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Op-ed on coal industry deceptive


clean-coal-headerThis is in response to “Coal industry leaders betraying workers,” written by Tom Harris and Tim Ball and published August 29.

Misters Harris and Ball use a highly deceptive analogy in an attempt to make the coal industry appear as an innocent person unjustly accused of committing crimes. The truth is, coal is a very dirty industry. There is nothing innocent about the business and it knows it. A much better analogy would be to compare coal to the tobacco industry executives who testified before Congress that nicotine is not addictive, even though they knew otherwise (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e_ZDQKq2F08).

Misters Harris and Ball state, “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,

Let’s take a look at these claims. First, global warming has not stopped and the claim it stopped 18 years ago has been so completely debunked you immediately have to question the credibility of anyone making that false statement. This claim is based on the fact that you can find an average of any database. Fossil fuel industry supporters take that average and draw a straight line, claiming this shows there is no warming. What is interesting is this claim actually proves global warming is continuing. If you look at their claim over time, the only way you can explain their results is by concluding the planet is getting warmer.

Read more about this lie at http://dialoguesonglobalwarming.blogspot.com/2015/05/the-great-warming-pause-lie-revealed.html.

What about hurricane activity? It is true the United States is in a low-level period of hurricane activity. The lie is to characterize this as worldwide low. In fact, the western Pacific Ocean and the Indian Ocean have seen an increase in tropical cyclone activity. Why didn’t Misters Harris and Ball mention that? This is what is known as ‘cherry picking’ and consists of using only the data that supports your claim and ignoring all else.

What about the tornadoes? It is true the number of tornadoes from 2012-2014 was very low. In fact, 2014 was one of the quietest years ever recorded. But, again, Misters Harris and Ball have cherry picked the data. The year 2004 tied the all-time record number of tornadoes. Likewise, the years 2008 and 2011 were significantly higher than the average. Why wasn’t this revealed?

And, let’s discuss the Antarctic sea ice. According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center, the maximum sea ice extent (occurring in September) around Antarctica has been growing at 1.3% per decade. So, was the statement truthful? Of course, not. What they failed to mention is how the amount of land ice on Antarctica is decreasing at an alarming, and increasing, rates. They also failed to mention the sea ice extent this year is dramatically below the average, currently running at more than 10% lower than last year. All of this also ignores how land ice around the world and sea ice in the Arctic is disappearing. This is the lie of omission. They didn’t want you to know about this, so they left it out of the conversation and provided only what they wanted you to know.

And, there is another lie of omission in their letter. What they didn’t tell you is these two men are both supported by the fossil fuel industry. Mr. Harris, in particular, has a long track record as a fossil fuel lobbyists and is closely associated with the Heartland Institute which is supported by the fossil fuel and tobacco industries.

Take a look here for more information on Mr. Harris:

Unfortunately for Misters Harris and Ball and their employers, the science about manmade climate change is settled. In fact, there is no scientific evidence to the contrary. There is no reproducible scientific evidence to provide any alternative explanation. Read about what happens when scientists attempt to reproduce contrarian claims (spoiler alert: they are unable to reproduce them). The only valid scientific conclusion is that manmade emissions are changing the climate.

In short, coal is the number one source of compounds sulfur and nitrogen pollution in the atmosphere; it is the number one source of mercury in the food chain (our food chain!); it is the number one source of manmade radioactive material in the air; it produces particulate pollution responsible for a number of respiratory and pulmonary health problems; it is the number one source of poisonous arsenic in the water system. And, oh yeah, it produces billions of tons of carbon dioxide leading to climate change.

Tom Harris and Tim Ball are paid by the fossil fuel industry to deceive the public on the facts. But, their lies do not change the facts: The crisis is real and we need to act.

Dr. Christopher Keating is a professor of physics and does research in climate change and planetary geophysics. He is the author of two books on climate change and writes the blog Dialogues on Global Warming. He also issued the $10,000 Global Warming Skeptic Challenge which ran through July 2014.



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