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Schwarzenegger to Rally Subnationals

Meanwhile Rob Schmitz, our reporter in Copenhagen, sets the scene with a look at how the state’s anchor climate legislation is playing here at home, three years after its passage. That report airs Monday morning on The California Report.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is expected to arrive in Copenhagen on Monday, ready to rally the world’s “subnationals” in the fight against global warming. This is the first time that UN climate talks have created a formal role for states, provinces, cities and the like, and California’s governor will be loaded for bear.

In the weeks leading up to Copenhagen, the Governor turned up the heat on climate rhetoric, with a series of related media events. On Treasure Island, a low-lying man-made rectangle on San Francisco Bay that he said “could be under water” by the end of the century, Schwarzenegger unveiled the state’s climate adaptation strategy with a video tour of California’s climate vulnerabilities, powered by graphics from Google Earth (if you just want the gist, there’s a shorter version available).

The Governor also seized the occasion to preview his trip to Copenhagen, saying we “can’t wait” for national and multi-national efforts to save us from the potentially catastrophic effects of climate change; that “subnational” actors like California–perhaps led by California–should stay focused on their own efforts to both reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prepare for the changes already on the way. The Governor’s speech to COP 15 delegates on Tuesday will be a chance to do some crowing about California’s climate leadership, on an international stage, before a media gallery that’s been estimated at somewhere between 3,500 and 5,000 members.

Copenhagen: The California Contingent

Here’s a list of prominent Californians either in or heading for Copenhagen next week. Compiled by Climate Watch intern David Ferry, it’s not intended to be exhaustive, but reflects responses from numerous queries we sent out prior to the conference:

Government:

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
Addresses the conference on Tuesday, with a call to rally “subnational” players to continue local and regional efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

Linda Adams, Sec. for Environmental Protection,California Environmental Protection Agency
Linda Adams, former director of the California Department of Water Resources, was appointed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in May 2006 as Secretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency – making her the first woman to serve as head of the agency. Immediately upon appointment, Secretary Adams was designated as Governor Schwarzenegger’s lead negotiator on AB 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006. Adams is now working closely with states, provinces and countries around the world to develop a network of climate initiatives to achieve the greatest global reductions.

Mike Chrisman, Secretary for Natural Resources, California Natural Resources Agency
As a member of the governor’s cabinet, Mike Chrisman serves as his chief adviser on issues related to the state’s natural, historic, and cultural resources. In leading the Natural Resources Agency, Chrisman oversees the policies and activities of 25 departments, commissions, boards and conservancies. The issues run the natural resources gamut from conservation, water, fish and game, forestry, parks, energy, coastal, marine and landscape.

A. G. Kawamura, Secretary for Food and Agriculture, California Dept. of Food and Agriculture
Prior to his appointment, Secretary Kawamura was active as a produce grower and shipper from Orange County. As an urban agriculturist, he has a lifetime of experience working along and within the expanding urban boundaries of Southern California. On issues of domestic and international importance, Kawamura was an early supporter of renewable energy as well as being a vocal proponent of invasive species prevention, trade promotion and farm bill reauthorization.

Mary D. Nichols, Chairman, California Air Resources Board
Mary Nichols has devoted her entire career in public and private, not-for-profit service to advocating for the environment and public health. In addition to her work at the Air Board, she has held a number of positions, including: assistant administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Air and Radiation program under the Clinton Administration, Secretary for California’s Resources Agency from 1999 to 2003, and Director of the University of California, Los Angeles Institute of the Environment.

Eileen Tutt, Deputy Secretary, California Air Resources Board and CalEPA*
Eileen Tutt, who has been with the ARB and CalEPA since 1990, currently serves as Deputy Secretary External Affairs. Prior to that, she worked in the ARB’s Executive Office managing three projects: the California Hydrogen Highway Network Blueprint Plan, Motor Vehicle Climate Change regulations, and joint effort with the California Energy Commission to make recommendations to the Governor and Legislator addressing the issue of California’s petroleum dependence.

*Tutt recently announced that she’s resigning from state government to become executive director of the California Electric Transportation Coalition.

