Monday, September 24, 2007


Previous comment here. Popular summary of recent research followed by journal abstract below:

Permafrost melting not a problem

"A re-examination of projected melting of Arctic permafrost from global warming indicates that massive releases of methane from permafrost degradation are unlikely in this century. During the 20th century, humans' increasing greenhouse gas emissions have made Arctic regions warmer, causing permafrost to melt. Model projections indicate that, as the climate warms, permafrost will continue melting and methane bound in frozen sediments could escape to the atmosphere. Because methane is also a greenhouse gas, this would exacerbate global warming. One permafrost model, presented in late 2005, indicated that near-surface Arctic permafrost will completely degrade during the 21st century.

Now, Delisle has critically reviewed this model, finding it to lack necessary initial parameters. He offers an alternative model designed to have a more complete mathematical formulation of the physical processes in permafrost. It projects that surface permafrost will persist in areas north of 70§N latitude. Permafrost will also endure at depth between 60§N and 70§N. Delisle notes that ice-core analyses previously made by other scientists indicate minimal release of methane during warm periods in the last 9,000 years. Based on the new model and the ice-core findings, he concludes that scenarios calling for massive releases of methane in the near future from degrading permafrost are questionable."


Journal abstract:

Near-surface permafrost degradation: How severe during the 21st century?

By G. Delisle

A previously presented model on nearly complete near-surface permafrost degradation in the Arctic during the 21st century is critically reviewed. An alternative model with a more complete mathematical formulation of the physical processes acting in permafrost terrain is presented, which suggests that permafrost will mostly prevail in this century in areas north of 70øN. Furthermore, permafrost will survive at depth in most areas between 60ø to 70øN. Based on paleoclimatic data and in consequence of this study, it is suggested that scenarios calling for massive release of methane in the near future from degrading permafrost are questionable.



In a small college town like Corvallis, Ore., it's not unusual that George Taylor would ride a bike to his job on the Oregon State University campus. He commutes this way for the exercise, he says, but also because it's good for the planet. Mr. Taylor manages the Oregon Climate Service, and much of his work has to do with global warming. "I'm certainly in favor of doing prudent things to reduce the human impact," he says. But unlike most climate scientists, he does not believe that anthropogenic (human-caused) greenhouse gases - mainly from coal-fired power plants and motor vehicles spewing carbon dioxide - are the main culprits. In fact, he says, "It's my belief that in the last 100 years or so natural variations have played a bigger role."

Among the forces of nature he cites are changes in solar radiation, "very significant influences" of the tropical Pacific (El Ni¤o and La Ni¤a events in decades-long cycles), as well as changes in Earth's tilt and orbit over cycles lasting thousands of years. Above all, says Mr. Taylor, who is past president of the American Association of State Climatologists, "The climate system is very, very complex, and the more we learn, the more we see that we really don't understand it."

Taylor may be in the minority among climate experts, but he is not alone. Other planets in our solar system have expanding and contracting ice caps, too, other skeptics point out, and those worlds have no people as far as we know - certainly no gas-guzzling muscle cars and trucks. Antarctica and Greenland at times have been warm and green before humankind in--vented machines, indicating to these skeptics that this is just a natural cycle.

In Phoenix, where it's been very hot indeed this summer, Warren Meyer has written "A Skeptical Layman's Guide to Anthropogenic Global Warming." He is not a professionally trained climate scientist, but he studied physics and engineering at Princeton University, then earned an MBA at Harvard University before entering the business world. Like Taylor, Mr. Meyer cites other possible factors - ocean oscillations and currents, sunspot cycles, and recovery from the "Little Ice Age" (which ran for roughly three to four centuries, up to the mid-19th century) - to argue that "we are a long way from attributing all or much of current warming to man-made carbon dioxide."

He says he's carefully studied the official reports and assertions about global warming and come to the conclusion that "it's a funny sort of anthropomorphic hubris to say that we know what 'normal' is or even know what the cycles are. "Look, there's a lot going on here that we've observed for a very short time," Mr. Meyer says. "We have all these complicated cycles happening, and many of them last for thousands or millions of years. And we've observed them carefully for - what? - 30 years?"

Meyer's engineering background is in feedback and control theory, so he especially takes issue with the belief among many climate scientists (as well as activists such as former Vice President Al Gore) that what had been a long-term, stable climate system is now dominated by "positive feedback ." Positive feedback means that as temperatures rise in extraordinary fashion there will be a tendency for global warming to speed up. One example is when light-colored sea ice melts to reveal darker ocean water, which in turn absorbs more heat, which melts more ice.

