Arctic-gate: Harrison Schmitt, self-described “denier” of human-caused global warming, pushes myth that Arctic sea ice has recovered “to 1989 levels”!

I have previously discussed how climate science denier Harrison Schmitt, appointed to head the new Mexico environment agency, believes enviros and scientists like Holdren are communists.  As the above clip show, Schmitt is actually proud to assert that he is a denier of well-established science.

Now it turns out he denies not only the basic reality that the planet is warming and humans are a major cause — but he denies even more basic scientific observations in this collection of long-debunked denier talking points sent to NASA:

How long this cooling trend will persist remains to be seen; however, Greenland glaciers have been advancing since 2006, Artic [sic] sea ice has returned to 1989 levels of coverage….

Schmitt here channels Groucho Marx:  Who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?

First, it’s hard to be in a cooling trend when you’ve just had the hottest decade on record, the hottest 12-month period on record, and a calendar year that was tied with 2005 for the hottest on record in both the NOAA and NASA datasetIt’s pretty incredible, when you think about it, that a man that NASA put on the moon and brought home safely now denies basic NASA data!

Second, in his debunking post, physicist John Cook notes, “Greenland has been losing over 200 billion tonnes of ice per year.”  Schmitt’s denier talking point is years old.  In fact, a major new study in Environmental Research Letters reported in Science Daily reports, “2010 set new records for the melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet” — beating out the old record of … wait for it … 2007!  The “exceptional” melt season stretched up to 50 days longer than average in some areas.

Third, and most absurd, is Schmitt’s claim that Arctic sea ice has recovered to 1989 levels!  Readers know that is outrageous falsehood (see Arctic Death Spiral 2010: Navy’s oceanographer tells Congress, “the volume of ice as of last September has never been lower”¦in the last several thousand years”).

What follows is an extended excerpt (with charts) from Prof. Scott Mandia’s blog asking how Schmitt can head New Mexico’s Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department “IF HE CANNOT READ A GRAPH and HE DENIES WELL-SUPPORTED CLIMATE SCIENCE?

Schmitt submitted a paper to NASA in 2009 which was filled with physical nonsense. In it, he stated, “Artic (sic) sea ice has returned to 1989 levels of coverage.”  Mark Boslough, a physicist and computational modeler and an adjunct professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences at University of New Mexico, wrote in the Sante Fe New Mexican newspaper:

”I wrote to him, politely pointing out that this was not true, and directing him to the data from the National Snow and Ice Data Center (the ice extent in 2009 had not recovered, and as of this writing is at an all-time winter low). He responded, but never made the necessary correction. Anyone can make a mistake, but scientific integrity requires that authors own up to mistakes and fix them.”

Below is the NSDIC Arctic sea ice extent plot that is very well-known because it is well-publicized.  Of course, Schmitt must have looked at this same graph when he made his statement.  Did he not see that well-defined downward trend line? If he did not view the data, then why mention it in his NASA paper?

NSIDC Arctic Sea Ice Extent Downward TrendNSIDC Arctic Sea Ice Extent Downward Trend

Schmitt might also have seen this longer-term plot from NSIDC:

Arctic Sea Ice Extent Since 1953Arctic Sea Ice Extent Since 1953

For even more data Schmitt could have viewed this NSIDC page.

The NSIDC’s data clearly shows that Arctic sea ice is decreasing and did decrease between 1989 and 2009 so Schmitt was wrong when he wrote that there was a recovery of Arctic sea ice to 1989 levels.

Schmitt could also have viewed this very-well publicized plot of Arctic sea ice volume:

Arctic Ice Volume Trending Downward (PIOMAS)Arctic Ice Volume Trending Downward (PIOMAS)

Or perhaps he could have viewed the image below that shows a decline in Arctic sea ice thickness.  This data includes declassified submarine data since 1958.

Arctic Sea Ice Thickness Since 1958 (Kwok & Rothrock, 2009)

In his NASA paper, Schmitt concludes:

”Those who observe the natural, economic, and sociological aspects of climate change see no evidence indicating that human activities have influenced global climate. Actual observations show that climate varies in response to natural forces and that human burning of fossil fuels has had negligible if any effect over the last 100 years.”