Tony Brunello, Deputy Natural Resources Secretary for Climate Change and Energy

Marcia McNutt, Director, United States Geological Survey
Marcia McNutt, the recently appointed USGS director, is a California native. She has published 90 peer-reviewed scientific articles and also chaired the President’s Panel on Ocean Exploration convened by President Clinton to examine the possibility of initiating a major US program in exploring the oceans.  She is a fellow for the American Geophysical Union, the Geological Society of America, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the International Association of Geodesy.

Nancy Skinner, State Assembly Member, California’s 14th District
Nancy Skinner is the Chair of the Assembly Natural Resources Committee and is the founder of ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability.

Fran Pavley, State Senator, California’s 23rd District
Fran Pavley chairs the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee, and authored California’s tailpipe emissions reduction bill and, as an assemblymember, AB 32.

NGOs:

Derek Walker, Director, California Climate Initiative, Environmental Defense Fund
Derek Walker develops and coordinates legislative and communications campaigns in target states throughout the U.S. to generate support for strong global warming and clean energy policies. His primary responsibility is managing a team of policy and legal experts working on implementation of California’s Global Warming Solutions Act (AB-32).

Dan Jacobson, Legislative Director, Environment California
Dan Jacobson directs policy development, research, and legislative advocacy for Environment California. He led efforts to pass the California Clean Energy Act, the strongest renewable energy law in the country.

Louis Blumberg, Director, Climate Change at the Nature Conservancy
A self-described policy wonk, Blumberg leads the Conservancy’s climate change work in California.

Gary Gero, President, California Climate Action Registry
Gary Gero serves as president of the CCAR, which serves as a voluntary greenhouse gas registry to protect and promote early actions to reduce GHG emissions by organizations.

Academics:

Dan Kammen, Professor, UC Berkeley School of Public Policy
Dan Kammen is an expert in national and international energy policy and has testified before Congress about energy and environmental issues.

Jayant Sathaye, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Jayant Sathaye is internationally recognized for his work on climate change project-related issues in transportation, land-use change and forestry, and energy demand and supply in the developing world.

Healy Hamilton, Biologist, California Academy of Sciences
Healy Hamilton’s “interests range from researching the effects of climate change on biodiversity to the evolution and conservation of cetaceans and seahorses.”

Oran Young, Professor, UC Santa Barbara Bren School of Environmental Management
Oran Young’s scientific work encompasses both basic research focusing on collective choice and social institutions, and applied research dealing with issues pertaining to international environmental governance and the Arctic as an international region.

Stephen Schneider, Senior Fellow, Woods Institute for the Environment at Stanford
Editor of the interdisciplinary journal Climatic Change, Schneider’s recent work has centered on the importance of risk management in climate-policy decision making, given the uncertainties in future projections of global climate change.

Christopher Field, Senior Fellow, Woods Institute for the Environment at Stanford
The director for the Carnegie Institution of Washington’s Institution’s Department of Global Ecology, Field’s research emphasizes impacts of climate change, from the molecular to the global scale.

Terry Root, Senior Fellow, Woods Institute for the Environment at Stanford
Terry Root primarily works on large-scale ecological questions with a focus on impacts of global warming.

Rob Dunbar, Senior Fellow, Woods Institute for the Environment at Stanford
Rob Dunbar’s studies focus on global environmental change with an emphasis on air-sea interactions, tropical marine ecosystems, polar climate, and biogeochemistry.

Lisa Curran, Senior Fellow, Woods Institute for the Environment at Stanford
Lisa Curran’s current interdisciplinary programs examine the effects of land use change, climate, drought and fire on carbon dynamics and biodiversity; and impacts of governmental policies and industrial practices on ecosystems and rural livelihoods in Asian and Latin American tropical forests.

Michael Wara, Center Fellow, Woods Institute for the Environment at Stanford
An expert on environmental law and policy, Wara’s research focuses on climate policy and regulation, both domestically and internationally.

Meg Caldwall, Senior Lecturer, Woods Institute for the Environment at Stanford
The Director of the Environmental and Natural Resources Law and Policy Program at Stanford Law, Caldwall’s scholarship has focused on the environmental effects of local land use decisions, the use of science in environmental and marine resource policy development and implementation, and developing private and public incentives for natural resource conservation.

