Friday, February 22, 2008

Global Cooling: Amazing pictures of countries joining Britain in the big freeze

Even the mainstream media are now talking about global cooling. Heading above and story below from Britain's "Daily Mail". There is a similar article on Newsmax

Yesterday's picture in the Mail of a cascade of icicles in the Yorkshire Dales was a reminder of how cold Britain can be - something many of us have forgotten in this unusually mild winter.

But it really is remarkable how little attention has been paid to the extraordinary weather events which in recent weeks have been affecting other parts of the world. Across much of the northern hemisphere, from Greece and Iran to China and Japan, they have been suffering their worst snowfalls for decades.

Similarly freakish amounts of snow have been falling over much of the northern United States, from Ohio to the Pacific coast, where in parts of the state of Washington up to 200in of snow have fallen in the past fortnight.

In country after country, these abnormal snowfalls have provoked a crisis. In China - the only example to have attracted major coverage in Britain - the worst snow for 50years triggered an unprecedented state of emergency. Large parts of the country have been paralysed, as rail and road transport ground to a standstill. More than 25,000 miles of power lines collapsed under a weight of snow and ice they were never designed to cope with. Snow has devastated thousands of square miles of farmland, threatening severe food shortages. The total cost of the disaster to the Chinese economy may be more than £10billion.

In Afghanistan, freezing weather and the worst snow for 30 years have killed more than 900 people. In neighbouring Tajikistan, according to aid agencies, the coldest winter for 50 years, along with soaring food prices and a massive energy crisis, threatens a "humanitarian catastrophe".

In Greece and Turkey, where temperatures dropped as low as minus 31 degrees Celsius, hundreds of villages have been cut off by blizzards and drifting snow. In Iran, following heavy snowfalls last month, its eastern desert regions - normally still hot at this time of year - have seen their first snow in living memory. In Saudi Arabia last month, people were amazed by the first snow most had ever seen. On the Pacific coast of Japan last week, heavy falls of snow injured more than 50.

Meanwhile in the U.S., similarly abnormal snowfalls have hit more than a dozen states. One Massachusetts town reported 12ft drifts after its heaviest snows in 30 years. In Wisconsin, the state governor declared a state of emergency as schools and airports were forced to close by up to 20in of snow - and even this was dwarfed by the blizzards which dropped as much as 16ft of the white stuff on parts of Washington state.

In light of such similar news from so many places round the world, it may not seem surprising that U.S. satellite data for January shows the extent of snow cover in the northern hemisphere as reaching its highest level since 1966, 42 years ago - and that temperatures were lower than their average for the whole of the 20th century.

Furthermore, it is not only in the northern hemisphere that records are being broken. Following last year's freak snowfalls in such southern cities as Buenos Aires and Sydney, satellite observations from the other end of the world have this winter shown ice cover round the Antarctic at easily its greatest extent for this time of year since data began in 1979, 30per cent above average.

Yet so far in our corner of the world, we have been remarkably slow to notice what was going on elsewhere, and to put the different elements of the story together. Doubtless much of the reason for this has been that, in Western Europe, we have (until the recent cold spell) enjoyed yet another comparatively warm winter - probably thanks to changes in warming sea currents which scientists find hard to explain. (Although Alpine ski resorts have seen their best snow conditions for many years.)

This is why we saw reports of balmy, prematurely spring-like weather, with primroses and blossom coming out earlier than usual and the curator of Kew Gardens suggesting "there is no winter any more" - just when much of the rest of the world was shivering through the coldest January and February since The Beatles were still together.

But one of the oddest features of this great freeze is how little it was predicted. We are so used to hearing that the world is inexorably warming up thanks to rising CO2 emissions, and that recent years have been the hottest since records were kept, that no one prepared us for the possibility that there might suddenly be such a dramatic exception to the accepted trend.

So far, the leading advocates of the global warming thesis have remained fairly quiet about the 2008 freeze, although some may explain that "freak weather events" such as we are now witnessing are just what we should expect to see as Planet Earth hots up - even if this produces the paradox that warming may sometimes lead to cooling.

Global warming "sceptics", on the other hand, are inevitably pointing to these record snowfalls as evidence that global temperatures are no longer rising as the CO2 theory predicts. We may, they suggest, be seeing the start of a period when temperatures reverse their generally upward trend over the past 30 years, as we did in those decades before 1978 known to climate scientists as "the Little Cooling".

The truth is that it is still much too early to draw any long-term conclusions from 2008's great freeze. But it is one of the most startling developments to have emerged in the world's weather patterns for a long time - not least in that it was so unexpected. At least it raises important questions over how our global climate is evolving which the scientists will have to try to explain. To the millions of people whose lives have been seriously disrupted by this year's freeze, the concept of global warming must seem awfully remote.