Meyer contends that in physics (and in nature) the tendency is just the opposite: a "negative feedback" will occur as CO2 levels rise - in other words, cooling mechanisms will set in. In the case of carbon dioxide and global temperature, "future CO2 has less impact on temperature than past CO2," he says.

One bit of recent research may give some weight to Meyer's argument. Researchers at the University of Alabama's Earth System Science Center in Huntsville studied heat-trapping tropical clouds thought to result from global warming. They found an apparent decrease in such clouds as the atmosphere warms, allowing more infrared heat to escape from the atmosphere. The cloud decrease appears to be "negative feedback," meaning that as warming continues it sets off another process that counters its effects.

Neither Taylor nor Meyer (nor most other climate change skeptics, some of whom call themselves "global-warming optimists") deny that modern human development in the form of additional greenhouse gases has played a role in warming the planet. But most of them agree with Meyer when he says, "To this day, there's still no empirical proof of how much warming is coming from CO2. There's a lot going on, and it's almost impossible to pick effects out." ......


Naughty biofuels

A renewable energy source designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is contributing more to global warming than fossil fuels, a study suggests. Measurements of emissions from the burning of biofuels derived from rapeseed and maize have been found to produce more greenhouse gas emissions than they save. Other biofuels, especially those likely to see greater use over the next decade, performed better than fossil fuels but the study raises serious questions about some of the most commonly produced varieties.

Rapeseed and maize biodiesels were calculated to produce up to 70 per cent and 50 per cent more greenhouse gases respectively than fossil fuels. The concerns were raised over the levels of emissions of nitrous oxide, which is 296 times more powerful as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Scientists found that the use of biofuels released twice as much as nitrous oxide as previously realised. The research team found that 3 to 5 per cent of the nitrogen in fertiliser was converted and emitted. In contrast, the figure used by the International Panel on Climate Change, which assesses the extent and impact of man-made global warming, was 2 per cent. The findings illustrated the importance, the researchers said, of ensuring that measures designed to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions are assessed thoroughly before being hailed as a solution. "One wants rational decisions rather than simply jumping on the bandwagon because superficially something appears to reduce emissions," said Keith Smith, a professor at the University of Edinburgh and one of the researchers.

Maize for ethanol is the prime crop for biofuel in the US where production for the industry has recently overtaken the use of the plant as a food. In Europe the main crop is rapeseed, which accounts for 80 per cent of biofuel production. Professor Smith told Chemistry World: "The significance of it is that the supposed benefits of biofuels are even more disputable than had been thought hitherto." It was accepted by the scientists that other factors, such as the use of fossil fuels to produce fertiliser, have yet to be fully analysed for their impact on overall figures. But they concluded that the biofuels "can contribute as much or more to global warming by N2 O emissions than cooling by fossil-fuel savings".

The research is published in the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, where it has been placed for open review. The research team was formed of scientists from Britain, the US and Germany, and included Professor Paul Crutzen, who won a Nobel Prize for his work on ozone. Dr Franz Conen, of the University of Basel in Switzerland, described the study as an "astounding insight". "It is to be hoped that those taking decisions on subsidies and regulations will in future take N2O emissions into account and promote some forms of 'biofuel' production while quickly abandoning others," he told the journal's discussion board.

Dr Dave Reay, of the University of Edinburgh, used the findings to calculate that with the US Senate aiming to increase maize ethanol production sevenfold by 2022, greenhouse gas emissions from transport will rise by 6 per cent.


Green Hypocrisy's Gold Standard

Soros versus poor Romanians

Is billionaire investor George Soros using environmental pressure groups to block a gold-mining project for his own financial benefit? Last week the Romanian government suspended the environmental review process for Canadian company Gabriel Resources' proposed gold-mining project in the Transylvanian village of Rosia Montana. The ostensible reason for the suspension was a court challenge filed by the local anti-development activist group and the U.S.-based Open Society Institute about some paperwork unrelated to the environmental review.

As discussed previously in this column and in the documentary "Mine Your Own Business," controversy over the mine has been fabricated by what has seemed to be a leaderless and slapdash international collection of green non-governmental organizations, or NGOs, all oddly focused on this one mining project in a remote part of eastern Europe. But the curtain is rising on the NGOs' efforts to stop the mine and it seems that Soros, through the Open Society Institute he chairs, may be at the controls for reasons that have little to do with protecting the environment.

A leaked October 2006 internal memo from an eastern European branch of Soros' Open Society Institute pleads for help from other central and eastern European NGOs to pressure the Romanian government to stop the Rosia Montana mine, which the memo emphatically (and bizarrely) refers to as a "resource curse." The memo says the Rosia Montana project "could become a landmark case for keeping bad government in check" where "bad government," according to the tone of the memo, seems to mean any action of which Open Society disapproves.