Michael Mastrandrea, Research Associate, Woods Institute for the Environment at Stanford
Michael Mastrandrea’s research focuses on the physical, biological, and societal impacts of climate change, policy strategies for reducing climate risks, and their accurate and effective translation for the general public, policy makers, and the business community.

Business:

John R. Fielder, President, Southern California Edison
President of SCE since 2005, Fielder is going to Copenhagen with the Climate Registry, a non-profit organization working to set standards for reporting greenhouse gas emissions.

Amit Chatterjee, CEO, Hara Software
Amit Chatterjee, who runs an environmental and energy management software company backed by Al Gore, told AFP that he was attending the conference to help define a “post-carbon economy” and “articulate the view from Silicon Valley” about climate change and cap-and-trade legislation

Google contingent
CEO Eric Schmidt is not going but representatives will be presenting sessions on web technologies and outreach strategies.

Nothing Ill About This Wind

Harnessing nordic winds -- The Middelgrunden offshore windfarm off the coast of Copenhagen

Harnessing Nordic winds: The Middelgrunden offshore wind farm, in the North Sea

Friday on The California Report, Rob Schmitz looks at what we can learn from the world leaders in leveraging wind power.

See the photo on the left? You’re looking at three percent of Denmark’s wind power generation. This is the Middelgrunden wind farm, located in the North Sea, not far from Copenhagen. There, twenty 120-foot wind turbines produce 40 megawatts of wind energy.

I visited Middelgrunden this week in a small boat. Luckily for me, the winds, normally furious at this time of year, were moderate. I went there for a story on how Denmark was able to develop a wind power infrastructure that now produces a fifth of the country’s electric power. This is a larger proportion than any other country on Earth. For the Danes, wind power is big business.

Up until thirty years ago, Denmark was largely an agricultural country. Now, wind power-related exports are on par with agricultural exports. They make up almost 10% of the country’s total exports.

How did Denmark get to this point? The same way Japan became the most energy-efficient country on Earth: the 1970s oil shocks. In the mid ’70s, Denmark relied on oil for more than 90% of its energy. Oil embargoes brought the country to its economic knees. The government quickly instituted “Car-free Sundays,” when Danes were forbidden from driving. Shop owners were asked to turn off their lights outside of business hours. In 1979, the Denmark created its first Ministry of Energy, and it got to work on harnessing what was then considered an alternative energy: wind.

Jutting out into the treacherous North Sea, Denmark has lots of it. By 2020, Denmark plans to rely on wind for half of its electrical supply. And by 2050, the Danish government wants renewables to supply all of the country’s electricity. These are ambitious goals, but Jakob Lau Holst, COO of Denmark’s Wind Industry Association, believes it can be done.

“If you just stick to long-term government investment, you can develop a market for this,”Lau Holst told me today. He told me that much of Denmark’s industry has a hard time doing business in the US because incentives for renewables like wind “are there one year and gone the next. It’s a mixed message to the industry.” It makes one wonder what could be accomplished with more long-term goals–like California’s commitment to 33% renewables by 2020.

Author: Polar Bears Doomed No Matter What We Do

US Fish & Wildlife Service

Photo: US Fish & Wildlife Service

Because our charter at Climate Watch is to examine climate change from the California perspective, you don’t see a lot here about melting ice caps and imperiled polar bears. But Michael Krasny’s interview with Richard Ellis on KQED’s Forum program is well worth an hour of your time.

Ellis is the author of On Thin Ice: The Changing World of the Polar Bear (Random House, 2009) and it’s fair to say that he managed to stun Krasny with a declaration that the species is “doomed,” no matter what we might try to do to save it at this point. Ellis says there is already too much warming in the pipeline (what scientists call “committed” warming) to reverse the disintegration of the bears’ arctic habitat.

Polar bear populations have been a topic of persistent confusion, recently amplified in an op-ed piece written by former Alaska governor Sarah Palin for The Washington Post.

According to the advocacy group Polar Bears International, there is little room for doubt about the animal’s decline. The organization’s website breaks down the numbers, which point to a “scientifically documented decline in the best-studied population, Western Hudson Bay, and predictions of decline in the second best-studied population, the Southern Beaufort Sea.”

