A plain language account of the Loehle research from World Climate. See the original for links and graphics. Note: "Bimillennial" below means "over the last 2,000 years"
Over the past decade, considerable debate existed regarding the temperature history of the Earth on the time scale of millennia. If you followed our discussion on the subject, you know that one camp would like you believe that the highly-publicized warming of the planet over the past century is absolutely unprecedented over the past few thousand years. This group seems to fixate on the "hockey stick" representation of the temperature history of the past 1,000 years, and they hold on to the stick in spite of evidence to the contrary. Many others have argued based on proxy evidence throughout the world that the past few thousand years include a very warm period 1,000 years ago and a cold period 500 years ago; in their eyes, the warming of the past century is not at all unusual. These folks even go on to suggest that the Earth today may not be yet as warm as conditions 1,000 years ago, despite the 100 ppm increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide over the past century.
Several articles have appeared in Energy and Environment recently with results of considerable interest to us at World Climate Report. The first piece is by Dr. Craig Loehle who received his Ph.D. in mathematical ecology in 1982 from Colorado State University. He has published over one hundred papers in applied mathematics and ecology on topics that include statistical models, optimization, simulation, artificial intelligence, fractals, and wavelets. Among other accomplishments, he is the developer of "Global Optimization" which is a Mathematica application package that has been on the market since 1998. Dr. Loehle's affiliation listed in the two articles is the National Council for Air and Stream Improvement, Inc. In the second paper, Loehle is joined by J. Huston McCulloch of the economics department at Ohio State University. There is no evidence that their work is funded by anyone with any stake in the greenhouse - global warming debate.
In the first article, Loehle notes that many long-term reconstructions of climate are based on tree rings, but "There are reasons to believe that tree ring data may not capture long-term climate changes (100+ years) because tree size, root/shoot ratio, genetic adaptation to climate, and forest density can all shift in response to prolonged climate changes, among other reasons." Furthermore, Loehle notes "Most seriously, typical reconstructions assume that tree ring width responds linearly to temperature, but trees can respond in an inverse parabolic manner to temperature, with ring width rising with temperature to some optimal level, and then decreasing with further temperature increases." Other problems include tree responses to precipitation changes, variations in atmospheric pollution levels, diseases, pest outbreaks, and the obvious problem of enrichment that comes along with ever higher levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide. Trees are not simple thermometers!
Loehle gathered as many non-tree ring reconstructions as possible for places throughout the world (Figure 1). There are dozens of very interesting ways to peer into the climatic past of a location, and Loehle included borehore temperature measurements, pollen remains, Mg/Ca ratios, oxygen isotope data from deep cores or from stalagmites, diatoms deposited on lake bottoms, reconstructed sea surface temperatures, and so on. Basically, he grabbed everything available, so long as it did not rely on trees.
Loehle averaged the data for the 18 sites and produced the plot below, with each point representing 30-year centered average temperature (Figure 2). Loehle notes "The data show the Medieval Warm Period (MWP) and Little Ice Age (LIA) quite clearly." The plot also shows that 20th century warming is apparently dwarfed by events in the past. If you are curious about the apparent cooling near present, Loehle explains "The series ends with a downtick because the last set of points are averages that include the cool decades of the 1960s and 1970s." Finally, we learn "It is clear that the 1995-year reconstruction shown here does not match the famous hockey stick shape." Believe us-we noticed that fact immediately!
Following publication of the first article, several errors came to light regarding how temperatures were reported from the various locations. At times, they were reported relative to mean global temperature in 1950, at other times, the base year was 2000. Errors regarding smoothing came to light, other issues were raised, and Loehle and co-author J. Huston McCulloch decided to re-do all the calculations, including improvements in terms of confidence intervals.