Could this memo reflect nothing more than overzealous underlings acting without Soros' personal approval and direction? That explanation seems unlikely given Soros' April 17, 2007, letter to Wayne Murdy, the chairman and CEO of Newmont Mining Corp., a corporate shareholder in Gabriel Resources. In the letter, Soros pressures Murdy to use Newmont's shareholder status to, in turn, pressure Gabriel Resources. "I feel it is my duty to advise you to consider carefully any further involvement with Gabriel Resources and the Rosia Montana project," Soros wrote.

This advice came with a not-so-veiled threat to Newmont's reputation: "I understand that Newmont is committed to the highest standards of environmental management, employee health and community safety. An investment in a dubious project such as Rosia Montana should not be allowed to call such admirable commitments into question," Soros closed the letter.

But what's really dubious is the game Soros seems to be playing. The Rosia Montana is a project that is designed to comply with all European and international standards and will include a voluntary clean-up of a nearby mine that was in operation from the time of the Roman Empire until the fall of the communist Romanian government at the end of the Cold War. But while Soros and his NGO minions bemoan the proposed Rosia Montana mine, Soros has his own extensive mining interests.

According to a review by, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filings indicate that the Soros Fund owns $25 million worth of stock in the Aluminum Corporation of China and more than $40 million of stock in several gold-mining companies. It's quite possible that Soros' mining interests are even more extensive since the filings do not cover his personal investments and other investments that don't require reporting to the SEC.

While Soros noted in his letter to the Newmont CEO that the Romanian legislature was considering a ban on the use of cyanide in mining, Soros recently purchased an interest in Gabriel Resources' competitor Goldcorp, which uses cyanide in its mining. Soros' criticism of Gabriel Resources' use of cyanide is even more bizarre given that the standard for cyanide in mining waste under which the Rosia Montana project would operate is about 10 times stricter than the Nevada state standard under which Goldcorp operates.

The Soros groups in Romania oppose the relocation of part of the village of Rosia Montana, yet no similar opposition appeared when a village was moved so that the Soros-owned mining company Apex Silver could develop the San Cristobal mine in Bolivia in the 1990s. What's with all this hypocrisy on the part of Soros? Could it be that the estimated $10 billion in gold that might be extracted from Rosia Montana would put downward pressure on gold prices and adversely impact Soros' gold investments? Is it possible that Soros is trying to torpedo Gabriel Resources' project so that one of his own mining interests can take over the Rosia Montana mine? I would have liked to ask George Soros these questions, but a call to the Open Society Institute was not returned.

Soros' shenanigans aside, none of this inspires confidence in the Romanian government, which needs foreign direct investment to fuel much-needed economic growth. Although Gabriel Resources so far has complied with the rule of law, the Romanian government nevertheless seems to have bowed temporarily, at least to pressure from Soros-led NGOs. This action should give serious pause to Western companies contemplating investing in Romania. Despite compliance with applicable standards and substantial direct investments, Western companies may well find themselves in a "Banana Republic" atmosphere where the rule of law is disregarded, anti-development activists fronting for outside special interests call the shots and anything goes.


Combat global warming? There are better things we can do for the Earth

Some good points in Bjorn Lomborg's latest book

There is both global warming and global cooling on the planet Earth. There always has been and there always will be, because temperature change is cyclical: The Earth's temperature oscillates up and down, ebbs and flows, over decades and centuries. Sometimes the earth warms, as it did in the Roman Warming period (200 B.C. to A.D. 600), the Medieval Warming period (900 to 1300) and in modern times from 1910 to 1940. And sometimes it cools, as it did in the Dark Ages (600 to 900); the Little Ice Age (1300 to 1850) and from 1940 to the late 1970s.

The National Center for Policy Analysis's new Global Warming Primer ( shows that over the past 400,000 years, "the Earth's temperature has consistently risen and fallen hundreds of years prior to increases and declines in CO2 levels" (emphasis added). For example, about half of the global warming increases since the mid-1800s occurred before greenhouse gas emissions began their significant increases after the 1950s, and then temperatures declined well into the 1970s when CO2 levels were increasing.

During the 20th Century the earth warmed by one degree Fahrenheit, and today the world is about 0.05 degree warmer than it was in 2001. These small increases have led the global-warming establishment to demand that we adopt the international Kyoto policy of stopping the growth of CO2 emissions so that global warming does not destroy us all. Or in Al Gore's words, "At stake is nothing less than the survival of human civilization and the habitability of the earth for our species."

