Other Hobbies

The Climate Journeys of Thomas and Larry

This blog is focused on Leonbergers but every now and then I post about something else, typically a book I want to promote. This post is different. I have many hobbies and one of them is volunteering for a climate change organization called Citizens Climate Lobby

Photo of Citizens Climate Lobby Badge.
CCL, 200,000 supporters in the US, 10,000 supporters in Texas, non-partisan and non-profit. CCL supports all energy options that can be used to reduce emissions, renewables, nuclear, natural gas replacing coal, carbon capture.

This post is about my journey towards becoming an advocate for a livable planet for future generations as well as the climate journey of my friend Larry Howe, who is a lifelong Texas Republican who became a climate activist (and he is still a Republican). Larry’s three-part article is focused mostly on solutions, and my post is focused mostly on how I got here. We both started out as “skeptical” of global warming and we both support the same solutions, so the two posts complement each other. CCL talks to both sides of the political spectrum, and we try to foster good relations with everyone. Below is a photo of us with Senator Ted Cruz.

Peter Bryn the leader of the conservatives’ action team is presenting our carbon fee and dividend proposal to Senator Ted Cruz in 2017. Ted Cruz is turned away from the camera facing Peter Bryn. The CCL Texas delegation (about 30 people) is standing in the background.
Peter Bryn the leader of the conservatives’ action team is presenting our carbon fee and dividend proposal to Senator Ted Cruz in 2017. The CCL Texas delegation is standing in the background.

Citizens Climate Lobby is a volunteer driven non-partisan organization focused on educating the public and lobbying/talking to politicians, industries and organizations. We are not professional lobbyists. We don’t bring a billion dollars to political offices, in fact not even one dollar. We just bring ourselves as voters and constituents, and a friendly and positive attitude. We present well researched proposals for solutions and ideas. We require that the proposals are effective in reducing emissions, good for the economy, market oriented, non-partisan and acceptable to both Democrats and Republicans. In addition, we listen to the concerns of the lawmakers. One of my volunteer positions within CCL is to be the CCL liaison to Senator Ted Cruz office. Climate Change may not be Senator Ted Cruz’ cup of tea, but he voted for one climate bill that we supported, the Growing Climate Solutions Act.

CCL's Texas delegation all standing facing the camera. I Thomas Wikman, my wife and daughter are next to the American flag and next to Senator Ted Cruz.
Senator Ted Cruz TXJR with Citizens Climate Lobby in 2017. The senator is standing immediately to the right of the American flag, and I am standing immediately to the left of the American flag.

In June of 1988 I embarked on a journey with a friend and with my brother around the United States in an old Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme 1976. I had just earned a master’s degree in electrical engineering and applied Physics from Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio, as well as a degree in engineering physics from the University of Uppsala in Sweden (well they were really the same degree). It was an unusually hot summer. June 23, 1988 was the first time I heard the word “global warming”. I was watching some of Dr. James Hansen’s testimony before the United States Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. I thought it made sense what he said. After all, I knew that greenhouse gases would increase the temperature of the atmosphere. It is hundreds of years old simple basic science and I had certainly not slept through my physics classes. It is why Venus is the hottest planet in the solar system and not Mercury.

Me, Thomas Wikman, sitting in the driver seat of my blue Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme 1976 in 1988. It was frequently called the Swedemobile.
Me in my Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme 1976 in 1988. I bought it for $250.

As time went by (about 10-15 years ago), I became increasingly skeptical and doubtful of global warming or climate change as it was more commonly called later on. The reason was that I almost exclusively read and watched rightwing news media such as world-net-daily (tended to push conspiracy theories), Newsmax and Fox News. I believed in the concept of global warming, it is basic science after all, but I thought that it was exaggerated and that it was promoted and distorted by left-wing agendas, and I incorrectly believed that there was no scientific consensus on the issue. I also bought into the false narrative that this was about environmentalist ideology, politics, or even a sort of environmentalist religion, and not a real and serious problem. My disdain for environmentalists, my ideology, and my gut feelings certainly aided the propaganda in misleading me. In addition, I read a lot by Björn Lomborg and Patrick J. Michaels and I believed them. To clarify, I did not know it at the time, but I was wrong, very wrong. Below is a video from NASA showing the annual shrinkage of the arctic sea ice.

