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I note in a local community calendar that Prof. Robert Essenhigh, Ohio State mechanical engineering professor is to give a talk Friday at the neighborhood Unitarian church on his theory that global warming is not caused by humans, but is a natural cycle. This is the blurb for his talk:

July 7, 2006, 7:30 PM:

Dr. Robert Essenhigh, Professor, Mechanical Engineering, The Ohio State University, will speak on the topic, "Can Humans Do Anything About Global Warming?"

Dr. Essenhigh writes: "On the issue of carbon dioxide and global warming, the question at issue really is, "Does carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel combustion cause global warming?" There does appear to be a common consensus view; but, the available data not only does not support this common consensus view, but supports the contrary position. That is that it is the naturally rising temperature that is driving up the carbon dioxide. This finding not only absolves man as the cause of global warming, but also raises major questions about the economic impact of attempting to control carbon dioxide emissions, particularly if this is a waste of time and resources. That is the postiion to be presented and discussed within my forum presentation on Friday night, July 7th." Obviously, what we have heard about global warming may not be the entire story. Perhaps, we should also hear an alterntive view on this issue. Dr. Essenhigh provides an alternative view. The forum is free and open to the broad Columbus community.

Location: First Unitarian Universalist Church of Columbus, 93 West Weisheimer Road, Columbus, OH 43214-2544

One might wonder how much weight the arguments of a mechanical engineer would be given in climate matters, but a google search indicates that Essenhigh has gotten quite a bit of attention for his contrarian views, mostly in the right wing blogosphere.

Of particular interest is that his actual specialty is elided in most accounts of his carbon dioxide theory. He is often listed as a "professor of energy conservation." Well, doesn't that just sound vaguely green?

But this is incorrect. His titles include professor of energy CONVERSION. He in fact heads the Ohio State Combustion Laboratory. The web site for that laboratory states:

"The Combustion Laboratory exists for the fundamental study of the combustion behavior of industrial fuels used in furnaces and engines, primarily coal, oil, and gas, with extension to the integral behavior of the total systems under the protocol of Analytical Combustion Engineering (ACE)."

His main area of study is coal and coal combustion (see his page at the OSU ME site).

According to the Coal Research Forum Essenhigh even has a theory that the Titanic ran full steam into the ice because the crew was trying to get to New York quickly because of a raging coal fire in Titanic's coal bunkers. All coal all the time with him? I could guess where his research funding comes from.

Shouldn't his career as a coal specialist be at least relevant to note as context for his claims that human-generated CO2 doesn't affect climate? I can find no account touting his skeptical views which also mentions his coal industry background. This is the typical treatment:

Viewpoint: global warming natural, may end within 20 years

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Global warming is a natural geological process that could begin to reverse itself within 10 to 20 years, predicts an Ohio State University researcher.

The researcher suggests that atmospheric carbon dioxide -- often thought of as a key "greenhouse gas" -- is not the cause of global warming. The opposite is most likely to be true, according to Robert Essenhigh, E.G. Bailey Professor of Energy Conservation [sic] in Ohio State's Department of Mechanical Engineering. It is the rising global temperatures that are naturally increasing the levels of carbon dioxide, not the other way around, he says.

Essenhigh explains his position in a "viewpoint" article in the current issue of the journal Chemical Innovation, published by the American Chemical Society.

As a side note, Essenhigh has written a letter to the editor on the evils of university grade inflation, where he brings up "the ridiculous business of student evaluations of faculty."

A glance at the web site ratemyprofessor.com illustrates his concern with student evaluations:

* worst professor i've ever had...very nice, good intentions, just could not teach...amazing how much time was spent in lecture covering irrelevant material...it is still possible to do well since midterm is very similar to past quarters and final is take-home...but if you're looking to learn anything about thermo, his class is not the place to do it

* The guy has no idea what is going on. His exams are exactly the same from year to year so get an old exam and don't bother going to class

* he was very chaotic and disorganized in his teaching style. The class is very easy because he is predictable. However, he is a mediocre professor, at best.

Such lightweights and conflicted interests are put forward as supposed equal weights to the bulk of climate scientists. This is the "Global Warming Debate" (tm).

Originally posted to jmknapp on Wed Jul 05, 2006 at 06:53 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  This is like Senator Inhofe (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jmknapp, AaronBa, Geronimo

    bringing in Michael Crichton as an "expert" to talk about how environmentalists "manufactured" the global warming myth to increase their fundraising.

    Why are so many right-wing nut jobs outraged by the notion that humans can be creating global warming? Because then it would be our responsibility to fix it. And that scares the hell out of them.

