Disputing Sixty Minutes’ deceptive feature on Kids’ Climate Change Lawsuit.
[Note: This article is also available at Master Resource. Ed.]
Robert W. Endlich
On 3 March 2019 the popular CBS Sixty Minutes newsmagazine featured a story on the Climate Kids’ lawsuit Juliana vs. the United States. It included a feature-length segment by CBS Correspondent Steve Croft, and smaller segments in the “Sixty Minutes Overtime” also directly available at the same link.
I invite you to read this analysis – and then watch the “news” and think critically about it.
Unlike the segments themselves, my descriptions of them are arguments based on data, not emotion.
It starts in the 1990s with the young woman at the center of this lawsuit, whose name is also the title of the lawsuit, Juliana. Her full name is Kelsey Cascadia Rose Juliana; she was 5 weeks old when her parents were involved in the Pacific Northwest “timber wars” over the “endangered” Northern Spotted Owl. Along with 20 other kids or “young adults,” Juliana is now following in her parents’ footsteps, blazing her own litigation trails.
As Figure 1 summarizes, the Northern Spotted Owl decision resulted in a precipitous decline in the amount of timber harvested and sold, resulting in widespread unemployment – and massive fuel load increases in the forests. Mere years later, about 1998, the Pacific Decadal Oscillation mode shifted from Warm (wet in the west) to Cold (dry in the west) and the dollars spent on fires shot as high as the flames, as US Forest Service and National Public Radio data affirm.
Now a college student, Kelsey Cascadia Rose Juliana tells us that the often-severe forest fires that plague the Pacific Northwest are a result of “Climate Change,” because, “that’s what the scientists tell us.” That this might have been a result of the fuel buildups when logging was stopped in the Spotted Owl case has not entered her head; nor the thought processes of Sixty Minutes’ producers; nor the thinking of scientists, teachers, professors and politicians who “taught” her and Sixty Minutes about fires and climate change. Although many other scientists could have explained the clear link between fuel buildups and massive conflagrations in forests where timber thinning and cutting are prohibited, they were not consulted.
Juliana says, “We have everything to lose if we don’t act on climate change.”
Stopping Earth’s natural climate fluctuations
Evidently, no one ever told Juliana it is just as impossible to “stop climate change” as it is to “stop continental drift,” stop the progression of tides, or stop sea level changes and land subsidence. All of these are a result of natural environmental processes that are (or once were) taught in basic Earth Science courses – processes that were carelessly or deliberately left out of the reporting by CBS reporter Steve Croft and CBS Producer Dragon Mihaljevic.
Al Gore told us to examine ice core data. That prompted me to become a student of ice cores, from both Antarctica and the Arctic. Figure 2 presents the temperature time history derived from the GISP2 ice core in Greenland. The data show that there has never been a Halcyon Time of climate stability during the past 5,000 years; that temperatures were warmer (and sea levels were a lot higher) in the Roman and Minoan Warm periods; and that the present temperature and rate of change of temperature today are not in the least extraordinary.
Embedded in the comments under the original CBS video link is a 17 September 1969 memo by Patrick David Moynihan, an advisor to President Richard Nixon. Moynihan warned of a 7 degree F temperature increase by the year 2000, which would result in a 10-foot sea level rise and the flooding of New York City and Washington DC in the same year. Like most climate change predictions, it was quite obviously a busted forecast.
The basis for the CBS interview is fear expressed by the kids. To make their program seem objective, Messrs. Croft and Mihaljevic make a big point of emphasizing, and then discounting, the possibility that adults might be using the kids as props to drive a climate and fossil fuel agenda. The attempt fails. They are clearly trafficking in the emotion of fear. Indeed, the lack of objectivity is palpable, but only if one is schooled in Earth Science, instead of the propaganda evident in this program, numerous other media stories and the bulk of climate discussions. This CBS report is a textbook example of such propaganda.
