A Free-Market Energy Blog

Houston Chronicle: Letter of Protest on Climate Issue

By Charles Battig -- November 22, 2016

“[The Houston Chronicle’s Chris Tomlinson] sets up a straw man argument implying that ‘Republican leaders’ do not acknowledge the human ‘contribution’ to a warming planet and rising sea levels and are thereby remiss, ignorant, or worse. You do not attempt to quantify how much that contribution might be. You do not seem to be aware that land use (farming, irrigation, land clearance) changes do greatly influence climate patterns. You do not distinguish between carbon dioxide from fossil fuel use and these other components of the climate puzzle.”

As an on-line subscriber to the Houston Chronicle, I am familiar with Mr. Chris Tomlinson’s daily column “Outside The Boardroom.” His commentaries on various business related events have been generally entertaining and informative.  Perhaps the heat of the recent presidential election season brought forth some heretofore suppressed political activism residing in his otherwise analytical nature.

Not only “outside the boardroom” but also outside of a rounded and informed discussion of climate related issues and public opinion was his October 29, 2016, column “Public knows energy issues.” Tomlinson quoted solely from a Texas energy poll of “2,043 Americans by the University of Texas’ Energy Institute” to conclude that “Republicans should recognize that they need to get with mainstream scientific opinion, because the American public already has.”

Extrapolating the results of a small, unidentified poll sample of responders to a poll of undefined construct and possible bias as representing the American people is questionable enough.  This is especially true when a national poll by the Gallup organization had climate change last in a list of environmental concerns: http://www.gallup.com/poll/182105/concern-environmental-threats-eases.aspx

Discrepancies in polling results aside, the greater concern to me was Tomlinson’s advocacy of using public opinion to set scientific truth and political action.  My letter to him is reprinted here.  His response, having assured me that he had read my letter, was “Thank you.”  The letter was not a letter to the HC editor.  That editor did print a letter of mine, albeit somewhat edited of its punchline.

Dear Mr. Tomlinson:

Your October 29, 2016 “Public knows energy issues” tosses out statistics purporting to show what the public “knows” about energy and climate related issues.  It also tosses out any linkage to supporting scientific fact on the topic.

Reminiscent of the propaganda campaigns of the 1930’s which were driven by the concept that “if you repeat a lie often enough, it will becomes truth,” you add to the political clamor for consensus on climate issues, without any acknowledgement of, nor quantification of the basic scientific uncertainty surrounding climate science. 

Scientifically informed individuals know that both global and local climate has been characterized by cyclical change since day one. Change is a characteristic of climate. That is a fact. Propagandists have succeeded in portraying this natural attribute of climate into a fearful thing about which “something must be done.” Politicians and vested financial interests salivate at the chance to impose their remedies to enforce their own orthodoxy and profitability.

You set up a straw man argument implying that “Republican leaders” do not acknowledge the human “contribution” to a warming planet and rising sea levels and are thereby remiss, ignorant, or worse. You do not attempt to quantify how much that contribution might be. You do not seem to be aware that land use (farming, irrigation, land clearance) changes do greatly influence climate patterns. You do not distinguish between carbon dioxide from fossil fuel use and these other components of the climate puzzle.

If you were to go beyond parroting these claims, and do your readers the service of fact checking, you would have found out that there has been no recent significant change in the rate of sea-level rise. For example, you might read what a scientist devoted to the topic has reported (vs. what a casual respondent might check off in Hobson’s Choice structured, slanted survey)

“A warming planet,” you make that sound scary; you neglect to say how much warming over what period of time. Would that be one or two degrees over 250 years, or even less?   Was that warming all bad or possibly good? How much of it was secondary to the natural rhythms of the earth, and how much can be shown to be secondary to human activities?    As a physician I know that general death rates go up in the winter.  You ignore the increase in planetary greening and increased crop yields (as shown by satellite imagery) attributed  to increased atmospheric CO2; you do know that CO2 is an essential plant food?

Two past geological time periods known as the Roman Warming Period, and the Medieval Warm Period both exhibited global temperatures about as warm as at present.  Conspicuously absent during those two warming periods was the use of fossil fuels.  Conspicuous was a significantly lower level of atmospheric CO2. Conspicuous were the ravages of plagues and crop failures in the intervening cooler Dark Ages.

Did anyone ask those quoted millennials how much of a carbon tax they would be willing to pay?  Do they, do you, understand that we are carbon-based life forms, as you give carte blanche to the carbon demonizers?   Did anyone assure them that making electricity more expensive by reducing the atmospheric carbon dioxide produced by fossil fuel consumption would thereby reduce some assumed amount of global warming by “x degrees”?

Where is the proof for such a quantifiable linkage? You might have taken the step of further inquiry into what has been the disastrous and expensive experience in Germany, the poster-child for renewable energy replacing fossil fuels. Electricity rates are nearly three times ours, and thousands are unable to pay their monthly bills.