Also, in his paper, Mr. Schmitt makes many other claims that are unsupported by fact, including: (Click links for the correct science)

  1. CO2 is saturated and cannot cause more warming
  2. Water vapor is the most powerful greenhouse gas
  3. It’s El Nino
  4. It’s the sun
  5. It’s cosmic rays

Of course, there is overwhelming evidence for human-caused global warming, and that is why there is an overwhelming scientific consensus.

Given Schmitt’s position as a denier of well-understood climate science, it was hardly surprising that Joseph Bast, President of the Heartland Institute, wrote an article (January 31) in the Sante Fe New Mexican calling on Dr. Boslough to apologize to Schmitt.  In that article, Mr. Bast was quite “economical with the truth” – true to form for the Heartland Institute which is no friend of accurate climate science information.

In 2009, Schmitt resigned from the Planetary Society writing:

”The ‘global warming scare’ is being used as a political tool to increase government control over American lives, incomes and decision making. It has no place in the Society’s activities.  As a geologist, I love Earth observations. But, it is ridiculous to tie this objective to a ‘consensus’ that humans are causing global warming in when human experience, geologic data and history, and current cooling can argue otherwise.”

Schmitt really distances himself from reality with those statements. If the government wished to control our lives, why would it create a problem that is very difficult to resolve while simultaneously making no movement to enforce that control?  Congress has made no real progress toward an energy policy and we are importing more fossil fuels than ever while increasing our carbon emission rates.  Global cooling?  How does Schmitt think that the hottest decade on record means cooling?  How does global cooling add heat to the oceans and melt surface ice at increasing rates?

Now that Schmitt knows the truth, will he rethink his position, will he retract his claims, and will he apologize to the people of New Mexico for misleading them?

Scott A. Mandia, Professor of Physical Sciences at Suffolk County Community College, Long Island, NY.  Mandia holds an M.S. Meteorology from Penn State University and a B.S. Meteorology from University of Lowell (now called UMass – Lowell). Mandia has been teaching introductory meteorology and paleoclimatology courses for 23 years.

For some debunking of the Heartland Institute’s tortured effort to hide the decline in Arctic ice, see Cook and Peter Gleick who has this nice chart in his post “Misrepresenting Climate Science“:


For why New Mexicans will suffer more than most Americans from unrestricted greenhouse gas emissions, see here and “U.S. southwest could see a 60-year drought like that of 12th century “” only hotter “” this century.”

31 Responses to Arctic-gate: Harrison Schmitt, self-described “denier” of human-caused global warming, pushes myth that Arctic sea ice has recovered “to 1989 levels”!

  1. Some European says:

    “I’m a denier and I’m proud of it”
    It’s not a coincidence, it’s part of the PR strategy.
    See for yourself how the Heartland Institute promotes a video by the astro-turf group ‘Minnesotans 4 Global Warming’ with the following introduction:

    “This song is in honor of all the new Republican Freshman entering Congress and the Senate most of whom are Deniers and proud of it.”

  2. caerbannog says:

    Some should “get in Schmitt’s face” at the next public hearing he attends and publicly accuse him of participating in the great NASA “moon landing” hoax.

    When he responds with predictable outrage, the reply should be along the lines of “Now you know how climate scientists feel!”. Might make for very effective theater in a public setting.

  3. Colorado Bob says:

    JR –

    Fresh stories about food –

    Vegie prices to soar after weekend deluge in Victoria

    The Department of Primary Industry confirmed several potato and asparagus crops were wiped out while grapes, melons, capsicums and citrus fruits have been severely affected in the state’s north-west.

    Monsoon rains only last month in the same areas of the north, east and centre of Sri Lanka killed at least 43 people and drove more than a million people from their homes.

    The latest floods have washed away further large swathes of farmland in key rice-growing regions.

  4. Colorado Bob says:

    Sri Lanka is in deep , deep trouble.

  5. Prokaryotes says:

    This guy belongs into a room with soft walls.

  6. Mike Roddy says:

    Caerbannog, good idea!
    Colorado Bob- please send a link about Sri Lanka’s problems. I’ve worked there before.

