Santa Fe New Mexican

Thu, 2011-02-10 19:57Richard Littlemore
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Harrison Schmitt Bails on New Mexico Energy Post

Ex-astronaut and current climate change denier Harrison Schmitt has withdrawn as the potential New Mexican cabinet secretary for the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department.

Schmitt, whose climate inaccuracies (and his refusal to correct obvious errors) have landed him in a pack of trouble of late, may have been telling the truth about his reasons for withdrawing. Or not.

Either way, Schmitt and his Heartland Institute fellow travellers are likely to think twice before again challenging someone with the credibility of Sandia National Laboratories physicist Dr. Mark Boslough, the scientist who revealed Schmitt’s most egregious recent false statement about climate change.

Wed, 2011-02-09 16:13Richard Littlemore
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"ArticGate" - When is a Mistake a Lie?

What did Harrison Schmitt Know? And When?

In the ongoing controversy over whether former astronaut and New Mexico Senator Harrison Schmitt intentionally misled NASA with his 2009 white paper on climate change, we come to the age old questions: What did Schmitt know? And when did he know it?

Schmitt says in that paper that “Artic (sic) sea ice has returned to 1989 levels of coverage.” When Dr. Mark Boslough, a physicist and computational modeler at Sandia National Laboratories brought to Schmitt’s attention that this was incorrect, Schmitt failed to correct it. Well, not everyone likes to admit making a mistake.

But was it a mistake?

Tue, 2011-02-08 09:42Richard Littlemore
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"ArticGate" - NSIDC Confirms Schmitt, Heartland Misrepresented Data

Two scientists from the National Snow and Ice Data Center have written to the Santa Fe New Mexican to confirm that the wanna-be head of the New Mexico Department of Energy Minerals and Natural Resources was pontedly inaccurate when he claimed in a NASA white paper that “Artic [sic] sea ice has returned to 1989 levels of coverage.”

Walt Meier and Mark Serreze, who help manage and update the daily satellite measurements of Arctic ice, point out (with patience that Schmitt hardly deserves) that there was, indeed, a moment in 2009 when sea ice extent was greater than it had been - in the same week - in 1989, but that this was in no way a fair, accurate or helpful reflection of the state of ice in the Arctic, then or since. ( The graph at left shows the fully-year comparison of 2009 and 1989 and if you click on the NSIDC graphic for yesterday, you will see that extent continues to be at its lowest level in recorded history.)

Unlike the former astronaut and New Mexican Senator Schmitt, Meier and Serreze are in no way political players in this game. You would be hard-pressed to find their names on anything other than the dozens of excellent scientific papers emanating from the NSIDC. So their measured correction is itself extraordinary.

The bottom line is that Schmitt offered advice to NASA on the basis of an unrepresentative high point in ice extent. And he either picked that high point accidentally - in which case he has clearly lost any semblance of scientific rigour and should be denied any position that demands scientific expertise - or he picked it on purpose - in which case he should be denounced as a scoundrel and dismissed from candidacy for any public position.

Mon, 2011-02-07 08:24Richard Littlemore
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"ArticGate" - Heartland Backs Schmitt in Climate Misinformation

Incompetent or Dishonest - Either Way They’re Wrong

The former astronaut and proud climate change denier Harrison Schmitt is not alone in making the false claim that “Artic [sic] sea ice has returned to 1989 levels of coverage.” He has been bolstered  by the smokey hacks at the Heartland Institute, and especially by the brittle letter writer and Heartland head honcho, Joseph Bast.

If Schmitt’s false statement had stood on its own (or if he had moved to correct it when it was pointed out), you could reasonably have dismissed it as an error made in good faith.  But when Bast stooped to the flagrant manipulation necessary to argue that Schmitt’s assertion could have some basis in fact, well, you have to wonder - especially when there is already an established relationship between Schmitt and Heartland (check the name on the podium in the Schmitt denier video).

It’s awkward always to trace climate denial back to the money trail. Some people - maybe even Schmitt - deny climate science out of ideological blindness, not greedy self-interest. But it’s interesting that Heartland’s two favourite projects are denying the science of climate change and arguing that tobacco is really not all that bad for you. It’s relevant, too, that before they started hiding their funding sources, Heartland used to acknowledge the generous support of the tobacco and oil industries in propping up the “think” tank’s operations.

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