How did this start?
In the mid ’90s, I believed global warming was overblown.
Like most college students, I was required to take a certain number of credits in the natural sciences. One of my choices was an environmental sciences class. It was taught by a professor who was an expert on the Yellowstone ecosystem and mainly dealt with western land issues. It also covered a lot of world issues such as deforestation and population and fertility. It was probably the most interesting class I took in college.
However, when the topic of global warming was discussed, the professor berated it. He thought it was a ridiculous idea. For our lab on global warming, we watched a British documentary that depicted the greenhouse effect as a Roman-style building. One by one the narrator destroyed each pillar until the building collapsed. So I believed this for a long time, since that’s what I was taught.
However, eccentrics on Internet message boards that I frequented made me change my mind. Whenever the topic of environmentalism was discussed, I would basically hear the same arguments. For example:
The ozone hole is natural.
Preventing acid rain isn’t worth the bother – it’s just too expensive to do anything about.
And, of course, global warming isn’t occurring.
When I started looking into these issues, the scientific evidence they gave just wasn’t credible. Basically, it was all one big scientific conspiracy.
While I was putting this together, I searched the Internet to find out about the documentary I had watched in college. It turns out that it was fittingly titled The Greenhouse Conspiracy1.
A Case Study of Inaccuracy:
Playing the grapevine game with volcanoes and the Queen of England
Skeptics do not have a monopoly on inaccuracy, and certain myths get perpetuated by both sides in the media, in blogs, or simply by word of mouth. Often, this is not malicious. People are just repeating what they hear. It is suggested that the science of climate change does not hold up to scrutiny, but more often than not, it is the skeptical claims that lack credibility, or depend on the misrepresentation of legitimate science. In this introduction, I will describe my own experience that first drove me to examine the assertions of skeptics. It ties together all three of the big environmental controversies — the ozone hole, acid rain, and global warming.
“More _____ than all of mankind!”
One of the more peristent beliefs is that humans are incapable of changing the earth’s atmosphere in any signficant way (see section 7 for more detail on this topic).
Early on, I started hearing about how volcanoes produced more pollution than all of mankind put together. It didn’t take long to figure out where it came from2.
In 1992, Rush Limbaugh wrote a book called The Way Things Ought to Be. In it, he included this passage3:
Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines spewed forth more than a thousand times the amount of ozone-depleting chemicals in one eruption than all the fluorocarbons manufactured by wicked, diabolical, and insensitive corporations in history.
The manmade chemical compounds responsible for the the ozone hole are called “haloalkanes”. A subset of these compounds are chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), or more commonly, “Freon”.
Limbaugh cites a book by the late Dixy Lee Ray, who was a former Washington state governor, a marine biologist and the head of the Atomic Energy Commission. Limbaugh says that Ray’s book, Trashing the Planet, was the “most footnoted, documented book that I have ever read” and he recommends that everyone should get this book to arm yourself against the junk scientists pushing this environmentalism.
Pinatubo = St. Augustine
In Trashing the Planet, Ray doesn’t talk about Mount Pinatubo, since it hadn’t erupted yet. Pinatubo erupted in 1991 and this book was first published in 1990.
She talks about Mount St. Augustine which is a volcano in Alaska.4 She says:
. . . the eruption of Mount St. Augustine in 1976 injected 289 billion kilograms of hydrochloric acid directly into the stratosphere. That amount is 570 times the total world production of chlorine and fluorocarbon compounds in the year 1975.
If it were to reach the stratosphere, hydrochloric acid would have the same effect as CFCs. That is, it would destroy ozone. Ray ends this passage with the terse phrase, “So much is known.” We’ll get back to her sources, but in the mean time let’s look at the actual scientific paper that produced those figures.
St. Augustine = Long Valley Caldera
This is an excerpt from a paper5 by David Johnston who was a US Geological Survey scientist and an expert on volcanoes.
This paper was published in the journal Science in 1980. Johnston was the USGS scientist stationed at the lookout post when Mount St. Helens erupted and he was killed not long after this paper was written.
We can see that he wasn’t talking about St. Augustine but instead the volcano that formed the Long Valley Caldera in California 700,000 years ago. This was the eruption that he estimated injected 289 billion kg of hydrochloric acid into the stratosphere, and that was 570 times the 1975 world industrial production of chlorine in fluorocarbons.
So Ray got it wrong and she got it wrong by a large amount.
