Republican Congressman Intentionally Distorts Facts on Climate Change

Back in September the head of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, John P. Holdren, testified to the Congressional Committee on Science, Space, and Technology about the issue of climate change. He was affronted with my criticisms of the science behind climate change by the congressmen.

As you can see in the video below (Daily Show coverage of the meeting begins at minute 2:45 in the video), this started out with Representative Steve Stockman (R. Texas) recounting his visit to NASA where he learned that global wobble is what caused ice ages. He also learned that this effect isn’t included in climate models, but that it is ignored because it is very slow and thus negligible. 

Apparently Rep. Stockman is having some memory problems, because he forgot the last part and tried to use this tidbit to suggest climate science is not well understood (see video for exchange).

Below is a wonderful letter from the scientist at NASA who actually met with Rep. Stockman setting the record straight.

Lets start getting ready for the election in 2016. Lets get anyone who denies climate change out!

In the meantime, lets make waves in MA and get a real renewable economy off the ground.




The New York Times Op-ed

NOV. 11, 2014

Wobbling on Climate Change


Credit Matt Panuska

GREENBELT, Md. — I’M a climate scientist and a former astronaut. Not surprisingly, I have a deep respect for well-tested theories and facts. In the climate debate, these things have a way of getting blurred in political discussions.

In September, John P. Holdren, the head of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, was testifying to a Congressional committee about climate change. Representative Steve Stockman, a Republican from Texas, recounted a visit he had made to NASA, where he asked what had ended the ice age:

“And the lead scientist at NASA said this — he said that what ended the ice age was global wobbling. That’s what I was told. This is a lead scientist down in Maryland; you’re welcome to go down there and ask him the same thing.

“So, and my second question, which I thought it was an intuitive question that should be followed up — is the wobbling of the earth included in any of your modelings? And the answer was no…

“How can you take an element which you give the credit for the collapse of global freezing and into global warming but leave it out of your models?”

That “lead scientist at NASA” was me. In July, Mr. Stockman spent a couple of hours at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center listening to presentations about earth science and climate change. The subject of ice ages came up. Mr. Stockman asked, “How can your models predict the climate when no one can tell me what causes the ice ages?”

I responded that, actually, the science community understood very well what takes the earth into and out of ice ages. A Serbian mathematician, Milutin Milankovitch, worked out the theory during the early years of the 20th century. He calculated by hand that variations in the earth’s tilt and the shape of its orbit around the sun start and end ice ages. I said that you could think of ice ages as resulting from wobbles in the earth’s tilt and orbit.

The time scales involved are on the order of tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of years. I explained that this science has been well tested against the fossil record and is broadly accepted. I added that we don’t normally include these factors in 100-year climate projections because the effects are too tiny to be important on such a short time-scale.

And that, I thought, was that.

So I was bit surprised to read the exchange between Dr. Holdren and Representative Stockman, which suggested that at best we couldn’t explain the science and at worst we scientists are clueless about ice ages.

We aren’t. Nor are we clueless about what is happening to the climate, thanks in part to a small fleet of satellites that fly above our heads, measuring the pulse of the earth. Without them we would have no useful weather forecasts beyond a couple of days.

These satellite data are fed into computer models that use the laws of motion — Sir Isaac Newton’s theories — to figure out where the world’s air currents will flow, where clouds will form and rain will fall. And — voilà — you can plan your weekend, an airline can plan a flight and a city can prepare for a hurricane.

Satellites also keep track of other important variables: polar ice, sea level rise, changes in vegetation, ocean currents, sea surface temperature and ocean salinity (that’s right — you can accurately measure salinity from space), cloudiness and so on.

These data are crucial for assessing and understanding changes in the earth system and determining whether they are natural or connected to human activities. They are also used to challenge and correct climate models, which are mostly based on the same theories used in weather forecast models.

This whole system of observation, theory and prediction is tested daily in forecast models and almost continuously in climate models. So, if you have no faith in the predictive capability of climate models, you should also discard your faith in weather forecasts and any other predictions based on Newtonian mechanics.

The earth has warmed nearly 0.8 degrees Celsius over the last century and we are confident that the biggest factor in this increase is the release of carbon dioxide from fossil fuel burning. It is almost certain that we will see a rise of two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) before 2100, and a three-degree rise (5.4 degrees Fahrenheit) or higher is a possibility. The impacts over such a short period would be huge. The longer we put off corrective action, the more disruptive the outcome is likely to be.

It is my pleasure and duty as a scientist and civil servant to discuss the challenge of climate change with elected officials. My colleagues and I do our best to transmit what we know and what we think is likely to happen.

The facts and accepted theories are fundamental to understanding climate change, and they are too important to get wrong or trivialize. Some difficult decisions lie ahead for us humans. We should debate our options armed with the best information and ideas that science can provide.