The PBI analysis goes on to explain that:

The Western Hudson Bay population has dropped by 22% since 1987. The Southern Beaufort Sea bears are showing the same signs of stress the Western Hudson Bay bears did before they crashed, including smaller adults and fewer yearling bears.

At the most recent meeting of the IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group (Copenhagen, 2009), scientists reported that of the 19 sub-populations of polar bears, eight are declining, three are stable, one is increasing, and seven have insufficient data on which to base a decision. (The number of declining populations has increased from five at the group’s 2005 meeting.)

Regardless of whether you share the conclusions of Ellis and PBI about the future of the “poster child for global warming,” the Forum interview is a fascinating hour.

Climapalooza

Is this what tree huggers look like?

Poster in Copenhagen. Photos: Rob Schmitz

One look at the poster to the left that was pasted on a utility box along my normally trim and tidy Copenhagen street shows there may be more to the protests this weekend than your average environmentalist demonstration.

The hope that marked the first couple of days at this conference is starting to show some cracks: Countries in the G77, the bloc representing developing countries, have split between the poorest of the poor–island and small African nations concerned about how climate change will make life miserable for them–and the large developing countries like China and India. At issue, of course, is what kind of greenhouse gas reduction commitments should be made. The poorest countries would like to see the strictest commitments, the less-poor countries would like to stick to what they’ve already committed and call it a day.

I’m also starting to see/hear more protests in and around the Bella Center, urging the delegates to commit to deeper cuts in greenhouse gases than are currently on the table. One rather interesting protest was staged this morning by the group 350, at the metro station outside the conference hall. They chanted “We’re in the cold to stop the heat” over and over. Why? They were in their undies. And did they look cold. It was 35 degrees and raining outside.

No, it's not that hot here.

No, it's not that hot here.

All of these protests will most likely culminate this weekend, when a large-scale protest is scheduled in downtown Copenhagen. From there, marchers plan to proceed to the Bella Center. Danish Police have already confiscated bolt cutters and platforms used to break down/go over police barricades, and this discovery brings me back to that first photo.

There are other groups that no-doubt grasp the magnitude of the opportunity. With more than 3500 journalists in town, their message–whatever it is–has a better chance of getting out there. With more than 110 world leaders and heads of state arriving next week, all the better. But the imminent parade of important leaders is definitely giving this conference a Lollapalooza atmosphere. It feels like a huge circus devoted to climate change.

Last item: Check out the last photo in this post.

And to think that California spews out 470 million of these a year.

And to think that California spews out 470 million of these a year.

It’s the last thing you see from the elevated metro line before you get to the Bella Center. Everyone here has seen it and everyone’s talking about it–and it answers something I’ve always wondered about as a reporter. This is apparently the size of one ton of carbon dioxide emissions. That’s me standing at the base of it. No “circus” would be complete without balloons.

Ed. Note: The spelling of “tonne” denotes metric tons, the usual unit of measure for greenhouse gas emissions.

Delegate’s Dispatch No. 2

Louis Blumberg directs the California climate programs for The Nature Conservancy. He’s also been keeping us posted as an official observer to the UN climate conference. And yes, views expressed in his guest posts are his and not necessarily those of KQED or the Climate Watch staff.

Things Heat Up Copenhagen
By Louis Blumberg

Emotions erupted at the Bella Center today during the United Nations climate change conference in Copenhagen, Denmark. Demonstrations, street theater, leaked documents, heated words, threats of walkouts and huge crowds all collided to increase the energy level throughout the massive hall. Frustration was driven in part, according to one of the key treaty negotiators, by the fact that little progress has been made.

At this point in the process, the open meetings have stopped and negotiators are meeting in private to work out their differences. This loss of transparency was exacerbated when demonstrators disrupted one of the last public plenary sessions of the week and the organizers threw out representatives from all non-governmental organizations–including me.*

As discouraging as this emerging gridlock is, my optimism remains because I see that three key pieces, which are falling into place, can produce a real deal:

- First, for the first time ever, key countries, including the U.S., China, India, Brazil and Korea, have all put numerical proposals on the table to reduce emissions.