The improved plot below shows little change from the graph above, although for data reasons, the last point now represents the 29-year average temperature centered on 1935. (Figure 3). The two statistical wizards note "The corrected data continue to show the Medieval Warm Period (MWP) and Little Ice Age (LIA) quite clearly. The confidence intervals" "indicate that the MWP was significantly warmer than the bimillennial average during most of approximately 820 - 1040 AD, at the 5% level (2-tailed). Likewise, the LIA was significantly cooler than the bimillennial average during most of approximately 1440-1740 AD."
We suspect you have been living your life unaware of the articles by Loehle and McCulloch. The reason is obvious - they found evidence that temperature variations over the past 2,000 years indicate that the earth's average temperature bounces around naturally to a larger degree than other paleo-reconstructions indicate, and further, that temperatures about 1,000 years ago were not that dissimilar to today's temperatures. This suggests that the earth's ecosystems are more resilient (and adaptive) than some pessimists give them credit for-not a favorite topic in the mainstream press.
Unscientific Polar Bear predictions
Have you ever wondered how polar bears survived the ice ages? Yes, ice ages! The question arises because scientists have found that when spring conditions are more than usually icy, fewer ringed seal pups-the bears' favorite food-are born. With less food available for the mother bears, fewer bear cubs are born and survive.
You might also ask: How did the ice-loving polar bears survive periods much warmer than we are currently experiencing-times when there was little or no ice around the Arctic basin and Hudson Bay area? The most recent such period occurred between 6,000 and 9,000 years ago and it was even warmer between 110,000 and 130,000 years ago.
The bears not only survived these periods of dramatically different climate and environment, but provided an invaluable source of food, clothing, and raw materials for tools and trade goods for peoples living in the Arctic regions. In more recent times, during the 1950s and 1960s in particular, hunting with the help of modern technology and in excess of subsistence requirements reduced the population to perhaps as few as 5,000 bears. As their survival as a distinct species for as long as 250,000 years suggests, however, polar bears are robust. Once hunting restrictions were enforced the population grew quickly and there are now estimated to be as many as 27,000 bears; enough of them to pose a danger to Alaskan townsfolk.
Given the historical facts about polar bears, then, we were surprised when we learned that a team of experts commissioned by the U.S. Geological Survey had predicted that the population of bears would fall by two-thirds by the year 2050. These predictions were made "...to Support U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Polar Bear Listing Decision," under the federal Endangered Species Act. We wondered whether the bear experts' forecasting methods could be trusted.
Fortunately, the trustworthiness of the bear experts' forecasting methods is not just a question of opinion. Scientific research on forecasting has been conducted since the 1930s and has led to a set of evidence-based principles (rules or guidelines) that dictate which procedures are appropriate for the conditions. The forecasting principles have been published, and are easily available at forecastingprinciple.com.
Using an Internet search, we found roughly a thousand published papers that addressed the problem of forecasting polar bear numbers. None of them made reference to the scientific literature on forecasting. Most importantly, neither did the nine government reports prepared in support of the listing decision.
We judged two of the reports (Steven Amstrup was the lead author of one and Christine Hunter was the lead author of the other) to be the most relevant forecasting documents. Both Amstrup's and Hunter's forecasting procedures started with the assumption that the sea ice predictions from the General Circulation Models (GCM) that are favored by some climate researchers are valid. They are not. The Models do not constitute scientific forecasting methods and do not deal correctly with what is known about the physics of ice. Since the underlying assumption that the GCM sea ice forecasts are valid is false, the polar bear forecasts are of no value.
We nevertheless used forecasting principles to audit the forecasting procedures used by Amstrup and by Hunter in order to determine whether their procedures would be useful for making conditional forecasts of bear numbers. That is, what would be the bear population in 2050 if low ice conditions prevailed over the intervening decades?
Amstrup's forecasts were the product of a complex set of assumptions. We could not rate his procedures against 26 relevant forecasting principles because his report did not contain sufficient information. Of the 90 relevant principles against which we were able to rate Amstrup's procedures, 73 were violated. Some of the violations were sufficient by themselves to render the forecasts invalid.
