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Houston’s Climate Debate (Hundreds respond to Neil Frank’s Op-Ed, ‘Climategate: You Should Be Steamed’)

My recent post at MasterResource, Climategate: Here Comes Courage!, has been picked up in the blogosphere (such as at WattsUpWithThat) and has received several thousand views at MasterResource.

In my post, I profiled three individuals in the Houston area who in the post-Climategate environment have spoken up more forcefully against climate alarmism:

  1. Dr. Neil Frank (a former director of the National Hurricane Center in Miami and a weather forecaster at KHOU-Channel 11 in Houston);
  2. Michelle Michot Foss, an internationally respected energy economist with the University of Texas at Austin and the past president of both the U.S. Association for Energy Economics (2001) and the International Association for Energy Economics (2003); and
  3. Peter Hartley, the George and Cynthia Mitchell Chair in Sustainable Development and Environmental Economics, and Professor of Economics, at Rice University.

Neil Frank’s op-ed generated hundreds of online comments, and hundreds more views, with support being overwhelmingly positive (see for yourself). A number of comments are very appreciative of the Houston Chronicle for having published Frank’s piece given the editorial position at the paper as New-York-Times alarmist. (A number of readers also take the opportunity to fuss that their hometown paper is so one-sided.) And I must add my frustration: the editorial board’s jump from ‘market failure’ to government activism (support of cap-and-trade, etc.) as if there were not ‘government failure’ in the ‘correction.’ Political economy, anyone?

But there is a good side at the Chronicle when one looks beyond the editorial board: science writer Eric Berger, a skeptic of Al Gore alarmism, and business columnist Loren Steffy, a skeptic of cap-and-trade.

I reprint the letters-to-the-editor below (December 10: all on Frank’s article) because the links typically get broken (Houston Chronicle policy?). The seven printed letters were four supportive and three critical.

In one letter, a reader critical of Frank and climate skeptics provides a link to the Texas A&M Meteorology Department website where each member of the department signs onto the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) consensus. Included is the statement:

“If we do nothing to reduce our emissions of greenhouse gases, future warming will likely be at least two degrees Celsius over the next century.

This statement is worth challenging. The most distinguished member of that department, Jerry North, has an estimate of 2C (best guess) that would have an error range that would fall on the low end below the sacrosanct IPCC range.

There is always another post for the weary, isn’t there?

Appendix: Letters to the Editor (Houston Chronicle)

Breath of fresh air

Neil Frank’s article, “Climategate: You should be steamed” (Page B10, Jan. 3) was like a breath of fresh air to me. I am not one of those “qualified skeptics,” but the whole global warming debate has never rung true to me.

While I do believe that all of us who inhabit this beautiful planet need to be responsible enough to care for it, I don’t believe the Earth’s climate has been thrown off kilter by our misuse. I do believe that the Earth, since the beginning of time, has gone through periods and cycles of unpredictable and sometimes catastrophic weather patterns, some of which we have experienced in the last few years.

Claire Harris, Montgomery

Article was misleading

Neil Frank claims that climate skeptics are numerous and well qualified and that their critics, whom he rhetorically stigmatizes as “alarmists,” have unfairly depicted the skeptics as few in number, scientifically unqualified and tools of Big Oil. He cites a petition questioning anthropogenic global warming signed by more than 9,000 Ph.D.s, and tells us that the Heartland Institute has sponsored three international meetings for skeptics attended by hundreds of scientists who heard presentations by more than 40 authors with “outstanding scientific credentials.” He also notes that more than 200 members of the American Physical Society objected when that organization published support of man-made global warming claims.

Yet having Ph.D. after one’s name is not an automatic indicator that one’s opinion is authoritative or even informed. A Ph.D. in French literature, electrical engineering, or even, as in Frank’s case, meteorology, does not necessarily add weight to an opinion. As for the Heartland Institute, it is not a scientific body or educational institution. It is a right-wing think tank that has enjoyed the support of — you guessed it — Big Oil. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, between 1998 and 2005 the Heartland Institute received $561,500 in support from ExxonMobil, 40 percent of which was designated for projects dealing with climate science. Many of the 138 cited “experts” listed on its Web site have no credentials in climate science. As for the 206 objectors to the American Physical Society’s position on global warming, this group represents less than one half of one percent of the Society’s 47,000 members.

Had Frank’s nightly weather forecasts been as misleading as his article, his ratings would quickly have dropped to zero.