One of the kids interviewed is eleven-year-old Levi Draheim from Florida, the cute kid with the huge hair, who lives on a barrier island and fears that sea level rise and storm surge will destroy his home.
Figure 3, from a Bakersfield College geology course, shows the evolution of Monomoy Island, Massachusetts, over the last two centuries. Without even getting into what this area might have looked like 12,000 years ago, just before the last Pleistocene glaciers began to retreat and the Atlantic Ocean was some 400 feet shallower than it is today, it is obvious that Monomoy has been anything but stable.
CBS producer Mihaljevic says not a word to suggest that a kid living on a barrier island anywhere along the hurricane-prone Atlantic coast today somehow faces environmental threats not confronted by kids on the Atlantic or Gulf Coast mainland. Indeed, the CBS video of young Levi Draheim was shot on a sunny day with light winds, an ideal beach day with nary a hurricane or thunderstorm in sight, leaving the subtle impression that the only threat he should fear is seas that are rising ever faster because of man-made climate change.
Figure 4, from a University of Texas Earth Science course, illustrates similar barrier island lessons for coastal areas in the equally hurricane-prone Gulf of Mexico.
Hurricane and flooding hazards
Climate Kid 15-year-old Jayden Foytlin, from southern Louisiana, found her home flooded in August 2016. Mr. Mihaljevic speaks of flooding rains in southern Louisiana as somehow and unexpected new phenomenon that young Jayden suddenly experienced when she woke up and “put her foot into climate change.” Not into a frequent weather event on the Louisiana Coast, but into “climate change.” It’s not very subtle propaganda, but most viewers must be prepared, or they will miss it.
Jayden says, “I never expected to have my house flooded…”
She lives in Rayne, LA, about 20 miles from the Gulf Coast and a mere 20 feet above sea level. This is very flat outer coastal plain with poor drainage. That she has no clue that flat-lying land adjacent to the Gulf Coast would be subject to flooding when a hurricane strikes and some 16 inches of rain can occur within two days – is an artifact of inadequate education, and lack of self-awareness that might be attributable to her tender years.
Sixty Minutes shows her home on a slab. However, an internet search on <Rayne, LA> plus <images> shows a sign that says “Rayne, Frog Capital of the World,” and numerous houses elevated on blocks. That a fifteen-year old student would have no knowledge of even the possibility of flooding during a hurricane (or spring melts after heavy snows in the Upper Mississippi Basin) strains credulity. But perhaps her expectations were shaped by the 12-year absence of any Category 3-5 hurricane making US landfall between Wilma (2005) and Harvey (2017) – virtually her entire perceptive lifetime.
That the Sixty Minutes report makes it seem as if sixteen inches of rain within two days is somehow related to climate change, rather than a result of the climate and weather we have today, and have had for decades and centuries, is yet another willful study in ignorance by the talking heads seen on MSM and CBS.
Just a few minutes of internet searching will uncover substantial data on extreme rainfall events in the USA. Some are displayed below in Figure 5.
Greatest observed point precipitation values for the world and USA
Just a glance at the US Government’s own data (Figure 6) shows that any claim that sixteen inches in two days is somehow a record is faulty or fraudulent. It is nowhere near the record of 22 inches in 2.75 hours set at D’Hanis, Texas in 1935 or the 43 inches at Alvin, Texas in 24 hours in 1979.
What should we make of this?
Nationwide data plotted on a US map underscores this fact. Heavy rainfalls, of almost unbelievable amounts of water from the heavens in a very short periods of time, have occurred with great regularity in many parts of the United States for at least the century during which quality records have been kept. Figure 7 displays this very well.
Several records from the Texas Gulf Coast, just west of coastal Louisiana, demolish Sixty Minutes’ claim that 16 inches in two days is somehow a rare or unprecedented event, and that “climate change” is the culprit. For example, over 36 inches of rain fell in Thrall, Texas in eighteen hours in 1921, over twice the amount in less than half the time.
