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Coal industry leaders betraying workers

clean-coal-headerBy Tom Harris and Tim Ball

Imagine you have been wrongfully arrested, charged with murdering a child. Although the evidence against you is vague, authorities are anxious to appease those demanding justice so your case is rushed to trial. Your lawyer decides that, considering public sentiment, it is best to plead guilty and throw yourself at the mercy of the court.

But then witnesses come forward who place you miles from the scene of the crime when it occurred. Your lawyer discovers that the victim’s body has yet to be found and there is now some question as to whether the child even existed. With a sense of relief you head to court, confident you will be exonerated.

But to your surprise, your lawyer doesn’t bring up evidence of your innocence. Instead he pleads for leniency, giving the court moral authority to punish you for a crime you did not commit and perhaps never even occurred.

This scenario is analogous to what is happening to one of America’s most important industries and the source of 37% of the nation’s electricity: coal. Accused of causing dangerous climate change due to its carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, coal-fired electric power is in the crosshairs of President Obama’s Clean Power Plan (CPP).

You would expect coal leaders to proclaim their industry’s innocence of the crime of which they stand accused, pointing out, for example, that:


–       Global warming stopped 18 years ago despite a 10% rise in CO2 levels,
–       Hurricane activity is at a record low,
–       Medium to strong tornadoes have become less frequent,
–       Antarctic sea ice cover has been increasing at about 1 to 2% per decade,

You would assume coal CEOs would shout from the rooftops that even the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has backed away from associating extreme weather with climate change. You would expect industry leaders to enthusiastically promote the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change which shows that fears of climate Armageddon are unfounded.

But, no, with few exceptions, coal leaders accept the charges against their industry. Rather than countering the President’s misguided science, they focus on legal technicalities or throw themselves at the mercy of the court of public opinion with complaints about job losses and high costs as the nation’s cheapest power source is turned off.

Legitimate though these arguments are, they cannot win the day as long as fears of man-made climate catastrophe are not effectively countered. Obama knows that employment in the coal and related sectors is being seriously damaged. He accepts that energy prices will soar, especially in states that currently enjoy low electricity costs due to extensive coal usage. He told Americans this would happen before he was first elected and he twice won the presidency anyways.

Obama recognizes that industry’s current arguments can’t hold a candle to ‘saving the planet’ in the eyes of opinion leaders and the public and politicians outside of coal-dependent areas.

The only way to save coal is to convince Americans that the administration’s primary excuse for killing it is misguided. There is no man-made climate crisis happening. And, despite Obama’s implications to the contrary, the CPP imposes no limits whatsoever on emissions of soot and the precursors to smog, both of which are already well addressed by current regulations.

Coal sector workers and others who rely on cheap and plentiful electricity must demand that their leaders defend them properly. They need to remind their frightened spokespeople that no one wins a war against powerful enemies without intense opposition. If climate activists are not bothering to mount counter-demonstrations to pro-coal rallies, then industry CEOs are not doing their jobs.

Over 400 coal fired power plant units are slated to be closed through 2016 due to Environment Protection Agency regulations. That amounts to 101,000 megawatts of the cheapest electricity available in the United States today. Almost half of these closures are specifically due to Obama’s irrational CPP, rules that are totally unnecessary given what we now know about climate science. Coal industry leaders who are not prepared to publicly make this point must step aside and pass on the responsibility to those who will.

Tom Harris is Executive Director of the Ottawa, Canada-based International Climate Science Coalition. Dr. Tim Ball is an environmental consultant and former climatology professor at the University of Winnipeg.

  • cunudiun

    For a scathing rebuttal to this lightweight piece of fiction, see
    More Lies From Tom Harris at

  • cunudiun

    For more on Tim Ball, watch this, starting around the 7:50 mark.
    The whole video is excellent and worth watching.

  • elfish

    > But to your surprise, your lawyer doesn’t bring up evidence of your innocence.