What was really said about St. Augustine
Johnston estimated that it ejected 82 to 175 million kg into the stratosphere which was 17 to 36 percent of the 1975 world production of chlorine in CFCs. Still quite a lot, but roughly 1/6th to 1/3rd the annual human contribution of chlorine to the stratosphere.
The magnitude of the error
Long Valley was a geologically major eruption and St. Augustine was somewhat commonplace. There is simply no comparison.
So much is known (by Lyndon LaRouche)
Let’s look at Ray’s sources.
At least two of them quote the figures from Johnston, and both get the number correct, so it was Ray who was in error. It’s possible that she got the figures from another source, Van Nostrand’s Scientific Encyclopedia6, which confused the figures in the same way, although Ray didn’t cite it as the source. Whatever the case, her numbers were grossly wrong.
But her citations are truly bizarre. She cites four sources by two authors for the pages on the greenhouse effect and ozone destruction. Each author is attributed to two sources. One of the authors is S. Fred Singer, a prominent global warming skeptic who does have a credible scientific background. The other source is Rogelio Maduro, the co-author of The Holes in the Ozone Scare7, and the principle author of this EIR Special Report – The ‘greenhouse effect’ hoax: A world federalist plot8.
Both are publications of Lyndon LaRouche, a US political figure. Among other things9, LaRouche believes the Queen of England is an international drug dealer10, and he believed the British monarchy was behind the Oklahoma City bombing11. He runs for president every 4 years. He served 6 years in prison for tax evasion and mail fraud, and even ran for president while he was in prison.
A look at The ‘greenhouse effect’ hoax table of contents tells us all we need to know. e.g. Ecologists and Soviets acting in tandem, global fascism, pagan cults and Satanism.
Yet, even more is known
Ray's other source from Maduro was The Myth Behind the Ozone Hole Scare, presumably an earlier version of his book The Holes in the Ozone Scare12.
Maduro mentions the Johnston paper about St. Augustine, as does at least one of the S. Fred Singer sources. Both of them get the figures correct, so it was Ray who transcribed them incorrectly. It’s possible that she got the figures from another source, Van Nostrand’s Scientific Encyclopedia13, which confused the figures in the same way, although Ray didn’t cite it as the source. Whatever the case, her numbers were wrong.
On the back cover, the first person to endorse it is, of course, Dixy Lee Ray. The next person is a refrigerator engineer, who says the book “reads like a spy thriller.” Next is Dr. Hugh Ellsaesser, who was a frequent contributor to LaRouche’s publications.
The last one is the most interesting. This is Lewis du Pont Smith, who is a du Pont heir. According to the conspiracy theory, the Ozone Hole scare was cooked up by industry to get people to replace their refrigerators and air conditioners so that DuPont could sell the CFC replacements. So du Pont Smith’s accusations are supposed to carry some weight. However, it turns out that in 1986 he was declared legally incompetent after he contributed more than $200,000 to Lyndon LaRouche’s organization14. This book was written in 1992, so he is a long standing LaRouchite.
He’s been quoted as saying that replacing CFCs was going to cost $5 trillion worldwide15, which is enough money to buy every person on earth, every newborn, every 100 year old grandmother, every bushman, aborigine and Eskimo a brand new refrigerator.
Fast forward to 2004
Although the volcano story continued to live on in Internet infamy, it fell out of the limelight until 2004. That year, Mount St. Helens began erupting again and The Seattle Times published an article titled “Mount St. Helens, the state’s number 1 Air Polluter”.16
St. Helens vs. the State of Washington
The article gives some statistics about Sulfur Dioxide (SO2), which is the primary cause of acid rain.
The chart shows emissions of sulfur dioxide in tons per day. This is in comparison to the state of Washington and the Centralia coal-fired power plant which is the state’s single largest manmade polluter. Figures for both before and after pollution controls are given. (See section 3 for more on sulfur dioxide reductions.) You can see that while coal power plants are not insignificant in terms of sulfur dioxide emissions, Mount St. Helens clearly puts out a lot more sulfur dioxide while it is active.
The article goes on to talk about other volcanoes.
Mount Etna is the most sulfurous volcano in the world and it puts out much more than Kilauea and it dwarfs St Helens.
“Environmentalist Wacko Tripe”
Rush Limbaugh got a hold of this and he said this on his radio program, which is also reproduced on his website under the heading “Environmentalist Wacko Tripe.”17
I guess enforcing the Kyoto treaty would be pretty hard for those stupid enough to implement it. Who’s going to sue the sun or Mount St. Helens when they violate the treaty? [...] When Mount Pinatubo erupted, [I] made the same point, Mount Pinatubo put more gunk in the air than all the automobile exhaust in the history of the automobile combined [...] It’s just a testament to the resiliency of the earth and how we’re powerlessness [sic] over it when you get right down to it.
