Sunday, December 30, 2007

Divorcees are bad for the environment. Do environmentalists care?

A small item in the British Medical Journal recently caught my eye. It was a brief digest of a recent paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on the environmental impact of divorce. Researchers from Michigan found that people in divorced households spent 46 and 56 percent more on electricity and water, respectively, than did people in married households. This outcome is not all that surprising: marriage involves (among many other things, of course) economies of scale.

One of the interesting questions that this little piece of research poses is whether the environmentalist lobby will now throw itself behind the cause of family values. Will it, for example, push for the tightening of divorce laws, and for financial penalties-in the form, say, of higher taxes-to be imposed on those who insist upon divorcing, and therefore upon using 46 percent more electricity and 52 percent more water per person than married couples who stay together? Will environmentalists march down the streets with banners reading SAVE THE PLANET: STAY WITH THE HUSBAND YOU HATE?

For myself, I doubt it. Yet these figures, if true, are certainly suggestive. The fact that there will be no demonstrations against environmentally destructive divorcees, who probably emit as much extra carbon dioxide as the average SUV, suggests that the desire to save the planet is not nearly as powerful as the desire to destroy a way of life.


There's a lot we DON'T know about CO2

The article excerpted below is written so as not to threaten Warmists but the great gaps in knowledge that it notes show how shaky the assumptions fed into climate "models" have to be

So far, scientists have no reliable way to measure all these fluctuating carbon emissions. Temperature predictions based on future CO2 levels, therefore, could overestimate the risk of greenhouse warming -- or dangerously understate it. "A quarter of all the CO2 that is emitted is going somewhere, and we don't know where," said David Crisp at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where he is senior scientist for the $270 million Orbiting Carbon Observatory, set for launch next December. "That raises a lot of red flags."

Moreover, as governments try to prevent climate change through emissions trading -- where buying and selling emissions rights is expected to top $70 billion by the end of next year -- regulators must track CO2 no matter where it comes from or where it goes, to verify transactions.

To pinpoint the places where the planet naturally absorbs CO2 emissions, researchers have turned North America into a test lab. No other region is so thoroughly monitored; nor does any other area emit as much carbon dioxide -- about 27% of the world's annual total.

The U.S., Mexico and Canada together release about 2 billion tons of carbon as CO2 into the air every year -- 85% from the U.S. alone -- but only about a third of it typically is absorbed by so-called carbon sinks, such as new forests, grasslands, crops and soil. The rest is either in the air or unaccounted for. That is according to a new study of 28,000 measurements collected every week from 2000 through 2006 and analyzed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's online CarbonTracker system.

The CarbonTracker offers a portrait of the continent in carbon dioxide, locating where greenhouse-gas upwellings are strongest and where new plant growth and soil most readily remove it from the air. Greenhouse-gas emissions were highest in the Midwest, which released more CO2 than any country except Russia, China, India, and the U.S. as a whole. By the same token, CO2 was absorbed mostly east of the Rocky Mountains and in northern Canada, where vast boreal forests hold twice as much carbon as tropical woodlands.

These detailed calculations reveal a countryside where these natural carbon-storage zones are failing, the NOAA researchers determined. The higher temperatures that result can, through more frequent wildfires and prolonged droughts, further interrupt ancient cycles of carbon storage, spilling even more carbon into the air....

An unusually severe U.S. drought in 2002, the NOAA researchers discovered, left an extra 360 million tons of carbon in the atmosphere -- an amount equal to the annual emissions of 200 million cars -- by stunting plant growth that normally might have absorbed the gas. "We lost half our natural sink," said NOAA geochemist John Miller. In Europe, a severe drought in 2003 left more than 500 million tons of carbon in the air.

In turn, the dry weather from higher temperatures also has made wildfires in the western U.S. more frequent, longer-burning and harder to extinguish. Large-scale fires in western and southeastern states can release as much carbon dioxide in a few weeks as motor-vehicle traffic there does in a year, University of Colorado researchers reported this past October in Carbon Balance and Management.

In a single week this fall, they reported, wildfires in Southern California released 7.9 million metric tons of CO2 -- equal to 25% of the monthly fumes from every car, truck, factory and power plant in the state.


