Friday, November 16, 2007


By James Marusek []

Each morning I turn on my computer and check to see how the sun is doing. Lately I am greeted with the message "The sun is blank - no sunspots." We are at the verge of the next sunspot cycle, solar cycle 24. How intense will this cycle be? Why is this question important? Because the sun is a major force controlling natural climate change on Earth.

Our Milky Way galaxy is awash with cosmic rays. These are high speed charged particles that originate from exploding stars. Because they are charged, their travel is strongly influenced by magnetic fields. Our sun produces a magnetic field that extends to the edges of our solar system. This field deflects many of the cosmic rays away from Earth. But when the sun goes quiet (minimal sunspots), this field collapses inward allowing cosmic rays to penetrate deeper into our solar system. As a result, far greater numbers collide with Earth and penetrate down into the lower atmosphere where they ionize small particles of moisture (humidity) forming them into water droplets that become clouds. Low level clouds reflect sunlight back into space. A large increase in Earth's cloud cover produce a global drop in temperature.

Some scientist feel they have developed sufficient understanding to predict the intensity of future sunspot cycles. A Solar Cycle 24 Prediction Panel was hosted on 25 April 2007 with officials from NOAA, NASA, ISES and other agencies. They issued a consensus statement which came to the conclusion that the next solar cycle could be severe, peaking at around 140 International Sunspot Numbers (Ri) or moderate, at around 90 Ri. But a few scientist disagree. A number of well regarded solar physicists are predicting the next solar cycle will be far weaker than the last one.

A paper by David C. Archibald published in Energy and Environment in 2006 forecasted a low intensity solar cycle with a peak Ri of approximately 50. A few scientist have even claimed that we might be headed into another Solar Minimum. For the past few months, the actual sunspot numbers have been below NOAA's lower predicted threshold, approaching zero.

One of the last Solar Minimums was the Maunder Minimum (1645-1715 AD). During the 30-year period from 1672-1699 AD, there were less than 50 sunspots detected, whereas during the past century over the same period between 40,000-50,000 sunspots appeared. The Maunder Minimum corresponded to the depths of the Little Ice Age.

It wasn't too far back in time when the Mississippi River froze solid above Saint Louis. This permitted wagon trains to cross in the winter and continue their journey west. You can still observe old two story houses in Wisconsin where second floor doors open out into nothingness. This allowed the inhabitants a method for exiting their homes in the middle of winter when snow depths reached 8-feet and above. So each morning, I get up and turn on my computer to see how the sun is doing. And I wonder!


Who cares about cause? Something must be done!

By Vin Suprynowicz, writing from Nevada

For more than a thousand years, Christian doctrine had prescribed harsh punishment for anyone who made a false accusation of witchcraft. Since for obvious reasons it was pretty hard to actually prove your neighbor had made your cow go dry by hexing it with the evil eye, or that she flew around at night on a broomstick, this kept false accusations to a minimum.

But in the 1480s the interestingly named Pope Innocent III changed all that with his bull "Summis Desideratis"; a couple of German shopkeepers published their Malleus Maleficarum -- the "Hammer of Witches" -- and the witch-hunts were on. Anyone could turn in a neighbor on suspicion of consorting with demons, without fear of repercussions. Defendants had no right to confront or cross-examine their accusers. The church and state combined their powers to seize the suspects, split up their property and torture them into confessing.

Traveling witch-finders were paid handsome fees for their supposed expertise in identifying witches by the presence of minor telltale blemishes on their skin. The growth of the industry was assured when the torturers decided they wouldn't stop inflicting pain until the victim had named a dozen members of her "coven" -- who could also be quickly rounded up, seized along with their property.

Why didn't anyone speak out against this madness? Here's the good part. Because if you were a "denier," that proved you must be under demonic influence, yourself. Care to view our instruments of torture? And so the madness grew.

When sanity finally returned, in the 1700s, wise men started talking about "separating church and state," about defendants being "presumed innocent till proven guilty," about a "right to confront and cross-examine one's accusers."

Just as importantly, the deductive methods of science were elevated above superstition. New generations were taught it wasn't sufficient to notice a correlation between the old lady down the road waving her arms while mumbling under her breath and your cow going dry. You had to demonstrate there was some explanation within our understanding of the laws of physics for how one thing could cause the other. You had to demonstrate the presumed effect happened every time the presumed cause was present, that it never happened when the presumed cause was absent, and that there was no better alternative explanation.

