Tony Heller and his wife, Kirye (Courtesy Photo)

Keep Burning Fossil Fuels, Says Wyoming Climate Change Skeptic

in Climate Change/News

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By Kevin Killough, State Energy Reporter
Kevin@CowboyStateDaily.com

Cheyenne author, geologist, engineer, computer scientist, educator, and self-described environmentalist Tony Heller said he’s studied climate change eight hours a day for 15 years. 

“It’s a complicated topic,” Heller said. 

Outlier With Credentials

His works can be seen on his own site RealClimateScience.com and on various other climate change sites.

After all this time, Heller has come to the conclusion that the level of warming the planet is seeing is mild or perhaps nonexistent.

Heller believes the waste from nuclear energy production is a much larger problem than pro-nuclear people make it out to be, and the answer to satisfying the world’s energy needs is to just keep burning fossil fuels. 

Despite the contrarian viewpoint, Heller’s opinions aren’t disregarded in the climate world. His credentials run deep in many scientific fields.

“You will be hard pressed to find anyone with a broader and more successful career in science, education, environment and engineering,” he says on his biography.

Questions

In the company of those labeled climate contrarians, Heller could be described as the most contrarian. 

Heller’s friend Dr. Roy Spencer, a meteorologist and principal research scientist at the University of Alabama Huntsville, developed satellite-based temperature monitoring to gauge the degree of warming the planet is experiencing. 

Spencer argues that greenhouse gasses may have an influence on temperatures, but most warming we’ve seen, which is considerable, in the past few decades is primarily natural. 

Heller, who is a software engineer by day, says he respects Spencer, but he questions the accuracy of Spencer’s satellite data and whether it can be definitively determined if there’s been as much warming as that data shows. He’s careful not to say he disputes the data. 

Spencer and his colleagues “know a lot more about it than I do,” Heller said. 

Growing Ice

Heller said a lot of factors go into what temperature data from satellites, including orbital decay and the time of day the satellite passes over a spot in the Earth. 

“Getting temperature data from satellites is not a simple proposition,” he said. 

In questioning data showing rapid warming in the past few of decades, Heller points to ice in Glacier National Park to illustrate his point. 

“Google Earth has this great feature where we can look at historical imagery for the Grinnell Glacier. It’s grown quite a bit, actually,” Heller said. “The Park Service won’t admit it.” 

He said the Arctic and Antarctic ice sheets, which are seeing considerable gains despite former Vice President Al Gore’s claims they’d be gone by now, are a sort of “air conditioner” for the planet. If they’re not melting away, Heller said, then the planet isn’t seeing any significant warming. 

Heller explains more about his views on temperature data online. 

Academic Distrust

Heller casts the same scrutiny on the conclusions of other well-known skeptics, such as Dr. Judith Curry. 

Curry argues that climate change is real, but it’s not going to produce catastrophic results – something touted by many climate activists. She left the “crazy” environment of academia where she was regularly attacked for her ideas for the private sector, where she would have more scientific freedom. 

Heller believes that since academics’ funding is dependent on finding a crisis in their research, they are all influenced toward a warming bias — even those like Curry who question catastrophic warming. 

He points to the experience of Dr. Bill Gray, who was emeritus professor of atmospheric science at Colorado State University. 

Gore asked Gray in 1993 to come to a conference and Gray, who died in 2016, agreed to go but warned Gore that they wouldn’t see eye-to-eye on climate change. He went ahead with this speech, which disputed Gore’s gloom-and-doom rhetoric. 

“Bill got blackballed after that,” Heller said. “He never got another penny out of the government.”

Losing Friends

Heller doesn’t hesitate to make his views known and gets plenty of vitriol from climate activists. 

He said one friend in Santa Fe, New Mexico, cut off their friendship. They had known each other for years and even went to each other’s weddings. But because of his views on climate change and vaccines — Heller questions them as well — she won’t speak with him. 

Heller has butted heads with some well-known skeptics. 

Heller, who used to post on the climate skeptic site What’s Up With That under the name Steven Goddard, had a public dispute with Anthony Watts who runs the site. 

In an email to Reason Magazine over a dispute about temperature data, Watts called Heller “hopelessly stubborn” and compared him to climate scientist Micheal Mann, considered one of the most outspoken climate alarmists. 

Gratitude 

Heller recently debated Gerald Kutney online. 

Kutney is known on Twitter for unapologetically posting insults in reply to tweets from climate skeptics and fossil fuel advocates. Kutney argues that climate change will produce catastrophic outcomes, and the science on this complex system is filled with near-certainties about what the climate will do over the next 100 years. He declares those who disagree not only deny all climate science, they’re beneath his contempt. 

“I did not come to Twitter [to] make friends. I came to Twitter to challenge climate denialism,” Kutney recently tweeted, in response to the criticism he gets for doing nothing more than tossing insults at people.

When asked what he thought about his debate with Kutney, Heller’s first comment is one of gratitude.

“I really appreciated that he was willing to debate. I’ve been trying to get climate alarmists to debate me for years. Few of them have agreed or chickened out at the last minute. I really appreciated that he [Kutney] had the courage,” Heller said. 

Cowboy State Daily will leave it to readers to decide who won the debate

Changing Weather, Changing Views

Heller said he was originally on board with the idea that climate was changing and producing terrible outcomes. It was a particularly hot and dry period in northern Colorado that first year he was pondering the problem. Heller was a soccer coach and could see drought in the grass the kids were playing on. 

Then later that season, it got wet and cold. 

There were similar variations in subsequent years in which a warm, dry season gave way to cold, wet seasons. Heller concluded that he might want to take a closer look at the claims of climate catastrophe. 

So began a focused, decade-and-a-half independent study into climate phenomenon. 

Puppies

While you might picture Heller as a man with a wild-eyed look of a conspiracy theorist, he speaks of his passion without a lot of emotion. It’s like every position he states is given with a “this is what I believe” shrug. 

Outside of his hobby, which has earned him both fame and infamy, Heller seems like a pretty normal guy. He likes raising puppies and showing photos of his most recent litter. He shows off photos of his wife, Kirye, with the grin of a proud husband. 

His views on climate change have won him friends and enemies across the climate change spectrum. In an issue that stirs passions, he’s not afraid to go against the grain — a lot of grain. 

Are Heller’s views scientifically accurate and correct? Is he totally wrong about everything? 

That’s a peripheral debate that stirs almost as much passion as climate change itself.

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