As I physician, I wonder if you would be comfortable with a physician making critical health decisions on your behalf using the survey responses of “Americans” and “millennials.”   Imperial Rome made its own life-or-death populist decisions using similar inputs from the “public” which, not having the advantage of scientific polling results, resorted to a thumbs-up or thumbs-down vote.   Progressives work to establish a ruling class of experts, a technocracy.

Yet the medical field is just one area where such blind adherence to their advice has proved fallible and dangerous to one’s health.  Once peptic ulcers were claimed to be result of too much stomach acid, and should be treated with antacids; they have now been shown to be a specific bacterial infection and are treated with antibiotics.  “Saturated fats cause heart disease and heart attacks,” “high carbohydrate diets should replace animal fats,” “trans-fat butter substitutes are preferable to natural butter,”…all advice from the experts, all shown to be false.

Consensus science is an abomination of fact-based science.   Consensus policy based on public opinion is akin to mob rule. Your article portrays the results of crowd-sourcing of public opinion as good enough to set public and political policy.   With good reason was our government structured not as a democracy, but as a representative democracy.  The other component of that original design was an “informed electorate.”

Did the HC cover the recent climate debate at Rice University and attempt to inform its readership of basic science in action

As your column dealt with public opinion, it was more political than scientific. The front page article of your HC today (October 29, 2016) describes the extent to which the current ruling class works behind the scenes to mold public opinion and to crush dissident voices on climate issues. Some months ago, a cabal of state attorney generals banded together to use their legal powers to search and destroy climate scientists who dared to question the validity of the politically correct policy of disastrous climate change caused by man-made CO2. 

Lurking about is the evil Queen muttering “Off with their heads.”

In keeping with the populist spirit which you espouse, I give your article a “thumbs down.” To the unquestioning public and their polling preferences, I give the quote: “Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” (Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland)


Charles G. Battig, who now lives in Houston, Texas, has actively studied and written about the climate debate for the last decade.


  1. Herman A (Alex) Pope  

    Water currently covers about 70 percent of the earth. Some of it is covered with ice. There is no mistake in this, the climate of earth is as it is, regulated as it is, because to the abundance of water, in all of its four states. The magical properties of water, changing state in our comfort range is responsible for earth temperature staying inside the bounds to support life as we know it.

    Every major ice age and warming cycle of the last fifty million years put ice at mid-latitudes and melted it and returned it to the oceans.
    Every major ice age and warming cycle of the last fifty million years put ice at high-latitudes and on high mountains and did not melt all of it.
    Before this modern normal, Each major warming and cold cycle took water out of the oceans and did not put all of it back in the oceans. Each minor cycle took water out of the oceans and did not put all of it back in the oceans.

    The water in the oceans that is currently available to put ice on land in mid-latitudes is not enough to support another major ice age or major warming cycle. That is why we have the new normal that has been in place for ten thousand years.

    This is what is different. The amount of ice that is cycled onto land in cold places and back into the oceans is in a new balance that is stable, robust, and keeps the ice balance in cycles that support the new ten thousand year cycles.

    The ice cycles have been moving water out of the oceans and locking up more if it on Antarctic, Greenland and High Mountains for millions of years to finally get to this point. When more water was in the oceans, earth could get warmer. Water warms and holds heat better than land. When oceans were warmer and held more water, more water was available for more snowfall that put ice in mid-latitudes for major ice ages that melted and was returned to the oceans while some ice was put on Antarctic, Greenland and High Mountains where not all of it was returned to the oceans.

    Milankovich and other forcing cycles likely resonated with this natural ice cycle. Sometimes these other cycles added to the temperature swings and sometimes they took away. The ice core data shows that it snows more in warm times and it snows less in cold times. Warm Milankovich time periods would promote more movement of water to ice on land and cold cycles would promote less movement of ice to land. When a warm Milankovich cycle occurs in a low ice extent time, it promotes more snowfall and then when Milankovich that cycle enters its colder phase while the more ice is advancing, Milankovich gets all the credit, it gets credit for the more ice, but the more ice is already there, it is getting colder because the more ice is advancing.

    It is during cold times that snowfall is reduced so much that snowfall rates are less than melt rates. In warm times, snowfall rates are much more than melt rates.

    Modern Climate Theories on the Consensus side and on the Skeptic side make earth cold and then add ice as a contributing feedback and they make earth warm and remove ice as a contributing feedback. No one ever provides data that shows more ice accumulation in the colder times, but they keep saying it happens. The best ice accumulation data we have is ice core data and it always shows the highest ice accumulation rate it the warmest times and the lowest ice accumulation rates in the coldest times. It then always gets colder after the warmest times with highest ice accumulation rates. It always gets warmer after the coldest times with the lowest ice accumulation rates.