The Real Problem
These are the coal power plants for just the western United States.18
Coal provides half of our electricity and it is the US’s most abundant energy source.
In contrast, compare the snapshot of active volcanoes as of 9/10/07.19
At that particular moment, there were 14 in the entire world. So it’s a bit like Gulliver being overpowered by Lilliputians: the real problem is the coal fired power plants.
The magnitude of the error, part 2
On Rushlimbaugh.com, he reproduces that Seattle Times article which includes these statements.
“Worldwide, sulfur dioxide emissions from volcanoes add up to about 15 million tons a year, compared to the 200 million tons produced by power plants and other human activities.”
I’ve included the estimate for Mount Pinatubo’s ‘91 eruption from the US Geological Survey20 which essentially matched the average amount of sulfur dioxide emitted by all volcanoes in a given year.
The magnitude of the error, part 3
In terms of CO2, we have this comparison, and now we are actually talking about global warming.
Mount St. Helens produces between 500 and 1,000 tons a day of carbon dioxide [...] the Centralia coal plant puts out about 28,000 tons a day. Statewide, automobiles, industries, and residential and business heating systems emit nearly 10 times that amount.
“I usually never hear from them again”
The article continues:
On a global scale, the difference is even more dramatic, said [USGS Scientist] Gerlach, who often gets calls from power-plant operators and oil-company executives who believe nature is just as responsible for global warming as man. His answer always disappoints them.
“I tell them the amounts don’t even come close and I usually never hear from them again.”
Worldwide, people and their activities pump 26 billion tons of carbon dioxide in to the atmosphere, he said. The total from volcanoes is about 200 million tons a year – or less than 1 percent of the man-made emissions.
Swindled by The Swindle
In 2007, a British documentary called The Great Global Warming Swindle aired in Britain and throughout the world.21 The first version to air had a cartoon that showed a volcano belching out CO2 and a small building emitting just a little bit of CO2 (erroneously labeled CO2 in the cartoon).
The documentary said this, “Volcanoes produce more CO2 each year than all the factories and cars and planes and other sources of manmade carbon dioxide put together.”
This is from the first version of The Great Global Warming Swindle and there have been several versions to air so far. This was one of the first flaws removed. One scientist to appear in the documentary has said that if he had known the title of the documentary was The Great Global Warming Swindle he never would have participated. He intended to talk about how people often gets the facts wrong, but instead his comments were turned into a case against human caused global warming in general.22
LaRouche down under
This allows us to come full circle. After The Great Global Warming Swindle aired on Australian TV, there was an hour long panel discussion on the documentary, which included a Q&A session with the audience.
This statement from the LaRouche website says it all.23
At a live Australian Broadcasting Corporation debate on Global Warming, with 15 LaRouche activists present in the audience out of 80 attendees, the ALYM [Australian LaRouche Youth Movement] and Australian chapter members present got to ask 4 questions to the panelists, exposing the genocidal roots of environmental philosophy.
Four LaRouche activists
Thanks to YouTube, we can watch them here in the United States.24
The first LaRouche activist asks if the intent of the “environmentalist scam” is to apply eugenics to developing countries. Eugenics is the philosophy that humans should intervene with our own evolution, selectively breeding out perceived undesirable traits. Under the guise of science, eugenics was used to justify racial, ethnic and social stereotypes. In this case, because certain early environmentalists believed in eugenics, the conspiracy is that global warming is a ruse to prevent poor nations’ access to cheap fossil fuels, thus ensuring starvation and social upheaval (see section 12 for the refutation of this idea).
The second person studied “physical economics, astrophysics, and classical music under Lyndon LaRouche.” He believes that Johannes Kepler refuted the statistics of global warming 400 years ago.
The third person blames Prince Philip (the Queen's husband) and eugenics for the green movement and says that it is all “Nazi race science” that “will destroy Africa.” Prince Philip once famously said that given all the extinctions caused by mankind, that if reincarnated, he would be tempted to return as a deadly virus.25 To some, this means that Prince Philip literally wants the human race wiped out with a deadly virus.
The final person simply doesn’t believe that overpopulation is a problem.