Tropical Storm Amelia dumped 48 inches on Texas in 1978. Tropical Storm Claudette inundated Texas with 54 inches in 1979 – and deluged the little town of Alvin, Texas with 43 inches in just 24 hours; that one-day record still stands. Houston’s Buffalo Bayou flood water level topped out at 62.7 feet during Hurricane Harvey in 2017 – but its waters reached 54.4 feet in 1935, when Houston had far less concrete and (relatively, for this mostly flat, low-lying city) better drainage.
Still further east, Hurricane Easy deluged Florida with 45.2 inches in 1950. In fact, extremely heavy rainfall is a common artifact of the “current climate” that the USA and humanity have been experiencing for many generations.
When a strong tropical cyclone has access to abundant moisture evaporating from a large body of warm water like the Gulf of Mexico – and that situation combines with little inland movement by the cyclone – you get record rain, climatologist Dr. Roy Spencer has explained. That doesn’t always or usually happen, but history shows that it nevertheless happens with some regularity.
Ironies of history, concerns for America’s future
The irony here is too rich not to discuss. Juliana’s parents and environmentalists, politicians and courts teamed up a few decades ago to file lawsuits that blocked timber sales and cutting, thereby causing a gradual, but enormous buildup of diseased, dying and dead trees, brush and other highly inflammable materials. Huge, deadly conflagrations inevitably ensued – and now the same parties blame climate change for the infernos, enlist their (indoctrinated) children as sympathetic plaintiffs, focus on the kids’ deep fears, and sue fossil fuel producers for damages. Is there such a thing as criminal hypocrisy?
I have no great hopes that lawyers and courts will come up with the right answer.
We need only look at the results of the Massachusetts vs. EPA lawsuit, which was filed by Massachusetts based on the notion that sea level rise is caused by or accelerated by our use of fossil fuels. For “authority,” the U.S. Supreme Court accepted a political document, the IPCC Working Group I report, which considers only human factors in climate change and now asserts that only humans are causing climate change, with natural factors relegated to the sidelines as essentially irrelevant.
That such ignorance, stupidity and anti-science are now central elements of our legal system is simply breathtaking.
Indeed, had EPA attorneys been competent, and had they presented appropriate sea level data and other real-world evidence during trial and on appeal, the Supreme Court could have examined data like that from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA’s) tide gage in Boston harbor. As Figure 8 illustrates, the rate of sea level rise is essentially unchanged over the past century and longer, even as CO2 levels climbed, then accelerated, in their rate of increase, especially since the 1960s.
That makes it clear that fossil fuels, CO2 emissions and “manmade climate change” have nothing to do with rising sea levels. Moreover, seas are rising today at 7-12 inches per century, which is hardly a valid cause for alarm for most technologically advanced societies. In addition, in many instances, as I explained in a previous MasterResource.org article, assertions that sea levels are rising often mistake land subsidence as evidence of rising seas.
Carbon dioxide from burning hydrocarbon fuels and human exhalations is the same colorless, odorless gas that plants use, in combination with energy from sunlight, to create carbohydrates. It is not a pollutant, but the elixir of life. Humans, animals and plant life are all carbon-based life forms.
The Supreme Court was just as wrong in its 2007 Massachusetts vs. EPA decision as it was in its infamous 1857 Dred Scott decision – which held that no “negro whose ancestors were imported into [the United States] and sold as slaves” could be an American citizen, and therefore had no standing to sue in federal court. Dred Scott, it can be argued, eventually led to the Civil War.
I have no great hope that today’s Supreme Court or lower courts can be depended on to arrive at the right answer when it comes to science in this case. I just hope cases like the “climate kids” Juliana vs the USA will not cause such energy, economic, societal and political disruption that our nation becomes embroiled in another civil war over our energy, livelihoods, living standards, and whether courts and bureaucrats will have the right to dictate Americans’ rights and choices in these matters.