire global model upon one source stacks up to be a very shaky approach to making a scientific claim.  One of the biggest myths concerning the search for understanding through the scientific method is that using inductive logic will always lead to solid theories.  Say for instance I were conducting a study on the popularity of certain car brands sold within the US, but I was only recording the sales at on particular dealership.  Now say this turned out to be a Toyota dealership; while I could infer that only Toyotas were sold in the US (using my evidence-based research), you and I both know that this claim would be inaccurate.  I use the metaphor of all new cars being Toyotas to illustrate the narrow scope of Dr. Easterbrook’s evidence against global-warming.  While he cites a limited data set found using ice cores from Greenland, he fails to tie in this information to the heaps of relevant global data and models that makes up the working body of currently accepted climatology.  This allows his evidence to float in an isolated bubble, unencumbered by facts that may bring his ice cores into a different context.  I appreciate that you chose to highlight his evidence, many blogs do little to address the bare facts, but simply using evidence to support a claim does not in fact make it a sound theory.  A sound theory needs not only evidence to back it, but also it must stand up to deductive reasoning and the ability to stand up to new information.  Going back to the Toyota dealership metaphor, we could prove my claim of “all new cars are Toyotas” false by looking into other data sets such as records from multiple dealerships or state car registration records.  In a similar fashion I do not think Dr. Easterbrook’s theory based upon one single source holds up, as the current understanding of climate change is based on a multitude of information gathered on a global scale.  When taking all of this information together as a whole, it far out-shadows a few ice cores from Greenland and what Dr. Easterbrook infers from them solely.