Fomenting Doubt ~ The Tactics and Motivations of Global Warming Deniers

Fomenting doubt about the need to transition to a cleaner, greener environment and to reduce our dependency on foreign oil, whether for political and/or business reasons, is wrong.

opaNews junkie that I am, I was dismayed Friday (June 26th 2009) by all the media attention Michael Jackson’s untimely death the day before was getting. What with all that was and continues to be happening in the world — reaction to the election results in Iran, the saber-rattling of North Korea’s Kim Jung Il, world economic struggles and Congressional actions on important issues like healthcare reform, passage of a $680 billion defense spending bill for next year ignoring specific war fighting requests presented by the Secretary of Defense and endorsed by the White House, and House passage of the Waxman/Markey climate and energy bill by a narrow margin, news agencies were, or so it seemed, taking a holiday.

At ABC’s news website I read where John Stossel’s take on the healthcare debate, scheduled for Friday night’s 20/20 program, would be preempted by a special on Michael Jackson. As John himself might have said, I muttered under my breath, “Give me a break!” then I went to John’s blog to express my opinion about the media playing to the ratings rather than doing the job we need them to do,  keeping citizens informed. Oh for the good old days of Public Broadcasting prior to the age of “infotainment.”

At John’s blog, after posting my condolences, I found a thread of comments to a piece he had written about the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) referring to those not yet accepting of the majority view of scientists as “deniers.” John, a well-know skeptic of global warming theory, had attracted some interesting comments containing what I like to call, “disinformation.” I started reading and started responding, doing what I could to counter the attacks on reason. You can read the entire thread if you wish at http://blogs.abcnews.com/johnstossel/2009/06/global-warming.html#comments.

The first comment I responded to was posted by someone named, Ordean Pierce. Mr. Pierce posted:

WHERE WAS AL GORE WHEN THE LAST ICE AGE ENDED, AND THE WORLD WARMED UP? THAT MELTING OF THE ICE MADE OUR LAKES IN MINNESOTA AND THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER. I KNOW WHERE HE WAS, HE WAS INVENTING THE INTERNET.

My response was:  Mr. Pierce, we all know that Al Gore misspoke when he claimed more than justified credit for “inventing” the Internet. He has admitted as much. But this fact negates neither the work of “real” climate scientists nor the important work Mr. Gore has done to heighten world concern about the dangers we face because of climate change. Your comment is a crude appeal to ridicule. This fallacy or faulty logic is when mockery is substituted for evidence in an “argument.” Shame on you.

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The second comment I responded to was made by Monty. Monty posted:

Congress proposes to spend m(b)illions to reduce the man-made CO2 in greenhouse gases.

But 95% of greenhouse gases is water vapor. 4.85% is CO2, but 97% of that comes from trees and vegetation, oceans, and land surfaces. 3% of 4.85% is 0.15%. It is that small component of greenhouse gases that Congress will spend money on.

I responded with: You are correct, Monty, according to Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greenhouse_gas, water vapor is the most significant greenhouse gas, but it is not as significant as you claim. When ranked by their contributions to the greenhouse effect, the most important gases are:

Water vapor, which contributes 36–72%
Carbon dioxide, which contributes 9–26%
Methane, which contributes 4–9%
Ozone, which contributes 3–7%

The variances are attributable to the significance of these gases’ contributions to the greenhouse effect in different locations of the earth. Obviously, water vapor is not as prevalent in desert areas as it is in tropical areas. I can’t imagine from where you came up with the 95% contribution for water vapor — a little distortion of the real numbers, perhaps. Maybe you can provide us with a reference…

By the way, it is water vapor that comes from the oceans, lakes and rivers, trees and land surfaces, not carbon dioxide. I suggest too that you check your math again.

Atmospheric water vapor, as well as other greenhouse gases, has been shown to be increasing in recent years. However, the increase in water vapor is not the cause of atmospheric temperature increases. This increase is incidental to raising temperatures rather causal.

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Another comment I responded to was by someone identifying himself as, dimsdale. He listed a dozen or more, what he claimed were facts, but without referencing sources to back up any of them. At the end of his comment, he left a single URL hyperlink and signed off as “a proud anti-climatic infidel.” Curious, I clicked on his hyperlink, did a little research, then posted the following comment of my own.

Please, Mr. Dimsdale, admit that the “facts” you present are unsubstantiated and, at best, outdated. The URL you have given us leads to an undated letter from Christopher Monckton, 3rd Viscount of Brenchley, to an unidentified editorialist named Ms. Goodman. Readers should know that “Lord” Monckton is no scientist, although he has indeed waxed loudly and eloquently against those who are. Lord Monckton was a British politician, having run unsuccessfully for a seat in the House of Lords and serving as an advisor to Margaret Thatcher. Prior to this, and subsequently, he was a journalist. His greatest claim to fame has been to champion arguments against “main stream” scientists on what was once a climate change issue. Readers can learn more about him at

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christopher_Monckton,_3rd_Viscount_Monckton_of_Brenchley

Thank you, sir, but I prefer scientific arguments/discourse made by “real” scientists.

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While I was still reading and responding to disinformation comments posted at this site, Mr. Dimsdale responded to my comment with another of his own. His comment contained segments of publications by eight different professors and scientists in everything from atmospheric chemistry and botany to geophysics and mathematical physics, claiming that he himself had a PhD in neuroscience with minors in oceanography and paleogeology.

My response was: Okay “Dr.” Dimsdale, clearly you were well prepared to respond to my comment with material citing various individual “real” scientists’ claims that the majority view on climate change is wrong. Obviously I walked into a trap. But when I read recent articles published by NASA and NOAA on accelerating levels of carbon dioxide and methane (both greenhouse gases generated by or a consequence of human activities on earth), the IPCC’s climate conclusions seem reasonable and resonate loudly within me.

According to NOAA’s site at http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2009/20090421_carbon.html, “Researchers measured an additional 16.2 billion tons of carbon dioxide (CO2), a byproduct of fossil fuel burning — and 12.2 million tons of methane in the atmosphere in the year ending December 2008. This increase and the rate of increase are real and alarming despite the global economic downturn, with its decrease in a wide range of activities that depend on fossil fuel use.” This tells me, even though I am not a scientist myself, that we are at or near a dangerous tipping point.

