Of Dinosaur Farts and Brain Farts: The Latest Climate Fail

How bad are things getting for the climateers?  They’ve complained before about methane emissions from sheep and cows, with the most extreme “Climate Hawks” saying we all need to stop eating beef and lamb if we’re going to save the planet (to which I respond, “You’ll have to pry my medium-rare cheeseburger out of my cold dead hands, but only after you get past my NRA Kevlar napkin”).  Now there’s a new study out suggesting that global warming 150 million years ago was caused by . . . dinosaur farts:

British scientists have calculated the methane output of sauropods, including the species known as Brontosaurus. By scaling up the digestive wind of cows, they estimate that the population of dinosaurs – as a whole – produced 520 million tonnes of gas annually. They suggest the gas could have been a key factor in the warm climate 150 million years ago.

As my frequent writing partner Ken Green (MA in molecular biology; Ph.D in environmental science) pointed out to me, we still don’t know for certain whether dinosaurs were warm-blooded animals or not.  But we’re working right now on a hasty article for the Journal of Irreproducable Results that will seek to prove the dinosaur-farts hypothesis by investigating the coincidence of lightning-caused forest fires in proximity to dinosaur fossil beds.  Hey–if it could be done in a frat house, why not in a herd of dinosaurs?

Meanwhile, the chief manic depressive of the climate campaign, NASA’s James Hansen, took to the New York Times yesterday with an epic brain fart saying that if Canada fully develops it oil tar sands, it’s “game over for the climate.”

If Canada proceeds [to develop its tar sands], and we do nothing, it will be game over for the climate.  Canada’s tar sands, deposits of sand saturated with bitumen, contain twice the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by global oil use in our entire history.

So just what are we supposed to do here?  Invade Canada?  Lock up their oil sands and other energy resources, which account for over half of Canada’s total exports?  Yeah, that’ll work.  And if they decide to sell their oil to China instead of us, are we going to send the U.S. navy to blockade Canadian ports?

I recall Hansen (and Gore) saying back around 2004 or so that we had less than a decade to solve the problem of global warming.  Good to know that they’re going to shut up in a couple of years and go away.

Meanwhile, a new survey from Stanford shows that support for “climate action” continues to decline.

I’ll say it again: Losers.  Actually I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of saying that.

UPDATE: The NY Times‘s Andy Revkin, whom I’ve praised before and will again for being  one MSMer who plays this issue straight up even though he sympathizes with the climateers, notes the defects in Hansen’s breathless article.

UPDATE 2: See especially this comment on Revkin’s post by Stanford University climate scientist Michael Warra:

Hi Andy,

Hansen’s views are well known and this editorial should come as no surprise to many who know him and his work. Once again, he puts into very sharp focus the question of how climate scientists should engage in the policy discussion on climate change. The surprise is perhaps only that the NYT publishes this.

Hansen’s approach makes me deeply uncomfortable. I say that both as a former climate scientist (I got my PhD developing our understanding of the Pliocene warm period – that warm interval with, we think, high CO2 and high sea levels that he cites to in the piece) and as a current social scientist deeply involved with the policy responses to climate change.

The natural scientist in me feels uncomfortable for all of the reasons that Emmanuel discusses. But equally, the policy wonk feels uncomfortable because of the naive statements that Hansen makes regarding US energy policies or his suggestions for a different approach. Anybody who thinks that the Keystone pipeline and the tar sands generally are the be all and end all of energy or climate policy just does not get the big picture.

I suggest that readers consider another model – where policy experts partner with scientists to advance an issue. One recent example is David Victor and Ram Ramanathan who have combined their policy and scientific firepower. Maybe by working across silos, as these two experts have done, we can actually move the ball forward on the climate change issue.

Michael Wara


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