    As for Schmitt, someone needs to put this tape, along with a collection from Anthony Watts, into a well designed time capsule. Future visitors from other galaxies could then learn why we went extinct.

  7. Willis says:

    Joe, As a resident of New Mexico, thanks for this post. As a science professor at UNM it is very discouraging to see our newly minted governor appoint someone so clearly driven by a political agenda and so completely uninterested in (or perhaps opposed to) making decisions and policies based on fact.

    [JR: He hasn’t been approved yet!]

  8. Robert In New Orleans says:

    Harrison Schmitt was able to become astronaut because he was able to show his intelligence by mastering and demonstrating the scientific knowledge to do so. Now for some reason he has turned his back on Science and the Scientific method, can anyone explain this to me?

    Is this the result of some genetic flaw (maybe a predisposition to greed, power, status, wealth…) within the make up of Homo Sapiens? Are we doomed to destroy ourselves because we cannot escape our evolutionary baggage? Is the current state of humanity proof of Fermi’s Paradox (We have not been contacted by ETI’s because they have destroyed themselves before they could contact us)?

  9. Prokaryotes says:

    “We have not been contacted by ETI’s because they have destroyed themselves before they could contact us”

    It seems easy for an advanced species to judge our future, while just observing the signals we emit beyond our system. They could very well see what we doing to our climate. The human race is still in the dark age, except that the fire power to destroy the planet many times over is at our finger tips.

  10. Oh dear, how do we categorize him now?

    Denier? Fool?

    Dottering old has-been with deluded notions, but other-wise a nice guy?

  11. Robert H says:

    Alas, only most of Harrison Schmitt returned safely from the Moon…

  12. Anne van der Bom says:

    Some trends are up, some are down. I understand it must all be very confusing for an astronaut since there is no up or down in space.

  13. Prokaryotes says:


    FOXLEAKS: Fox Caught Scripting Socialism Attack

    “Isn’t that what they do in socialist countries?”

    Steve Doocy’s question sounded like a spontaneous reaction to what he apparently saw as the threat Barack Obama would pose to freedom of the press.

    It wasn’t.

    The Fox News host’s inflammatory question had, in fact, been scripted the night before in an email sent by a Fox producer.

    The incident, which occurred on the October 27, 2008, edition of Fox & Friends, came during what appears to have been a network-wide campaign to tie Obama to socialism in the month leading up to the presidential election. Internal Fox documents obtained by Media Matters and a review of the network’s pre-election coverage show that Fox hosts, producers, and other journalists were involved in the effort.

    October 27 was also the day that Fox’s then-deputy managing editor Bill Sammon sent an internal email referencing what he described in the subject line as “Obama’s references to socialism, liberalism, Marxism and Marxists in his autobiography, ‘Dreams from My Father.’ ” Sammon appeared on multiple Fox shows to discuss his “research” and also wrote a piece about Obama’s “affinity to Marxists.”

    The events leading up to Doocy’s “socialist” question began four days earlier, when WFTV (ABC’s Orlando affiliate) anchor Barbara West interviewed Joe Biden. During the interview, West suggested Obama’s infamous exchange with “Joe the Plumber” — in which Obama had advocated, “spread[ing] the wealth around” — was a “potentially crushing political blunder.”

    West then asked: “You may recognize this famous quote: ‘From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.’ That’s from Karl Marx. How is Senator Obama not being a Marxist if he intends to spread the wealth around?”

    “Are you joking?” asked a stunned Biden. “Is this a joke?”

    “No,” said West. “That’s a question.”

    In response to West’s interview, the Obama campaign reportedly cancelled a planned appearance by Jill Biden on WFTV and told the station, “This cancellation is non-negotiable, and further opportunities for your station to interview with this campaign are unlikely, at best for the duration of the remaining days until the election.”

  14. dbmetzger says:

    Wonder what He would say about Australia…
    Record Temps Continue Rising Across Sydney
    New South Wales has experienced a record-in-length heatwave with temperatures reaching 42 degrees Celsius (107F) across the Sydney region.