    Your lawyer is being smart because all the “evidence” is nothing more than pseudo-science and the prosecution is going to rip it to shreds. Let’s look at what the prosecution is going to do with your evidence:

    1. “Global warming stopped 18 years ago despite a 10% rise in CO2 levels,”

    Global warming didn’t stop since 1997, 18 years ago. In fact, since 1997, there have been 14 years that were hotter than 1997: 1998, 2001 , 2002, 2003, 2004 , 2005, 2006, 2007 , 2009, 2010, 2011 , 2012 , 2013 and 2014.

    Not only that, but:

    + 2014 was the hottest year on record, 2010, 2012 and 2013 in the top 15.
    + The last 10 and 20 years were the hottest in history.
    + Nine out of 10 of the hottest years occurred in the last 10 years.
    + All the record hottest years occurred after 1983.
    + No Record cool years after 1977.

    2. “Hurricane activity is at a record low.”

    Actually, between between 1950 and 1995, there was only one year in which there was 15 or more hurricanes or tropical storms. After 1995, there were 11 years with 15 or more hurricanes or tropical storms.


    Also, the intensity of the strongest hurricanes been increasing. Over the last 20 years the average wind speed of hurricanes has increased by about 5 mph.


    3. “Medium to strong tornadoes have become less frequent.”

    Actually, the number of tornado has dramatically increased. Before 1955, there a 200 to 500 per year. Between 1955 and 1990, there was only one year when there were more than 1,000. After 1990, 20 years that were over 1,000 and only two years when there were less than 1,000. On top of that, there were three years when there were more than 1,500.


    4. “Antarctic sea ice cover has been increasing at about 1 to 2% per decade,”

    This is correct as far as it goes. But you’re not telling the whole story: The reason that is more sea ice is because the LAND ICE has been rapidly sliding into the sea. In fact, the Antarctic has lost 1.35 trillion tons of Ice between 1992 and 2011.


    • TomHarrisICSC

      Because of the 0.1 deg uncertainty in NASA’s surface temp computation, 9 years tied with 2014. Check it yourself. All 10 years fall within the error band.

      • Mobius Loop

        For your answer to scrape its way up to being adequate, it would have to address the other points that elfish raises instead of just ignoring things that don’t fit your argument.

    • Voodude

      Hurricanes are weaker and less frequent.

    • Voodude

      REPORTED tornadoes. Not actual, confirmed.

    • Voodude

      “Improved tornado observation practices have led to an increase in the number of reported weaker tornadoes….

      With increased National Doppler radar coverage, increasing population, and greater attention to tornado reporting, there has been an increase in the number of tornado reports over the past several decades. This can create a misleading appearance of an increasing trend in tornado frequency.”


    • Voodude
  • Morbeau

    I’m disappointed Tommy and Timmy couldn’t come up with some better arguments. But hey! At least they’re recycling their old baloney.

  • cunudiun

    Tom and Tim should inform the people of Alaska that global warming has stopped, so they could stop believing their senses. Hear what President Obama said in his keynote speech at the Glacier conference. The entire speech is well worth watching.

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  • Mobius Loop

    The article might contain a modicum of sense if this had been a rush job but the timeline for arriving at the current mainstream scientific position on climate change stepping back from 2015 goes a little like this.

    190 years ago – principle of greenhouse gases first recognized by Fourier

    150 years ago – Tyndall develops understanding of greenhouse gases further.

    90 years ago – the Gallileo moment. in the face of conventional wisdom and scientific opinion Calender identifies the potential rising CO2 emissions from human activity to affect the climate – (the theory is almost universally dismissed).

    55 years ago – Keeling establishes system for monitoring CO2 in atmosphere.

    60 years ago – the possibility that climate change might be a threat is brought to the attention of the US Gov for the first time – (the theory is widely dismissed)

    30 years ago – awareness of the issue of climate change has risen and there is enough concern to focus research and establish the IPCC to provide an overall summary for global leaders – (the theory of climate change is hotly contested and debated).

    0 years ago – we have a clear scientific consensus as demonstrated by the fact that 100% of national and international level academies of science agree that AGW is real and poses a threat – (the mounting evidence is disputed by a ragtag bunch of scientists, bloggers and ‘experts’ like Harris & Ball, in most cases with direct links to a series of anonymously funded right of center libertarian think tanks that promote the interests of fossil fuel industries).