It's not a perfect system. Government-funded science, in particular, tends to generate results curiously close to what the funding agencies are looking for. But note we're using the word "science" to refer to the ongoing skeptical testing of theories to see if they reliably predict real-world events. As soon as someone says, "It's been proved by science! No one must be allowed to question this any more!" they've warped the word "science" and are now using it to describe just another received religion, little different from "I read it in the Bible so I know it's true."

Why does all this matter, in 2007? Just read a week's worth of letters to the editor. In recent days, you'll find readers writing in: "I am so tired of reading the letters and editorials that the Review-Journal prints disputing the science behind global warming. I no longer go fishing on Lake Mead because it has become too difficult to launch a boat. All my relatives in the Midwest talk about now are the mild winters and the extreme violent storms of the summers. Towns in Georgia are running out of water. And the glaciers are disappearing. And you keep printing stories from people who say, 'It's alright. It's cyclical!' Who cares whether it is or not? Who cares if we are causing it or not? Why can't we just agree that it is happening and that we have to work together to adapt to it! ... "A Manhatten (sic) -type project that spent our tax dollars researching alternative energies that wean us from our oil addiction and that do not contribute to the Greenhouse effect would go a long way to helping us adapt no matter who is right! I'd like to go fishing again without having to wait 15,000 years!"

But if the reader agrees that burning fossil fuels may not be causing global warming, why spend billions of dollars and lower our standard of living to reduce a minimal "Greenhouse effect" that may not matter? Even if mean temperatures had increased 1 degree over the past 30 years -- and they have not -- does any responsible science explain how such a slight temperature increase could have caused lower water levels in Lake Mead? Might not increased human water usage and the fact that rainfall here in the early 20th century was far above prehistoric norms be a more reasonable explanation? Might not warmer weather in the Pacific cause more evaporation, which could give us more rain?

How could meeting all our current power needs with windmills or solar cells (ignoring the costs) possibly cause Lake Mead to fill with water? How could socking us with $5 billion in "carbon taxes" -- doubling the cost of turning on a light switch or pumping a gallon of gasoline, for starters -- cause Lake Mead to fill with water? What evidence is there that this would do any more good than rounding up 10,000 widows and burning them as witches?

Another reader recently wrote in: "The global warming debate is the best end run I have ever seen. Big Business cannot deny that it is polluting our planet. ... Big Business says, 'It's not all our fault. There are forest fires, volcanoes, sun flares, CO2 coming off the oceans and let's not forget the belching cows. Please don't forget the cows!' All the while the air, land and water are being polluted. The people dying from multiple forms of cancer and the asthmatic children going to the emergency rooms for breathing treatments and we aren't buying it."

Global warming now causes cancer and childhood asthma? Doesn't this remind anyone else of the hysteria of the late 15th and 16th centuries, when every problem, global or local, could be blamed on the witches down the road consorting with demons and dancing naked in the moonlight, when the devil was seen to have the upper hand in his battle to take over the Earth from the godly, when no delays could be brooked? After all, the very fate of the Earth was at stake; if burning a few hundred more witches could help us turn the corner, who could possibly object? Today, again, we're told that global warming "deniers" cannot be tolerated. Something must be done!

What? What must be done? They don't seem so clear on that. Though if they succeed in pricing heat and air conditoning out of reach, thousands of people will die, make no mistake.

In the 1970s, politically correct "left-centist" publications such as Newsweek were doing cover stories about the coming Ice Age. Polar bears are not vanishing; their populations have been growing for 25 years. The Kyoto Protocol -- even if everyone signed it and met its terms, which would be an international first -- would reduce temperatures by only 0.04 degrees Celsius by 2100.

"The American people are fed up with the media for promoting the idea that former Vice President Al Gore represents the scientific 'consensus' that SUVs and the modern American way of life have somehow created a 'climate emergency' that only United Nations bureaucrats and wealthy Hollywood liberals can solve," said Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., the outgoing chairman of the Environment & Public Works Committee, last year.

