PBS’s “Climate of Doubt”, tomorrow night

October 22nd, 2012 by Roy W. Spencer, Ph. D.

Since my “talking mouth” is in the trailer for Frontline’s Climate of Doubt, airing tomorrow evening (October 23), I suspect I’ll be in this show.

Here’s how the website introduces the special:

Four years ago, climate change was a hot issue and politicians from both sides seemed poised to act. Today public opinion on the climate issue has cooled considerably. Politicians either ignore it or proclaim their skepticism. Whats behind this massive reversal? On Oct 23, FRONTLINE goes inside the organizations that fought the scientific establishment to shift the direction of the climate debate.

Now, I’ve been giving public talks all over the country for a lot longer than four years, and I can tell you that mainstream America has always been skeptical of the theory that humans are killing the planet with our CO2 emissions. Nevertheless, politicians and the popular press tend to control the narrative, and for a long time the public was misled about the strength of the science behind global warming theory.

Note I said the public was misled about “strength of the science”, not “strength of scientists’ beliefs”.

And may I remind you that we let politicians, especially Al Gore, tell us what the scientists believed? Many scientists didn’t like the way Gore presented his case, with such certainty, and making connections that couldn’t really be made (like hurricanes and global warming).

Anyway, I fear this will be a hit piece against skeptics in general, that we are a bunch of Big Oil or Koch brother-funded hacks. I hope I’m wrong. (Personally, I am still waiting for some of that Big Oil or Koch money to come my way.)

Finally, I wonder whether PBS will even address what really killed public concern over anthropogenic global warming: even if Al Gore was right, it’s the economics that ends up killing global warming policy. As it is, current “green” policy is driving up petroleum prices and helping Big Oil make even more money, since we can’t live without petroleum. We’re “addicted to oil” in the same way we are “addicted to food”.

So, the “Climate of Doubt” isn’t as much doubt over the science (which the PBS special will emphasize) as it is doubt over the ability of any energy policy change to produce a net beneficial outcome.

25 Responses to “PBS’s “Climate of Doubt”, tomorrow night”

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  1. I hope you were very clear on your stance.

  2. David Appell says:

    >> current green policy is driving up petroleum prices

    How exactly is green policy driving up oil prices? Note, Spencer doesn’t say.

    The other day I calculated real gasoline prices, using the weekly national average from EIA’s “This Week in Petroleum” and the monthly CPI-U index. The results, for average gasoline prices during an administration, in Sept-2012 dollars, is:

    Clinton 1: $1.71
    Clinton 2: $1.69
    Bush 1: $1.96
    Bush 2: $3.05
    Obama 1: $3.18

    So the totality of Obama’s dasterdly green policies is a $0.12/gal increase in the real price of gas?? That’s all?? At a time when fossil fuels cause at least $120 billion in damages:

    Hidden Costs of Energy: Unpriced Consequences of Energy Production and Use
    National Research Council, 2010

    • Kasuha says:

      I don’t know about US but here in Europe the price of gas about doubled in last 10 years and great deal of it is due to “green” ethanol being added to it to “save the Earth”.
      And that’s without counting subsidies to growing that ethanol which can’t be seen in the gas price but can be already seen on my taxes which also went considerably up.
      So there.

  3. David Appell says:

    Oops — that difference is $0.13/gal. Surely the end of our Republic….

  4. John W. Garrett says:

    The evidence that purports to underlie the CAGW conjecture is equivocal and ambiguous.

    Because of that, a decision to commit the equivalent of economic seppuku is as logical as any of the episodes presented by Charles Mackay in “Extraordinary Popular Delusions and The Madness Of Crowds.”

  5. T. Meier says:

    But…But… Frontline has won awards for excellence in journalism…

    About 15 years ago my wife and I were touring London museums and we stopped in Browns hotel for tea. Shortly after we were seated two men and a woman took a table about twenty feet away. Turned out one of the men was an American producer for Frontline and the other man and the woman were British, producers for the BBC. They were discussing sharing resources in upcoming documentaries. The American particularly was so loud you couldn’t help but overhear every word he said. Part of the conversation went like this, it’s a good example f the whole.