All of this talk of eugenics is at odds with mainstream skepticism in the United States. In the US, the most common argument against the Kyoto treaty and future international agreements is that they treat developing and developed countries differently, placing the US economy at a disadvantage. The LaRouchites believe environmentalists are trying to wipe out the poor, while mainstream skeptics believe environmentalists are trying to wipe out the rich nations.
LaRouche at the National Press Club
James Hansen, who is probably the most widely known climate scientist in the world, recently gave a presentation to the National Press Club. In the audience was a representative of 21st Century Science, which is Lyndon LaRouche’s scientific organization (it published The Holes in the Ozone Scare). The person asked Hansen about past concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere.
This is what he is talking about.26
The big wavy line is a compilation of pre 1957 measurements of CO2 in the atmosphere. Those measurements were taken wherever the scientists happened to be. The dots near the bottom labeled “ice core Antarctica” are taken from bubbles trapped in ice and they are very accurate. Since 1957, we have measured CO2 quite accurately from the Mauna Loa Observatory on the Big Island of Hawaii. The LaRouchite called these numbers a fraud, and asked if CO2 concentrations were so high in the recent past, how can we be responsible for the CO2 concentration today.27 However, the pre 1957 measurements are not representative of the global concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere. Local effects contaminate the measurements, which is the reason why scientists went to such great lengths to measure CO2 at high altitudes and far from human civilization. But here we have a person asking James Hansen on C-SPAN about this, and for anyone at home who isn’t knowledgeable about these things and a bit skeptical about global warming, it probably sounds convincing.
What’s the point?
These examples may seem over the top and not representative of skeptical positions, but the belief that human influence on the atmosphere is inconsequential remains pervasive due in no small part to Limbaugh, The Great Global Warming Swindle, The Greenhouse Conspiracy or any number of popular sources. Popular sources such as these have introduced many people to global warming skepticism, including myself.
There are many websites, books, documentaries and resources concerning global warming, but there are few summaries intended for a layman audience. The title of this presentation, “The Global Warming Debate”, is something of a misnomer. The basic scientific conclusion — that humans are responsible for most of the warming of the past few decades — is well established. It is the debate among the public and politicians that is preventing substantive action to mitigate climate change. The topics I will address are intended to clear up this confusion. What significant debate that does remain in the science will also be examined.
The following sections will attempt to clarify the basic science, history, and controversy of human caused climate change. The presentation will explain why the scientific community believes it is an enhanced greenhouse effect that is responsible for the recent run up of temperatures, and why other theories are not consistent with observations. Finally, it summarizes the changes we have observed to date, what is expected in the future, and why we are running out of time.
A transcript of The Greenhouse Conspiracy can be found here.
Limbaugh’s use of Dixy Lee Ray’s book is documented several places, but the first place I read it was in this article from FAIR in 1994.
(Johnston, 1980). Abstract here.
(Maduro & Schauerhammer, 1992)
(Maduro, White, Burdman, Sonnenblick, Klenetsky, & Berg, 1989)
This clip includes a short segment from the ‘80s where LaRouche talks about the British Monarchy’s involvement with drugs. “Of course she’s pushing drugs. That is, in the sense of a responsibility, the head of a gang that is pushing drugs. She knows it’s happening and she isn’t stopping it.”
This is a transcript from “EIR Talks,” a weekly LaRouche radio show, where he accuses the British monarchy of masterminding the bombing. “So, here we are, a case of this faction of the British Empire, the British monarchy, prepared and exploited a terrorist act against the United States, a terrorist act of military intelligence sophistication, way above the Special Forces level; and they’re the ones who benefitted.”
(Maduro & Schauerhammer, 1992) [↩]
(Considine, 1983) [↩]
(Doughton, 2004) Online here.]
Limbaugh’s Environmentalist Wacko Tripe.
Map from Western Region Ash Group.
Map from geocodezip.com.
(Newhall, Hendley, & Stauffer) Online here.
One version of The Great Global Warming Swindle (streaming video).
(Beck, 2007) Online here.
The reporter’s description of events.
Sources cited in the Introduction
BBC. (n.d.). Jeremiah Duggen's Death and Lyndon LaRouche part 1. Retrieved May 22, 2008, from YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jpSx8K0U21A
Beck, E.-G. (2007). 180 years of atmospheric CO2 gas analysis by chemical methods. Energy and Environment , 259-282.
Doughton, S. (2004, December 1). Mount St. Helens the state's No. 1 air polluter. Retrieved May 22, 2008, from The Seattle Times: http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=20041201&slug=volcano01m
Durkin, M. (Director). (2007). The Great Global Warming Swindle [Motion Picture].