    Throw Richard Pombo out of the House! Support Jerry McNerney

    by Naturegal on Wed Jul 05, 2006 at 07:05:14 AM PDT

  •  So,... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jmknapp

    ...this guy, if on a sinking boat, will say it wasn't the captain's fault, that hole in the bottom: the boat just fell apart.  Then, he is going to decide there's nothing that can be done about it, so he'll break out the liquor, get drunk, and drown.  In the meantime, he'll say, the hole's not that big, so we don't have to worry about it.

    I'd rather not even fight about the reason but work to find a solution.  Certainly, I'm not going to party as we sink.

  •  Why don't you contact the church (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Geronimo, va dare

    and any other sponsors and ask them to please have a real climate scientist speak as well. It's the least they can do after presenting the debunked nay-sayer view.

    •  Opposing viewpoint (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RunawayRose, va dare

      I would guess that the organizers would counter that the "other side" has already been presented (via Inconvenient Truth, OSU Prof. Lonnie Thompson, etc.) & that they are just trying to give the deniers some face time.

      In fact, tomorrow (July 6th) the same organizers have a "debate" scheduled to follow a local showing of An Inconvenient Truth:

      Meet us at the film showing of "An Inconvenient Truth" at the Gateway Drexel Theatre at 1550 North High Street, within the new Gateway Complex at The Ohio State University at 7PM on Thursday, July 6th; see the film for $5.00, then stay for the free debate at 9:00 PM in the Black Box Conference Room at the Theatre Complex.

      You do not need to attend the film to attend the free debate which will follow the film. We have coupons for the film which make it possible to see the 7PM showing for only $5.00. You may pick-up a coupon at the 1st UU Church Office or you can get a coupon from a Community Leaders Forum person within the Lobby of the Theatre on Thursday night, 7/6, at 7PM. If you are interested in knowing both sides of the argument about global warming, this is a golden opportunity for an excellent education on this issue from those who claim to be experts.

      Location: 1550 North High Street, within the new Gateway Complex at The Ohio State University

      I don't know who will be doing the debating, but I would guess that Prof. Essenhigh will be there, as well as Prof. Thompson.

      •  I hate that (0+ / 0-)

        "both sides of the argument" crap. It's so absurd, and someone should call them on it. Lou Dobbs had a similar "debate" a couple of weeks ago on his show, presenting the two contributers as if their opinions were equally valid. Bullshit.

        I hope the person they have presenting the actual science side is a good speaker and debater. The facts are on his/her side, so a good presenter should be able to win handily.

        Will you be going? If sos, let us know what happens!

  •  Many Americans just throw up their hands... (0+ / 0-)

    When so-called experts seem to disagree, many people just throw up their hands and walk away from the issue.  I'm glad Gore and others are out there saying the scientific debate is over, but I wish I could figure out a way to more forcefully thwart the attempts by the 'combustion' industries to muddy the issue.

  •  If you're planning to attend (4+ / 0-)

    and there's a question/answer session, may I suggest the following question:

    If, as you say, it is "the naturally rising temperature that is driving up the carbon dioxide,"  then why is it that isotopic analysis of atmospheric carbon dioxide shows that all of the observed increase derives from fossil carbon?

    "When watchdogs, bird dogs, and bull dogs morph into lap dogs, lazy dogs, or yellow dogs, the nation is in trouble." - Ted Stannard

    by jrooth on Wed Jul 05, 2006 at 07:29:55 AM PDT

  •  I don't appreciate... (0+ / 0-)

    The standard assault on a professor's likely funding agencies.  
           
    Using this argument, it is easy for laypeople to dismiss almost all scientists in physical fields as corporate shills, not just this one guy.  Virtually all of us get money from gov't and industrial sources.  So this invalid argument basically lets people dismiss any source of scientific information.  It is no different from the wingnut notion that anything in the press is dismissable just because it's in the press.
     
    I have seen a lot of this tactic arguing with conspiracy theorists, who discount reports by the NRC, NAS, NAE, NIST, etc, because hey, this guy used to work at Alcoa, and that other guy had a million dollar grant from the DoE.  In this rarefied atmosphere, every source of scientific data is refuted by funding association.
     
    Another pet peeve of mine is that the more qualified someone is, the more impeachable he becomes because of association.  Example:  the fact that this guy specializes in combustion makes him more qualified than any old schmuck (but still, less qualified than an atmospheric scientist, and less likely to be right than the entire scientific consensus.)  But in this diary, I get the impression that his work on combustion is some kind of point against him.  Why?
         
    Finally:  ratemyprofessors dot com does not say squat about how good a scientist someone is.  The best scientists I know personally are fair-to-middling teachers, and some of them are royal dicks to their students.  So what?
       
    If you want to refute the guy, do it on the basis of his claims (or, just cite the large consensus on global warming.)  Don't try to dig up details of his career and pretend it's some sort of disqualification.
     