Piers J. Sellers is the acting director of earth science at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.


Necessary Floodplain in Cambridge/Belmont getting replaced by Luxury Condos

Belmont, MA – October 17, 2014, 9am – Four Cambridge residents were arrested this morning for trespassing within the Silver Maple Forest presently being clear-cut. Signs along Acorn Park Drive in Belmont with over 20 supporters read, “No climate change,” “Don’t cut our floodplain silver maple trees,” “Stop the cutting before it’s too late.” The arrests follow years of organizing to defend the Silver Maple Forest, an invaluable floodplain for Cambridge, Belmont, and Arlington.

O’Neill Properties of Pennsylvania has been the major backer of the development, which would include 300 mainly luxury units and 60 affordable units. Belmont has not yet determined final permitting. Cambridge continues with Hearings and Policy Orders concerning the property as well.

Organizers aim to draw attention to the commencement earlier this week of clear-cutting of eight acres of woodlands in Belmont and Cambridge. Earlier this week, five conscientious objectors trespassed to tie pink protection ribbons on many trees to call attention to tree felling in the Upper Alewife Basin’s only regional floodplain forest. Major cutting was seen this morning on the site and prompted the conscientious acts of civil disobedience.

“People are acting out of their own conscience, and many have never before been arrested but consider this a serious environmental crime, especially in this era of climate change,” said Ellen Mass, an organizer who has been drawing attention to the forest for years.

The arrests were peaceful and without incident.  Dana Demetrio, Sylvia Gillman, Ben Beckwith, and Paula Sharaga were escorted by police out of the forest after refusing to leave when asked to do so. They say permits are “up in the air” in Belmont and it is nonsensical to clear-cut before building permits are approved.

A City of Cambridge Climate Vulnerability study has been delayed four times. The study would demonstrate the invaluable services provided by the 15-acre floodplain forest, which has stood for 60 years.

This is a “crime against nature” said protester Lois Solomon. Madeleine Sis, a student at Lesley who was arrested at Silver Maple Forest on Tuesday October 14th, said that “each tree falling is like a human dying because people will pay dearly as more flooding happens.” Another witness of conscience said, “Clear-cutting trees in floodplains, which provide a safety net for tens of thousands of people in the Mystic River watershed, is criminal. Those allowing the Silver Maple Forest to be developed should not be allowed to walk free but should face severe penalties.”

At 7:00 AM this Monday, October 20th, a wide range of groups, organizations, and individuals will hold another rally at the clear-cutting staging ground down the road from 15 Acorn Park Dr. More individuals will be called to take an act of civil disobedience. That same day, the Cambridge City Council will hear a Policy Order that no Cambridge property may be used for the development, which is problematic for the developer whose design plans include land in Cambridge. An injunction has been filed to stop the tree felling in Court.

Trees are falling, but people of conscience are making sure they are heard.


BC Students Discuss Experiences in NYC Climate March and Where to Go Next

Two weeks ago about a dozen BC students attended a march in NYC that filled a 2.2 mile route with about a half million people.

This Thursday a panel of these students will discuss their experiences at the march, and where the movement to stop rapid climate change will go next.

Come join our discussion and have some milk and cookies too! (Stokes S209, Thursday 10/2, 7pm).



End Climate Silence Speaker Series; Accounts from 400,000 strong People's Climate March in NYC - v5

BC Students join over 300,000 protestors in NYC

On Sunday September 21, 2014, BC students jumped on busses or into car-pools with activists from across Boston and headed down to NYC for the largest protest ever to demand global action on mitigating climate change.

At the protest we lined up along the west side of Central Park to prepare for the march, amongst a crowd that turned out to be 10x larger than the NYPD predicted: a solid 300,000+ protestors. There was music, chanting, singing, dancing, and all sorts of creative signs, flags and floats calling on our world leaders for action on climate change. Around mid-afternoon the march came to a halt because our numbers had completely filled the 2.2 mile march route… guess we’ll need a longer route next time!

At 12:58 pm everyone took part in a moment of silence, followed by a cheer crying out for action we all came to demand. I took the video below of this powerful moment:

To read more about the march, check out the articles written by NY Times, BBC, and CNN. (On Sunday evening these were the cover stories on the NY Times and BBC websites).

Taking a Call for Climate Change to the Streets – NY Times

Climate change: Thousands march across the UK – BBC

Marchers sound urgent call for climate change action ahead of U.N. summit – CNN

Here are some photos from the march in NYC:

John Kerry Speaks on Climate Change at BC Commencement

Make real change in your world – fight for climate action. Last spring BC students wrote a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, requesting he speak on climate change at our commencement. Result: Sunday Kerry speaks at Yale, says nothing on climate change. Monday Kerry speaks at Boston College, with climate as his main focus.

Watch below:


Secretary Kerry speaks on climate change at BC Commencement!