To see the NASA web page from where the YouTube video of the shrinking arctic ice is taken click here.

I should say that I had some lingering doubts about my own “climate skepticism”. During my travels to national parks, the great barrier reef, and other places, I encountered guides who were scientists, as well as others, and they told me about coral bleaching, ocean acidification, receding and disappearing glaciers, the pine beetle problem, white pine blister rust, the destruction of forests due to global warming, and I could see some of the effects with my own eyes in northern Sweden, which is close to the arctic and therefore the effects of global warming are more visible.

Graph showing global temperature rise since 1850 to 2022. There are five nearly identical graphs shown in different colors. Temperature anomaly graphs from 
NASA GISS - orange
HadCRUT - green
NOAA - purple
Japan Meteorological Agency - blue
Berkley Earth - red

The jagged curves show more than a 1.2 degrees Celsius increase.
Temperature anomaly graphs from NASA, Hedley Center, Japan Meteorological Agency, NOAA, and Berkley.

It also bothered me that my physics hero Stephen Hawking was a global warming alarmist and that other leading physicists and astrophysicists whom I admired, such as Michio Kaku, promoted and warned us about human caused global warming. Add that popular science magazines I subscribed to, such as Discover and Scientific American frequently wrote about global warming. I should say that I tended to skip those articles and I believed those magazines had a left leaning bias.

The Keeling curve starting in 1958 ending in 2022 showing the increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
The carbon dioxide concentration measurements began in 1958 at the Mauna Loa Observatory on the island of Hawaii. Since then, several other ways of measuring carbon dioxide concentration have been added.

However, there were too many red flags regarding my “climate skepticism”. It seemed like a lot of people knew and understood something I didn’t. This prompted me to take a deep dive into the matter. I had a decent scientific background. I had a master’s degree in engineering physics and a PhD in electrical engineering / computer science/ robotics and I was used to reading and writing research papers, and I had been on both sides of the peer review process, and I love mathematics. Electrical engineering and robotics is certainly not atmospheric physics but I wasn’t going to judge or review papers, I just wanted to know what scientists in the field actually were saying, and due to my background I was able to understand the papers.

Global temperature graph showing 10 graphs from 10 organizations all in close agreement.
Another temperature anomaly map, this time ten different organizations.

I read peer-reviewed research articles on the topic, I read several dozens of books on the topic, including climate skeptic books, I subscribed to Nature, a very respected science journal publishing peer reviewed articles, I conversed with or listened to climate scientists online. I found out that my cousin Per Wikman-Svahn was a physicist who worked as an expert on the ethics surrounding climate change, and I extracted information from him.

Global temperature graph starting at 20,000 years ago. 20,000 to 10,000 years ago the temperature rose, then it was stable for the next 10,000 years except for the sharp uptick at the end.
Global temperature going back twenty thousand years, a hockey stick graph. Notice the stable temperature during the last 10,000 years, coinciding with the development of human civilization, and then a sudden sharp increase at the end.

I learned that the evidence that climate change is happening is undeniable and overwhelming including these few examples. I learned that the current global warming is mainly caused by our greenhouse gas emissions. I learned that global warming is not caused by natural cycles, something the experts on natural climate cycles repeatedly stressed. It is not the sun, or volcanoes and as you can see in the hockey stick graph above, it isn’t a normal cycle, and the recent increase in temperature is disturbingly quick.

Graph showing possible causes for the observed temperature (blue), natural causes (volcanic, solar), human and natural causes (volcanic, solar, greenhouse gases, NO2, ozone depletion).
Natural causes for global warming / climate change would have cooled the planet, not warm it.

I also learned that warming caused by greenhouse gas emissions have a certain fingerprint; the arctic will warm faster, nights will warm faster, the tropopause would be pushing up the boundary with the stratosphere, the mesosphere would be cooling and contracting (think the troposphere as being a blanket). All of that has been observed. It was greenhouse gases, not something else. I learned that scientists had used spectral analysis to verify that most of the warming came from increasing amounts of CO2 in the atmosphere, and they had even used carbon isotopes (C-12, C-13, C-14) in corals and the atmosphere to verify that the new CO2 added to the atmosphere and oceans come from hundreds of millions of years old underground carbon.