Yet another double standard

Climate alarmists have been critiquing the Senate "400" report for including engineers and economists in the report despite the fact that the IPCC is made up similarly

Back at Gristmill, Andrew Dessler stands by his cancer/doctor analogy in the in-whom-do-we-trust war, after some comments on his blog:
The complexity of climate change does not suddenly make a sociologist, economist, computer programmer, etc. a credible skeptic. In fact, the weakness of Inhofe's list is readily apparent by the very fact that he had to include such people on his list. The crown jewels of skeptics are Lindzen, Christy, Singer, etc., but as I've said before, there are only a small number of them. In order to bulk up the list, Inhofe lowered his criteria to basically include anyone who doesn't believe in climate change --- regardless of their technical background in the subject. As far as my analogy being unsuitable, I stand by it. If your child is sick, you take him/her to the experts. Ditto if your planet is sick. You don't take either your child or a planet to a sociologist or economist.

For the uninitiated, here is the lowdown: Andrew Dessler is a professor at the Department of Atmospheric Sciences, Texas A&M University. He is complaining about a US senate report which listed hundreds of individuals who have been reported in the media during 2007 as speaking against the "scientific consensus" on climate change, claiming that they are scientists. The report naturally challenges the very principle of the consensus, which has given climate policies the authority they have needed to be carried forward. The global warming camp have sought to undermine the value of this new list, by claiming that the scientists lack scientific qualifications, expertise, or moral integrity.

But Dessler has made a significant concession here. He is visibly shifting from the idea that the power of the consensus comes from the weight of scientific opinion - numbers. An "overwhelming number" of scientist's opinions might indicate that the "science" had been tested. Now, you have to be qualified to have an opinion on climate change. But Dessler doesn't tell us exactly how we are to measure the qualifications, we just have to take his word for it that the 400 sceptics aren't qualified, but the IPCC scientists are. So it's not simply a consensus, it's a qualified consensus, and he gets to call the qualification. So much for science. So, apparently, the IPCC scientists who represent the consensus are more qualified than their counterparts. They are akin to the experts you would trust your desperately ill child to, not the ragbag of mavericks you would avoid. Worse still, many of the sceptics are in fact mere computer programmers or - gasp - sociologists!

We decided to test Dessler's claim. So we downloaded IPCC WGII's latest report on "Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability". There were 380 contributors to the report [PDF of contributors]. A thorough and exhaustive analysis of the backgrounds of these experts (or were they?) was too ambitious (it's Christmas, and we have wine to drink, and mince pies to eat, too). So, we focused on the contributors who operate in the UK. Of the 51 UK contributors to the report, there were 5 economists, 3 epidemiologists, 5 who were either zoologists, entomologists, or biologists. 5 worked in civil engineering or risk management / insurance. 7 had specialisms in physical geography (we gave the benefit of the doubt to some academics whose profiles weren't clear about whether they are physical or human geographers). And just 10 have specialisms in geophysics, climate science or modelling, or hydrology. But there were 15 who could only be described as social scientists. If we take the view that economics is a social science, that makes 20 social scientists. This gives the lie to Dessler's claim that IPCC contributors are analogous to medical doctors. There are economists working on saving that dying child!!! That's got to be wrong, by Dessler's own standards.

Nonetheless, were these contributors the "experts" that Dessler claims they are? There were a few professors, but few of them had the profile Dessler gives them. Many of them were in fact, hard to locate to establish just how much better than their counterparts they were. One professor (Abigail Bristow) wasn't what you'd call a climate scientist, but a professor of Transport Studies at Newcastle University. How is she going to cure the sick child? Will she be driving the ambulance? Another Professor - Diana Liverman at Oxford University - specialises in "human dimensions of global environmental change" - Geography is a social science too. Another - John Morton of the University of Greenwich, specialises in "development Anthropology". Professor of Geography, and Co-Chair of IPCC WGII, Martin Parry's profile merely tells us that he is "a specialist on the effects of climate change". But what does that actually mean?

Among the remainder - most of whom are not professors, but research associates at best, are an assorted bunch, many of whom are better known for their alarmist statements in the mainstream press than they are for their contributions to scientific knowledge - activists in other words, with their own political motivation. And in spite of being reported as "climate scientists", involved in scientific research, also seem to be working within the social sciences, albeit for "climate research" institutions, such as Tyndall. Johanna Wolf, for example, is an IPCC contributor from the University of East Anglia, who works in the department for "development studies". Does that make her a climate scientist? Anna Taylor, of the Stockholm Environment Institute in Oxford has no PhD at all, her research focuses on "stakeholder engagement in adapting to multiple stresses, including climate variability and change, water scarcity, food insecurity and health concerns" - not climate science, and has simply not been alive long enough to join the ranks of the specialists of specialisms that Dessler demands of sceptics. Similarly, Susanne Rupp-Armstrong, listed as a member of Southampton University only appears to have ever contributed to one academic paper. Research Associate at the University of East Anglia, Maureen Agnew does not focus her research on climate science, but on such things as "Public perceptions of unusually warm weather in the UK: impacts, responses and adaptations", and "Potential impacts of climate change on international tourism." Katherine Vincent specialising in "Social Capital and Climate change" at the UEA, only began her PhD thesis in October 2003. How can she be cited as a specialist in climate science?