  15. GFW says:

    The station’s call sign is seriously WFTV? Dang, just one transposition from something so much more appropriate ;-)

  16. Prokaryotes says:

    Mr. Bast said, adding that the companies have shifted their lobbying and public relations efforts toward trying to shape climate legislation in their favor. He said that contributions, over all, had continued to rise. But Kert Davies, a climate campaigner for Greenpeace, who is attending the Heartland event, said that the experts giving talks were “a shrinking collection of extremists” and that they were “left talking to themselves.” Organizers expected to top the attendance of about 500 at the first Heartland conference, held last year. They also point to the speaker’s roster, which included Mr. Klaus and Harrison Schmitt, a geologist, Apollo astronaut and former senator. A centerpiece of the 2008 meeting was the release of a report, “Nature, Not Human Activity, Rules the Planet.” The document was expressly designed as a challenge to the reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. This year, the meeting will focus on a more nuanced question: “Global warming: Was it ever a crisis?”

    Schmitt, while on the Moon, allegedly said, “You see one Earth, you’ve seen them all.”

    Harrison Schmitt has taken the position that climate change is not caused by human activity. “[The] global warming scare is being used as a political tool to increase government control over American lives, incomes and decision-making.”,2933,493624,00.html–

    Martinez’s pick for enviro chief: Environmentalists are communists
    While appearing on radio host Alex Jones’ show in 2009, Harrison Schmitt said that leaders of the environmental movement are communists.

    Wow, for all the coincidence that this guy uses outworn slurs, finds supposed prove that the science has it wrong and then turns out he is cherry picking. And then blames political conspiracy …
    This guy is a pathological liar and just made the moon landings so much less enjoyable.

    But then again, maybe a stupid ray inflicted critical stupidity on him and when he came back from his “trip” he went straight for the science and tech in politics and was overthrown later by Bingamen, because he obviously had nothing less accomplished then hot air.

    Shoot this failed breed straight back to the moon!

  17. Michael T. says:

    Here is the April Arctic Sea Ice Extent from 1979 to 2010.

    Clearly a downward trend even since 1989.

  18. Leland Palmer says:

    The paid AGW climate denier network is pretty persuasive, although I’m kind of appalled that they roped in Harrison Schmitt. The paid AGW climate denier network does hire some gifted propagandists, I think. They’ve put out hundreds of deceptive talking points denying AGW, and apparently buying only a couple of them is equivalent to drinking the AGW denier KoolAid.

    Apparently, he has been interviewed by Alex Jones in the past.

    His climate denier views are apparently several years old, at least:

    Schmitt is an adjunct professor of engineering physics at the University of Wisconsin–Madison,[7] and has long been a proponent of lunar resource utilization.[8][9] In 1997 he proposed the Interlune InterMars Initiative, listing among its goals the advancement of private sector acquisition and use of lunar resources, particularly lunar helium-3 as a fuel for notional nuclear fusion reactors.[10]

    The idea of generating significant power from helium 3 obtained from the moon is regarded as wildly impractical.[11]

    Schmitt was chair of the NASA Advisory Council, whose mandate is to provide technical advice to the NASA Administrator, from November 2005 until his abrupt resignation on October 16, 2008.[12] In November 2008, he quit the Planetary Society over policy advocacy differences, citing the organization’s statements on “focusing on Mars as the driving goal of human spaceflight” (Schmitt said that going back to the Moon would speed progress toward a manned Mars mission), on “accelerating research into global climate change through more comprehensive Earth observations” (Schmitt voiced objections to the notion of a present “scientific consensus” on climate change as any policy guide), and on international cooperation (which he felt would retard rather than accelerate progress), among other points of divergence.[13]

    Regarding the international scientific consensus on anthropogenic climate change, Schmitt has said that “[t]he CO2 scare is a red herring”,[14] that the “global warming scare is being used as a political tool to increase government control over American lives, incomes and decision-making,” and that scientists who might otherwise challenge prevailing views on climate change dare not do so for fear of losing funding.[15]

    Likewise, in a 2009 interview with conservative talk-radio host Alex Jones, Schmitt asserted a link between Soviet Communism and the American environmental movement: “I think the whole trend really began with the fall of the Soviet Union. Because the great champion of the opponents of liberty, namely communism, had to find some other place to go and they basically went into the environmental movement.”[16]

    It’s the straight paid AGW denier party line, I guess. It looks like his AGW denier views cost him his NASA job, though.