- Second, as I reported before, the U.S. is providing real leadership, in part by proposing a $10 billion annual fund to help developing countries reduce emissions and adapt to climate change while continuing to grow their economies.

- Third, President Obama and 110 other heads of state will arrive next week for the final negotiation.

In the meantime, the process of creating a new international treaty amps up…

Yesterday I joined 200 activists in a standing ovation for EPA Director Lisa Jackson as she confirmed U.S. leadership by listing the administration’s actions to fight climate change, including this week’s official finding that greenhouse gas endangers human health. [Ed. Note: This creates authority for the EPA to regulate greenhouse gases on its own, with or without enabling legislation].

African countries called for more forest protection. Delegates from one island nation faced with imminent destruction by flooding due to sea-level rise, threatened to walk out on the talks unless the developed countries exhort to cut emissions by 95 percent.

I, alongside a coalition of forest activists, struggled (in what may be a futile attempt) to close a new loophole in emissions reporting rules proposed by some European countries.

And finally, the energy, passion and idealism of demonstrators in costume–walking trees, polluters dressed in red, vegans for climate, and Mr. Green (you can figure that one out on your own)–were both captivating and inspiring.

The frenetic pace is both tiring and energizing and will only increase as we move toward the conference closing on December 18. But there is much more to come before then. Stay tuned.

*Ed. Note: We’re using the term “delegate” somewhat loosely here. Blumberg is a member of The Nature Conservancy “delegation” in Copenhagen but technically he’s an official observer, as are all NGO reps. That’s why he can be tossed out of sessions.

Hopenhagen II: A Delegate’s View

Louis Blumberg is a COP 15 delegate and Director of Climate and Forest Policy for the Nature
Conservancy in California.

Update from Hopenhagen

By Louis Blumberg

The sense of possibility pervaded the halls Monday, infusing energy and 
optimism into the delegates at the UN climate change conference in
 Copenhagen, Denmark. As in prior years, the sheer magnitude of the event 
was inspiring. More than 10,000 participants attended today, thousands 
of whom (including this participant) waited patiently in line for hours
 to get inside.

In one room, representatives from 192 nations sat shoulder-to-shoulder
 in the discussions, and each country was given an equal voice. Two seats
 were allocated to Gabon and two for the U.S., two for China and two for
 Monaco, and so on.

At home in San Francisco, much of my work is focused on addressing
 climate change in California, and we have made great progress as a
 state. Now, seeing the whole world gathered in one room (figuratively
 speaking), it is a powerful reminder that the work we are doing in 
California can be applied anywhere, whether in Australia, Peru or China.
 We are all in this together and can learn so much from one another.

This is the 15th meeting for the “Conference of Parties” (hence “COP 15″), a follow-up to 
the 1992 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, which resulted in the first global climate agreement ratified by 192 nations, including the U.S. Each year preceding that conference, global delegations have 
met to discuss how to address climate change. The most notable agreement
 happened in 1997 in Kyoto, Japan. Dubbed the Kyoto Protocol, it 
ordered 37 industrialized nations to cut greenhouse gas emissions. The
 U.S. rejected that pact, and since then our federal government has shown little-to-no leadership on the issue.

But what a difference a year makes. In its first public statement at the 
conference, the United States addressed two key issues head-on with commitments for action: First, a pledge to reduce emissions of
 greenhouse gases by 17% by 2020; and second, a $10 billion pledge with
 other nations intended to help developing countries grow their economies
 while cutting emissions. U.S. envoy Jonathan Pershing spoke forcefully,
 signaling that a new regime in Washington meant real leadership on
 climate change for the world.

Despite public skepticism, it has become clear that something is going
 to happen here. People from all over the world have come together to solve the most serious problem of our lifetime. Nothing less than the 
future of nature and humanity is at stake. I just hope the agreement is
 sufficiently strong and that action happens quickly.

Hopenhagen: A Reporter’s View

Hope for an international deal on climate change abounds on the streets and metro stations throughout Copenhagen. But does it among U.N. delegates?

Hope for an international deal on climate change abounds on the streets and metro stations throughout Copenhagen. But behind closed doors at the conference, the hope tank may be running on empty.