Whom should we believe, sir, the few scientists who are skeptical about the human causes of climate change, which is measurable and has been measured, or the majority of scientists who say that we should be concerned, that we are the cause, and that we should be taking actions to minimize consequences? I choose to trust the majority.

According to Pieter Tans, a scientist with NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, CO, “Only by reducing our dependence on fossil fuels and increasing energy production from renewable resources will we start to see improvements and begin to lessen the effects of climate change,” said scientist. “At NOAA we have monitored carbon dioxide emissions and other greenhouses gases for decades and will continue to do so to help assess the situation and advise decision makers.”

I know not why you, sir, are such a vocal critic of the IPCC’s findings and recommendations. Perhaps you fear short run economic consequences of actions necessary to reduce carbon emissions. These consequences are of concern to us all. But fomenting doubt about the need to transition to a cleaner, greener environment and to reduce our dependency on foreign oil for a stronger economy in the long run, whether for political and/or business reasons, if these are what motivate you, is wrong. If even modest predictions about sea level rise are correct, and the icepacks feeding the major rivers of the world do disappear over the next few decades, this might well be mankind’s eleventh hour.

Gee, I hope I wasn’t too harsh.

I invite your comments whether you agree with my persuasions or not.

P.S. Yahoo Answers recently came up with the following “best” answer to the question: Why is it that AGW proponents reference NOAA, NASSA, NAS… and AGW skeptic/deniers reference Michael Savage? http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20090605122216AAp1S62. For me, it explains a lot about global warming deniers’ movivations.

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Published in: on June 28, 2009 at 3:01 pm  Comments (25)  

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  1. Hi Kent,

    No, you were far from harsh, but further from factual. Please feel free to post the rest of my posts on Stossel’s blog.

    And feel free to specifically address the points I made that were not addressed on the other blog, particularly the failure/refusal of AGW proponents to defend their hypothesis in a public forum.

    Cheers!
    -D.

  2. My posting invites readers to follow the entire thread, Dr. Dinsdale, and I’ve provided the URL for them to do so. I fear that including all of our exchanges would make the piece too long — but perhaps our final two. Maybe a follow-on posting if there is enough interest. As for continuing to debate the science in open forum, it seems obvious to me why the scientific community is resisting this. The issue has indeed become a political one. The processes of verification and scrutiny should continue, I agree. But, for now, let’s not postpone prudent action on the best information currently available because all are not convinced. Given the “possible” consequences of inaction and the “likely” long-term benefits of wind, solar, bio, battery, and, yes, even nuclear alternative technologies to cheap coal and others’ oil, is it not worth tabling the “political” debate to get something done?

    Opa

  3. Once again, you reverse the order of events. The issue became political first. The government cannot be both a player and a referee. Open debate about something as important and far reaching as “cap and trade” legislation must be debated fully, and scientifically. What if your “prudent” actions precipitate the start of an early ice age rather than halt a warming stage? “Oops, sorry!” isn’t going to cut it. You may dismiss scientists that don’t work directly in climatology, but how do you reconcile that with your belief that the politicians know enough to do the right thing, particularly when it has been shown that they don’t, and can’t, in the timeframe they are given to review the legislation?

    Some old sage once said that if you want to discover someone’s motivations, you need to “follow the money.” It applies here.

    I am asking you to keep an open mind and review ALL the data, not just what the AGW proponents want you to hear. Play devil’s advocate! As I stated in the other blog: “possible” and “likely” are two different words that mean wildly different things. Both can be subjective, and are in this case. Accepted conclusions are a combination of ALL the data, and all criticisms, plus or minus, are reconciled and addressed if possible. The AGW proponents are only presenting one side of the story.

    That is the problem: one sided and political. And I might add, other countries are pulling back from this cap and trade action (I refer you to the WSJ editorial: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124597505076157449.html#mod=djemEditorialPage).

  4. No, sir, I don’t think I’ve reversed the order of events at all. The issue started out being one of science and it is now political, i.e., what to do about the conclusions of scientists who have been focused on the problem.

    Oh contraire! Government can and often is both player and referee. Whether government can be both a player and a referee was resolved during the Depression Era with establishment of the Labor Commission, the Security and Exchange Commission and later, Fanny Mae, Freddie Mack and Housing and Urban Development. Lately, consider government’s growing role in finance, insurance and the auto industry. No, government can and is indeed both a player and a referee when it chooses to be. You can argue whether they should be, but there can be no debate over whether or not they are.

    We’ve had “open” debate about cap and trade legislation for years, Dr. Dimsdale. With Republicans in control, the debate went nowhere. It was debated during the last election and was an important part of then-candidate Obama’s platform for change. He won the election, by the way, with Americans voting in favor of change rather than stalemate on this and other progressive issues like healthcare reform.

    When it is determined that what we are doing is making us sick, and I’m not speaking metaphorically about only the environment, I’m speaking about the economy as well, it is prudent to stop doing it. Historic levels of CO2 in the atmosphere going back before the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, as measured by ice core samples, have never been higher, and we have had no ice age in all of this time according to geologic evidence. One of the theories explaining the cause of the “Little Ice Age” in Europe (not considered by most climatologists to be a true ice age) from the mid 16th to mid 19th Centuries, Ocean Conveyor Shutdown, is that general warming dumped vast amounts of fresh water into the ocean from melting ice. So retarding the growth of CO2 in the atmosphere, if we are indeed able to do so, will not cause an ice age, Dr. Dimsdale. More likely, if the Conveyor Shutdown theory is correct, failing to stop or slow the melting of continental ice, particularly the icepack covering Greenland, will result in another Little Ice Age, or worse.
    http://www.google.com/search?sourceid=navclient&ie=UTF-8&rlz=1T4DKUS_enUS236US237&q=mini+ice+age.

    Surely you joke suggesting that passage of the Waxman/Markey Climate and Energy bill could lead to an ice age. Otherwise, you introduce a post hoc fallacy to the debate.

    I am not dismissing the opinions of scientists that don’t work directly in climatology just because they don’t work directly in climatology. But I am giving more credence to the opinions of those who are. No, politicians don’t know enough to always make the right decisions. Even when they do know better, I think we can agree, they sometimes do the wrong thing prioritizing the next election cycle over the common good.