    The Brits brought up the situation in Angola but the American objected, “Our audience doesn’t even know where Angola is and they don’t care. It has to involve America somehow or they aren’t interested.”

    The BBC producers then mentioned Liberia but again the Frontline producer objected, “We’d have to spend half the program giving them a history lesson and even then we wouldn’t convince them. No, what we need is something like Cuba. You only have the say ‘Cuba’ to an American and they know what to think.”

    If this is an example of the contempt the producers of the award-winning Frontline documentaries have for their audience, their pandering and lack of integrity (and there was much, much more in this vein) is it any wonder they aren’t much bothered about a balanced, truthful report?

  6. Alex says:

    Conventional oil costs a few dollars to extract and is sold at 100 dollars. If that is not a rip-off then I do know what a ripp-off is.

    Oil is not competing with renewables, but instead, oil is being led to a higher inflated price because renweables are very expensive and thereore the oil barons keep theoil price just below that of RE’s. If RE’s were really ‘free’ as some gree extremists asy, then oil would be have to be even cheaper to be able to compete. Then there’s the OPEC cartel, which in this side of the world would be illegal (cartels are illegal) but our world policeman, the UN does not care about this global illegality at all, since it is the tyrants that are making the money. Wait till Canada and the US become self-sufficient in oil, and see OPEC crashiong. Then the UN will try to save the OPEC cartel(as in: saving the tyrants by proxy) by demonising the west’s achievments in economically competitive tight-oil extraction.

  7. I see Andy Dessler has weighed in on the PBS show with this:

    There is some legitimate uncertainty, of course, Dessler said, but that is whether the climate will warm four or eight degrees over the coming century


  8. Mike says:

    I’ll cut Frontline some slack until I see the piece. I remember a show they did about 10 years ago called “Nuclear Reactions” which was actually quite well done and rational. Not at all the hyper anti-nuke piece I thought it would be.

    WRT gasoline prices and green policy, the comment about ethonal was right on. We in California pay about 25 cents more a gallon because a “special” California only blend with ethanol is required. And recently when 2 refineries went off-line due to mechanical issues the price spiked to $4.89 in the Silicon Valley area where I live (for plain old regular thank you very much).

    In general I am an advocate of green energy, but not on a crash course immediate timeline as the current administration is trying to achieve. Infrastructure is simply too expensive and we need to set rational and reasonable objectives. Project 2100 would be a good policy for us I think, meaning that we should strive to be on carbon free energy by 2100. That seems like a long time but really isn’t.


  9. TomRude says:

    After having “deleted” Professor Marcel Leroux from English Wikipedia, the Connolley/Halpern gang is attacking Gerhard Kramm’s page… Why would they need “cleansing” information if their science case was so good?

  10. David Appell saidf on October 22, 2012 at 4:40 PM
    >> current green policy is driving up petroleum prices

    >How exactly is green policy driving up oil prices? Note, >Spencer doesnt say.

    I have heard complaints that the Obama administration was footdragging on approving offshore oil drilling permits. That reduces (or threatens to soon-reduce) petroleum supply.

    And, that under the Obama administration, EPA issued a regulation largely banning new construction of coal-fired electricity generation stations. That increases (or threatens to soon-increase) demand for fuels other than coal (where USA is self-sufficient), which includes oil.

    Have you not heard of the “Law Of Supply And Demand”?

  11. Alex sayid, October 23, 2012 at 8:23 AM:

    “Conventional oil costs a few dollars to extract and is sold at 100 dollars. If that is not a rip-off then I do know what a ripp-off is.”

    Some, maybe quite a bit of oil is extracted so cheaply.

    However, not all needed to meet current demand is. When demand gets so high compared to capacity of cheap supply that there is need for someone to “fill in” with extraction and transportation cost maybe $80 per barrel, then the market price gets high enough to motivate those with cost of $80 per barrel to “get into the act”. And profitably –
    so the market price rises to $100 per barrel to get the supply and the demand to meet each other.

    And then, those with extraction and transportation costs
    closer to $20 per barrel get filthy stinking rich.

