Atmospheric Sciences News

California’s Governor Promises to Fight for Science

Scientific efforts must ratchet up in the face of rising climate change denial, Governor Brown said to a roomful of scientists.

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It’s time to stand up, unite, and fight for science—that was the message California’s governor Jerry Brown had for a convention hall packed with scientists and press this morning at the American Geophysical Union’s Fall Meeting in San Francisco, Calif.

“Some people need a heart attack to stop smoking. Maybe we just got our heart attack,” Brown said, referring to the recent threats against Earth and climate science as a new administration gathers in Washington. “This is a long-term slog into the future and [scientists] are there, the foot soldiers of change” and collaboration, he said.

A Friend in California

“We’ve got the scientists, we’ve got the lawyers, and we’re ready to fight. California is no stranger to this fight.” Brown said. “California will continue in support of research.”

The Golden State has long been a leader in enacting environmental policy. In 2012, Governor Brown signed into law the nation’s strictest vehicle emissions standards, which called for a 75% reduction of smog and a 50% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2025. Shortly after the law was signed, these standards became national. “California drove the United States,” Brown said.

Two years ago, Governor Brown also signed into law a bill to create a strategy to reduce short-lived climate pollutants such as black carbon (toxic particles that cause respiratory problems), fluorinated gases (which contribute to ozone layer destruction), and methane (a greenhouse gas more powerful than carbon dioxide). The bill calls for a 50% reduction in black carbon emissions, a 40% reduction in methane, and a 40% reduction in fluorinated gases by 2030.

From phasing out plastic bags to promises to clean up California’s air, the state plans to remain a beacon for environmental policy based on sound science. “If anyone in Washington starts picking on researchers, you can be sure you’ll have a friend in California, and all the legal talent we can bear,” Brown said.

Science Is “Not a Joke”

Brown also touched on the role that extremely biased news publications play in muddying scientists’ efforts to communicate the dangers of climate change. For example, when he pledged to reduce methane emissions in California, Breitbart, a self-described source for the white nationalist “alt-right” group, “talked about cow farts,” Brown said.

“Everything is reduced from seriousness to just a joke. Well, it’s not a joke,” Governor Brown said. “This is about real life, this is about real people, real science, and [scientists] are the custodians of that aspect of our lives.”

The governor also referenced his old moniker, “Governor Moonbeam,” from his gubernatorial term in the 1970s, bestowed on him when he proposed that California launch its own Landsat-type satellite. He said that the new administration has threatened to turn off some of the satellites that monitor Earth’s atmosphere and surface and lightheartedly joked, “If Trump turns off [the] satellites, California will launch its own damn satellites.”

Governor Moonbeam is back, and he’s here to ramp up scientific engagement. He told scientists, “It’ll be up to you, as truth tellers and truth seekers, to mobilize all your efforts to fight back.”

A full recording of Brown’s speech is available on the American Geophysical Union’s Facebook page.

—JoAnna Wendel (@JoAnnaScience), Staff Writer

Citation: Wendel, J. (2016), California’s governor promises to fight for science, Eos, 97, https://doi.org/10.1029/2016EO065045. Published on 14 December 2016.
© 2016. The authors. CC BY-NC-ND 3.0
  • davidlaing

    The IPCC only reports the statements of those climate scientists that they consider to be the most influential in the field. Inasmuch as none of these has thus far produced any clear, data-based evidence that atmospheric CO2 increase actually causes global warming. I can only conclude that they’re incorrect.

  • davidlaing

    I’m afraid that what you’re saying doesn’t make me feel any better. Correlation, which you say is “one of the main sources for our understanding,” is not the same as causation. If it were, you could say that the DJIA causes global warming because both are going up. You also talk about a “98%+ majority view,” but consensus means nothing in science, where something is either right or wrong. If that 98%+ settles for the wrong interpretation, that doesn’t make it right. Science is not democratic, and majority rule doesn’t apply. That’s why real, hard data from the Earth system is so important. It shows what’s right and what isn’t, and climate science hasn’t turned to that critically important source of actual fact. Please Google “Interesting Climate Sensitivity Analysis” for a recent actual hard-data-based study on the subject.