    I agree with the sage you quote, Dr. Dimsdale, about following the money to understand one’s motivations. It turns out the sage was Bob Woodward in “All the President’s Men.” I suspect that this has more than just a little to do with conservatives’ efforts to forestall action on the Waxman/Markey bill. You are, of course, suggesting someone in Congress or some “special” interest stands to cash-in on clean energy legislation at the expense of dirty energy. T. Boone Pickins, perhaps? Hmmm… perhaps, but I don’t give him that much credit.

    Now, while I well know why I am making an effort to counter the current Internet campaign of disinformation on this issue, in this debate, sir, you may well be an unsuspecting political pawn, your PhD notwithstanding. Have you considered this?

  5. I must disagree: the politicians necessarily latched onto the science after the fact: it could not be otherwise. But that notwithstanding: the point is, it is political now.

    I will ask you again: given the increasing number of scientist critical of the concept of AGE as more data comes in and more analysis is done, how do your reconcile the refusal of AGW proponents to publicly debate the issue? Gore and Monckton, neither scientist, but both relying on them, should debate, but Gore refuses. Contrary opinions and science are being quashed both in the political venue and the media venue. That is what I object to. If AGW is right or wrong, it is what it is: let the chips fall where they may. Just let them be legitimate chips.

    As for government being both referee and player: that really hasn’t worked out too well has it? The recent demise of Fannie and Freddy, the failure of the SEC to clamp down on Madoff, etc. How much is the government to blame for the recent demise of the auto industry? And this about both parties, not just one or the other, by the way.

    Re: cap and trade. Yes, Obama won. Yes, he made a lot of promises that seem to be falling by the wayside, and many he is keeping. People did vote for change, but change can be either negative or positive. It remains to be seen which one we get. The promises of politicians, particularly candidates, are generally not worth the paper they are written on. I honestly hope Obama is different, but the recent actions against Inspector General Walpin argue strongly against that. It is disheartening to see a man with so much promise fall into the stereotypical pattern of a Chicago pol.

    But I digress. If cap and trade can work, then by all means do it. Again, recent events argue against the honesty and transparency of the politicians writing the legislation. In particular, the fact that they are ramming it through in such a way that nobody can read it. Has it has the promised five day public exposure on one of Obama’s web sites yet? Not to my knowledge. That is why I worry about its validity. Is it full of errors, loopholes, protections of favored people etc.? I don’t know, because I didn’t get to peruse it, and neither did the Congresspeople we pay to read and debate it. It just smells.

    Re: historic levels of CO2. Maybe it is just me, but considering only the time between now and the Industrial Revolution only tells a very tiny tale of the planet’s climatic history. The geologic record tells a tale of significantly higher temperatures for great lengths of time (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geologic_temperature_record). Maybe much was due to CO2 during the spread of life across the Earth. One thing we can say is that man had nothing to do with it. Even the last interglacial, about 120K ago, must have had higher temperatures (the graphs show it on the above reference), as the sea level was 4-6 meters higher then than it is now. The Earth did it all by itself. Does man have some effect? Undoubtedly. Is it significant? Maybe. Is the sun more significant? Undoubtedly. It is certainly significant enough to cause simultaneous warming on all the planets.

    Funny you should mention the Ocean Conveyor Shutdown. A recent report from Woods Hole (http://www.whoi.edu/page.do?pid=12455&tid=282&cid=54347) indicates that it has recently, and mysteriously, turned back on. The first sentence is revealing: “One of the “pumps” that helps drive the ocean’s global circulation suddenly switched on again last winter for the first time this decade. The finding surprised scientists who had been wondering if global warming was inhibiting the pump and did not foresee any indications that it would turn back on.” Please read the rest. As you can see, sometimes, the Earth is bigger than humanity. But, to be sure, that is but a single facet of the entire climate.

    As for triggering another ice age, I was half kidding about that, but please note (see Wikipedia ref in preceding paragraphs) that ice ages have a 40-100K year cycle, and we are overdue if that remains correct. Wouldn’t it be interesting if the post Industrial Revolution CO2 buildup was contributing to this tardiness? Just speculating.

    I gave you many references to climatologists that are working in the field now.

    Re: the cashing in on AGW. I was speaking of the likes of Al Gore, poster boy for AGW. Aside from the massive personal consumption of energy he hypocritically enjoys at his home (http://www.nashvillecitypaper.com/content/city-news/despite-home-upgrades-gore-still-%E2%80%98hypocrite%E2%80%99-energy-usage-group-says).

    I don’t know about you, but carbon credits seem like a way for the rich to do what they want because they can afford it. What ever happened to role models?

    Pickens has some interesting ideas, and at least he is up front about everything he does.

    Last, but not least, the issue of pawns. The politicians are playing us all for suckers, and I think that is undeniable, regardless of one’s political bent. I always assume that a politician is lying to me. Party notwithstanding. Someday I hope to be pleasantly surprised. As I scientist myself, I always seek out the other side of the story in the interests of fair play and truth. Was it the Russians that say “trust but verify?” Maybe. But it comes down to examining ALL the information available.

    You know what really ticks me off? Henry Waxman, upon being asked about an aspect of the bill he coauthored, he replied that “he doesn’t know claim to know everything that is in his bill.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tRcq0Lxffwc&eurl=http%3A%2F%2Fmichellemalkin.com%2F2009%2F05%2F21%2Fwaxman-clueless-about-his-captrade-bill-youre-asking-me%2F&feature=player_embedded

    That is apalling. Maybe it is just my background in writing scientific manuscripts, but if I am first author on a paper, it is expected that I will be an expert on the information contained therein. Why isn’t this true of politicians? Can’t they understand their own legislation?

    I will always back a person fighting disinformation. But in light of what I have told you, disinformation can come in the form of the ommission of information, which is what many AGW proponents are doing. Maybe some AGW proponents are doing it as well. That is what peer review and debate are for. In real science (as opposed to what I call “political science”), someone simply saying “the science is settled” is more of a incentive to do more work than it is a signal to stop all research. New data is always coming in from new methods and technical advances. That is why we believe in Darwinism rather than Lamarckism. At one time, Lamarckism was “settled science,” but Darwin went to work, gathered new information, and presented a newer, more accurate model for evolution. It is quite possible that Darwin will be superceded in the future by someone else that has not accepted Darwinism as the be all and end all of our understanding of evolution (no, not creationism!). New technique, new evidence, new interpretation of the data. No matter, it is all for the good of science and humanity.