    Any amount of evidence has been provided, a strong case built, that co-incidentally describes changes that are observable in the world around us.

    The article above may be full of sound and fury but contains no substance, for reference here are links to the Heartland biog pages of its authors:



    • Voodude

      Mr Loop, you forgot a few seminal, historical points:

      40 year ago -Schneider75: “Classical studies of potential CO2 effects on climate were made by Chamberlin (1899), and Arrhenius (1903), and their ideas have given way to a plethora of follow-up studies. Plass (1961, among others) computed the surface temperature response of doubling CO2 with a surface-energy balance calculation. His earlier estimates were sharply contested by Kaplan. (1961 0), who maintained that inclusion of cloudiness would reduce Plass’ estimate considerably. Moller (1963) attempted to reconcile these conflicts, but heightened interest further, by arguing that the atmosphere tends to conserve relative, rather than absolute, humidity. However, all of these authors, though incorporating different radiation models, and atmospheric assumptions, shared one, crucial, assumption [as pointed out by Manabe and Weatherald ]: their surface temperature estimates were based on computations of changes in the surface energy budget, primarily caused by the increased downward IR flux reaching the surface, resulting from increased atmospheric IR opacity, from increased CO2; that is, they computed an equilibrium condition for the earth’s surface, rather than for the earth-atmosphere system as a whole. Manabe and Wetherald showed that none of those authors adequately included, in their surface energy-budgets, the mixing effects of vertical heat transport by atmospheric motions.”

      Schneider, Stephen H. 1975 “On the carbon dioxide-climate confusion.” Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences


      Three years ago- Stephens U12: ”The seminal importance of Earth’s energy balance to climate has been understood for more than a century. Although the earliest depictions of the global annual mean energy budget of Earth date to the beginning of the twentieth century (2,3), the most significant advance to our understanding of this energy balance occurred after the space age in the 1960s.”

      Scientists argued about the Earth’s albedo. A large albedo necessitated a large greenhouse effect (climate sensitivity); a smaller albedo didn’t require that. It wasn’t until after the 1960s that the albedo was determined to be at the lowest end of the argument’s range, about one third the size of the largest guesstimate, which means that the greenhouse effect was now measured to be a lot smaller than expected.

      Stephens U12: “Among the highlights obtained from early satellite views of Earth was the measurement of Earth’s albedo (the ratio of outgoing flux of solar energy to incoming flux from the Sun) at approximately 30% (ref. 4), thus settling a long-standing debate on its magnitude — values ranged between 89% and 29% (ref. 5) before these measurements.”

      So, the albedo was considered to be somewhere between about 30 and 90, and it turned out to be about 30.

      It took space-based observations, in the mid-1980s, to settle the debate on the sign of clouds’ effects on incoming solar radiation. Prior to that, scientists argued on whether or not the effect of clouds was positive, or negative – and, that is without getting into the argument that scientists continued after that, about how large the effect of clouds actually was (the magnitude).

      Stephens U12: “The sign, and magnitude of the net effect of clouds on the top-of-atmosphere (TOA) fluxes (6) was also later established with the space-borne observations of the scanning instrument on the ‘Earth Radiation Budget Experiment’ (ERBE) [launched in 1984] (7), which better delineated between clear and cloudy skies.”

      Still, the argument about the magnitude of the cloud-effect continued into the next century. Many hold-outs, science-deniers, and the uneducated still believe that clouds only increase the greenhouse effect, but the science of the 1980s showed that, at least some clouds reflect enough sunshine back into space, that they have a net COOLING effect on the climate. It wasn’t until after 2000 that science confirmed that the albedo-reflection of clouds, according to Stephens 2012, ”was significantly larger than the greenhouse effect of clouds.” This was a revelation to climate science, upsetting the concept of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases having absolute control over the climate. Up until the mid-1960s, albedo was considered to be large, which required that greenhouse gases must have a large leverage over climate … but when albedo was actually measured, and found to be very small, then the calculations had to be re-done, which greatly lowered the greenhouse effect. The science, however, was not settled. NASA got several satellites in the same orbit track, and the nickname, “The Afternoon Train”, or ‘A-Train’, for short, began to be used in the late 1990s. The A-Train is a constellation of satellites that travel one behind the other, along the same track, as they orbit Earth every 99 minutes, crossing the equator a little after noon, local time.