But how can you deny we've been cursed by the witches? Aren't the lakes drying up? Aren't there storms and wildfires everywhere? Don't children have cancer and asthma? Why can't we all just agree these things are happening, and start to round up and burn the witches? There's no time left to beat around the bush and wait for all this tedious testing of "causality"! Who cares what's causing it? Something must be done!


Climate Change Bill Has a Cost: $494 a Year for Every U.S. Man, Woman and Child

What's another $500 taken out of your paycheck over the course of a year? It probably isn't much to global warming alarmists like Al Gore, but that's what it could cost you if legislation pending in the U.S. Senate is passed into law. Does that $500 have your attention? Well, multiply that times every member of your immediate family.

According to a November 11 Washington Times editorial, a bill introduced in the Senate by Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and John Warner (R-Va.) that would require companies to scale back greenhouse-gas emissions could cost Americans $4 trillion to $6 trillion over the next 40 years. If that bill were passed and made law, the tax would cost every man, woman and child - more than 303 million Americans - $494 a year, a significant burden on the U.S. economy.

If you're not yet skeptical of this global warming initiative, listen to former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, who warns the effects of carbon caps would be limited unless imposed globally. He said in his book, "The Age of Turbulence," that caps imposed only on the United States could be detrimental.

"There is no effective way to meaningfully reduce emissions without negatively impacting a large part of an economy," Greenspan wrote. "Net, it is a tax. If the cap is low enough to make a meaningful inroad into CO2 emissions, permits will become expensive and large numbers of companies will experience cost increases that make them less competitive. Jobs will be lost and real incomes of workers constrained."


Cloudy Days on the Global Warming Front

Advocates of anthropogenic global warming want you to believe that the science is settled and there is nothing left to debate. But this is the opposite of the truth; in fact, climate science is in its infancy and virtually every proposition relating to it is controversial.

A case in point: the computer programs that tell us that human activity will lead to catastrophic warming assume that warmer temperatures will give rise to more high-altitude clouds, which in turn will trap heat in the earth's atmosphere and create a positive feedback loop. Recent research suggests, however, that increasing temperatures will have the opposite effect, reducing the incidence of high-altitude clouds and thereby creating a safety valve rather than reinforcing the original warming. The research was published in Geophysical Research Letters by Roy W. Spencer, William D. Braswell, John R. Christy and Justin Hnilo:
The widely accepted (albeit unproven) theory that manmade global warming will accelerate itself by creating more heat-trapping clouds is challenged this month in new research from The University of Alabama in Huntsville. Instead of creating more clouds, individual tropical warming cycles that served as proxies for global warming saw a decrease in the coverage of heat-trapping cirrus clouds, says Dr. Roy Spencer, a principal research scientist in UAHuntsville's Earth System Science Center.

"All leading climate models forecast that as the atmosphere warms there should be an increase in high altitude cirrus clouds, which would amplify any warming caused by manmade greenhouse gases," he said. "That amplification is a positive feedback. What we found in month-to-month fluctuations of the tropical climate system was a strongly negative feedback. As the tropical atmosphere warms, cirrus clouds decrease. That allows more infrared heat to escape from the atmosphere to outer space."

As the Earth's surface warms - due to either manmade greenhouse gases or natural fluctuations in the climate system - more water evaporates from the surface. Since more evaporation leads to more precipitation, most climate researchers expected increased cirrus cloudiness to follow warming.

"To give an idea of how strong this enhanced cooling mechanism is, if it was operating on global warming, it would reduce estimates of future warming by over 75 percent," Spencer said. "The big question that no one can answer right now is whether this enhanced cooling mechanism applies to global warming."

"The role of clouds in global warming is widely agreed to be pretty uncertain," Spencer said. "Right now, all climate models predict that clouds will amplify warming. I'm betting that if the climate models' 'clouds' were made to behave the way we see these clouds behave in nature, it would substantially reduce the amount of climate change the models predict for the coming decades."

The team analyzed six years of data from four instruments aboard three NASA and NOAA satellites. The researchers tracked precipitation amounts, air and sea surface temperatures, high and low altitude cloud cover, reflected sunlight, and infrared energy escaping out to space. When they tracked the daily evolution of a composite of fifteen of the strongest intraseasonal oscillations they found that although rainfall and air temperatures would be rising, the amount of infrared energy being trapped by the cloudy areas would start to decrease rapidly as the air warmed. This unexpected behavior was traced to the decrease in cirrus cloud cover.