One polar bear expert specified variables, relationships, and inputs. The same expert then made adjustments until the forecasts conformed to his expectations. In effect, then, Amstrup's forecasts were the opinions of a single expert (himself) unaided by forecasting principles. Much research has shown that unaided expert opinions are not valid for forecasting in situations with high complexity and much uncertainty, as is the case with the polar bear population.
Hunter's forecasts were also the product of a complex set of assumptions. Complexity makes errors hard to detect, and when knowledge of the situation is weak, erroneous assumptions multiply and lead to large errors. Hunter's procedures violated 80 out of the 105 principles against which we were able to rate them. Amazingly, Hunter and her colleagues extrapolated the polar bear population nearly 100 years into the future on the basis of five years of data. Even the five years of data were of doubtful validity.
As far as predicting the future of the polar bear population is concerned, the opinions of polar bear experts have no value without the aid of scientific forecasting procedures.
A decision to list polar bears as endangered would be expensive for the government authorities to police. It would also lead to new burdens for businesses and for people living in Alaska. Recently, villagers from the town of Noorvik, Alaska killed a polar bear that was threatening residents. Would they have been allowed to do this if polar bears were an Endangered Species? Would it be fair to ask people to abandon their homes if a polar bear decided to include them in its range?
Polar bears are magnificent creatures and the cubs look cute. But decisions about listing a species as threatened or endangered should not be based on emotional responses. Without scientific forecasts of a substantial decline in the polar bear population and of net benefits from feasible policies arising from listing them, a decision to list would be irresponsible.
Analyzing Global-warming Science with Chemist Dr. Arthur Robinson
Interview of Dr. Arthur Robinson by William F. Jasper
Dr. Arthur Robinson is a professor of chemistry and is cofounder of the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine, which was created in 1980 to conduct basic and applied research in subjects applicable to increasing the quality, quantity, and length of human life. As part of his work, he edits the newsletter Access to Energy.
Dr. Robinson, in collaboration with other scientists, was one of the early critics of doomsday global-warming theories. He has authored articles and created video presentations demonstrating that the hypothesis of human-caused global warming is wrong, showing that the hypothesis is not supported by the observable evidence. To come to this conclusion, Professor Robinson and his colleagues brought together the findings of hundreds of peer-reviewed studies about all aspects of the global-warming hypothesis.
THE NEW AMERICAN: Flip on any channel, open any newspaper or magazine, and it's clear we are being bombarded with the message that the Earth is warming. Is there any merit to this claim?
Dr. Arthur Robinson: Yes, but the temperature is only going up 0.5ø C per century. Moreover, this increase is not being caused by human activity.
TNA: Those who blame mankind for causing global warming would respond to that point by saying that the Earth is the warmest it's been in 400 years, and that's significant.
Dr. Robinson: They're right, but they only show you the data from the last 400 years. If the data for a longer time interval is considered, temperatures today are seen to be not especially warm. The current temperature is about average for the past 3,000 years. It was much warmer during the Medieval Climate Optimum 1,000 years ago (see Figure 1). The climate, as we know from historical records, was just fine during that warm period. In fact, it was a little better. So, yes, it is the warmest in 400 years.
Moreover, the temperature, which is going up very slowly, is correlated with the sun's activity, not hydrocarbon use (see Figure 3).
TNA: Those same people would say that science has spoken, that CO2 is the cause. What do you say?
Dr. Robinson: Gore, et al., tell us that CO2 is a pollutant, and that humans have caused this terrible problem. But actually the atmosphere contains lots of carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide, water, and oxygen are required for life. Without these substances in the atmosphere, life would not be possible. All of the carbon in our bodies originates as atmospheric carbon dioxide. Plus, we're only adding moderately and temporarily to CO2 levels. Carbon dioxide moves through the atmosphere on its way to the oceans and biosphere. Human use has caused a transient increase during the past century - from about 0.03 percent to 0.04 percent of atmospheric molecules. Man is producing about 8 gigatons per year, and yet there are 40,000 gigatons in the biosphere and oceans.