    I wonder if he is deeply religious? I have family who are sure that global warming is a hoax, because they are sure that “God wouldn’t do that”.

    My understanding of Helium 3 is that it is an advanced fusion fuel, harder to burn than Deuterium/Tritium. And we still can’t get Deuterium/Tritium to work, unfortunately. And it’s so rare we have to go to the moon to get it.

  19. jemand says:

    but of course the ice has recovered to 1989 levels! It’s OBVIOUS!

    *WINTER* ice today, has recovered to summer 1989 levels!

    Praise the lord!

  20. James Newberry says:

    We will know what kind of governor she will be if this ignorant ideologue is affirmed to “manage” solar development in her sunny state. He will probably promote extraction of uranium and hydrocarbons.

  21. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    The environmentalism is Communism meme has a great run in Australia, particularly in the Stygian depths of Murdoch’s more down(er)-market publications and their ‘Comments’ blogs, where some really outlandish creatures emerge and caper about. The absolute immorality, the opportunism, the gigantic mendacity, the carefully orchestrated and rehearsed humbug and cynicism of the denialist industry baffles normal minds. Just how can they act with such deranged enthusiasm to destroy humanity? Are they so stupid, so ignorant, so auto-indoctrinated that they really believe that all the planet’s scientists are engaged in a gigantic Communist conspiracy, or that there are just a handful of ‘warmist’ supremos, who move about a lot, giving the impression of a multitude, and only they, the denialist elect, are so clever, so acute, so blessed with insight, to have seen through it all?
    I think that the real answer to it all is simplicity itself. The denialist industry is simply a function of money, the billions invested in disinformation a small insurance policy to ensure future trillions in profits keep flowing. In market capitalism the keys to success are drive, ie ego and greed, unscrupulousness and antipathy to others, the ‘competition’. Capitalism is marvelously selective, in a negatively Darwinian fashion. Where most of humanity would recoil from the tactics required for success in capitalism like lying about your products, purchasing and corrupting politicians, journalists and judges, destroying unions, driving down wages and eviscerating environmental protection to increase profits, the capitalist has no such qualms. He is Yablonsky’s robopath, part human, mostly robotic, programed psychologically, spiritually and intellectually to pursue money and power, no matter what. The robopath rules in all capitalist societies. Mubarak is a Big Robopath, evidenced by the 70 billion he stole from his people and by Obama’s frantic efforts to keep him in power or ensure that he is succeeded by another of the same ilk. As long as the robopaths rule, our fate is certain-it’s as simple as that. They cannot be reasoned with, they cannot change lest they be expelled from the corridors of power and influence and they will do whatever is necessary to protect their power and privilege.

  22. Prokaryotes says:

    I agree with you except for your version about Obama’s action. I think this is not easy to have an opinion here because of the difficult situation. Of course Mubarak has to go, but what if a fast switch without someone to fill the void ends in total chaos? That would fuel critics of Obama with ammunition and that is why he opts carefully. The situation is very delicate because of egypt’s size, population and point of interest because of the strategic suez channel.

  23. Bob Doublin says:

    #22 Ohhh,I get it! For a second,I thought you were being redundant and using “ignorant ideologue” to refer to the governor of New Mexico instead of Schmitt.Wait,there’s more than enough room for that to apply to the both of them.

  24. CW says:

    I watched the embedded video above, after which there was the usual stream of other related videos to choose from. So I watched one more where Schmitt is interviewed by a guy who seemed to me to be your run-of-the-mill radio propagandist. They spent a good part of the interview talking about how all this climate stuff was really a plot to limit liberty. I thought, “We need to take this misguided ‘assault on liberty’ argument head on a lot more. There are so many ways in which climate change will see us loosing more of our liberty”. Anyway, at the end of that next video, there was a commercial that started out by talking about how government was going to force blackouts and screw you over with high power rates and all … and I thought, “Wow, utility money working against the smart-grid?”. But it turned out to be a solar power company, using anti-government framing to sell solar power as a form of social rebellion against big bad government. “My solar back-up” dot com. The juxtaposition of this ad at the end of the show was just incredible… This climate crap was conspiracy! Get your solar power now before government screws you over!

