Friday, May 04, 2007

Ice caps melting at faster rate?

Another stupid straight-line projection just out. See below. And even if the projection is realized, the angle of incidence of solar radiation on the arctic is very acute -- meaning that any effect of variations in reflectivity off the arctic would be slight. I wonder why that was not quantified? At least the guy was scientist enough not to claim that melting sea-ice would raise sea levels. Many readers will not know that, however

The Arctic ice cap was melting much faster than expected and was about 30 years ahead of predictions, a US ice expert said yesterday.

Colorado National Snow and Ice Centre glaciologist Ted Scambos said greenhouse gases were the primary reason the Arctic Ocean could be free or nearly free of summer ice by 2020, three decades sooner than the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's forecast of 2050.

"Right now . . . the Arctic helps keep the Earth cool," Mr Scambos said. "Without that Arctic ice, or with much less of it, the Earth will warm much faster." This was due to the ice reflecting light and heat. When it was gone, the much darker land or sea would absorb more light and heat, making it more difficult for the planet to cool down, even in winter, he said.



China, soon to be the world's biggest greenhouse gas polluter, has gone on the offensive in global warming politics, opposing emissions caps likely to shape contentious negotiations about solutions. China objects to much in the draft of the latest UN report on global warming driven by greenhouse gases being discussed by scientists and officials in Bangkok this week, aiming to protect long-term growth plans from pressure to cut emissions. "China doesn't want to be corralled into commitments that minimise its freedom of action and questioning the science, and digging in is part of that," said Paul Harris, an expert on climate change politics at Lingnan University in Hong Kong.

China plans fast industrialisation for decades to come and its output of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas pollutant, could outstrip that of the United States as early as this year, the International Energy Agency says. So, under an international glare of attention ahead of talks about greenhouse gas rules after the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012, Beijing has gone on the offensive. "It wants to put off into the future the serious discussion of accepting mandatory limits," Harris said.


China's government does not doubt global warming as such. A recent official assessment said intensified droughts and floods, unpredictable weather and rising sea levels could threaten long-term development. But, it said: "With uncertainties about climate change, there should not be premature or over-zealous setting of overall global carbon emissions caps."

The Global Times, a newspaper run by the ruling Communist Party, accused Western politicians last week of using "climate terrorism" to undermine China's quest for prosperity. "All of a sudden, it's not so much China as the victim of climate change, but about how much responsibility China should bear," said Yang Ailun of Greenpeace Chinashe. "They're worried about being boxed in."

China had challenged UN climate panel draft reports at earlier meetings. In Brussels last month, China vehemently objected to wording about the likelihood climate change was affecting natural systems and succeeded in getting parts of the report cut or softened. "I guess they're concerned that if they subscribe to a certain scientific proposition, that will have implications for their post-Kyoto negotiating position," said Michael Oppenheimer of Princeton University, who attended the Brussels meeting.

Lin Erda of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, a member of the UN climate panel, said China was more confident it could adapt to hotter temperatures and calls for drastic action were not justified by science. "If we say climate change will be too far gone by tomorrow and it's all negative, then we have to act today," he said. "If we say it will happen after 100 days, then we still have 50 days for development."


Even a 4 degree C rise above average temperatures of past decades did not necessarily spell the calamity some experts predicted, Lin said. "There may be more negative impacts, but we can't conclude that all would be lost." China's climate change assessment suggests seeking to cut the greenhouse gases it emits for each dollar of economic activity nearly in half by 2020. But it foresees emissions rising in absolute terms until 2050 at least.

China had reason to demand that wealthy countries with much higher per capita emissions lead the way and do more to share energy-saving technology, said Stephen Schneider of Stanford University, who has been part of the UN climate panel work. China's objections could be a "game of chicken" to win more aid, he said. "This could be a lot of posturing for the purpose of trying to get a better side deal. Just don't do it for too long."



Environmentalists fear that a key climate report to be published this week is using outdated science, and will lead to dangerous climate change. Campaigners say the IPCC's economics report has based its recommendations on the safe limit of atmospheric CO2 being 550 parts per million (ppm). But more recent scientific studies now put that figure at 450ppm, they argue. Attempts by the report's authors to amend the findings to reflect the new data have been resisted by the Chinese. The row threatens to undermine the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) meeting, which is being held in Bangkok, Thailand.

CO2 concerns

The draft text of the technical report, which will be used by governments around the world as the basis for national climate policies, concludes that tackling climate change is both achievable and affordable. But environmental groups say the findings need to be re-evaluated because it is based on the idea that global atmospheric CO2 levels can be stabilised at 550ppm without risking dangerous climate change. "If governments decided to stabilise at 550ppm, I think we would see dramatic impacts around the world," said Stephanie Tunmore, a Greenpeace spokeswoman. "Hundreds of millions more people would be at risk from water shortages, and it looks - from recent evidence - as though we would start to lose the massive ice sheets at the poles, resulting in sea level rises." She added that scientists now warn a safe level of CO2 in the atmosphere is closer to 450ppm.