    If you don’t like this, then reduce your petroleum
    consumption (both directly and indirectly) and campaign
    to others to do so.

    One downside of this is that employees of oil companies
    that can only have jobs in USA or USA-friendly nations such as Canada (major exporter of oil to USA) only get work when oil market prices are high enough to make it profitable to have employees in these nations.

    Then-again, decreasing demand (and price) for oil will reduce net income to Islamic-dominated countries that only care about USA as a customer, and otherwise consider USA as an evil infidel nation 2nd-worst behind Israel.

    Pick your poison!

  12. Rog Tallbloke said: October 23, 2012 at 2:50 PM
    >I see Andy Dessler has weighed in on the PBS show with >this:

    >”There is some legitimate uncertainty, of course, Dessler >said, but that is whether the climate will warm four or >eight degrees over the coming century”

    IPCC’s “center track” is only 3 degrees C.

    I seem to think they favor more-positive-than-actuality determinations of the cloud albedo and water vapor feedbacks.
    I seem to think that the cloud albedo feedback is positive, but only a fraction as much as IPCC favors
    consideration for. Also, I seem to think that lapse rate
    change due to GHG-increased-caused-warming, and a side
    effect of positivity of cloud albedo feedback, is causing the combo of water vapor and cloud albedo feedbacks to
    be close to IPCC’s water vapor feedback alone.

    Also, the lapse rate feedback (a negative one) increases as “greenhouse gases” increase causes the lapse rate to increase.

    I have seen how about 40% of the ~1973-~2005 warmup in HadCrut3 was from a periodic natural cycle with period around 62 years and holding-through for 124 years.

    At this rate, I seem to think that warmup this century will be around 1.25 degree C, maybe a mere 1 degree C.
    It appears to me that ~85-90 % of the ice mass on Greenland will survive that, along with ~97-99% of the ice mass of
    Antarctica. As in – we have most of this century to move
    uphill by around a foot or half a meter.

    This gets more doable with a stronger economy. I disfavor national and global policies that significantly stunt economic growth in name of this problem, because I
    think faster economic growth increases ability to handle a futore problem.

    Especially, within-next-century problems for USA are likely to include a LA earthquake of magnitude like that
    of the 1906 San Francisco one, around 7.9-8.

    Some to maybe fair chance of the New Madrid Fault quaking with maybe as high as 8-8.3, near St. Lois, and with destructive earthquake energy in that earthquake-passing-crust-area likely causing gigabucks of damage in Chicago and Cincinnati, and even 100s of multimegabucks of damage in Pittsburgh.

    Or, what if a bus-size or a house-size meteoroid is on
    a “collision course”? Please consider the 1908 “Tunguska Event” – when a huge meteor ran into air resistance apparently sufficient to crumble it, and then its crumbs
    had sudden air resistance suddenly decellerating them, which sounds to me that a very small amount of time was next used in converting lots of kinetic energy to heat energy.
    Result: Quite a destructive airburst that felled a lot
    of trees, and I would not have wanted my home there.

    As in a KABOOM so great as to be like a nuclear bomb?
    How often does that happen? The “Tunguska Event” occurred only 114 years ago, thankfully over a low-population-density part of Siberia.

  13. Ray says:

    David Appell:
    “So the totality of Obamas dasterdly green policies is a $0.12/gal increase in the real price of gas?? Thats all?? ”

    What about the increase of $1.09 between Bush 1 and Bush 2?
    Did Roy say that prices had only increased under Obama?
    Also, I note that you have averaged out the prices over each term. It might be interesting to see the annual figures, to see how the trend has changed in more detail.

  14. Edward Sullivan says:

    Dr. Spencer, has any Donors Trust funding come your way?

    Can’t help but think of two things:

    1. When I worked with Dr. Roy W. Greenlee, one of the Manhattan Project’s wunderkinds, and later researcher at Petrolite, he told me there was no end to what could be accomplished if one were willing to let someone else take the credit. That thought probably applies to Big Oil, seeking to fund their strategic goals while dodging shareholder and public criticism…

    2. Mainstream America had a lot of skepticism about sustainable agriculture before the Dust Bowl as well:


    I grew up in America’s Heartland, amid smart, hard-working, decent folks who had the uncanny ability to hold the most demonstrably unsupportable and illogical beliefs in the face of mountains of evidence to the contrary. “I hate to argue with you Eddie,”, said one of my exasperated aunts, “because you always use facts…”.