    Caj

    •  Could also mention that Mechanical Engineering... (0+ / 0-)

      ...has little relevance to climate issues.  He's no more qualified to comment than any other interested non-professional.  His opinions don't doint in the "scientific" consensus on climate, any more than would those of a plastic surgeon (who also receives an education in science after all), or, say, someone who designs sewage treatment plants for a living.  All socially useful professions (to some degree or other), but none providing special insight into this topic.

      So, an appropriate "demand" might be to ask for a speaker who's professional expertise lies in this field.  And that this guy should stick to designing bridges, or whatever the heck he is an expert at.

      •  Combustion. (0+ / 0-)

        The guy specializes in combustion, e.g. the effects of burning fuel, emissions etc.
         
        In grad school I knew a few other people who studied combustion, and they were Mechanical Engineers as well.  I guess it's just a subject that traditionally falls under ME.  
           
        So on the one hand I'd say this doesn't make him an expert on climate change, and people in more relevant fields are the people I'd listen to; on the other hand, I think it's an exaggeration to say that he is no more qualified than a plastic surgeon---his field is at least relevant to matters of industrial pollution.
             
        Caj

      •  Correct (0+ / 0-)

        Only the overly credulous would assume that someone who studies the combustion of coal would have any relation to global climate issues, i.e., general "effects of burning fuel." Check the CV--in peer-reviewed papers he studies the the burning of coal in reactors and furnaces--not concerned global or climate effects. For example: "Applicability of Furnace Analysis in Determination of the Performance Characteristics of a Hot-Wall Furnace Fired with Sorbent-Loaded Coal-Water Fuel," Energy and Fuel, 8, 179-187, 1994 (with J. J. Obloza and, T. K. Hammond).

    •  Baloney (0+ / 0-)

      You are speaking in broad generalities. This is just any old corporate connection--it is a direct connection to the coal industry which is the main promoter of global warming disinformation.

      Essenhigh's career as a total specialist in the industrial uses of coal is extremely relevant, and it is misleading to leave it out of any account, let alone call him a "professor of energy conservation." This deliberate elision is indicative of the sham science behind the global warming skeptics. How in the world you think his career of studying coal combustion in power conversion technology is NOT a point against him disqualifies you.

      •  Baloney to you (0+ / 0-)

        Show me this "direct connection" to the coal industry.  Give me an actual, objective, real, concrete link that impeaches him.  Your claim, back it up.
           
        Not even the article above cites any direct connection to the industry---the author merely muses about what his funding sources might well be.
         
        And don't just tell me that he studies coal combustion and say that this alone is an impeachable connection to the coal industry.  If that were true then nobody studying combustion could be cited as an expert on anything.  
         
        Like I said, I know folks who study combustion.  They're all progressives, BTW, but to hear outsiders you'd think they were in the pocket of industry.  Because that's what they study, and they get DoE money.  
         
        Look, this guy is probably a nut, but when you dismiss him on the basis of funding or CV I think:  who is on really the side of scientists?  I can think of lots of people who are opposed to science, creationists, flat-earthers, people who deny the consensus viewpoint on warming.  Sure we have enemies.  But on the other side, is anyone our friends?  People side with us temporarily for reasons of political expedience, but the truth is they are all poised to paint us as shills for circumstantial reasons.
         
        I think the truth is, anyone who strongly adopts any political ideology is going to be careful around science, and only support it with one hand on the sword.
         
        Caj

        •  Suggestion (0+ / 0-)

          Maybe you could look to coal mining interests for your guidance on global warming--after all, by your logic they should be eminently qualified to give us the straight dope on global warming--being so familiar with the main source of CO2 pollution (and profits therefrom)--and no one should cast aspersion on the source. Oh no, that would be unscientific. But welcome to the real world.

          As for progressives, this issue cuts in unexpected ways. Alexander Cockburn of The Nation (a useful fellow for always being on the wrong side of an issue) promotes Essenhigh in a column Hot Air is Bad for Us, where he refers to Essenhigh's " particularly elegant paper published in May in Chemical Innovation." But this was not a "paper" in the peer-reviewed sense. It was an editorial, published under the Viewpoint section.
          Also in the progressive apostasy department, the local outfit promoting the two Columbus events where the anti-science side is given undue weight is the Unitarian Universalist Church, which is very progressive. The subtext of the blurbs above indicates that the UU organizer sides with the skeptics.

          This shouldn't really be a political issue, on the left/right lines anyway--more split along the fossil energy industry line. So oil-connected politicians like Bush and Cheney can be expected to toe the line for oil producers. Ted Strickland, Democratic candidate for governor in Ohio, can be expected to promote coal-burning as he comes from a coal-mining region. And no, it isn't unfair to point these connections out for politicians, and certainly scientists don't get a free pass either.

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