Sixteen Boston College students and alumni attended a divestment convergence hosted in Washington, D.C. over spring break, joining thousands of other college students representing over 100 university divestment campaigns. The event, named XL Dissent, took place over two days and culminated in a youth-organized protest of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline that would transport tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada to Port Arthur Texas, crossing over farmlands and the enormous Ogallala Aquifer.

The Divestment Convergence brought leaders of college divestment organizations together for a strategy session, in which students broke up into smaller breakout groups to listen to speakers, brainstorm organizing strategies, and network with other youth leaders. The large turnout signifies the growing national divestment movement, with campaigns underway at over 300 universities as well as cities and religions institutions.

Students met for a morning rally at Georgetown University on the second day before beginning their march to the White House. BC students held a sign reading, “Boston College says no KXL,” marching and chanting in unison with 1,200 others. Upon arriving at the White House, several indigenous environmental leaders shared stories before 372 students engaged in civil disobedience to ensure that the students’ opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline is heard. Six members of BC Fossil Free were arrested; a powerful start to their spring break.

Boston universities had an enormous presence at XL Dissent, sending three packed buses to Washington, D.C. for the Divestment Convergence and protest. After spring break, BC Fossil Free members intend to ramp up their campaign using the energy, enthusiasm, and organizing skills they gained from the event.


Boston College Fossil Free (BCFF) is a group of undergraduates, graduates, alumni, faculty and staff fighting the climate crisis by encouraging Boston College to immediately halt new investments in fossil fuel companies and completely divest from fossil fuel interests within five years. We work in solidarity with student groups in over 300 campuses across the United States.

Students Walkout of Class to Demand More Action on Climate Change

Boston, MA– After roughly two hundred students from across Massachusetts walked out of classes today to call for strong action on climate change, Governor Deval Patrick agreed to meet with activists to discuss a ban on the construction of new fossil fuel infrastructure.

“As a young person, I have an obligation to fight for a livable future, and right now, that means drawing a hard line in the sand against new fossil fuel infrastructure and committing to clean energy solutions,” said Martin Hamilton, a student at Brandeis University. “That’s why I walked out of classes today.”

The walkout, organized by Students for a Just and Stable Future, featured speeches from Newton North High School junior Kerry Brock, Wellesley College sophomore Ashley K Funk, and climate activist Tim DeChristopher.

The walkout came after months of campaigning by the grassroots organization Better Future Project and its volunteer-led climate action network 350 Massachusetts. Since summer 2013, activists have been calling on Governor Deval Patrick to “build only the best” by banning the construction of new fossil fuel infrastructure and meeting all new energy demand through renewables and energy efficiency, using his authority under the 2008 Global Warming Solutions Act.

 After rallying outside the Statehouse, the group of students waited outside as a smaller delegation of students entered the State House to request a meeting. They returned shortly with news that they had succeeded in securing an agreement to discuss the proposed ban with the Governor himself.

“Governor Patrick’s response to our walkout today only reaffirmed my conviction that he is the sort of moral leader we need to confront the climate crisis,” said Alli Welton, an undergraduate at Harvard College. “He has already been an outstanding champion of clean energy and climate action, and this ban would be the logical next step for his climate legacy.”

 Students who walked out of classes said that they were excited for the opportunity to meet with the Governor, and had high expectations for the meeting.

“It’s a matter of common sense. Our generation understands that now is the time to stop pouring resources into new fossil fuel infrastructure that would lock us into decades of dangerous emissions and instead to start investing in a real transition to viable energy alternatives. Governor Patrick’s demonstrated foresight and leadership on climate make me believe he can take these bold actions and be our generation’s climate hero.” Henry Jacqz, a student at Tufts University.

Students gather to demand a meeting with Governor Deval Patrick.

BC students march against new natural gas plant in Salem

On Saturday February 8 five students from Boston College joined 370 other concerned citizens from across New England for a march in Salem MA. The march was in protest against a natural gas plant that is proposed to replace the Salem coal plant that is currently being decommissioned. There were great speakers, fantastic live music throughout the march, and a warm reception with a live band at a local hotel, the Hawthorne Hotel.

Click here to read more!

This protest is just the beginning of the fight to stop the construction of a natural gas plant in Salem. It is meant as an improvement because it is replacing an existing (but very old and ready to retire) coal fired power plant. However, if constructed the new plant will lock us into carbon emissions for decades to come (as it would have a several decade life expectancy). Construction may start as soon as this summer, so we will need to fight hard. If successful though, this could be the first power plant in history to not be built with climate change as the predominant reason (past plans for plants have been scrapped because of various forms of air pollution, but not due to CO2 emissions).

Read more about the scientific and financial arguments: Union of Concerned Scientists article, think article.

See the action in the news! The Salem News,

Get involved, join the Legacy Campaign to stop the building of new fossil fuel infrastructure in MA.