Six years ago Danish scholar Bjorn Lomborg's "The Skeptical Environmentalist" took a look at the global-warming data and found it to be far less threatening than the Gore globalists were claiming. Mr. Lomborg's new book "Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist's Guide To Global Warming," makes the case that while "global warming is real and man-made," the Kyoto approach is the wrong way to improve the lives of the world's people.

First, "Cool It" shows that global warming saves lives rather than killing people. Second, it shows that the Kyoto approach of spending some $180 billion each year to end global warming would reduce CO2 by such a small amount that few lives would be saved or improved, even if the United States had signed on and even if every signatory nation met its CO2 targets (which few have). If instead the resources were used for combating malnutrition, HIV/AIDS, indoor and outdoor air pollution, and dirty drinking water, the world would be a far better place for humans.

Finally, he gives a perfect example of why the Kyoto approach is foolish and an adaptation approach would be far better. Global warming is supposedly killing people. The 35,000 deaths from the August 2003 European heat wave were, in Al Gore's view, an example of what "will become much more common if global warming is not addressed." But the actual data put things in perspective. Whereas 2,000 people died in the United Kingdom in that heat wave, last year the BBC reported that deaths caused by cold weather in England and Wales were about 25,000 each winter, and 47,000 a year, in the winters of 1998 to 2000. Similarly, in Helsinki, Finland, 55 people die each year from heat and 1,655 from cold. In Athens, Greece, a much warmer place, the deaths from excess heat are 1,376 each year and the deaths from cold 7,852. All told, Mr. Lomborg calculates that about 200,000 people die in Europe each year from excessive heat, and 1.5 million from excessive cold.

So global warming will save human lives. "While cutting CO2 will save some people from dying from heat," Mr. Lomborg concludes, "it will simultaneously cause more people to die from cold."

Mr. Lomborg believes that while we must develop low-carbon technologies, "many other issues are much more important than global warming." Malaria kills more than one million people each year, and some four million die from malnutrition, three million from HIV/AIDS, 2.5 million from various air pollutants, and nearly two million from lack of clean drinking water. Solving these problems would save more lives and do more to improve the human condition than spending money on global CO2 reduction.

The final table in the book dramatically makes the case. Fully implementing Kyoto would cost $180 billion per year, but for $52 billion per year we could do much better by tackling the challenges Mr. Lomborg mentions. The world would avoid 28 billion malaria infections (and 85 million deaths) over a century, instead of Kyoto's avoidance of 70 million infections (and 140,000 deaths). There would be one billion fewer people in poverty instead of Kyoto's one million fewer, and 229 million fewer people would suffer from starvation rather than Kyoto's two million.

Consider Mr. Lomborg's traffic example. In the U.S. each year, 42,600 people die and 2.8 million are injured from traffic accidents. If we were to lower speed limits to five miles an hour, almost no one would die. But automobile transportation is important to our economy and our people, so we work on seat belts, speed limits and better highways rather than 5 mph speed limits. Like traffic accidents, "global warming is strongly caused by people, and we have the technology to reduce it to zero," so we could curtail our use of fossil fuels and thus sharply reduce global warming. But Mr. Lomborg points out that "the benefits from moderately using fossil fuels" for "light, heat, food, communication and travel" vastly outweigh the cost to our society.

"Cool It" makes the case for helping the world's individuals rather than the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change goal of reorienting our lifestyles away from consumption and individual ownership and toward free time instead of wealth. "Our ultimate goal," Mr. Lomborg says, "is not to reduce greenhouse gasses or global warming per se but to improve the quality of life and the environment."



The Lockwood paper was designed to rebut Durkin's "Great Global Warming Swindle" film. It is a rather confused paper -- acknowledging yet failing to account fully for the damping effect of the oceans, for instance -- but it is nonetheless valuable to climate atheists. The concession from a Greenie source that fluctuations in the output of the sun have driven climate change for all but the last 20 years (See the first sentence of the paper) really is invaluable. And the basic fact presented in the paper -- that solar output has in general been on the downturn in recent years -- is also amusing to see. Surely even a crazed Greenie mind must see that the sun's influence has not stopped and that reduced solar output will soon start COOLING the earth! Unprecedented July 2007 cold weather throughout the Southern hemisphere might even be the first sign that the cooling is happening. And the fact that warming plateaued in 1998 is also a good sign that we are moving into a cooling phase. As is so often the case, the Greenies have got the danger exactly backwards. See my post of 7.14.07 and a very detailed critique here for more on the Lockwood paper

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