    Man! I really have to get back to work! Later!

  6. I meant “I have to agree” in the first sentence! Initially, I was referring to the political effects being initiated prior to the “settled science” or “consensus” i.e. science, then politics, then AGW being elevated to a “religion” then discounting of contrary evidence.

  7. AGW proponents obviously believe that continuing debate on the science by nonscientists like Gore and Monckton would be counterproductive and could derail efforts in Congress to get timely climate and energy legislation passed. With Republicans in Congress, on behalf of the energy industry, all beating the same “job-killer” drum and support for Waxman/Markey slipping because Americans are more worried about today’s paychecks than tomorrow’s economy, Democrats in the House had to push the bill through while they still had the votes. That’s my take on it anyway.

    You are right, sir, about government involvement in the economy as both player and referee not having worked out so well in recent years. But I attribute this to deregulation, backing-off by the government as both player and referee, a trend begun by Reagan and continued right through the Clinton years to the present day. We have Alan Greenspan to largely thank for this, plus the gullible in Washington. The current administration’s re-empowerment of watchdog agencies like the SEC and the FED has had nothing to do with past problems on Wall Street or on Main Street.

    Please don’t defame President Obama for not keeping campaign promises. He has only been president for six months and, in this time, he has done a remarkable job. Check it out for yourself on Politifact’s Obameter at http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/promises/browse/. I was disappointed when he broke his promise to instigate tougher rules on “revolving doors” for former officials and lobbyists, a big one, but hey – the realities of governance are more challenging than any of us can even imagine. This man is anything but stereotypical.

    I understand that you are unhappy with the way Waxman/Markey was pushed though to a vote in the House. I get it and I agree. But the lofty goal of more honesty and transparency in government won’t be met over night. Would that we could have more bi-partisan efforts on legislation; I think we all long for the day. But, until the left and the right at least agree that something needs to be done, the team with more hands on the tug’o war rope will always win.

    Re: historic levels of CO2. According to a British publication, http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/may/13/carbonemissions.climatechange, scientists at the Mauna Loa observatory in Hawaii say that CO2 levels in the atmosphere now stand at 387 parts per million (ppm). This is up almost 40% since the industrial revolution and the highest for at least the last 650,000 years. Ice core studies have established this. The figures, published by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on its website, also confirm that carbon dioxide, the chief greenhouse gas, is accumulating in the atmosphere faster than expected. The annual mean growth rate for 2007 was 2.14ppm – the fourth year in the last six to see an annual rise greater than 2ppm. From 1970 to 2000, the concentration rose by about 1.5ppm each year, but since 2000 the annual rise has leapt to an average 2.1ppm.

    Re: the cashing in on AGW. Granted, Al Gore has probably done pretty well for himself with his slide show and his “Inconvenient Truth” video, not to mention his media enterprise and the zinc mined from under his family’s farm. But I was remembering the “follow the money” adage you brought up in a previous comment to explain what usually motivates people. Not that I’m pointing fingers at anyone in particular, mind you, but all these “independent” scientists coming out of the woodwork taking potshots at the IPCC’s conclusions just when Congress is getting serious about passing legislation that would have serious impacts on energy industry profits. Hmmmm… could it be? Remember the tobacco lobby’s doctors?

    Thanks for respecting my motivation, if not my efforts with respect to global warming and the economy, to combat disinformation spread by the media, particularly on the Internet, by well-meaning — perhaps, but often ignorant proponents of one side of an issue or the other. Sorry, however, I don’t agree with you that the best information is “all” the information; the chaff, at some point, must be separated from the wheat before we can bake a loaf of bread, and the science behind climate change and global warming has a pretty long history. Responding to a question from a reader on Sossel’s blog about the predictions of a looming new ice age back in the 70’s, I wrote the following:

    There was public hype about global cooling and dire predictions of a new ice age back in the 70s when climatologists first started studying temperature trends in earnest. However, of the scientific papers published back then on climate trends, only 10% percent of them inclined towards future cooling. Most, according to a well-documented Wikipedia article, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_cooling,
    predicted future warming. Back then, the general public and many scientists had little awareness of carbon dioxide’s effects on climate. But Science News in May 1959 reported an increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide since 1850 and forecast that the increase would total 25% by the year 2000 with a consequent warming trend. The actual increase for the period turned out to be 29%. In response to this and a better understanding of carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas, the World Meteorological Organization issued a warning in June of 1976 that a very significant warming of global climate was probable. Now, with arctic sea ice thinning and the world’s glaciers visibly retreating, the majority predictions of the 70s have come to pass. However, because of economic and political implications, skepticism, mostly among conservatives, endures.

    Gee, I wonder if anyone else is keeping up with our dialogue.

  8. Opa,

    I am a regular reader of blogs regarding Global Warming. I also have a significant interest in Health Care policy. I participate in blog discussions sparingly since I can’t see what purpose commenting in such venues serves. Commenting on sites that agree with me seems to be pointless. Commenting on sites that I disagree with is more entertaining, but I don’t know if I’ve ever seen an instance of anyone ever changing their mind.

    I discuss politics / policy with some interested co-workers and friends (only if they are interested!), but I’m rational enough, informed enough and a good enough debater that I just tend to overwhelm the opposition. They end up either agreeing with me or thinking that I somehow “tricked” them.

    What I’ve always really wanted was to have a polite and rational debate with someone that holds views in opposition to mine. It would help be think through my positions better and I’d be interested to see if there actually IS any possibility of changing someone’s views via ratonal discussion. Since you seem interested in a rational debate on controversial issues of the day, seem polite and reasonable and (apparently) hold views that are in opposition to mine on virtually every issue of substance and we seem to have the blog pretty much to ourselves, I’m going to give commenting here a try.