This video shows the temperature anomaly world-wide in detail since 1880. Click here to go to the original NASA page.

I learned that satellite measurements agree with surface thermometers, contrary to what the rightwing media I had read claimed. I learned that nearly all actively publishing climate scientists say humans are causing climate change (~99%). I learned that no national or international scientific body in the world rejects the findings of human-induced effects on climate change. I learned that Rachel Carson was not a fraud and that she had not killed 500 million people. I learned that Dr. Michael Mann was not a fraud and that he was right about his hockey stick curve. I learned that the so-called climate gate scandal was manufactured.

Hockey stick curve going back 1,000 years. The recent uptick in global temperature is very sharp and very sudden.
Hockey stick curve last 1,000 years, blue-Michael Mann’s original curve (proxy measurements such as tree rings), green-dots 30-year average, red temperature measurements.

I would later learn that among tens of thousands of climate change related papers only 38 are skeptical of the consensus and they all contain errors that if corrected for they ended up agreeing with consensus. I learned that the vast majority of climate skeptic papers originated with rightwing think tanks. I had foolheartedly donated to one of these organizations, the Heartland Institute. I realized that rightwing media engaged in defamation, harassment and attacks on climate scientists.

Curve showing CO2 concentration starting 10,000 years ago. Again a very sharp uptick towards end.
From Scripps institute. Keep two things in mind. First the warming from CO2 is delayed and may result in positive feedback that can manifest decades and centuries later. Secondly, human civilization developed during a period of stable climate. That CO2 levels and temperatures were higher millions of years ago is not much comfort.

Above all I learned that I had been bamboozled and misled and that I had believed maybe hundreds of false claims. I learned that there is a very powerful industry consisting of fossil fuel advocates and rightwing think tanks that are trying to confuse and mislead the public, attack and harass scientists, and that if you want the truth you need to trust the scientific evidence and the data, not arguments based on ideology and second guessing the motives of climate scientists is just nonsense.

Graph showing CO2 concentrations starting 800,000 years ago. The curve is wavy until it suddenly shoots up towards the end.
Going back 800,000 years. From Scripps institute.

Long story short, we know with certainty that global warming / climate change is real and that we are causing it, chiefly with our greenhouse emissions, and we have known this for several decades. The scientific debate is over, but the public is still confused due to propaganda. Again, I had been bamboozled by rightwing think tanks, like so many others, so I understand.

In this graph Americans are classified into six groups, dismissive, doubtful, disengaged, cautious, concerned, and alarmed. The two biggest groups are alarmed and concerned.
Instead of using somewhat disparaging popular labels such as “believers” or “climate change deniers” Yale University classify people into six groups. For example, climate change deniers are referred to as dismissive.

I do not think I was a “dismissive” but I was “doubtful” due to all the misinformation I had allowed myself to be fed. Again, we know with certainty that global warming / climate change is real and that we are causing it, chiefly with our greenhouse gas emissions, and we have known this for several decades. If you pay attention, there is no good reason to be doubtful, and certainly not dismissive. After reading a book by James Hansen (Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth About the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity) in 2013 I decided it was time for me to get involved.

This graph shows the relative size of the six groupings of Americans (according to Yale University), with respect to attitudes toward climate change, dismissive, doubtful, disengaged, cautious, concerned, and alarmed. The alarmed group has grown the most.
American attitudes over the last 10 years. From the Yale Program on Climate Communication.

At first, I tried to argue with those who were dismissive, either by inserting myself into a discussion or after they approached me, typically because of something I said either on-line or personally. This was a surreal experience. I remember trying to explain to an acquaintance who claimed to be an expert in science (he wasn’t) about the measurements made on the age of the added carbon using isotopes. He resolutely stated that isotopes did not exist, all atoms of the same element are identical, and the peer reviewed research article I provided was fake. He claimed to be an expert on science based on reading biased media (he had no degree) and he had not even heard of isotopes, neutrons, and radiometric dating. I sent him a link to Wikipedia explaining isotopes, just as a help, but that was a mistake. He thought that since Wikipedia is sometimes wrong it proved that I was making up the entire concept of isotopes.

What NASA Knows from Decades of Earth System Observations. To see the original page, click here.