  15. David Appell says:

    Kasuha says:
    >>I dont know about US but here in Europe the price of gas about doubled in last 10 years and great deal of it is due to green ethanol being added to it to save the Earth.<<

    Really? How much of this "great deal" is due to green ethanol…. Since you seem to be an expert on the subject.

  16. David Appell says:

    Donald L. Klipstein says:
    >>I have heard complaints that the Obama administration was footdragging on approving offshore oil drilling permits. That reduces (or threatens to soon-reduce) petroleum supply.<<

    For once, examine the data. The world is now using 80+ million barrels per day (Mb/d) of petroleum. Do you think another 1 Mb/d from offshore is going to make much difference?

    You do realize, I hope, that oil companies who drill off the US shore do not keep that oil for the US — they sell it on the world market. You are competing with increased demand from China, India, and other developing countries.

    This is capitalism — supply vs. demand. Deal with it.

  17. David Appell says:

    Ray says:
    >>Also, I note that you have averaged out the prices over each term. It might be interesting to see the annual figures, to see how the trend has changed in more detail.<<

    It might, but I doubt it. In any case, feel free to calculate them for yourself — or is that too much trouble for you?

  18. PeterD says:

    Some Americans can do nothing better than whine about the price of gasoline. I guess they must have bad dreams at night about the Golden Age- never to return- of $1 per gallon gasoline. Poor souls. Here, in Australia, as we sit at near bottom of our (roughly) fortnightly pricing cycle, petrol at the pump costs nearly $1.40 per liter. After conversion to your funky gallon units, and taking account of the exchange rates, thats approx. $5.45 per gallon. And Australia is supposed to be relatively well-endowed with oil! As we were, until people started using it up by faster driving their four-wheel behemoths to the supermarket and sitting on their fat backsides watching their gargantuan TVs in air-conditioned comfort.
    I have recently been in SE Asia, where petrol costs nearly the same as in Australia- about $1 per liter, or even more. People there have to pay for this out of much smaller incomes. Stop whining, you lot!

  19. PeterD says:

    Ray: No, Dr Spencer did not say that “prices had increased only under Obama”. What he did write was that “current green policy is driving up petroleum prices”. The use of “current” and the mention of Gore in the previous sentence imply that prices are being driven up by the policies of the current Administration. How else would one read this? In any case, I think Americans need to “take a reality check” on the price of oil. Reality is what the rest of the world (excluding Middle East oil sheikhs) pays for gasoline.

  20. PeterD says:

    T. Meier: Thanks for sharing the personal memoir. However, I think your post is an example of unintentional irony. The Frontline producers allegedly contemptuous view of the American viewing public is precisely how much of the rest of the world views Americans: insular and ignorant about the world. (The Brit producers were probably too polite to say that they agreed with the assessment.)

  21. PeterD says:

    Memo to PD (7:51pm): Surely you meant “…people started using it up faster by driving…”???

  22. Doug Cotton says:

    What consensus? Here are biographies of just a few of the many scientists joining PSI who, unlike Roy, don’t sit on the fence. They are outright certain, like myself (author of a paper on their site) that carbon dioxide has no effect whatsoever.

    Energy balance does not govern climate. Climate governs energy balance. Climate is controlled by natural cycles whch appear to be related (in ways not yet understood) to planetary orbits.

    We are approaching the maximum of a cycle of about 1000 years. But a superimposed 60 year cycle was rising in the last 30 years of last century and caused alarm for those who did not understand the cyclic natural of climate. Carbon dioxide can never have any effect whatsoever, because the Earth still cools primarily by sensible heat transfer over which backradiation can have no effect. See my Radiated Energy paper and the October 2012 paper by Joe Postma both in the publications menu at http://principia-scientific.org/

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