"Global warming theory says warming will generally be accompanied by more rainfall," Spencer said. "Everyone just assumed that more rainfall means more high altitude clouds. That would be your first guess and, since we didn't have any data to suggest otherwise ..."

There are significant gaps in the scientific understanding of precipitation systems and their interactions with the climate, he said. "At least 80 percent of the Earth's natural greenhouse effect is due to water vapor and clouds, and those are largely under the control of precipitation systems. "Until we understand how precipitation systems change with warming, I don't believe we can know how much of our current warming is manmade. Without that knowledge, we can't predict future climate change with any degree of certainty."

That's a remarkable quote: "Everyone just assumed" that more rainfall means more high altitude clouds. That is the level of scientific certainty on which claims of catastrophic anthropogenic global warming rest.


Biofuels Could Kill More People Than the Iraq War

By George Monbiot. It's pleasing to reproduce something reasonably realistic from the original Moonbat. As long as he is condemning something he appears to be happy

It doesn't get madder than this. Swaziland is in the grip of a famine and receiving emergency food aid. Forty per cent of its people are facing acute food shortages. So what has the government decided to export? Biofuel made from one of its staple crops, cassava. The government has allocated several thousand hectares of farmland to ethanol production in the county of Lavumisa, which happens to be the place worst hit by drought. It would surely be quicker and more humane to refine the Swazi people and put them in our tanks. Doubtless a team of development consultants is already doing the sums.

This is one of many examples of a trade described last month by Jean Ziegler, the UN's special rapporteur, as "a crime against humanity." Ziegler took up the call first made by this column for a five-year moratorium on all government targets and incentives for biofuel: the trade should be frozen until second-generation fuels -- made from wood or straw or waste -- become commercially available. Otherwise the superior purchasing power of drivers in the rich world means that they will snatch food from people's mouths. Run your car on virgin biofuel and other people will starve.

Even the International Monetary Fund, always ready to immolate the poor on the altar of business, now warns that using food to produce biofuels "might further strain already tight supplies of arable land and water all over the world, thereby pushing food prices up even further." This week the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation will announce the lowest global food reserves in 25 years, threatening what it calls "a very serious crisis." Even when the price of food was low, 850 million people went hungry because they could not afford to buy it. With every increment in the price of flour or grain, several million more are pushed below the breadline.

The cost of rice has risen by 20% over the past year, maize by 50%, wheat by 100%. Biofuels aren't entirely to blame -- by taking land out of food production they exacerbate the effects of bad harvests and rising demand -- but almost all the major agencies are now warning against expansion. And almost all the major governments are ignoring them.

They turn away because biofuels offer a means of avoiding hard political choices. They create the impression that governments can cut carbon emissions and -- as Ruth Kelly, the British transport secretary, announced last week -- keep expanding the transport networks. New figures show that British drivers puttered past the 500 billion kilometer mark for the first time last year. But it doesn't matter: we just have to change the fuel we use. No one has to be confronted. The demands of the motoring lobby and the business groups clamouring for new infrastructure can be met. The people being pushed off their land remain unheard.

In principle, burning biofuels merely releases the carbon they accumulated when they were growing. Even when you take into account the energy costs of harvesting, refining and transporting the fuel, they produce less net carbon than petroleum products. The law the British government passed a fortnight ago -- by 2010, 5% of our road transport fuel must come from crops -- will, it claims, save between 700,000 and 800,000 tonnes of carbon a year. It derives this figure by framing the question carefully. If you count only the immediate carbon costs of planting and processing biofuels, they appear to reduce greenhouse gases. When you look at the total impacts, you find that they cause more warming than petroleum.

A recent study by the Nobel laureate Paul Crutzen shows that the official estimates have ignored the contribution of nitrogen fertilisers. They generate a greenhouse gas -- nitrous oxide -- which is 296 times as powerful as CO2. These emissions alone ensure that ethanol from maize causes between 0.9 and 1.5 times as much warming as petrol, while rapeseed oil (the source of over 80% of the world's biodiesel) generates 1-1.7 times the impact of diesel. This is before you account for the changes in land use.

More here


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