I came across so many dismissive people who thought they understood climate change much better than the scientists themselves or believed that most or all climate scientists in every country on earth were liars. I came across a lot of conspiracy theories and many very strange arguments focusing on speculative assessments of the character of climate scientists or activists rather than focusing on the data and evidence. Many invoked Al Gore, as if it was him, who invented climate science, or the UN. It is nuttier to believe that Al Gore invented climate science than that he invented the internet. However, the worst part was the insults, the mockery, the rage, and the trolls. It became clear to me that dismissives tended not to be reasonable people and that they are louder than most. Considering that they tended to be older angry guys who were unable to convince anyone, especially not the younger and educated, I came to realize that arguing with them was a waste of time. You could not have good-faith arguments with them, and after all they did not matter. There are more productive ways to engage.

6 CCL members with Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee
CCL meeting with Democratic Congress Woman Sheila Jackson Lee (front). She took us on an impromptu two-hour tour of congress. I am the big guy back-right.

I felt I needed to do something for future generations, especially since I had been on the “wrong side” of the issue and also considering that I understood something many people did not, that climate change was a real and serious issue that we could do something about. In James Hansen’s book Storms of My Grandchildren, I had learned about solutions that seemed effective and doable, one of them being the carbon fee and dividend. I googled carbon fee and dividend and I stumbled upon Citizens Climate Lobby. I decided to join them and as it turns out so did James Hansen, as a board member. My first CCL volunteer position was as the CCL liaison to Congressman Pete Sessions office. He is one of the most conservative congressmen from Texas. In a meeting with the congressman, we asked him whom he trusted the most on the issue, and he answered Trammel Crow (the younger), one of the six children in the Trammel Crow Dallas real estate businesses (billionaires) who was also his biggest donor. Well, after talking to Trammel Crow we got the endorsement from Trammell Crow Company, which we handed to Pete Sessions.

Six CCL members plus Ryan Ethington, legislative director for congressman Pete Sessions, and to the far left an economist assisting Ryan Ethington.
In the photo we are meeting with Pete Sessions legislative director Ryan Ethington who was very supportive of us and loved to talk to us about climate solutions. Ryan was a football player and very tall. The three people on the right are me, my wife and our daughter.

Next is the climate journey of my friend Larry Howe, a lifelong Texas Republican and native Texan, and climate activist. We, 90 Texas CCL members to be specific, recently came back from Austin, Texas, where we lobbied (talked to) 67 Texas lawmakers for the first time in history. This was Larry Howe’s brainchild and doing. Larry is very active and a great leader. His post (in three parts) is more focused on solutions, whereas mine was about the how and why regarding my turn around on the issue.

Larry Howe a leader in Citizens Climate Lobby in his solar power shirt.
Click on the picture to visit the three-part climate journey of Larry Howe.

By thomasstigwikman

My name is Thomas Wikman. I am a software/robotics engineer with a background in physics, but I am currently retired. I took early retirement. I am a dog lover, and especially a Leonberger lover, a home brewer, craft beer enthusiast, an amateur astronomer, I’m learning French, and I am an avid reader. I live in Dallas, Texas, but I am originally from Sweden. I am married to Claudia, and we have three children Jacob, David and Rachel. My blog feature the crazy adventures of our Leonberger e Bronco von der Löwenhöhle as well as information on Leonbergers

39 replies on “The Climate Journeys of Thomas and Larry”

Interesting read. Too many stories to match too many personal agendas. Thank you for getting to the root of this. Not a surprise to me but I don’t have blinders on…

Liked by 1 person

Thanks for sharing your story. There are definitely some parallels in our history of learning about global warming. I was in grad school (astrophysics, in my case) in 1989 and remember a powerful conversation over beer with the Nobel Laureate, William Fowler, about global warming evidence. That conversation has stayed with me all these years.

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William Fowler was sort of a personal hero since he won the prize the year I graduated from high school and he was at Caltech, where I’d applied for college. The reason we ended up talking was that I actually went to New Mexico Tech and was Stirling Colgate’s graduate student. It turns out Fowler was Colgate’s postdoc supervisor. Physics is definitely a small world!