    For starters, my opinions on Global Warming are:

    1) The Earth has warmed over the last 100 years

    2) CO2 is a greenhouse gas and does have a warming effect on the Earth

    3) Man is contributing to increased levels of CO2 in the atmosphere.

    The real debate is over how much of the warming is due to CO2 and what is the forecast for future warming. People with my point of view are often known in the blogosphere as “lukewarmers”.

    AGW theory is based on three pillars:

    1) The current warming is unprecedented in the last 2,000 years. This is mostly based studies of suppossed tempurature proxies such as trees, sediment, ice cores, etc. Mann’s “Hockey Stick” is the most familiar.

    2) Temperature readings gathered over the last 100 or so years and temperature readings gathered by satellite over the last 30 years.

    3) Predictions of future warming made by Climate Models.

    Interestingly, most of the studies in these areas are more about statistics than they are about “climate science”.

    All three pillars have their problems.

    1) Historical proxies. ClimateAudit.com has done a thourough job of questioning the accuracy of most proxy studies, especially the “Hockey Stick” and the use of Bristlecone pines as a temperature proxy.

    2) SurfaceStations.com has done a great deal of work on the temerature record. Records of world temperature are not simply a listing of raw values gathered directly from the sources. Raw values are heavily adjusted, smoothed & altered before being published. Many peer-reviewed studies question whether or not the Urban Heat Island effect has been properly accounted for. Others point out that readings can also be affected by changes in land use. For the most part, I think that the SurfaceStation project has shown that the siting problems are less problematic that the site supposes for the U.S., but the Rest of the World record is questionable.

    3) Lucia at rankexploits.com/musings has been tracking the forecasts of IPCC models versus observations and the results are not impressive from the IPCC’s point of view.

    My opinion is pretty much that or climate-skeptic.com, that man (via CO2) has had a modest effect on the Earth’s warming (.03 to .06 C over the last 100 years) and that the future increase (in a business as usual scenario) will be modest as well. We will be better off adapting to any damaging effects of future warming than bankrupting the Earth trying to prevent it.

    All of the web sites mentioned are run by private individuals and none of them has been linked to any “fossil fuel” money. I disregard more sensationalist sites such as WUWT and ICECAP.

    All of the sites noted have been hard at work for years, long before the recent effort to pass cap and trade.

    Even if CO2 restriction was needed, Cap and Trade is the wrong way to go about it.

  9. Commenting on blogs in an attempt to counter what I call, “viral disinformation,” plus writing and posting articles to my own blog have become a satisfying pastime for me, especially in the summertime heat of the Dallas/Ft. Worth metroplex. I do not delude myself, however, into thinking that my postings and comments will change anyone’s rigidly-held views. But there is always that hope, and surely there are some out there who are still open to considering reasoned arguments. You seem to be such a one, Bill. I doubt very much that anything I might say will sway your opinion; you seem to have spent considerable time and effort gathering information to support your particular bias. Regardless, corresponding with another reasonable person on subjects that interest us both should prove to be good sport. “Lay-on, McDuff!” Act 5, Scene VIII, The Tragedy of Macbeth.

    You call yourself a “lukewarmer.” Great! That means you are not in the same league with global warming deniers. At least you accept the basic concepts and principles behind global warming science. That the greenhouse effect is real and that human activities on earth, particularly the release of CO2 by burning fossil fuels, are contributing to a warming trend are scientific fact. What is not fact, as you point out, is how much these human activities have and do continue to affect the climate. On both these points we agree. But, while you seem optimistic in your assessment, I tend to be more pessimistic. When one considers the dire consequences over time of just a few degrees of difference in average model projections, I believe it is prudent to accept the worst case scenario as being more than just a possibility. Call me a “Chicken Little” if you wish.

    You object to the use of modeling to project trends. Hmmm… how else might the science predict where we are headed? You also seem to object to statistical analysis. However, without statistics, a critical tool used by all scientists, there would hardly be any science. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Statistics.

    We may also be able to agree, with respect to global warming, that efforts to restrict the future production/release of CO2 may be fruitless. You believe this because you doubt the degree of CO2’s contribution to warming, yes? I believe this because mankind seems unable to garner the political will to act in a timely and significantly way — plus I suspect that we are already at or near an irreversible “tipping” point. But even if the worst effects of global warming are inevitable, I would still urge governments to encourage the development of alternative sources of energy. There are other environmental and long-term economic factors. Surely, reducing our trade deficit by importing less oil will be good for the economy. Surely, homegrown “green” industries like solar, wind and “intelligent” grids will put Americans back to work and be good for the economy. Surely, reducing the amount of CO2, sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), particulate matter (PM), carbon monoxide (CO), and mercury (Hg) will be good for the environment and the health of our citizens. These pollutants are harmful to human health and also contribute to complex air quality problems such as the formation of ground-level ozone (smog), fine particulate matter, and acid rain. Reducing them will allow us all to breathe easier, and someday I may be able to play golf again in the summertime here in Texas (may I live so long). But this will not happen in our “market” economy without some economic incentive — and so long as the oil lasts and the ore cars wind their way from the coal mines to the cities, there will be no economic incentive, not without Congressional action. No, sir, on this we must disagree. Cap ‘n Trade, in a market economy like ours, is the only way to go.

    Opa

  10. Opa,

    You say “You call yourself a “lukewarmer.” Great! That means you are not in the same league with global warming deniers. At least you accept the basic concepts and principles behind global warming science.”

    The weird thing is that I’ve heard of very few people; deniers, skeptics or “luke-warmers”. Who do not share my beliefs on these topics. Climate-Skeptic.com shares my beliefs. ClimateAudit.com is run by a Canadian who’s a big fan of Obama and has never said that he doubts Global Warming. Lucia at RankExploits specificly says whe believes something should be done even as she continues to cast doubt on the ability of computer models to predict future warming. Roger Pielke Jr. specifically states that he accepts the IPCC conclusions. So does Bjorn Lomborg.

    Are you aware that in studies claiming to erase the Medival Warm period, the authors of the study refused to reveal their data or methods? Are you aware that GISS for many years refused to make public the program that adjusted station temperatures?

    So if there is ANY chance of catastrophic warming we should do what ever is necessary to stop it no matter what the cost? What if diverting reasources to AGW kept third world countries from economic advances that would save millions of lives?