TNA: Which come from?
Dr. Robinson: Which are just there - created as part of nature. Between 1880 and 1890, the level of CO2 in the atmosphere was about 295 ppm [parts per million]. For comparison, this office right now is rising toward 1,000 ppm because we're all exhaling carbon dioxide.
The human-caused increase in the atmosphere is not permanent, but temporary. This increase is only being maintained by our production and, as soon as we stop producing at some later time when our technology advances, it will go back to its naturally controlled level.
When we use hydrocarbons, the resulting carbon dioxide goes through the atmosphere on its way to the oceans and biosphere, so there is a rise in the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide has a very short half-time of about seven years in the atmosphere. However, while it is in higher concentration, it is wonderful for us because it makes our plants grow faster, which markedly increases the amounts and diversity of plant and animal life.
TNA: Al Gore also says that the UN's IPCC has spoken, and the debate is over, because there is a consensus. What do you say to that?
Dr. Robinson: Right now the UN claims that they have about 2,500 people involved in this and about 600 scientists seriously involved. This is what Al Gore would point to today.
We have more than 22,000 scientist signers of our global-warming petition who've looked at the issue and concluded essentially the opposite of these United Nations people. This says nothing about the science. Science does not depend on polling. Just because we have 22,000, and the UN may have 600, does not matter. The only thing our petition demonstrates is that there is no consensus among scientists in support of the UN claims.
Scientific questions are never settled in this way. Science is about natural truth. The truth doesn't require any advocate. It stands by itself.
In science, a scientist may discover the truth about something. Then he develops a hypothesis, and the hypothesis is tested by various means. So long as the hypothesis passes experimental tests, it becomes stronger and is further relied upon - unless it fails an experimental test. If it is a very fine hypothesis with wide utility, it may spread throughout the entire scientific community and become part of the basis of scientific knowledge. The process by which this is done is not what is important. The truth is important. Scientific truth is not determined by polling or by convening meetings.
TNA: But when looking at the pronouncements of the United Nations - IPCC and the media, the average viewer would be led to believe that they've figured global warming out.
Dr. Robinson: Climate science is a very primitive science. The atmosphere is a complicated system, somewhat similar to human biochemistry. We know some things, but we don't know most of the needed facts. As you know, climatologists have trouble predicting the weather a week or two in advance. They surely cannot predict climate many years in the future.
There are some very fine scientists, like Richard Lindzen at MIT, who work on the details of climate theory and attempt to understand the atmosphere in detail. They are inching forward toward the eventual solution of this very complex system. Today, this system can only be evaluated empirically because it is not yet understood.
We can show that the hypothesis of human-caused global warming is false, however, because we have enough empirical data to falsify this hypothesis. Human-caused global warming is a hypothesis that has failed so many experimental tests that it is clearly without merit.
TNA: To the average person, those IPCC reports look very authoritative, very intimidating. It looks to us like a battle between two sides of experts. How do we know whom to believe?
Dr. Robinson: First, just because the UN has spent an enormous amount of money to convene meetings of 600 mostly self-interested people - many of whom are receiving research grants and other perks for participating - to try to determine something that isn't knowable with current data and techniques, and produce a report, proves nothing.
Moreover, many of these 600 disagree with the conclusions that the UN-IPCC advertises. The scientists are never allowed to approve or disapprove the final report, and many of the comments that they submit for publication in the report are rejected by UN bureaucrats.
First, the report that is initially released to the public by the UN-IPCC is an executive summary put together by a handful of people including bureaucrats, politicians, UN operatives, and a few scientists. They issue a summary report with UN propaganda in it. They then go back to the reports of the 600 scientists and insert sentences into those reports so that they will conform to the summary.
At no time in this process do the 600 ever vote approval or disapproval of their own report or of the summary report. So this report is not even approved by the people who are claimed to have authored it. This is a fraudulent process.