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That is a pretty good story. It seems physics is indeed a small world. I understand how that must have been a very special experience. I have never met a Nobel Prize winner but I participated in a zoom lecture with Steven Weinberg another Physics Nobel Prize laurate. That was just a couple of years ago and he did not live long after that. I also passed by a Swedish Physics Nobel Prize Laurate in the hallways of the engineering physics department in Uppsala, Sweden, where I studied in the 1980’s. His name was Kai Siegbahn. But none of that compares to your experience.

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It’s not a question of whether or not climate change is happening. The climate is changing and always has been. That’s non-negotiable. What I don’t like is the hysteria, the political manipulation, and the expectation that higher taxes and economic devastation will have any effect on climate. They won’t. Forcing everybody to buy an electric vehicle will be an environmental disaster because of toxic waste, insufficient space to dispose of the batteries, and the mining and destruction of the land required to get the minerals for the batteries (and the child slave labor). Many of the minerals are rare, which has the potential for WWIII. This whole thing needs to be thoroughly thought out. Right now, it is more political than practical. To survive, we need ALL forms of energy, including oil and natural gas, electricity, hydrogen, ammonia, wind, solar, biofuels, nuclear, etc., many of which already exist. As I mentioned, this whole thing has been politicized to absurdity.

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Yes, you are right the climate has always been changing, and we also know that it is due to us this time, and that the warming is exceptionally fast (and dangerous) as you can see in the “Global Temperature Since the Last Ice Age” graph (ninth image from the top). That is one of the reasons I feel the need to help protect future generations, including my children.

You are also right that the issue has been politized. It is not only the right doing it, but also the left. That’s why I focus on science when deciding what to believe. Thermometers and spectroscopic sensors don’t have political parties. It is also why I joined CCL which is non-partisan and includes volunteers that are Democrats and Republicans and Independents. Now a day I consider myself an independent centrist. As I mentioned, CCL is energy agnostic and we support renewables, nuclear, natural gas replacing coal, carbon capture, etc., anything that can reduce greenhouses in the atmosphere as effectively as possible. I think our proposals are very practical and well supported by the experts (scientists and economists).

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Yes, I reject both parties, too. I am a registered Independent, but I don’t believe in political parties and believe all of them should be abolished. We should vote for the best people to do the job. We could’ve solved world hunger with all the money the parties waste on political campaigns. Good luck with your endeavors!

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This is an excellent article. Sadly, most of the people who don’t believe that climate change is currently being accelerated by human activities are those who benefit from fossil fuel usage. The beneficiaries of the twin scourges of greed and the quest for power and control alway shout the loudest. They do mislead people and that is a very bad thing. I wrote my book Lion Scream to highlight the impact of the Sixth Mass Extinction and climate change on African wildlife.

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Thank you so much Robbie for your kind words. The good news is that a lot of oil & gas companies are now publicly acknowledging that carbon emissions are causing climate change and they are now supporting policies to reduce carbon emissions, and that includes Exxon and even the American Petroleum Institute. In CCL (Texas) I have friends who were former petroleum engineers or oil & gas executives who after retiring and having grandkids changed how they view the issue and ended up joining CCL to fight carbon emissions. Getting grandkids, that’s a big deal. I’ve been told that in general people in the industry know what is going on but it is a complicated issue for them. Not everyone got the memo though.

I am very much looking forward to reading Lion Scream. It is arriving on Tuesday.


I’m glad you realized you were a victim of the right-wing propaganda on this subject. It takes a lot of bravery to change your position. I think a lot of people cling to their erroneous beliefs because they can’t admit they were wrong.

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A volunteer driven non-partisan organization focused on educating the public and lobbying/talking to politicians, industries and organization on behalf of our planet and a republican solution focused climate activist! These things give me hope!

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[…] Before I present my review, I should mention that why some “climate-denier” forces attacked Dr. Michael Mann was because of his hockey-stick curve created in the mid 1990’s. It was already known that the recent sharp global warming not only was real but was caused mostly by greenhouse gases emitted by us. We knew that from the way the warming happened, how it was distributed, how it affected the atmosphere, etc. However, that’s a complicated thing to explain to the public. Dr. Michael Mann was the first scientist to create the hockey stick curve using proxy temperature data from the pre-industrial times (not direct temperature measurements), and this curve made it obvious even to the uninformed layman that the current warming was not natural. You could see that just by looking at the curve. This is why he was so intensely targeted. For your information I have included two examples of hockey stick curves below, and for more information, click here. […]


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