    Amazing … The obvious thought being that if “they” see government conspiracy everywhere, then maybe we should give them government conspiracy as a motive to go renewable.

  25. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Prokaryotes, I respect your opinion, but I’m certainly a good deal more cynical about Obama than most. I’m afraid it might be considered a character fault, but I’m a follower of Wallis Simpson who said, I believe, that you can never be too rich, too thin or too cynical.

  26. Rabid Doomsayer says:
    South Western Australia, where it’s not flooding.

  27. FedUpWithDenial says:

    Is this perhaps a case of extraordinary brain-rot, brought on by too many decades of breathing the toxic effluvia emitted to the atmosphere by coal-burning power plants, including heavy metals such as lead, cadmium, arsenic and mercury—components of radioactive coal ash and dust that are deposited in soils, groundwater and surface waters, and that inevitably find their way into human food supplies and drinking water, poisoning millions?

    We’ve seen incurable brain rot before, other examples being of characters like Hal Lewis, Freeman Dyson, and the unfortunately not-yet-late (or late enough) Richard S. Lindzen. Would all of them be kind enough to finish themselves off by going out and breathing some more toxic pollution from the unregulated coal-burning power plants that they love so much?

    The other possibility is a perilous rotting away of the ethical and moral sense, making Harrison Schmitt a dangerous choice of someone to head New Mexico’s environment agency. Schmitt is far too irresponsible and out of touch with reality to be involved in decision-making at a high level—the level where serious public policy is made and human health as well as the health of the environment are riding on the outcome. Allowing Harrison Schmitt to head New Mexico’s environmental protection division is like granting an ill-educated, illiterate, half-blind, and habitually drunk auto mechanic with no medical training and a criminal record for sexual molestation of corpses a medical license to perform, say, open-heart surgery on park benches.

    For the rest, you have to wonder whether some terrible event befell former astronaut Schmitt while on his Apollo moon mission, when he was away from the protective envelope of Earth’s atmosphere and magnetic field. An unexpected burst of high-energy charged particles from the sun—or a stray cosmic ray particle—might have penetrated his thick skull and done some serious damage to the cortical gray matter inside (assuming he ever had any). Such a particle, traveling at nearly the speed of light, could have touched off the equivalent of a microscopic big bang or mini nuclear explosion inside his head, making some key areas of his brain “toast,” as we say.

    (This is not hypothetical. I recall that one returning NASA astronaut—can’t remember the name—reported to the doctor that he had experienced an unexplained brilliant flash of light during a mission, prompting the doctor to opine something to the tune of, “It was almost certainly the impact of a high-energy atomic particle and it probably destroyed 10,000 brain cells.” Only 10,000 brain cells? The doctor had to be kidding. Harrison Schmitt is missing more than that, and a superenergetic cosmic-ray particle could have flash-fried 100,000,000 neurons in an instant.)

    However, there’s a simpler, more down-to-earth explanation of ex-astronaut Schmitt’s recent displays of idiocy: he’s an out-and-out fool, out of touch with reality as well as lunatic, and taking you for a fool too. Lacking a clinical diagnosis, the most appropriate description of his condition is, “He’s nuts.”

  28. jyyh says:

    Warning: politics follows. I’m a little bit inclined to say that these kinds of people who are willing to smudge their own nest could be a blessing to the other kind of people in the form of cheap raw materials. Once they have depleted the resources in their power to exploit, prices may well go up, but they won’t have a nice place to retire on, as all the nice places left (if there are any) are not for sale. ‘The global civil war’ -scenario presented in some socially inclined science fiction-books is the political worst case scenario to me looking at political issues. Well whatever.

    (The obvious bit here is that I left the worst case scientific scenarios out).

  29. Pangolin says:

    Without a scientific understanding of human emotion and motivations all the accurate climate science in the world isn’t doing us much good.

    Schmitt is clearly wrong on an easily demonstrated point. Therefore it pretty easy to guess that he’s speaking from an emotional standpoint rather than a scientific.

    It’s increasingly difficult to claim science is neutral when one major political party takes blatantly anti-science platforms. It’s almost as if they are emotionally unable to adjust to changes in the real world. As if being a Republican was the same as being delusional.