    If restricting CO2 output was necessary, a carbon tax would be a much better idea. Make it revenue neutral (reduce other taxes and refund money to those who don’t make enough to pay any taxes). No need for bureaucrats, lobbying and other government shenanigans.

    “Surely, reducing the amount of CO2, sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), particulate matter (PM), carbon monoxide (CO), and mercury (Hg) will be good for the environment and the health of our citizens.”

    First up, reducing the amount of CO2 would not be good for the plant portion of our environment, since that’s what they need to survive. CO2 is a problem only because of its potential to cause catastrophic global warming. Other than that, its certainly not a pollutant. As for the others, reducing them to a level where they are not dangerous is a positive, but that has nothing to do with Global Warming or Cap and Trade.

    Are environmental improvements “not possible in our market economy”? If so, how do you explain all the improvements that have been made over the last 50 years?

  11. Opa,

    Two more quickies.

    You say “You object to the use of modeling to project trends. Hmmm… how else might the science predict where we are headed?”

    I don’t object to depending on models to project trends IF THEY HAVE DEMOSTRATED THE CAPABILTY TO ACTUALLY DO SO (sorry not screaming, just don’t know how to bold).

    You say “You also seem to object to statistical analysis.”

    No, I wasn’t trying to say that. What I said was that “Climate Science” studies are generally far more about Statistics than about Climate Science”. Most of the skeptic sites I frequent are run by Statisticians and Engineers. They are qualified to comment on these studies because most of the work is statistical.

  12. Bill, com’on — surely you know that no model, whether physical or mathematical, is perfect. Estimates derived from models are rarely 100 percent accurate, yet they are far, far superior to WAGs. Scientific inquiries are not all conducive to controlled-variable, laboratory conditions. Even the most eminent physicist of our time, Steven Hawking, has been moved to have to admit that he was wrong about black holes in the universe. And Albert Einstein, as it turns out, may not have been entirely correct with his theory of relativity. Notwithstanding, we have atomic energy today. So why are you deniers, skeptics, or lukewarmers, or whatever you choose to call yourselves, trying so hard to cast doubt about the IPCC’s conclusions and recommendations? Could it be that the Republican Party and other conservatives, out of concern for near-term economic impacts and on behalf of the energy lobby, are in a “full court press” trying to forestall any legislation that will change the status quo?

    This is not about questioning the science of climate change, not really, is it? This is about politics as usual, is it not? Pour enough salt in the beans and even the starving will eventually turn away from them. That is your tactic and that is why the IPCC and Congressional leaders don’t want to debate the science anymore. Have you considered that you just might be an unwitting pawn in a conspiracy to deny the world long-term economic survival? About your claim that climatologists have attempted to “erase” the Medieval Warming Period, that is not true. “It was initially believed that the temperature changes noted in Europe were global. However, this view has been questioned; the 2001 IPCC report summarizes research on this, saying “…current evidence does not support globally synchronous periods of anomalous cold or warmth over this time frame, and the conventional terms of ‘Little Ice Age’ and ‘Medieval Warm Period’ appear to have limited utility in describing trends in hemispheric or global mean temperature changes in past centuries. Global temperature records taken from ice cores, tree rings, and lake deposits, have shown that, taken globally, the Earth may have been slightly cooler (by 0.03 degrees Celsius) during the ‘Medieval Warm Period’ than in the early- and mid-20th century.” I have borrowed this information from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medieval_Warm_Period, which is still an open post. You are welcome to contribute to it or attempt to modify it if you wish. About reducing the amount of CO2, sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), particulate matter (PM), carbon monoxide (CO), and mercury (Hg) has everything to do with global warming. The generation of SO2, NOx, PM, CO and Hg are coincidental to the generation of CO2 when burning coal. By reducing our reliance on “dirty” coal with alternative, renewable energy sources or by way of application of future carbon capturing technologies, we will also reduce these pollutants. Emerging nations don’t need our charity, Bill, so much as they need our leadership in addressing international issues on the scale of global warming. “Give a man a fish, he eats for a day…”

    And finally, concerning your assertion that more CO2 is good for plants, this has been scientifically shown to be yet another Climate Denial “Crock”. Enjoy this little video now on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vFGU6qvkmTI. Opa

  13. Opa,

    Models may help with the understanding of how climate works, regardless of their ability to predict the future. But, when models are used to predict the future as they are now, they are only effective if have shown some actual skill in forecasting. Current models have not done a very good job to date (check out RankExploits). If I have a model that consitently predicts sunshine and I keep observing rain, I don’t keep using it because “it’s the best we have”, I start looking at the model to see why it keeps giving me the wrong answer.

    “This is about politics as usual, is it not?”

    Is it? What is my interest in “politics as usual”? What office do I hold? Who’s paying me off? What I do have is three children and no doubt they’ll have more children. If you think I would risk their futures and possibly their lives in order to play “politics as usual” you are sadly mistaken. If I thought that the threat of catastropic GW was large, and if the only solution was shown to be a “One world” government, I’d set all my ideals aside and get on board.

  14. Bill, I have children too, and grandchildren, and now I have a great granddaughter. I fear for them, not because of the politics of change but because of the politics that resist change. Americans have voted for change, and in a world set badly off-course by decades of ineffective leadership, we really, really need it. I only regret that so many like yourself are so incapable or unwilling to accept this reality. Yes, you are interested in “politics as usual,” in perpetuating the status quo, otherwise you wouldn’t be exchanging comments on my blog.

    Opa

  15. Opa,

    The “Vote for Change” issue seems to think there are only two possibilities (using health care as an example), the status quo or National Health Care. I oppose the status quo and support change, just not the type of change that Obama and you propose.

    I’m guessing that by “Politics as Usual” you believe that there is a known way to solve a problem and that if the political parties would only stop bickering they could all get together and do the right thing?

    Taking minimum wage laws as an example, it is not at all clear what the “right” thing to do is. Liberals want to increase the minimum wage. Conservatives want get rid of it or, at a minimum, not increase it. Economists are split on this issue (although still leaning against the minimum wage). I’m against the minimum wage because I believe it hurts those that we need to help the most, those that are the hardest to employ. Republicans and Democrats usually have different ideas of what is best for the country and they compete with each other for the support of the voters. Whoever gets the most votes gets to try and implement the changes they prefer.