Then there are the contributors whose involvement we cannot explain. Farhana Yamin is an international lawyer, based at the University of Sussex. Rachel Warren and Paul Watkiss are merely listed as "environmental consultants" at the latter's consultancy firm, and clearly have a commercial interest in climate change policies being developed. Kate Studd is listed as a contributor, but she works for the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development, and doesn't appear to be an academic at all. What are these people doing on this list of the most expert climate specialists in the world?

We were surprised by the results. Was the prevalence of social scientists from the UK representative of the whole group? We decided to repeat the test for the contributors based in the USA. Of the 70 US contributors, there were 7 economists, 13 social scientists, 3 epidemiologists, 10 biologists/ecologists, 5 engineers, 2 modellers/statisticians, 1 full-time activist (and 1 part time), 5 were in public health and policy, and 4 were unknowns. 17 worked in earth/atmospheric sciences. Again, we gave the benefit of the doubt to geographers where it wasn't clear whether their specialism was physical, or human geography.

In a follow-up post, Dessler has set about 'Busting the 'consensus busters'' by ridiculing the qualifications of Inhofe's 400 experts, starting with a certain Thomas Ring. In the comments section he justifies this approach:
I agree it would be quicker to simply note the qualified skeptics on the list (there are probably a few dozen), but, from a rhetorical point of view, I think pointing out these immensely unqualified members of the list is more effective.

Well, we can all play that game... Included as contributors to WGII are Patricia Craig, Judith Cranage, Susan Mann, and Christopher Pfeiffer, all from Pennsylvania State University. It's not that these people aren't experts in their field - they probably are. Our problem with their inclusion on the list of Contributors to the IPCC WGII Fourth Assessment report is that their jobs are (in order) website-designer, administrative assistant (x2), and network administrator.

Also on the list is Peter Neofotis who appears to be a 2003 graduate of Ecology, Evolution, and Environmental Biology from Columbia. Are there many experts in anything who graduated in 2003? Would Dessler take his sick child to a doctor, who, according to our understanding of medical training, would have not yet qualified? Also at Columbia is Marta Vicarelli, who is a PhD candidate in 'sustainable development'. Can she be the amongst the world's leading experts on sustainability? It seems hard to take the claim seriously. Or what about Gianna Palmer at Wesleyan University, who, as far as we can tell, will not graduate from university until 2010? And yet Dessler insists that
Inhofe's list is chock full of people without any recent, relevant research on the problem. In fact, I'm pretty sure that's why they're skeptics: people with the relevant experience are immediately persuaded by the evidence. This should be compared to the IPCC, which includes exclusively people with recent, relevant expertise on the problem.

Anything which can be thrown at the sceptics can be thrown at IPCC contributors. That is not to say that social scientists and computer programmers have nothing to offer the world, or the IPCC process. They are crucial in fact. What it is to say, however, is that, when social scientists, computer programmers and administrative assistants comprise a significant proportion of IPCC contributors, the global warmer mantra that the IPCC represents the world's top 2500 climate scientists is just plain old-fashioned not true.

Dessler's wish to maintain that the IPCC comprises unimpeachable experts in their field mirrors the common desire to create an unassailable scientific consensus that political changes in the world are a necessity. This is driven less from the data generated by these experts - they aren't as expert as is claimed, and the consensus is not unassailable - and more to do with the desire to drive politics by creating scientific orthodoxy. This would be scientism, if there was any matter of science about it. The only claim to authority that the IPCC has is not tested, scientific expertise, but just the fact of being established as an authority. There is obviously no substantial attempt to select the best in the field to contribute, as there is no objective measure of such expertise. If we do not take the view that IPCC's authority rests on its contributors' expertise, then the consensus it generates is meaningless. It is merely a 'ministry of truth' - the existence of which is only designed to reduce inconvenient challenges to political, not scientific, orthodoxy. Dessler says :
The problem is not the several dozen credible skeptics on Inhofe's list, some of whom you've named, it's the 350 others. Overall, There are nowhere near 400 credible skeptics on his list, or on the planet.