      Stephens U12: ”ERBE, and later the ‘Clouds and the Earth’s Radiant Energy System’ (CERES) [which gathered effective data since 2000] (8), and the French [satellite] ‘Scanner for Radiation Budget’ [ScaRaB, first launched in the mid-1990s] (9), confirmed that the global cloud albedo effect was significantly larger than the greenhouse effect of clouds. Although this was a major advance at the time, determining the influence of clouds on atmospheric and surface fluxes had to wait until the recent satellite measurements of the vertical structure of clouds became available from the [group of satellites called the]‘A-train’ (10).”

      Stephens U12: ”Climate change is governed by changes to the global energy balance. At the top of the atmosphere, this balance is monitored globally by satellite sensors that provide measurements of energy flowing to and from Earth. By contrast, observations at the surface are limited mostly to land areas. As a result, the global balance of energy fluxes within the atmosphere or at Earth’s surface cannot be derived directly from measured fluxes, and is therefore uncertain. This lack of precise knowledge of surface energy fluxes profoundly affects our ability to understand how Earth’s climate responds to increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases.”

      The science is still not settled. Some of the “A-Train” satellites measure the sunlight and infrared light, trying to determine the balance. Hansen 2011 reported an imbalance of 0.58W (per square metre); Stephens U12 reported 0.60W … the average energy input from the sun is about 340W per square metre (Stephens U12) and the entirety of “Global Warming” is about ½W … 0.6W … 0.60/340 = 0.00176 or a tiny 0.18%.

      Stephens DLR12: ”The global, annual mean [surface downwelling longwave radiative flux] lies between approximately 344 and 350 W/m^2 with an error of approximately ±10 W/m^2” (later in the paper, 344 (GEWEX SRB) to 350 W m−2 (A-train).”)

      How can we believe that the earth is out-of-balance, to the tune of ½W (per square metre) when the surface-incident flux is guesstimated with a range of 6W (350-344=6) and a stated error of ”approximately ±10 W?

      DLR12: ”According to the A-Train [satellites’] estimates of these flux differences inferred from Table 1, the global mean [Bottom Of the Atmosphere, i.e. the surface of the earth] [cloud radiative effect] lies approximately in the range 24–34 W/m^2 (Table 1), which is also consistent with the 31 W/m^2 reported by Zhang et al. (2004).”

      How can we believe ½W (per square metre) when the cloud radiative effect is guesstimated with a range of 10W (34-24=10)?

      DLR12: ”The synthesis products also attach an independently deduced uncertainty to the fluxes that range between about 10 and 15 W/m^2. We consider that ±10 W/m^2 is a reasonable estimate of the one-sigma error on global [surface downwelling longwave radiative flux] .”

      Compare ½W with ±10 W for fluxes that range (15-5=10W, average 12.5W). Per square metre, of course.

      This paper compares two methods of measuring the incoming solar radiation striking the Earth’s surface. The new method, AVIRIS, (which is carried on an airplane) is compared to the old method, which uses land-based, fixed position, pyranometer measurements. The two measurements, compared against each other, have errors “of approximately 28–56 W/m^2.. Compare that error size to the ½W (per square metre) that typifies “Global Warming” excess energy.

      He, Tao, et al. 2015 “Estimation of high-resolution land surface net shortwave radiation from AVIRIS data: Algorithm development and preliminary results.” Remote Sensing of Environment


      Stephens U12 says the estimated amount of incoming solar radiation at the surface of the earth is about 190W (per metre squared). The measurement error, at this level of insolation, between four different pyranometers, is more than 7W (per square metre)… and we’re supposed to believe in ½W of “Global Warming”?

      Faiman, D., D. Feuermann, and A. Zemel 1992. “Accurate field calibration of pyrometers.” Solar Energy (Journal of Solar Energy Science and Engineering);(United States)


      A 1% error in water vapour estimation is as big as “all of Global Warming” (which amounts to about ½W/m^2).