However, the authors of the economic report are technically unable to take the 450ppm into account because the data set on which they must base their findings uses the 450ppm figure. Attempts to change the emphasis of the report to reflect the new figures have been angrily resisted by Chinese delegates at the conference. They argue that any change in emphasis would be unsupported by any economic evidence, and would threaten to undermine the nation's drive to tackle poverty. The current trend of China's emissions would drive global CO2 to much more than 550ppm unless developed nations start making much more radical cuts than they have offered so far. China is said to be prepared to block any such changes to the report, which is scheduled to be published on Friday.

The Chinese are also negotiating hard to ensure that the document does not imply any necessity for developing nations to tackle climate change. The original UN agreement, the United National Framework Convention on Climate Change, made it clear that rich nations had to cut emissions first. China is angry that the US is blaming it for pollution when its per capita emissions are six times higher than China's, yet the Chinese are manufacturing goods for the rest of the world.

Brazil and India are said to be supportive of the stance adopted by the Chinese on this issue. But critics of China's hard-line approach point out that the nation will benefit it agrees to be bound by policies like building efficiency proposed by the Bangkok report.




The experts demanding that a film on climate change be 'corrected' before it is released on DVD are behaving more like Stalinists than scientists. A group of scientists and science communicators has written an open letter to WAG, a TV production company, insisting that it make changes to its film The Great Global Warming Swindle before releasing it on DVD.

The 38 signatories include Bob Ward, the former spokesman for the prestigious Royal Society in London, as well as former heads of Britain's academy of sciences and the weather office. They argue that Martin Durkin's film, which claims that global warming is not man-made and which caused a storm of controversy when it was shown on Channel 4 in Britain in March, contains a 'long catalogue of fundamental and profound mistakes', and these 'major misrepresentations' should be removed before the film hits the DVD shelves later this year. 'Free speech does not extend to misleading the public by making factually inaccurate statements', the letter-writers claim.

What next, a "House Committee on Un-Scientific Activities", where this self-selected group of scientists and communicators could officially sit in judgement on anyone who says the 'wrong thing' about global warming? Last year, when he was working at the Royal Society, Bob Ward wrote a letter to ExxonMobil demanding in hectoring fashion that the oil giant cut off its funding to groups that have 'misrepresented the science of climate change by outright denial of the evidence'; now he says films that go against the 'truth' of global warming should be chopped and changed before release.

Perhaps any new House Committee on Un-Scientific Activities could begin by forcing those who appear in its hallowed halls to swear 'I am not, and never have been, funded by oil companies', before instructing them on what is the correct thing to say in public about climate change. All others shall be silenced.

These scientists ought to be ashamed of themselves. They are behaving in a fashion that does not befit intellectual scientific debate. When they claim that they are not being censorious, but rather are standing up for facts and 'for the public interest', they protest way too much. From Torquemada to McCarthy, virtually every censorious group in society has claimed merely to be protecting what is true or right or correct, and thus saving the public from allegedly dangerous ideas.

Torquemada wanted to save humanity from religious heresy; McCarthy said he was protecting Americans from reds under the bed. Now some want to shield our eyes from allegedly oil-funded 'climate change deniers' lest they warp our minds and make us behave in a carbon-irresponsible fashion.

Even worse, the scientists' demand that information be 'corrected' from on high so that it does not sow confusion and controversy amongst the public speaks to a profoundly anti-intellectual outlook. They seem not to appreciate how important controversy is. Controversy is not, as they seem to believe, a bad idea; nor is it, as others argue, something that's simply fun or sexy, a 'good idea' in a democratic society. Rather, controversy is crucial to the development of human thought - especially in the realm of science.

You don't have to look very far to see where the 38 scientists might have got the outrageous notion that they have the authority to write to a TV production company and insist that it change the content of one of its films. As I have argued before on spiked, there is a censorious streak in debates about climate change today, where those who question the scientific consensus on global warming are frequently written off as 'deniers', a term which seems designed to link them with Holocaust deniers (see Global warming: the chilling effect on free speech, by Brendan O'Neill).

Many argue that those who kick against the climate change consensus should be denied funding, sacked from university posts and kept off the airwaves. Those who call for such censorship always claim to be protecting scientific facts from pseudo-scientific charlatans. That might be more believable if they took a consistent approach towards opposing the publication of strange scientific claims.

The 38 scientists say they want to protect the public from a factually inaccurate DVD. During a recent quick trip to my local HMV I saw a DVD of the TV series Jamie's School Dinners in which our eponymous hero - Jamie Oliver - dressed up various scare stories in medical scientific garb. He said today's children are so unhealthy that they will die before their parents, and claimed that some kids are so fat they are puking up their own faeces. There were also DVDs on alternative health and acupuncture and how 'yoga can improve your self-esteem'. In all good bookshops there are shelves that groan almost audibly under the weight of books that make junk scientific claims.