    • Richardboomer

      “I’m afraid that what you’re saying doesn’t make me feel any better.”
      Feelings and sentiment and emotion have nothing to do with CO2 heating up the atmosphere. http://katharinehayhoe.com/wp2016/2016/11/28/climate-science-its-a-lot-older-than-you-think/

      • davidlaing

        CO2 doesn’t heat up the atmosphere. Please Google “Interesting Climate Sensitivity Analysis” for an explanation.

        • Richardboomer

          “CO2 doesn’t heat up the atmosphere.” The Chinese are heating up the atmosphere. They’ve been building solar panels that reflect the sunlight back into the atmosphere, warming the air.

          • davidlaing

            Chinese solar panels heating up the atmosphere is not the same thing as CO2 heating up the atmosphere, but both are no more than speculation in the absence of hard data proof.

            • Ben

              David, you consistently post the same point of view on a number of different online forums. As many have pointed out, your arguments do not provide clarity. In fact, they serve to obfuscate. Scientific “proof” is a philosophical subject. Presumably however you accept that the phenomenon of gravity is in some way “proven” by “hard data”? This is ultimately a statistical problem (perhaps you take issue with the uncertainty?), and there is an extensive scientific literature that rigorously demonstrates numerous recent climatolgical events cannot be explained without an anthropogenic signal (i.e. CO2 emission and subsequent warming), and this is backup up with well established theory that explains how the greenhouse effect works and so on.

              Science of course welcomes, and requires, a diversity of views, but perhpas your concerns would be better presented in a more formal setting (conference, journals etc – did you attend AGU btw?), rather than you relentlessly adding obscurity to informal public forums.

              • davidlaing

                Ben, what could be clearer than that the theory of greenhouse warming has never been proven by any hard data study, and that the theory has, in fact, been disproven by two such studies? I think that to ignore these two facts is irresponsible.

                I agree that an anthropogenic signal has been in effect, but I hold that this signal is probably due to chlorine from CFCs depleting the ozone layer and is almost certainly not due to CO2 additions to the atmosphere.

                How greenhouse warming is supposed to work is known in intricate theoretical detail, but still, it remains unproven by hard data, and therefore is only theoretical, no matter how much sense it makes.

                We know that gravity is a field, which we know exists because we can measure its effects on matter. We don’t know what gravity is because fields can only be measured by such effects. Similarly, we assume that photons are present in electromagnetic fields (EMFs), but we can only measure them in matter. We can have no proof that photons exist in EMFs themselves. We can only assume that. Photons could very well be generated by the interaction of EMFs with matter (this doesn’t violate the first law of thermodynamics, incidentally, because a EMF and the matter on which it impinges doesn’t constitute a thermodynamically closed system).

                I have attended the AGU annual meeting. I choose to use informal forums for three reasons: 1) they are much more open minded, 2) they tend not to brush off and ignore scientifically valid alternative ideas, and 3) they have never proven me wrong. Neither, incidentally, has peer-reviewed science. If someone eventually succeeds in proving me wrong, of course, I’ll shut up, but so far, that hasn’t happened.

    • David Martin

      You are right about correlation not being causation, but increased greenhouse gas concentrations do lead to increased temperatures, all else being equal. That is the definition of the greenhouse effect. If you don’t believe that, walk in a greenhouse.
      But I think in some ways we are saying the same thing but have different ideas of what that is. I agree that there is something called “the truth” and “facts”. That is what science is about. When people thought the earth was flat, they were wrong, but that wasn’t based on decades of careful scientific research. The current 98% majority view is about interpreting the hard facts about temperatures and atmospheric conditions to determine that 1. the earth is warming (fact), 2. This is in part caused by increased CO2 (fact), 3. increased CO2 results (in part) from human activity (fact), and 4. If we continue up the current trajectory for CO2 and temperature, there will be harmful consequences (we don’t know yet, but I don’t want to find out).
      And I googled the above and I can see that you are an accomplished writer and all that. But the conclusions from the first half of your article are just a strawman. If I doubled the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere tomorrow and extinguished the sun, would the temperature go up or down? To say that the temperature increases in seasonal way that cannot be caused by the seasonal variation in CO2 is not news, it’s called seasons. You need to look at the overall trend, as in over years not months. You answered the question in your own article. “for the 24-year period 1975 to 1998, when the globe warmed dramatically by nearly one degree centigrade” while the average CO2 concentration also rose from 330ppm to 370ppm.