The capital city of this bone-chilling European country is dressed to the nines in global warming, from Coca-Cola ‘Hopenhagen‘ ads overlooking its quaint canals, to huge globes pasted with polar bears and receding glaciers. All this advertising makes all the lovely Scandinavian Christmas decorations look dim in comparison. This is, of course, COP 15– the most anticipated UN climate change convention since Kyoto twelve years ago. Despite the pessimism that pervaded the run-up to this conference, hope was the buzzword on the first day of the conference. In an afternoon news briefing, Yvo de Boer, ever the optimist about these meetings, stayed on message, telling reporters that it wasn’t for nothing that major heads of state like President Obama were changing their schedules to arrive at the end of the conference. They want to see a deal, de Boer said, and news from across the Atlantic that was first reported during the midday hours here in Copenhagen, may very well increase the odds.

As news started to trickle in that the US Environmental Protection Agency had determined that greenhouse gases are a threat to human health and the environment (thus opening carbon dioxide and equivalent greenhouse gases to government regulation with or without the blessing of Congress),* the excitement in the halls of the Bella Center rose. High fives were exchanged among American observers, and Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change told my office mate, Sam Eaton of Marketplace, that it was high time that Obama flexed his muscle on climate change. EPA’s move had been in the works for a while.

An ice replica of Copenhagen's famous mermaid, melting in the dead of winter, conveniently placed in front of the Bella Center.

An ice replica of Copenhagen's famous mermaid, melting in the dead of winter, conveniently placed in front of the Bella Center.

Back in September when I attended a climate change conference in Tokyo, UNFCCC head Yvo de Boer hinted it would happen. But it’ll take a lot more than an EPA announcement to move delegates toward a final deal at this conference. One of the biggest issues they face is how to finance emissions reductions throughout the developing world. Poor countries say they need rich countries to help them build a clean energy infrastructure if they are to agree to any binding deal. Rich countries are scratching their heads trying to figure out how to finance this (de Boer says it’ll cost around $10 billion a year) and, more importantly, how to divvy up the cost, especially in the throes of a global recession.

What does this mean for California? It’s one of the few states that have passed carbon dioxide reducing legislation. It behooves us to have neighbors, both domestically and internationally, who have similar laws, so that employers don’t flee the state to escape environmental regulations–a very real scenario in this economy. Whether or not Hopenhagen lives up its nickname, it’s already turning into an interesting event.

*Ed. Note: Back in Washington, at an afternoon news conference, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson explained that today’s “finalizing” of the previously announced endangerment finding now “obligates” the agency to regulate carbon dioxide under the Clean Air Act. But she hastily added that it’s not a replacement for Congressional action. “Legislation is still the best way,” said Jackson. “It’s not an either-or proposition.”

Climate Watch in Copenhagen

Earthshine_NASAClimate Watch begins it’s coverage of the UN’s COP 15 climate talks in Copenhagen this evening, when KQED’s This Week in Northern California airs my recently taped interview with former Vice President and Nobel Laureate Al Gore. The original 20-minute interview has been “edited for TV,” down to about nine minutes. The full interview is to be posted on This Week’s website.

The interview begins with Gore’s assessment of the upcoming climate conference and then moves on to California’s role, the hype surrounding “green jobs,” controversy over climate science, his new book, and other topics. Regrettably, the interview was recorded before the eruption of the email scandal now known as “Climategate,” so I wasn’t able to get his take on that.

It’s pretty hard to spring anything on Gore. He’s heard every question there is to be asked about a thousand times and has carefully crafted, well-rehearsed answers to all of them. He did seem slightly off-balance when I asked him about FactCheck.org’s conclusions about some of the green job creation hype.

On Monday, our radio and online coverage begins in earnest when the first of Rob Schmitz’ reports from Copenhagen airs on The California Report. Schmitz, KQED’s Los Angeles Bureau Chief, arrives there on Saturday and will be there for the entire two weeks of events and negotiations. He’ll provide radio reports and frequent blog posts, covering–among other things–the appearance of California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger on “Subnational Day.” In a climate-related media event on Treasure Island this week, Schwarzenegger said his mission in Copenhagen would be to rally governors, mayors, provincial leaders and other subnational players, to continue their own progress toward greenhouse gas emissions and not wait for national governments and international bodies to take action.