TNA: Don't they use the same set of data as you do?
Dr. Robinson: Yes, for the most part. Except that they often unethically omit that part of the data that does not agree with their hypothesis. They pick the parts of the data that favor their conclusion and discard the rest. If you play with the data, you can falsify with it. So the UN is picking parts of the data. We are considering it all.
TNA: Scientists who are not intimidated to speak out about this are typically charged by the enviros as being paid by the oil companies.
Dr. Robinson: Well, we've never been fortunate enough to receive any money from them, and I mean in any way, personally, professionally in our laboratory, or anything. We have never received a dime from anybody who has a specific economic interest in this issue. However, UN power to control and ration world energy - the real goal of their activities - would have a terrible, negative impact on the lives of all Americans. In that sense, all of our supporters have an economic interest.
TNA: Al Gore also makes a big deal about glacier recession.
Dr. Robinson: But he only shows the data for the limited time intervals that seem to support his claims. Here is the world glacier curve (see Figure 2) based on an average of all the world's glaciers for which there are good records. Some glaciers are actually increasing, but on average the glaciers are decreasing - toward the more normal lengths that are typical of long-term average world temperatures. This curve is offset by 20 years because there is about a 20-year lag between the temperature increase and the shortening of the glaciers.
So the temperature increase reflected in the glacier lengths begins in about 1800. The glaciers have been shortening for 200 years. They started shortening a century before significant amounts of CO2 were produced by human activity. Notice also that the shortening is linear. Hydrocarbon use increased six-fold and the glacier melting rate did not change at all.
The glaciers started shortening long before we were using significant amounts of hydrocarbons, and, when we increased our use by six-fold, the shortening rate did not change. Therefore, human hydrocarbon use is evidently not the cause of glacier shortening or the mild natural temperature increase that is causing that shortening.
TNA: So what is causing the Earth to warm?
Dr. Robinson: A good clue is contained in data showing arctic air temperature vs. solar activity (see Figure 3). There is a good correlation. Surface temperature vs. solar activity data also correlates well (see Figure 4).
TNA: What about Gore's demonstration in his movie, with those very large graphs, that CO2 tracks right along with temperature and is, therefore, the cause of that warming?
Dr. Robinson: In those curves, the temperature goes up before the CO2 and goes down before the CO2. The CO2! lags the temperature. And the reason it does is that the CO2 rise is caused by the temperature rise rather than vice versa. As temperatures rise, carbon dioxide is released from the oceans, just as the carbon dioxide is released from soft drinks when their temperature rises. Gore shows the curves with poor resolution, so that this cannot be seen by the viewer. His film is filled with dozens of other deliberate errors and misrepresentations.
My favorite is the part where Gore says that "the scientists who specialize in global warming have computer models that long ago predicted this range of temperature increase." He then displays a graph of their alleged "predictions" and the claimed actual temperatures.
This graph is bogus in several ways, but the most striking is that the computer-predicted curve begins in 1938 - before either Al Gore or the computer had been invented. Unless Al Gore invented the computer before he was born, and didn't show it to anybody but climate modelers until after WWII, this is impossible, because there were no computers in 1938!
TNA: Speaking of computers, allowing the UN to take over the world's energy would have a big effect on our higher standard of living, would it not?
Dr. Robinson: An estimated nine percent of the energy of the United States is now used to power computers and the Internet. This technology cannot exist without energy. Automobiles require energy. You cannot warm your home without energy.
If the UN controls, rations, and taxes energy, they will have the power to determine whether you can run a wood stove, whether you can run an automobile, or can use any of the technology that makes our modern life possible. When you say this to people, their eyes glaze over. They don't believe it's going to happen.
The power to tax and ration energy is the power to control the world - to have life and death control over every human being on the planet. No government should ever have this power. The United Nations-IPCC process is not about the climate or saving the environment. It is about power and money - lots of it.