      ”An uncertainty of 2% in the water vapor estimation can lead to an error of approximately 1 W/m2 in the [downward shortwave radiation] estimation…”

      ”…water vapor estimation obtained over 15 AmeriFlux sites from 2006 to 2012 … is believed to have an accuracy of 5–10%”

      He, Tao, et al. 2015 “Estimation of high-resolution land surface net shortwave radiation from AVIRIS data: Algorithm development and preliminary results.” Remote Sensing of Environment


      The satellites measuring flux from space have a more difficult time interpreting the results from their pyreheliometers and pyranometers, which require computer algorithms (mathematical models) to process the scanner footprint data from the Terra and Aqua spacecraft measurements.

      ”The Clouds and the Earth’s Radiant Energy System (CERES) project uses two shortwave (SW) and two longwave (LW) algorithms to derive surface radiative fluxes … To facilitate the validation process, high-quality radiometric surface observations have been acquired that were coincident with the CERES-derived surface fluxes. For both SW models,

      systematic errors … −20 to −12 W m−2 (from −2.8% to −1.6%) for global clear-sky cases, while for the all-sky SW model, the

      systematic errors … 14 to 21 W m−2 (3.2%–4.8%) for global cloudy-sky cases.

      systematic errors … ±5.4 W m−2 (±1.9%) except for the polar case in which

      systematic errors … −15 to −11 W m−2 (from −13% to −7.2%) occurred. For the all-sky LW model,

      systematic errors … ±9.2 W m−2 (±7.6%) for both the clear-sky and cloudy-sky cases. The

      random errors were less than

      17 W m−2 (6.2%) for clear-sky cases and

      28 W m−2 (13%) for cloudy-sky cases, except for the desert cases, in which very high surface skin temperatures caused an overestimation in the model-calculated surface fluxes.”

      ”… (Gupta et al. 2004) found that during the time when the CERES instrument was operational, aboard the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM), the insolation data records produced by this instrument combination were plagued by large discrepancies and frequent data gaps, many of which could be traced back to malfunctions in the solar tracking components.

      Kratz, David P., et al. 2010 “Validation of the CERES Edition 2B surface-only flux algorithms.” Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology


      ” ••• At decadal time scales, [observed surface incident solar radiation] variability is less than ten W m-2. The impacts of the sensitivity drift problem (several W m-2), thermal offset (several W m-2), and directional response error (tens of W m-2) are ••• of similar magnitude ••• In particular, the systematic sensitivity drift of the pyranometers could have introduced important spurious trends into observed diffuse radiation and [observed surface incident solar radiation].”

      Wang, Kaicun, et al. 2015 “Decadal Variability of Surface Incident Solar Radiation over China: Observations, Satellite Retrievals, and Reanalyses.” Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres


      The entirety of “Global Warming” is about ½W, and the ”… systematic sensitivity drift of the pyranometers could have introduced important spurious trends into observed diffuse radiation and [observed surface incident solar radiation]” might be several times as large, and the “directional response error (tens of W m-2)” might be 20 to 60 times as large? … and we’re supposed to believe the calculations of ½W?

      The values provided by Stephens (0.6W) and Hansen (0.58W) weren’t calculations done on the back of a napkin at a restaurant. They are the output of serious General Circulation Models or Earth System Models. This paper compares actual observations (ground stations, and satellites) to simulations done in the best computer programs…

      ”In this study, [surface incident solar radiation] simulations of 48 models participating in the fifth phase of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5) were first evaluated with ground-based observations from different networks (446 stations in total) from 2000 to 2005. The global mean biases of the CMIP5 [surface incident solar radiation] simulations were found to vary from 4.8 to 11.9 W m−2 when [surface incident solar radiation] observations from different networks were used as reference data. To reduce the location impact on the evaluation results, CMIP5 simulated [surface incident solar radiation] were then evaluated with the latest satellite [surface incident solar radiation] retrieval at 1°×1° spatial resolution by the Clouds and the Earth’s Radiant Energy System, Energy Balanced And Filled (CERES EBAF). It was found that the CMIP5 simulated multi-model mean [surface incident solar radiation] has a small bias of 2.6 W m−2 compared with CERES EBAF over the globe, 4.7 W m−2 and 1.7 W m−2 over land and oceans, respectively.”