      • davidlaing

        First, you need more than a definition to show that “increased greenhouse gas concentrations do lead to increased temperatures.” Most people, like you, simply take this statement on faith, but without hard evidence, it is no more than speculation. The “greenhouse effect” is really not what heats a greenhouse. Most of the heat is due to the restriction of air circulation by the glass. “Greenhouse” is really just a metaphor.

        Second, the fact that Earth isn’t flat was determined on the basis of travel, that is, on the hard evidence that there is always something beyond the horizon. The only possible explanation is that we are on a curved surface. Magellan proved that fact by circumnavigating.

        Third, as to your “hard facts,”
        1) Earth is warming. Yes, it has been warming erratically since about 1960, but from about 1943 to about 1960 it was cooling, as it also was from about 1880 to about 1916. It hasn’t warmed as predicted by all the climate models, and it just underwent the sharpest cooling ever recorded.
        2) It has never been proven by hard data that warming is significantly caused by increased atmospheric CO2 .
        3) Increased atmospheric CO2 is, in fact, partly due to human activity.
        4) Continued warming would, in fact, lead to harmful consequences.
        In other words, your #s 3 and 4 are correct, your #1 is correct only for the period since about 1960, and there is no evidence that your #2 is correct.

        If CO2 doubled tomorrow and Sun were extinguished, Earth would quickly cool. but not as quickly as it would if H2O and CO2 were not present in the atmosphere. Their principal effect is to slow the rate at which Earth cools.

        The seasonal insolation effect on temperature during the base period (20th century) is a simple sinusoidal curve, which indicates that there is virtually no other long-term influence on temperature. In my analysis, I purposely removed the long term effect of the dramatic temperature increase over the 24-year period and looked at only the residual, month-to-month variability of the variables. In other words, I found that in that 24-year interval, the average month-to-month variability of ozone depletion and temperature anomaly was greatest in the month of March, whereas that of CO2 was in the moth of May, and this shows that CO2 couldn’t possibly cause warming but that ozone depletion could. If I hadn’t removed the overall trend from the analysis, I couldn’t have seen this. I see from what you’ve written that you didn’t understand this, and an understanding of it is critical to grasping the meaning in the graph.

        • David Martin

          I am really trying to understand your graph because I think you probably have a good point to make, but I can’t make sense of the “temperature anomaly” despite your statement above. You (or NOAA) are subtracting the average March temperature over 100 years from the March data and the average July temperature from the July data? If that is the case then there is something interesting there.
          On a separate note, your fact #1 jumps out at me because from before 1880 to 1960 the level of CO2 increased by less than 10%, and appears to have even leveled off or decreased during the post-WW2 era that you mentioned, so I would not argue that this is strong evidence either way. But since 1960 the CO2 concentration has risen from about 315ppm to 400ppm just this past year, and this is a completely unprecedented increase over such a short period, and it is (in part) due to human activity. During this same time the temperature has taken off in the infamous hockey stick trajectory. If you have a similar comparison to ozone levels over that period of time, then your proposal would have additional support that I would consider. But due to restrictions on CFC’s and the like since the 1980s, ozone levels have started to increase again and thus UV light hitting the earth’s surface has presumably decreased and yet temperatures continue to rise year after year.
          I am very intrigued by your idea, but I don’t see it as offering an explanation for the big picture. No climate scientist is saying that one single factor controls everything, but there are things we can control like CO2 and those that we can’t, like volcanoes and solar cycles and the like. I will continue to look for the hard evidence you are referring to because I don’t believe my colleagues are that naive.