Also on Monday, Rob and I will join host Michael Krasny and NASA climatologist James Hansen on KQED’s Forum program. Hansen was the original climate whistle-blower, complaining that the Bush administration was muzzling climate scientists. Hansen has since taken a hard line against the upcoming efforts in Copenhagen, saying that cap & trade is the wrong path to climate intervention (both Gore and Hansen are promoting new books of theirs).

Scientists Respond Cautiously to Hijacked Email

I’ve spent several days dithering over whether to weigh in on the recent email heist from a server at the University of East Anglia in the UK. For those who choose to read it that way, the hacked email originally passed among climate scientists worldwide has, rightly or wrongly, provided those who reject the prevailing climate science with enough radioactive ammo to fill Yucca Mountain.

Some high-profile California researchers figure prominently in the material. In a searchable database of the messages, for example, the name of Ben Santer, a climate modeler at Lawrence Livermore National Lab came up 173 times. Stanford’s Steve Schneider came up 71 times. Both are outspoken defenders of science supporting the human contribution to global warming.

Another scientist quoted or referred to (99 times), Kevin Trenberth, is a name familiar to readers of this blog and listeners to Climate Watch radio coverage. Trenberth is a climatologist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, CO.  I’ve interviewed him mostly about the role of the Pacific oscillation known as El Nino in climate patterns. After the decade’s worth of email came to light, I wrote Trenberth for a response. His reply may not be entirely original. Some lines have also been attributed to a spokesman for the university whose servers were invaded. In any case, here’s Trenberth’s response to Climate Watch:

It is a matter of concern that data, including personal information about individuals, appears to have been illegally taken and a criminal investigation is underway. The selective publication of some stolen emails and other papers taken out of context is mischievous and cannot be considered a genuine attempt to engage with this issue in a responsible way. The volume of material published and its piecemeal nature makes it impossible to confirm what proportion is genuine.  Many elements have been published selectively on a number of websites. Generally the items are out of context, incomplete and very misleading. Some others are wildly misinterpreted and have a simple explanation.

The material published relates to the work of the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) and other scientists around the world.  Many of the scientists featured in the emails with [Phil] Jones [of East Anglia] have web sites and freely and openly make available their papers, presentations, blogs and other information. Several of the emails document the detailed procedures used in the IPCC AR4 Fourth Assessment report for Chapter 3 (for which Phil Jones and Kevin Trenberth were coordinating lead authors) and other chapters. They actually reveal the integrity of the process and the hard work that goes into such an assessment.

Trenberth then went on to cite some specific “examples of misinterpretations:”

From Kevin Trenberth, interpreted as a failure of computer models:

“The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t. The CERES data published in the August BAMS 09 supplement on 2008 shows there should be even more warming: but the data are surely wrong. Our observing system is inadequate.”

This refers to the inability of our current observations from satellites and in situ to account for where all the energy has gone. A paper on this is available here:

Trenberth, K. E., 2009: An imperative for climate change planning: tracking Earth’s global energy. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, 1, 19-27, doi:10.1016/j.cosust.2009.06.001. [PDF]

This paper tracks the effects of the changing Sun, how much heat went into the land, ocean, melting Arctic sea ice, melting Greenland and Antarctica, and changes in clouds, along with changes in greenhouse gases. We can track this well for 1993 to 2003, but not for 2004 to 2008. It does NOT mean that global warming is not happening, on the contrary, it suggests that we simply can’t fully explain why 2008 was as cool as it was, but with an implication that warming will come back, as it has. In 2008 there was a La Nina event.  We now have an El Nino underway.

Kevin Trenberth

Meanwhile, the university’s Climate Research Unit has posted a series of rebuttals. Still, this digital hijacking is disturbing on a lot of levels. Whether you accept the prevailing climate science or consider the email damning evidence to the contrary, it is a distraction from the business at hand in Copenhagen and a public relations train wreck for the IPCC and many of its most eminent contributing scientists. You can bet that it won’t be forgotten when a major climate bill hits the floor of the U.S. Senate for debate, early next year. Oklahoma Republican James Inhofe, vocal critic of global warming science, is already calling for an investigation.