    On Climate Change, I oppose the status quo and I want change such as only relying on scientific studies whose data and methods have been made public so that their results can be replicated.

  16. Opa,

    Looking back, I see I’ve been guilty of making a basic debating technique: “Never make more than one argument at a time”. Otherwise, your opponent will ignore you’re best argument and focus on the one they like most. I’ll try to stay more focused, although that may well mean that I have to let other topics I’d like to address go without a response.

    What’s your response to:

    If I have a model that consitently predicts sunshine and I keep observing rain, I don’t keep using it because “it’s the best we have”, I start looking at the model to see why it keeps giving me the wrong answer.

  17. About your “vote for change” comment, Bill, President Obama has repeatedly said that he prefers bilateral legislation and has encouraged Democrats in Congress to incorporate conservatives’ ideas. But, you are correct, reconciling extremely polarized views is proving difficult, if not impossible. But it seems clear to me that Democrats want more progress/change and Republicans want less.

    No, I don’t purport to know the “right” way, or even a better way, for Congress to get things done. But I do believe that true campaign reform, squeezing out much of the lobbyist influence that persists, and Congressional term limits, would go a long way to improve things.

    About minimum wage — economist know that wages are “sticky”. In other words, they are not like prices which more readily adjust to the laws of demand and supply. They naturally lag behind inflation which is a byproduct of economic expansion. Over the past decade or so, especially with the demise of manufacturing in this country and all the “off shoring” of good-paying services industry jobs that has taken place, the minimum wage today buys only about 70 percent of what it did in 1968. Some say that minimum wage causes inflation. I disagree, as do most economists. What most do agree on though is that, when minimum wages are set too high, there is job loss. But this is getting way off-focus. You have posted a comment here in response to my global warming article.

    About your objections to consensus conclusions and recommendations regarding climate change and global warming, I get it, Bill. Your objections notwithstanding, the science has been concluded sufficiently for the time being — sufficient at least for those currently in control of Congress to debate what should be done about it. The debate about whether or not the phenomena is real and whether it is a threat to humanity is behind us. Undoubtedly, the scientists “officially” studying climate change and global warming (those not representing industry and other special interest groups or those individual scientists who persist in “cherry picking” IPCC data for sport or for political agenda) will continue to refine methods and estimates.

    By the way, what are your professional credentials, Bill? You seem to have a lot of time on your hands to blog as do I, currently being a teacher on summer break.

    Opa

  18. Opa,

    I generally only check my e-mail at work (checking my work email from home is cumbersome for certain technical reasons) and, since it is work, I don’t have too much time to reply via email.

    I’m 54, a director of I.T. and have a B.S. in Computer Science which I went back to school for at age 26. I’m married with three kids, 18, 15 & 15.

    I read a lot of Economics & Social Policy simply because that’s what interests me. I’ve always been skeptical of radical environmentalists & that’s no doubt what led to my initial take on the AGW issue. I lay awake at night trying to figure out what the optmal policy would be to deal with some problem of the day.

    I had pretty much developed my politcal beliefs before I knew the label that could be applied to them. I saw an ad for a magazine called Reason that mentioned several policy stances, subscribed and subsequently discovered that I am a libertarian. don’t consider myself a “Capital L” libertarian because I’m only interested in what works best for society, not because of some “Ownership of one’s self” mantra.

    AGW has been my “hobby horse” for a year or so now (with health care a close second). I go through phases of commenting on blogs before realizing that it serves no purpose & I’m just wasting my time. Like now,

    I try to bring up the issue of the minimum wage only for the purpose of showing that there are conflicting opinions on many issues that can’t be resolved just by getting rid of “politics as usual” (whatever that means), and you respond with a paragraph about the minimum wage. Aarrgh!

    It is clear we aren’t going to get anywhere with this conversation. But, if you want to consider yourself well informed about Climate Change, you really owe it to yourself to visit ClimateAudit.org & rank-exploits.com\musings\ (for the latter, you might be best of googling “Lucia & Climate Change”). At least so that you’ll see the best arguments the opposition has instead instead of the weakest.

  19. Thanks for sharing about yourself, Bill. It’s been interesting but, as you say, unproductive.

    A little bit about myself before we part, agreeing to disagree… As a twenty-two-year career Army officer, for years I considered myself to be a Republican. I was very disappointed with Jimmy Carter’s ineffectiveness as President and especially with his move to reduce defense spending while we were still in the midst of the Cold War. I was serving in Germany at the time and was very conscious of the Soviet threat. I voted for Reagan and thought that he was the savior of the Free World. When he made is “Mr. Gorbachev, teardown this wall…” speech from Berlin and later, when the wall actually did come down, I was sure of it. I did have one problem though, my concerns about the environment (my undergraduate degree was in geography) were not shared by Mr. Reagan. Later, after picking up an MBA while still on active duty, I became a fiscal conservative and began to worry about the effect of Reagan’s deficit spending. His “supply-side” economic policies and massive tax cuts weren’t working the way some economists in those times anticipated. Then, when the economy turned around under Bill Clinton with his tax increases on the wealthy and his refusal to let Congress spend more than the government took in, I started listening to my wife’s dad — a life long Democrat. Then came the first Bush/Cheney administration and a Congress gone whack-o again with pork barrel spending. I became a Democrat and believe to this day that Gore actually won the election. I remain very much an environmentalist.

    In your remarks and in your arguments, you have been a gentleman, Bill. I respect that. Some with whom I have exchanged views on my blog and others’ blogs, have resorted to calling me names — even accusing me of being unpatriotic. You, however, seem willing to let me have my persuasions and walk away friends. and I am certainly willing to do the same. According to Voltaire, that makes us both patriots!

    Opa

  20. Hmmm. Seems as though my last post didn’t “cut the mustard.” Well, it is your blog! Whether this stays here or not:

    For your perusal: http://www.creators.com/opinion/walter-williams/epa-cover-up.html

    You remarks on the economics of the eighties and nineties is interesting, but did you consider that Clinton benefited from Reagan’s supply side policies. You might look at the performance of the stock marked with respect to 1) Clinton’s election and 2) the Gingrich “revolution”.