      The two measurement techniques, ground-based, and satellites, disagree with each other at twice the size of “Global Warming” (1.3/0.6 is bigger than 2):

      “CERES EBAF [surface incident solar radiation] was found to have a positive bias of 1.3 W m−2 compared with ground-based observations.”

      Ma, Qian, Kaicun Wang, and Martin Wild 2015.“Impact of Geolocations of Validation Data on the Evaluation of Surface Incident Shortwave Radiation from Earth System Models.” Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres


      More data just keeps on coming in… comparing satellite (Terra and Aqua) MODIS data against ground stations, and against three other measures of the earth’s radiation budget … Keep in mind, that the values mentioned are to be compared with the entirety of “Global Warming” of about ½W

      ”••• we refined a direct estimation approach to retrieve daily [Surface shortwave net radiation] estimates from combined Terra and Aqua Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) data. The retrieved MODIS [Surface shortwave net radiation] estimates were validated against measurements at seven stations of the Surface Radiation Budget Network. We also compared the MODIS retrievals with three existing [Surface shortwave net radiation] products: the Clouds and the Earth’s Radiant Energy System (CERES) products, the North American Regional Reanalysis (NARR) data, and the ERA-Interim reanalysis data from the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts. ••• Among the four data sets, the aggregated MODIS retrievals agreed best with in situ measurements, with a

      root-mean-square error (rmse) of 23.1 W/m^2 and a negative bias of 6.7 W/m^2. The CERES products have a slightly larger

      [root-mean-square error] of 24.2 W/m^2 and a positive bias of 7.6 W/m^2. Both reanalysis data (NARR and ERA-Interim) overestimate daily [Surface shortwave net radiation] and have much larger uncertainties. Monthly satellite [Surface shortwave net radiation] data are more accurate than daily values, and the scaling issue in validating monthly MODIS [Surface shortwave net radiation] retrievals is also less prominent. Averaged with a window size of 23 km, the two MODIS sensors can estimate monthly [Surface shortwave net radiation] with

      [a root-mean-square error] error of 11.6 W/m^2, representing an improvement of 2.4 W/m^2 over the CERES products.”

      Wang, Dongdong, et al. 2015 “Estimation of Daily Surface Shortwave Net Radiation From the Combined MODIS Data.” IEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing


      ”The Clouds and the Earth’s Radiant Energy System [CERES] ••• from Terra and Aqua Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS), ••• satellite cloud datasets. Computed surface radiant fluxes are compared to surface observations at 85 globally distributed land (37) and ocean buoy (48) sites as well as several other publicly available global surface radiant flux data products. Computed monthly mean downward fluxes from SYN1deg have a bias (standard deviation) of 3.0 W m−2 (5.7%) for shortwave and −4.0 W m−2 (2.9%) for long wave, compared to surface observations.”

      Rutan, David A., et al. 2015 “CERES Synoptic Product: Methodology and Validation of Surface Radiant Flux.” Journal of Atmospheric and Oceanic Technology


      Other references:

      Stephens DLR12 is Stephens, Graeme L., et al. 2012 “The global character of the flux of downward longwave radiation.” Journal of Climate


      Stephens U12 is Stephens, Graeme L., et al. 2012 “An update on Earth’s energy balance in light of the latest global observations.” Nature Geoscience


      Hansen, James, et al. 2011 “Earth’s energy imbalance and implications.” Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics


      • Mobius Loop

        If you want to take the time to make an argument I might engage with it.

  • cunudiun

    Once again, AFP has allowed professional propagandist Voodude to spam its comments sections with loud, misleading graphs and other boilerplate PR. I urge others to flag all his “comments” as I have.

    • Woodfords Frog

      What were you denying to me the other day in regards to flagging comments?
      “I didn’t “rally any mates”. I’m not even in touch with a single person who is posting here except openly through Disqus itself.