Our brave protectors of the public interest don't seem to mind about all that. Indeed, it was striking that around the same time that the 38 scientists wrote to WAG to complain about The Great Global Warming Swindle, the British government announced plans to send a copy of Al Gore's film An Inconvenient Truth to every secondary school in the country.

Some very serious scientists have raised questions about the scientific accuracy of Gore's movie. Don J Easterbrook, emeritus professor of geology at Western Washington University, said: ' I don't want to pick on Al Gore... But there are a lot of inaccuracies in the statements we are seeing, and we have to temper that with real data.'

Yet Gore's allegedly inaccurate claims will be used to 'stimulate debate about climate change' amongst schoolchildren (in the words of UK education secretary Alan Johnson) while Durkin's allegedly inaccurate claims are labelled unfit for public consumption. This is really about the moral message of the films rather than their scientific underpinnings. Because Gore's movie has the 'correct' moral outlook (global warming is manmade, and we must all take individual responsibility for changing our behaviour and lowering our horizons), it is sanctioned by the authorities and even used to reshape children's understanding of humanity and our relationship with the planet. Because Durkin's movie has the 'incorrect' moral outlook (global warming is not manmade, and demands that we limit carbon emissions are proving disastrous for the developing world), it is vilified.

Some are in effect using claims of scientific authority to copperfasten what is in fact a deeply moralistic campaign dictating what people should expect from life today. The consequences of using science in this way are as ominous as they are far-reaching. It is bad for political debate because when certain positions are said to be scientifically verified then they are also considered to be beyond interrogation. It is bad for science, too, because the use of scientific data to confer authority on explicitly political positions will surely pollute the morally neutral aim of science to discover new things, while also potentially firing up public cynicism with science.

Perhaps the most shocking thing about the 38 scientists' call for a film on global warming to be 'corrected' is just how anti-intellectual such a demand is. Ideas are developed, indeed facts are established, only through the most rigorous debate possible. As John Stuart Mill wrote nearly 150 years ago: 'Complete liberty of contradicting and disproving our opinion is the very condition which justifies us in assuming its truth for purposes of action; and on no other terms can a being with human faculties have any rational assurance of being right.'

In short, the only way to test out ideas - to prove them or improve them, to see if they're right or true or useful or nonsense - is by submitting them to free and open debate. Restricting the communication or publication of certain ideas damages intellectual debate across the board because it limits our ability to weigh things up and work things out. This is especially true of science. Science thrives on hypotheses being verified or falsified. Its lifeblood is the sharing of ideas and findings and claims, both amongst scientists and also between scientists and the public - findings which scientists discuss and explore, seeking to prove or disprove them through research and interrogation.

In this sense, controversy, including the kind of controversy stirred up by The Great Global Warming Swindle, should not be seen as a negative thing; controversy should be viewed as a crucial component of scientific and intellectual development; it can excite people, intensify debate, and allow us to reach a firmer conclusion about what we believe to be true and what is right.

Perhaps more than any other area of life, science develops through a self-corrective process. In demanding that something be corrected from on high, and before being fully submitted for public consideration, the 38 scientists complaining to WAG have violated the very spirit of their vocation. They have behaved less like scientists, and more like Stalinists.


Honeybees: The first 100,000,000 years

The bees are dying! The bees are dying! Yes, for all you eco-horror fans, it's the latest thing anxiety to hug to your bosom. Nighttime AM radio is mad with frightening rumors about our crashing bee populations. But here's a soothing thought. Bees have been around for at least 100,000,000 years.

Think about that: One hundred times one million summers and winters. The ancestors of the little helicopters you see dancing around the flowers in your yard today have been found embedded in amber dated back a million centuries. That means eons of bee viruses and bee bacteria, not to mention the rise and fall of predatory birds and dinosaurs, major climate changes galore, humongous volcanic eruptions, asteroid strikes, and large ups and downs in the population of flowering plants, the food source for bees. And very recently, about four million years ago, the rise of hominids like you and me. And yet those tiny insectoid hummers keep helicoptering around in their billions.

So that today, even if all the rogue nuke maniacs in the world explode all their mega-bombs at the same time, chances are the first sound you'll hear, after your ears stop ringing, will be a gentle but very persistent bzzzzzzzzt.... And you'll see a hardy little insect buzzing your sugar rations, right down there in your bomb-shelter. Not many people may survive, but the bees will find a way. No, I wouldn't worry too much about the indestructible bees.



Many people would like to be kind to others so Leftists exploit that with their nonsense about equality. Most people want a clean, green environment so Greenies exploit that by inventing all sorts of far-fetched threats to the environment. But for both, the real motive is generally to promote themselves as wiser and better than everyone else, truth regardless.

Global warming has taken the place of Communism as an absurdity that "liberals" will defend to the death regardless of the evidence showing its folly. Evidence never has mattered to real Leftists

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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