EIR Talks. (1995, May). Queen Elizabeth Behind the Ok Bombing. Retrieved May 22, 2008, from 'Lectic Law Library: http://www.lectlaw.com/files/cur50.htm
Fair & Accuracy in Reporting. (1994, July/August). The Way Things Aren't: Rush Limbaugh Debates Reality. Retrieved May 23, 2008, from FAIR: http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=1895
Hinds, M. D. (1990, January 29). Du Pont Millions at Issue In an Heir's Sanity Case. Retrieved May 22, 2008, from The New York Times: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9C0CE2D8103CF93AA15752C0A966958260&sec=health&spon=&pagewanted=all
Johnston, D. A. (1980). Volcanic Contribution of Chlorine to the Stratosphere: More Significant to Ozone Than Previously Estimated? Science , 491 - 493.
Jones, C. (2007, March 9). The Truth Heats Up Press Club Atmosphere. Retrieved May 22, 2008, from Executive Intelligence Review: http://www.larouchepub.com/lym/2007/3410cody_pressclub.html
Jones, T. (2007, July 12). Global Warming Swindle Debate Pt1 - Pt8 (ABC). Retrieved May 22, 2008, from YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lIjGynF4qkE
Lilley, F. (n.d.). Bronfman and the Freon CON. Retrieved May 22, 2008, from HiddenMysteries Information Central: http://www.hiddenmysteries.org/conspiracy/reststory/bronfmanfreon.html
Limbaugh, R. (2004, December 1). Environmentalist Wacko Tripe: Mother Nature: World's Biggest Polluter. Retrieved May 22, 2008, from The Rush Limbaugh Radio Show: http://www.rushlimbaugh.com/home/estack/mother_nature_biggest_polluter.guest.html.html
Limbaugh, R. H. (1992). The Way Things Ought to Be. New York: Pocket Books.
LPAC. (2007, July 12). Australian LYM Raises the Nazi Eugenics Roots of Environmentalism . Retrieved May 22, 2008, from LaRouche Political Action Committee: http://www.larouchepac.com/news/2007/07/12/australian-lym-raises-nazi-eugenics-roots-environmentalism.html
Maduro, R. A., & Schauerhammer, R. (1992). The Holes in the Ozone Scare: The Scientific Evidence that the Sky Isn't Falling. Washington DC: 21st Century Science Associates.
Maduro, R., White, C., Burdman, M., Sonnenblick, M., Klenetsky, K., & Berg, V. (1989). The Greenhouse Effect Hoax: A World Federalist Plot. Washington DC: EIR News Service, Inc.
Publications available through EIR News Service. (n.d.). Retrieved May 22, 2008, from Executive Intelligence Review - LaRouche Publications: http://www.larouchepub.com/pubinfo.html
Publications for Readings from the American Almanac. (n.d.). Retrieved May 22, 2008, from The American Almanac: http://american_almanac.tripod.com/sources.htm
Ray, D. L. (1990). Trashing the Planet. New York: HarperPerennial.
Sales, L. (2007, July 12). My words were twisted in global warming documentary: expert. Retrieved May 22, 2008, from ABC Lateline: http://www.abc.net.au/lateline/content/2007/s1977366.htm
The American Almanac. (1997, August 25). Prince Philip, In His Own Words: We Need to 'Cull' The Surpluss Population. Retrieved May 2008, from PropagandaMatrix.com: http://www.propagandamatrix.com/prince.html
The Greenhouse Conspiracy (transcript). (n.d.). Retrieved May 22, 2008, from Guadium Certaminis: http://www.angelfire.com/dc/gaudcert/globwarm3.htm
The Sierra Club. (n.d.). Stopping the Coal Rush Map. Retrieved September 2007, from The Sierra Club: http://www.sierraclub.org/maps/coal.asp
USGS. (n.d.). Active Volcanoes of the World. Retrieved September 10, 2007, from Google Maps API Links: http://www.geocodezip.com/v2_activeVolcanos.asp
Western Region Ash Group. (n.d.). Coal Fired Plants in the Western USA. Retrieved May 22, 2008, from Western Region Ash Group: http://www.wrashg.org/coalplant.htm
Wunsch, C. (2007, March 11). Partial Response to the London Channel 4 Film "The Great Global Warming Swindle". Retrieved May 22, 2008, from Carl Wunsch: http://ocean.mit.edu/~cwunsch/papersonline/channel4response