          • davidlaing

            The graph shows the average monthly values of the three variables over the analysis period of 1975 to 1998, but it doesn’t show any year-to-year trends, because I’ve removed them by plotting only the month-to-month averages of departures from the base curve. In other words, the base curve shows the seasonal variations in insolation during the annual cycle, but my graph shows only the month-to-month deviations from that base curve.

            As to your second point, all three variables, temperature, CO2, and ozone depletion, have risen together since 1960, especially so from 1975 to 1998, my analysis period, but again, these are simply correlations, which don’t prove causation. My study over this period shows that CO2 can’t cause warming because during the 24-year study interval, it’s maximum occurs, on average, two months later than temperature’s maximum, but it does show (but doesn’t prove) that ozone depletion can cause warming because both its maximum and temperature’s maximum occur together in the same month (March), on average. The reasons that temperature is still creeping up and ice is still melting worldwide is that chlorine has a long residence time in the stratosphere, and that it destroys ozone catalytically, but at least no more of it is entering the stratosphere (except what was put there by the recent massive eruption of Iceland’s Bardarbunga volcano in 2014-15, which caused the recent spike in temperature and the recent El Nino). As you know, the ozone hole is just beginning to close, so it’ll be at least until mid-century before temperature drops to “normal” levels.

            Our colleagues aren’t “naive.” They’re dedicated to an idea that unfortunately hasn’t been properly tested and proven, which they’re very reluctant to admit, and reputations and funding are of course at stake. Most scientists are quite reluctant to admit that they’re wrong, and that their careers have all been for naught! The idea makes perfect sense, and that’s what’s so insidious about it, but when you test it with hard data, it appears to be incorrect.

        • David Martin

          Hang on, is your graph ozone levels or “ozone depletion”? If ozone is at a maximum, then shouldn’t the absorption of UV rays be at a maximum and then shouldn’t the effect on temperature be net negative? As in negative forcing? If you have flipped the graph around to make more sense for people who don’t understand inverse relationships, then…

          • davidlaing

            I have flipped the ozone concentration graph to represent ozone depletion, so when its values are high, ozone is low, and UV-B irradiation is consequently high.

    • David Martin

      Actually I think I need you to explain what “temperature anomaly” means in your graph/article, I don’t see that explained anywhere.

      • davidlaing

        “Temperature anomaly” is the actual temperature minus an average temperature over a certain time period, in this case, the 20th century.

  • Dr. Dirt

    You have a basic misunderstanding of the scientific method. Science never proves anything; it fails to disprove. The overwhelming scientific evidence (thousands of studies; see IPCC for references) suggests that rapid climate change is occurring and human activities are a major cause of this change.

    • tolo4zero

      Many 97% consensus studies have been done
      Not one claims a 97% consensus that man is significantly warming the planet to cause significant climate change.

      • Mitch_Ocean

        Dr. Dirt is referencing papers, not consensus. The data show the warming and link it to human activities. If you would like some help finding a way to start examining the science, we can help.

  • tolo4zero

    Climate deniers are the ones who claim 97% of scientists feel AGW is dangerous.
    All the science proves that is not true.
    There is no 97% consensus on dangerous climate change due to AGW.

    • David Martin

      Sources please. Either you believe the earth is not warming (which it is) or you believe most scientists do not attribute this warming *primarily* to the impacts of humans (which they do). I would like to see original publications that support your opinion.

      • tolo4zero

        Cook(2013) 97% of 32% only believe man is warming the planet, not that AGW is dangerous.

        • David Martin

          I would love to read that, can you send the reference or a link?

        • David Martin

          I’m not sure what that means or how I am supposed to find the source. But if one believes that man is warming the planet, and one understands the effects of a warming planet, such as sea level rise, stronger hurricanes and regional drought, then it’s hard for me to understand that those two things don’t lead to the conclusion that AGW is dangerous. Even a small push to the system can cause larger effects, because thawing permafrost will release even more CO2 etc. etc.

  • davidlaing

    I agree with Governor Brown, except that I’d add the great importance of making certain that the science on which we base public policy really is sound. The actual truth is that greenhouse warming theory has never actually been proven by any hard-data-based study (I invite anyone to prove me wrong on this by presenting one or more citations; I’d love to see them), which means that greenhouse warming remains only a speculation and not a dependable fact, as most people currently assume it to be.