Should Gore and the UN succeed, the effect will not only be diminished prosperity in the United States. In underdeveloped countries, billions of people are lifting themselves from poverty by means of hydrocarbon energy. If their energy supplies are rationed and taxed, they will slip backwards into poverty, misery, and death. This fits the population control agenda of the United Nations. If the misuse and falsification of the scientific method that drives the human-caused global-warming mania succeeds, it will cause the greatest acts of human genocide the world has ever known. It must be stopped.
SOME COLD WATER FOR THE CORAL REEF ALARMISTS
Natural processes may prevent oceans from warming beyond a certain point, helping protect some coral reefs from the impacts of climate change, new research finds. The study, by scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS), finds evidence that an ocean "thermostat" appears to be helping to regulate sea-surface temperatures in a biologically diverse region of the western Pacific.
The research team, led by NCAR scientist Joan Kleypas, looked at the Western Pacific Warm Pool, a region northeast of Australia where naturally warm sea-surface temperatures have risen little in recent decades. As a result, the reefs in that region appear to have suffered relatively few episodes of coral bleaching, a phenomenon that has damaged reefs in other areas where temperature increases have been more pronounced.
The study lends support to a much-debated theory that a natural ocean thermostat prevents sea-surface temperatures from exceeding about 88 degrees Fahrenheit (31 degrees Celsius) in open oceans. If so, this thermostat would protect reefs that have evolved in naturally warm waters that will not warm much further, as opposed to reefs that live in slightly cooler waters that face more significant warming.
FULL STORY here
Australia: Federal fiscal restraint to destroy Greenie dreams
LINDSAY Tanner and Penny Wong are two of the most talented members of Kevin Rudd's new front bench. Both have had sure-footed starts to their executive careers. And both were on their feet last week.
The best compliment you can pay Tanner, the Finance Minister, is an oxymoron: he's a genuinely committed economic rationalist from the Left. Tanner in factional terms is a transgender politician: a fiscal conservative trapped inside the social policy body of an inner-city Melbourne latte sipper. This is a product of history. Tanner joined the Left on grounds of environmental politics but outgrew his base on economics. Preselection pressures have kept him from having the final reassignment operation he's crying out for. He's an inspired choice as Finance Minister and has been waiting for his moment in the sun - overseeing the fiscal structure of Labor's first budget - for his entire political life. Ultimately Tanner wants to be treasurer. He may get there: the first from the Left since Jim Cairns, though Tanner would cringe at the comparison. [Any treasurer would!]
Wong, as Minister for Climate Change, is also from the Left and another person who's been in training for this calling all her political life, from the campus tussles at Adelaide University on. Her moment came at the UN climate change summit in Bali, just before Christmas, where with 20 years of negotiated factional outcomes behind her, she shifted seamlessly on to the world stage to parlay the final deal on a post-Kyoto framework. Given her talents, she will inevitably have more such moments. And last week Tanner and Wong, rising stars of the shiny new Rudd Government, were at odds. Not that either of them knew it.
Let me explain. Tanner, for his part, was at the National Press Club in Canberra on Wednesday, delivering a finely calibrated speech in which he outlined the commitment of Rudd's budget razor gang to do its part in bearing down on inflation by cutting outlays by 1.5 per cent of gross domestic product when Labor's first spending document is brought down in May by Treasurer Wayne Swan. Wong, on the same day, was in Melbourne at the Park Hyatt Hotel, delivering a speech to the Australian Industry Group entitled Climate Change: A Responsibility Agenda.
Wong's rhetoric and sense of mission were uplifting: "I want to begin by taking stock of where we are," she said. "Over many years, scientists have gathered a body of evidence which makes the case that climate change is real and is being caused by human activity. "For some time now, that evidence has been irrefutable. [If it is irrefutable, it's not evidence] For some time now, people in Australia and around the world have been calling for action and, in their everyday lives, taking action themselves. "Businesses have been looking at the looming threat of climate change and at the new opportunities it presents, and also taking action for themselves. I acknowledge and encourage these existing industry efforts at climate change mitigation.