    How do you, as a newly minted Democrat, feel about the current Democrat Congress gone whack-o again with pork barrel spending? How about the deficit?

    But I digress…

    Enjoy your blog!

  21. No, sir, Clinton’s administration benefited primarily from the dot.com phenomena, then dipped some in the last half of his second term when the bubble burst. But it sure didn’t hurt any that he restored some measure of fiscal responsibility while in office. Reagan’s tax cuts did nothing but dig us a deep hole and make the super rich even more super rich. Bush picked up right where Reagan left off with more tax cuts and more spending, and just look where that got us. It is indeed unfortunate that Obama inherited such an economic nose dive for which the only solution now is more borrowing and more spending. So, brace yourself for a considerable tax increase on the wealthy as the economy recovers later next year and we dig deep to find ways to pay for health care reform.

    Opa

  22. When Reagan and Republicans came to power, one of the first things to go was Carter’s energy plan. Carter knew that our dependence on oil would lead to war–which it did. It seems that we would rather send our people to fight a war, than make an effort to get away from oil.
    I remember a conversation I had with a friend in 1979. He said, “We need to bomb some people and get that oil for ourselves.” I answered, “How do you define ourselves”? But what about American coal and gas? Leaving aside the issue of climate change, big oil is not exactly “our own.” These monster companies are not owned by one country, and they damn sure are not owned completely by the American people. (BP does not stand for “beyond petroleum”). We need clean renewable decentralized power. Big oil will always charge what the market will bear and it will always try to control our energy sources and policy.
    I would rather allow for some exceptions to our hard core capitalism than to spend our money on–and send our people to–war.
    Concerning the climate issue, I like the idea of “follow the money” when considering the honesty of “scientists.” Likewise, some jokers like Stossel know how to sell books without knowing much about the issue. They know that people who are afraid of change are likely to grab any book that gives them comfort. Moreover, they need an excuse to oppose any policy which could call for any hint of personal sacrifice.

  23. You, Mr. River Rat, seem to have a pretty good grasp of the situation. But Clinton too had a hand in getting us to where we are today. Even though the justice department advised against it, he and his administration allowed Exxon and Mobile to merge creating the new, biggest corporation in the world, although they have traded positions from year to year since with WalMart and Dutch Royal Shell.

    Opa

  24. Interesting thread, and I feel compelled to respond and offer some further discussion. To disclose, I am a meteorologist, and while I’m not a climatologist, I do have a sub-specialty in dealing with climate data and climate-related issues within my current position. And, AGW is a topic that is increasingly near and dear to my heart.

    So, where to begin on what I’ve read above…well, let me just start from the top.

    Dr. Dimsdale, on June 29th, stated…

    “I will ask you again: given the increasing number of scientist critical of the concept of AGE as more data comes in and more analysis is done, how do your reconcile the refusal of AGW proponents to publicly debate the issue?”

    Please allow me to respond to this. First, please site a reference showing that there are “increasing numbers of scientists critical of the concept of AGW as more data comes in and more analysis is done”. I know of no studies or polls that have been conduced that would support your statement. I would appreciate only a scientific study or poll from a reputable source. I have come across articles from conservatively slanted news or blog sites that write about the increasing number of skeptical scientists. However, the scientists they reference may have already been skeptical, and may be coming out as opponents to AGW due to the increasingly political nature of the issue. …which, as a scientist, I have to say, is extremely unfortunate. Of course, they also “refuse” to cite any polls or studies that substantiate their claims.

    I think a more reasonable and logical approach is to assess the percentages of earth and especially atmospheric scientists who are proponents/opponents of AGW, with numbers as derived from scientific polls conducted by legitimate institutions.

    The latest such poll (known to me, at least) was conducted by researchers at the University of Illinois, and published in Jan 2009. It’s findings showed that, of the 3,146 respondents (who are in the Earth sciences), 82% affirmed that they believe humans are playing a significant role in climate change. Perhaps more importantly was the response from climatologists, which showed just over 97% in the affirmative. Here’s a link…
    http://tigger.uic.edu/~pdoran/012009_Doran_final.pdf

    Another poll conducted by Harris Interactive in 2007 showed very similar numbers, with 97% of respondents of the American Meteorological Society and the American Geophysical Union affirming that temperatures have risen in the past 100 years, and 84% affirming that human-induced warming is occurring.

    http://stats.org/stories/2008/global_warming_survey_apr23_08.html

    Very interestingly, the poll also showed a marked increase since 1991 in the number of scientists who responded in the affirmative that human-induced warming is occurring. Therefore, your statement that there are increasing numbers of scientists who refute global warming, appears to be in jeopardy.

    Now, on to the “refusal of AGW proponents to publicly debate the issue” part of your statement.

    I can’t believe you actually stated this. First, as a scientist, you should know that submitting a paper for peer-review is the proper process for offering debate or scrutiny. Since the overwhelming majority of papers submitted for peer review in reputable journals have been those in support of AGW, that makes your point invalid. In addition, and ironically, papers offering a refutation of AGW in reputable peer-reviewed journals are essentially non-existent. Thus, it is the AGW opponents who are not offering up their work for debate through conventional means. In fact, a study conducted in 2004 by Naomi Oreskes, and appearing in the journal Science showed that of the reviewed 928 abstracts, published in refereed scientific journals between 1993 and 2003, and listed in the ISI database with the keywords “climate change”, not a single paper disagreed with the consensus position concerning AGW.

    Now, if you want to talk about open discussion and debate, one only has to do a cursory search of global warming debate on Youtube, for example, to find debate by legitimate scientists regarding this issue. Here are a few…

    And these are just a few examples I found of AGW proponents who have not “refused” to publicly debate.

    In the spirit of proper debate mentioned in the thread above, I’ll just address one issue (well, statement) at a time.

    -KW

  25. Thank you for your addition to the debate, KW. I’ve passed your comment and this response on to Dr. Dimsdale as a Cc to an email since he may not be visiting my blog anymore.

    I find it very interesting how people, even those who profess to have a “scientific” mind, often become so entrenced in a perception that they cannot deal with the facts, especially when issues become so politicized as has global warming over the years — call it confirmation bias.


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