    • lnbari

      Here’s an article that describes the raw science behind the effect of CO2 on climate:
      Mlynczak, M. G., et al. (2016), The spectroscopic foundation of radiative forcing of climate by carbon dioxide, Geophys. Res. Lett., 43, 5318–5325, doi:10.1002/2016GL068837.

      • davidlaing

        Sorry. This article, like thousands of other studies like it, merely describes the absorption line characteristics of CO2 and makes theoretical calculations about how much warming SHOULD BE CAUSED, given the line spectrum. It doesn’t show on the basis of hard data that CO2 ACTUALLY CAUSES warming. That is what is missing from greenhouse warming research, and that is why it remains an unproven theory.

        • lnbari

          If you’re not convinced by fundamental physics, there is no possible way to convince you.

          • davidlaing

            It’s not a question of being convinced by fundamental physics. There’s nothing at all wrong with the atmospheric physics described by the article. My point is that it simply doesn’t give hard data proof that greenhouse warming actually works, and that’s what I’m looking for. Do you want to contest that point?

          • davidlaing

            I have no quarrel with fundamental physics as long as it answers the question at hand, which is: “Does increased atmospheric CO2 content cause warming?” So far, I haven’t seen any that does.

  • ECDad

    Perhaps Mr. Brown should not have shut down the Diablo Canyon nuclear reactor, which was safely and cleanly providing huge volumes of electricity to California. Instead, they are now pumping tons of CO2 into the atmosphere from fossil fuel burning plants that is replacing what came off line. Yeah, Mr. Brown, you are a real supporter of the climate. Not.

  • UCSBcpa

    Great! How about one of two things to help?

    1. Stop taxing the renewable energy in the state of California, then? – California is one of the few states that apply a Sales Tax to renewable energy projects. This would save roughly 5-9% of the total project costs.

    2. Add a two-year state income tax credit of 10% (net of Federal tax credit).

    Given the vast decrease in project costs over the last 24 months, coupled with either one (maybe both) would provide an explosion of renewable energy projects over the next two years. Enough to change the entire West Coast’s energy profile.

    The costs to the California taxpayer would be more than made up with increased job growth (and spending) as well as decrease in pollution.

    • David Martin

      Great ideas.

  • ECDad

    Yes, let’s get after the science deniers. All of them. Yes, even the ones who don’t believe in GMOs, Nuclear Energy and Vaccinations. You see, the sad truth is that science deniers know no political stripe. Liberals are deniers just as conservatives, only on different issues. Still deniers in the face of proven science.

    • davidlaing

      Unfortunately, this science (of greenhouse warming) has never actually been proven with hard data. It remains speculative.

      • Mitch_Ocean

        I suggest that you try google scholar to find recent papers on the earth’s energy balance, which clearly show the greenhouse effect. Then come back with questions.

        • davidlaing

          Thanks, Mitch_Ocean. I’ve done that, and it’s perfectly true that google scholar clearly and abundantly shows the greenhouse effect and plenty of claims that it’s due largely to increasing anthropogenic CO2 content of the atmosphere, but I have yet to find any hard-data-based study here or elsewhere confirming this, and that really troubles me. In 1900, Knut Angstrom performed careful hard-data-based experiments that didn’t support the theory (“little effect”), but no such study appears to have been done since, except my own (Google “Interesting Climate Sensitivity Analysis” for a good summary), which arrived at essentially the same result as Angstrom’s. Of course, the HITRAN database has a lot of info on absorption characteristics of “greenhouse gases,” but these alone don’t translate into actual warming. So, my question, do you have any references to any hard-data-based study or studies that show that CO2 and other greenhouse gases actually cause warming? Tx!

    • Victor Venema

      The equivalent of extremists like Davidlaing “this science (of greenhouse warming) has never actually been proven with hard data” would be people against GMOs claiming genes have not been proven or people against nuclear energy claiming radioactivity does not exist.