Keith M. Parsons, Friendswood

Clearly present all sides

I applaud and support Neil Frank’s article on the global warming issue, and I appreciate the Chronicle printing a contrary position to the mass hysteria that has been more the rule in the past. The science of global warming is not the generally accepted concept that many would have us believe and to undertake a massive “emission limit” (tax) program that would seriously cripple the American economy is at best naive.

The Chronicle and other media need to continue with in-depth research that will inform the public and clearly present all sides of this important issue.

Dick Patyrak, Missouri City

Quite disappointed

I was quite disappointed to see that Neil Frank is still a naysayer. I hoped that with all the increased evidence of largely man-made global warming, he would have changed his mind.

There is no question that climatology is not an exact science, and even the most ardent supporters of the theory of man-made global warming agree there is some uncertainty about exactly what is going on. But it seems that the real question should be: Why do the proponents have to prove their case, while all the naysayers have to do is poke a few holes?

The naysayers will say that is because if we erroneously follow the recommendations of the man-made climate change proponents, we will waste billions of dollars on unnecessary carbon-reduction programs. But I argue that if we erroneously follow the naysayers, the cost will be greater. Just envision the effects of only a two-foot rise in ocean levels or the effects of the disappearance of the glacier fields whose melting waters nourish millions. Thus it is the naysayers who should prove their case, which they certainly have not done.

Rudolf J. Freund, Spring

Thanks for Frank’s courage

Neil Frank had the courage to write the truth, and the Chronicle had the courage to publish it. His article is the truth, but it is politically incorrect to challenge Al Gore and the believers.

By contrast, the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, a prominent worldwide association of professionals, has had a committee to study global warming for several years, and it just decided to abandon the committee and not take any position because it is so political and controversial and the oil industry has had enough bad press already. The association is yielding to public pressure.

Anyone who has taken historical geology, a freshman course, knows that the temperatures and sea levels have fluctuated drastically hundreds of times in the Earth’s history. We are just in another cycle. Just as we have day/night, winter/summer, why would anyone presume that we do not have longer cycles of fluctuation to deal with also?

Burton C. Bowen, Houston

Voices in the wilderness

I see that the distinguished meteorologist Neil Frank has joined industry advocacy groups like Heartland Institute in claiming that global warming is a hoax, perpetrated by tens, even hundreds of thousands of scientists around the world. Nevertheless, Frank and his industry colleagues remain voices crying in the scientific wilderness — dozens and dozens of scientific and professional societies around the world agree that global warming is real, that it is caused by humans, and is potentially catastrophic. For example, statements to this effect are available from the National Academy of Science (http://dels.nas.edu/basc/climate-change/), and the American Physical Society (http://www.aps.org/policy/statements/07_1.cfm). There are really smart people in these organizations, and they should all know better. Why, even the Texas A&M Meteorological Department has been snookered, saying it believes in human-caused global warming (http://www.met.tamu.edu/weather-and-climate/climate-change-statement). Stupid Aggies.

Ron Spross, Humble

Steamed about deception

I am steamed about the deception perpetrated by the climate alarmists, so I really appreciate Neil Frank weighing in on the subject. He calmed us down during a major hurricane panic, and he brings common sense to the climate-change arguments.

His article is lucid and he is so correct in advocating that we shouldn’t let political agendas stifle science.

Bob Hopkins, Houston

4 comments

1 TheGreenMiles { 01.11.10 at 9:38 am }

Ha, I love your accusation that the Houston Chronicle deliberately changes its links to letters to the editor. IT’S TEH CONSPIRACY!!!1! Oh, wait, there’s a question mark at the end. So, Glenn Beck-style, you’re just asking questions, right?

2 Andrew { 01.11.10 at 10:06 am }

Jeez, calm down Miles, obviously Rob was just wondering aloud whether the Houston Chronicle deletes old pages to save web space as a matter of policy or whether they just get rid of letters to the editor from time to time.

No accusation of anything sinister at all. Who’s paranoid again?

3 Robert Bradley Jr. { 01.11.10 at 11:40 am }

Yes, Andrew is right.

The letters links do not work after a certain period, and it must be an economy measure. I wish it were not so. Letters in response to my Houston Chronicle op-ed’s are important to me–one came from Gerald North of Texas A&M that was important for the climate debate, and it is gone.

4 Cooler Heads Digest 15 January 2010 | GlobalWarming.org { 02.16.10 at 12:08 pm }

[...] Houston’s Climategate Debate Robert Bradley, MasterResource.org, 10 January 2010 [...]

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