Even if it were possible to draw together the best scientific minds (and perhaps even the best sociologists and programmers too), would it even be desirable? Science has never 'worked' by measuring opinion, but by testing hypotheses. It doesn't work by generating orthodoxy, but by challenging it. The IPCC doesn't represent the best available understanding, but the paucity of understanding of the factors governing climate. If the 'truth' really is 'out there' then it doesn't need to be decided by committee.


Scientist Reconsidering Climate Views After Reading Senate Report of 400 Skeptics!

"Over 400 prominent scientists from more than two dozen countries recently voiced significant objections to major aspects of the so-called "consensus" on man-made global warming. These scientists, many of whom are current and former participants in the UN IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), criticized the climate claims made by the UN IPCC and former Vice President Al Gore.

The new report issued by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee's office of the GOP Ranking Member details the views of the scientists, the overwhelming majority of whom spoke out in 2007. " For the skeptics among us, fed to me again by A.

It got me thinking: I'm an environmental scientist, but I've never had time to review the "evidence" for the anthropogenic causes of global warming. I operate on the principle that global warming is a reality and that it is human-made, because a lot of reliable sources told me that, and because I read it in learned journals. When I said, in my opening speech for the launch of UNEP's Global Environment Outlook-4 in Beirut: "There is now irrevocable evidence that climate change is taking place..." I was reading from a statement prepared by UNEP. Faith-based science it may be, but who has time to review all the evidence? I'll continue to act on the basis of anthropogenic climate change, but I really need to put some more time into this.


Gore Milks Cash Cow: What France Is Reading

Climate-change skeptics are taking a beating these days even in France, where people long resisted the green creed. Paris bookstores brim with guidebooks -- including one shaped like a toilet seat -- that tell readers how to help save our planet. Yet the dissidents refuse to shut up, even now that Al Gore has won the Nobel Peace Prize and the U.S. government has agreed to negotiate a new global-warming treaty by 2009. The most conspicuous doubter in France is Claude Allegre, a former education minister and a physicist by profession. His new book, ``Ma Verite Sur la Planete'' (``My Truth About the Planet''), doesn't mince words.

He calls Gore a ``crook'' presiding over an eco-business that pumps out cash. As for Gore's French followers, the author likens them to religious zealots who, far from saving humanity, are endangering it. Driven by a Judeo-Christian guilt complex, he says, French greens paint worst-case scenarios and attribute little-understood cycles to human misbehavior. Allegre doesn't deny that the climate has changed or that extreme weather has become more common. He instead emphasizes the local character of these phenomena.

While the icecap of the North Pole is shrinking, the one covering Antarctica -- or 92 percent of the Earth's ice -- is not, he says. Nor have Scandinavian glaciers receded, he says. To play down these differences by basing forecasts on a global average makes no sense to Allegre. He dismisses talk of renewable energies, such as wind or solar power, saying it would take a century for them to become a serious factor in meeting the world's energy demands.

To his relief, France has taken another path: Almost 80 percent of its electricity comes from nuclear reactors. What's more, France has a talent for eating its cake and having it, too: Although it signed and ratified the Kyoto Protocol, the country is nowhere near meeting the agreed targets.

``Ma Verite Sur la Planete'' is published by Plon/Fayard (240 pages, 18 euros).

Jean de Kervasdoue, a health expert, also stresses the benefits of nuclear power, noting that it emits only a small fraction of the greenhouse gas that comes from burning coal, oil or gas. His pet peeve, though, is genetically modified food. In ``Les Precheurs de l'Apocalypse'' (``The Doomsday Preachers''), Kervasdoue decries how shrill and sometimes violent campaigners have prevented GM foods from gaining a foothold in Europe. They way they talk, he says, ``it sounds as if Martians are attacking the Earth.''

In fact, genetically modified organisms have proved highly beneficial to mankind, he argues, pointing to insulin, an artificially created hormone that has saved the lives of countless diabetes sufferers. A much greater danger to health and life expectancy, he says, is obesity -- even though the food that European fatsoes ingest is ``natural.''

Kervasdoue also has politically incorrect things to say about asbestos and Chernobyl. The motto of his book comes from Marcel Proust: ``Facts don't enter a world dominated by our beliefs.''

``Les Precheurs de l'Apocalypse'' is from Plon (254 pages, 19 euros).



For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL 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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