"So over the past decade, business and the community have been leading while our national elected leaders abdicated their responsibility. Now it's up to us. "Future generations will look back on us all and ask what we did. "With the prospect of sea levels encroaching upon our mostly coastal population, they will ask why it took so long to act. "Seeing our river systems die before our very eyes, they will ask how this was allowed to happen. "With our knowledge that climate change puts our food and water supplies at risk, they will hold us accountable.
"Two months ago, Australians delivered a clear message. They said we need a new sense of responsibility in this country: a responsibility to protect not only today's economy but also prepare for the economy of the future; responsibility for protecting our country, our values and lifestyles beyond the next electoral cycle."
Through these obvious adversities, Wong remained upbeat: "So it is no embellishment to say that climate change is the challenge of our generation. But it is also the opportunity of our generation," she said. "It's fair to say that most of the talk about the economic impact of climate change has been of the potential threat. Yet we should also look to the opportunity for new growth, for innovation, for a modern economy. "Australia is blessed with resources to exploit developments in clean energy, and we have the scientists, engineers, and capacity to deliver."
Trouble was, back at the National Press Club, Tanner was mounting the inflation case for cutting precisely the programs Wong was promoting in Melbourne. Immediately after his speech, the Finance Minister issued a statement detailing an immediate $643 million in spending cuts as a down payment on the promised rigours of the May budget.
The line items appeared obscure. But closer examination revealed that at least three measures - the defunding of the Asia Pacific Network for Energy Technology and the Low Emissions Technology and Abatement program, and the reduction in money for the Renewable Remote Power Generation Program - were going to contribute $49.2 million to Tanner's budget bottom line. And then there was the $3 million knife taken to the funding for the CSIRO research vessel Southern Surveyor.
A look at the vessel's website is instructive. Its lead item says: "On January 11, Australia's marine national facility RV Southern Surveyor embarks on a three-week voyage to survey deep-sea coral beds in the Tasman Sea and Southern Ocean. "The composition of deep-sea corals is used to determine previous deep ocean conditions, such as temperature, salinity and the mixing of surface and deep water layers over a time scale of tens to hundreds of thousands of years. Using specialised remotely operated underwater vehicles, sampling will occur down to depths of 4000m, deeper than ever before in Australian waters. "The findings will contribute to models of regional and global climate change based on deep-sea circulation patterns in the Southern Ocean as well as documenting the biodiversity of life at extreme depths."
In other words, the Southern Surveyor is an example of just the sort of "scientists, engineers and (research) capacity" Wong lauded in her Melbourne speech as being essential to the frontline battle against the effects of climate change.
This column brought these anomalies to the attention of Wong's office. In mitigation they say the Low Emissions Technology and Abatement money had not yet been committed and the Asia Pacific Network for Energy Technology constitutes an overlap with existing research and development programs. These details aside, the fact remains that the Tanner-Wong episode is an important symbol of an inevitable transitional phase for the new Labor Government. And the transition is from the high-minded rhetoric of election promises and goals on issues such as climate change to the realities of government, dirtied by the hard stuff of inflation and interest rates.
Cabinet ministers such as Wong, shut out from the budget razor gang process - which at this stage includes only Rudd, Swan, Tanner and Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard - are about to learn the speed limits that the responsibility of office will impose on their ambitions for their portfolios as well as their ideas about their station in public life. From Tanner's National Press Club speech henceforth the full stop of inflation will put paid to all ambit claims in both cases.
While Labor will not resort to the crudity of Howard's default position in 1996 of core (to be kept) and non-core (to be junked) promises, the effect in many more obscure areas, such as the fate of the Southern Surveyor, will be just the same. Welcome to the era of budget pain. It's a rite of passage that ministers as well as ordinary voters will have to share. Just ask Penny Wong.
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