    I repeat!
    The ice core data shows that more snow falls as it gets warmer, the most snow falls at the warmest time and it gets cold after that. The ice core data shows that it snows the least in the coldest times and it always gets warmer after that.

    You must have warm, thawed, oceans to get ocean effect snow. You do not get snow from cold frozen oceans.

    An open Arctic is a normal natural and necessary part of an ice cycle. Oceans get warm and polar sea ice thaws and snowfall increases to rebuild ice on Greenland and the Mountain Glaciers. It snows more until the ice volume is enough to cause the ice to spread out and make it colder. When it gets colder, the polar oceans freeze and reduce the snowfall. The ice continues to spread and make it colder but it depletes because it is not snowing enough to replenish the ice. It runs out of enough ice and the ice melts and retreats until it gets warm again.

    This is a normal, natural, necessary ice cycle. There was a warm period about three thousand years ago with an open arctic that replenished ice, then it got cold, polar oceans froze, snowfall diminished and ice depleted until it got warm in the Roman warm period about two thousand years ago. The arctic opened and replenished the ice and it got cold, polar oceans froze, snowfall diminished and ice depleted and then retreated as it got warm into the medieval warm period. It snowed and replenished the ice until it got heavy enough to spread out and make it cold in the little ice age. Oceans froze and snowfall reduced until the ice depleted and retreated into this modern, natural, normal, necessary warm period. The snowfall has started that will take us into the next natural, normal, necessary cold period.

    I repeat this a lot because the natural cycles repeat. There is no equilibrium temperature for earth. We are always in some phase of a repeating cycle that has changed a huge amount, over the past fifty million years. For ten thousand years, climate has cycled in a new normal that will continue.


  2. Jon Boone  

    Kudos to Dr. Battig for his articulate riposte regarding The Houston Chronicle’s churlish climate unscience. This is the kind of response that thousands of others should deliver across the land, berating the army of pundits across the world that has too long been celebrated for its apocalyptic delusions.

    As Alex Pope explains in his artful reply to this article, the epistemic quest to accurately account for the value of climate sensitivity due to the doubling of CO2 in the earth’s atmosphere involves engaging a great deal of complexity. The earth’s climate dynamics may be at least as complicated as those involved with consciousness, where, to my knowledge, no one has yet claimed to be a consciousness scientist, although this will no doubt change if it means getting a government grant.

    Nonetheless, we can debate this matter, as scientists continue to do, since few other variables in science are so controversial as the value of climate sensitivity. Is the raw or even refined data sufficient to allow accurate comparative measurement and meaningful interpretation sufficient to provide clear explanation and a guide to right policy? This is only one of many questions to ask. Long story short, my take on the latest United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change “report,” one written a few years ago mainly by politicians, and not scientists (for whom there is a range of uncertainty), is that the best evidence shows the climate sensitivity value in the .5C to 1.5C range–and not the 4.5C range. Given the statistical margin for error, the climate sensitivity may well be zero.

    It is extremely remote that the planet will see irreversible deleterious climate behavior over the next century. Presently, I see nothing that makes me want to build an ark…. Or to spend one dime on mitigating the minuscule rise of the waters of Upper New York Bay to save Wall Street from the tsunami of climate hucksterism it helps circulate so widely.

    In the meantime, we can strive to improve our knowledge both of baseline information and climate dynamics. To better inform inquiry, we should continue to install increasingly sophisticated scientific monitoring devices, particularly on earth orbiting stations, and patiently compile reliable data, vetting it with skeptical analysis.


  3. hunter  

    As a Houstonian reading the HC for over 40 years it has been sad to watch the Houston Chronicle devolve into a poorly written small circulation paper. This has corresponded with their becoming a local monopoly. The Chronicle takes predictable derivative positions supporting whatever leftists are currently concerned with. They suppress news mostly by non-reporting views the editorial board disagrees with, which leads, as in the case of the Tomlinson piece, to poorly written, factually challenged infomercial that misleads rather than informs. The Houston Chronicle no longer reports the news very well, and their attempts to push their agenda, if one looks at circulation, is not more than mediocre. The 4th largest city and energy capital of the world can do, and deserves, so much better.


  4. Battig in the Houston Chronicle: Truth to Published Power - Master Resource  

    […] week, MasterResource shared Dr. Battig’s forceful email to Chronicle business columnist Chris Tomlinson, a very reasonable fellow who just has not […]


  5. Jim Brock  

    Chris Tomlinson is an excellent writer; I read every article of his that the Chronicle publishes. But he is part of the liberal/left that occupies the mainstream media and thinks the whole world thinks as they do…or, if not, are woefully deficient in brainpower and judgment.

    I think he must follow the meme set by the editorial board or else.


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