Coal Tattoo

Tough break for Massey’s Don Blankenship


Gazette photo by Chip Ellis

This week, the folks at The Huffington Post put together their list of Most Dangerous Global Warming Deniers.

Massey Energy President Don Blankenship didn’t make the cut. Maybe he’s just not in the same league as Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin and George Will. But it’s not for lack of trying.

Earlier this week, he authored an op-ed piece for The Hill called No Harm from Cap and Trade? You Lie! Here’s part of it:

Speaking plainly and clearly is a rarity in politics and business — particularly among CEOs of publicly traded companies. Many times I’ve sat in meetings with executives who admit privately they doubt the certainty of the science behind global warming claims. And they acknowledge that global warming legislation will have a devastating effect on their companies in the form of lost jobs and lower output.

Blankenship promises that he’s going to call out fellow CEOs who disagree with him, the way Congressman Joe Wilson did during President Obama’s health care speech …

You see, they know cap-and-trade will hurt the American economy. That it will cost American jobs. That it will increase our dependency on foreign energy. And yes, they know that it will increase global pollution by moving production to unregulated countries like China. They also know the world is cooling. They know that cap-and-trade won’t lower the earth’s temperature. To those saying otherwise I say simply, “You lie.”

And today, Blankenship continued his effort to convince us that the planet is cooling, tweeting:

Some fear we are entering a new Ice Age. We must demand that more coal be burned to save the Earth from Global Cooling.

There’s a pretty sound debunking of the global cooling stuff that Blankenship is pushing over at Climate Progress, where Joseph Romm has criticized New York Times reporter Andy Revkin’s coverage of the issue.

As Charleston Gazette readers know, there’s been a bit of a back-and-forth on our opinion page recently about Blankenship’s views on global warming. One letter writer, Mel Tyree, opined that a newspaper editorial page is  “is hardly a good source of facts regarding climate change.”

Is Tyree right?

Well, consider this … Blankenship authored a letter to the editor published on Oct. 2 which  said, among other things:

Summer Arctic sea ice is up 25 percent since 2007.

A Gazette reader,  Ed Saugstad of Sinks Grove, responded with this letter:

Yes, it is true that the 2008 Arctic ice pack was greater than in 2007, but remember that the 2007 ice coverage was at a record minimum since measurements began, and that although climatological data indicate that the earth’s overall temperature has been increasing at an accelerating rate during the past several decades, this has not been a smooth progression. The climate record for any single year is of little significance; it is the overall trend that is important. For example, although the 2009 ice pack coverage was only the third smallest on record, it still was 620,000 square miles (more than 25 West Virginias) less than the annual 1979 to 2000 average size.

His broad-brush treatment of Antarctica also does not stand up to scrutiny. The sparseness of climate-monitoring platforms for Antarctica, along with the harsh conditions, have made comprehensive data collecting difficult, but the available records show a sharp temperature increase in west Antarctica (including the surrounding ocean) during the past 20 years, whereas there are a few eastern areas where a slight decrease has been noted. This is not unusual; climate change is not uniform. Although the earth as a whole is warming, there will be areas that experience cooling, as well.

Blankenship fired back with another letter that said, among other things:

Antarctic sea ice has been increasing for 30 years. (Geophysical Research Letters)

And another reader, Tom Burger, responded:

Don Blankenship loves to downplay the seriousness of global climate change. Why not? It’s in his financial interest to do so. In his latest diatribe, he quotes what seem to be facts from reputable sources. One set of which was from Geophysical Research Letters, published by the American Geophysical Union. I couldn’t find his reference that Antarctic ice is increasing, but I did find the AGU position statement on global climate: “The Earth’s climate is now clearly out of balance and is warming. Many components of the climate system – including the temperatures of the atmosphere, land and ocean, the extent of sea ice and mountain glaciers, the sea level, the distribution of precipitation, and the length of seasons – are now changing at rates and in patterns that are not natural and are best explained by the increased atmospheric abundances of greenhouse gases and aerosols generated by human activity during the 20th century.” Beware when those with money to be made quote “facts.”

Blankenship has also told Gazette readers:

Glaciers come and go: the 9,575 glaciers in the Himalayas show no trend either way in 200 years. Many are advancing. 

In response, reader Allen Bosley of Huntington, sent in this letter:

Massey Energy’s CEO Don Blankenship’s recent letter misstates the facts about global warming. He writes: “The 9,575 glaciers in the Himalayas show no trend either way in 200 years. Many are advancing.”

Here’s the truth: “Glaciers in the Himalayas are receding faster than in any other part of the world and, if the present rate continues, the likelihood of them disappearing by the year 2035 and perhaps sooner is very high if the earth keeps warming at the current rate. Its total area will likely shrink from the present 500,000 square km to 100,000 square km by the year 2035,” says the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fourth Assessment Report.

“The current trends of glacial melts suggest that the Ganga, Indus, Brahmaputra and other rivers that criss-cross the northern Indian plain could likely become seasonal rivers in the near future as a consequence of climate change.”

By the way, The Huffington Post is still taking nominations for its list, if anyone is interested.