Beware a touch of sarcasm

Which 88 per cent of the economy would my reader most like to kiss goodbye? I ask this question only as a practical matter, after reading the summary of a Japanese study on the economic implications of the "global warming" fraud. Noting the goal, "seriously" stated by the Group of Eight, to cut world CO2 emissions in half by the year 2050, a couple of techies in Japan (Norichika Kanie of the Tokyo Institute of Technology and Yasuaki Hijioka at the National Institute for Environmental Studies) sat down with their calculators, and coolly worked out what emissions reductions will be required to meet this goal, on an equal per capita basis, around the planet.

The 88 per cent is the figure for North America. The Europeans get off relatively easily: they only have to shut down 83 per cent of their economy; the Japanese 85 per cent. Only 35 per cent of the Chinese economy will have to go. And good news for India, much of which is still living in the Arcadian low-carbon past. The Indians get to gun their carbon emissions by 137 per cent over the next four decades.

With the insouciance of a charming zombie, Mr. Kanie added that he did not think the goal out of reach. "I think it is a matter of changing lifestyle and not necessarily in an austere way," he said. "For example, I often ride my bike instead of driving a car." He thought the government should provide more bicycle infrastructure.

Thank you for that suggestion, Mr. Kanie. After an incident I witnessed on the street the other day, I myself wish to be rid of cars. And after another incident on the street the day after, I would also like to be rid of bicycles: so I can go Mr Kanie one better.

And let me add a brilliant suggestion, all of my own. I have often thought that the world's food consumption -- and all the extravagantly CO2-emitting factory and transport infrastructure that supports it -- could be reduced by more than half, if we would just stop eating on odd-numbered days. I say "more than half" because, as I recall in Lent, people's appetites decline with reduced food consumption, so they'll tend to eat less on the even-numbered days, too. The scheme would also eliminate over a billion people now living at subsistence levels.

There could be problems with enforcement. But there were problems with the gun-control registry, and only rightwing people opposed that.

There could be ethical problems, too, but these will hardly phase the professional ethicists in our universities and med schools today, who can justify abortion, euthanasia, and human cloning without even waking up in the morning. All they have to do is create a (quantified) "quality of life" test that everyone below a certain calorie-intake level will be sure to flunk. Think of it like an employee buy-out, from the company's point of view. At first there is a net increase in CO2 "costs" as people die and their corpses decay. But later, after they have finished decaying, there are substantial and permanent net savings on the CO2 account. "Short term pain for long term gain."

Um, perhaps in light of recent letters to the editor I should mention that I am being facetious. I am personally opposed to killing people as a way to solve problems; or at least, I'm opposed to killing them wantonly. It's a Catholic thing. On the other hand, I don't have an advanced degree in ethics, so what is my opinion worth?

And the global warming hysteria is one area of public policy entirely in the hands of experts. Only fully-qualified eco-scientists, and then, only those in the employ of the United Nations and the various national environmental bureaucracies, are consulted on the issue. ("The science is settled.") These are the sages of today, and fools of tomorrow.

There is a vast and growing literature of extremely well-qualified skeptics, who doubt the very premise behind the international hysteria -- that fluctuations in human-caused CO2 emissions have anything much to do with either global or regional temperature trends. Most have noticed that the trends coincide much better with solar cycles, beyond human control. But, by definition, these skeptics are not in the pay of the environmental bureaucracies, or at least, do not remain in their pay for long.

"Hoy-day, what a sweep of vanity comes this way!" quoth the sage, Apemantus. "We make ourselves fools to disport ourselves; and spend our flatteries to toast those men, upon whose age we void it up again, with poisonous spite and envy."


Another example of Warmism as a honeypot for the Green/Left

In his quest to make San Francisco the greenest city in the nation, Mayor Gavin Newsom recently created a $160,000-a-year job for a senior aide and gave him the ambitious-sounding title of director of climate protection initiatives. One might expect someone with such an exalted handle to solve global warming and save the rain forest all in a day's work. But the new climate protection initiatives director is just the latest person to join the city payroll in the name of tackling global climate woes, raising questions about whether environmentalism is becoming the latest excuse for a bloating government payroll. San Francisco has at least two dozen other city employees already working directly on climate issues at a cost to taxpayers of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

"Although it sounds very well intentioned, and perhaps even necessary, I'm concerned this is a case where eco-chic has gone out of control," said Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, the only Green Party member on the Board of Supervisors.

Newsom's critics in City Hall have pounced on the amorphous "climate protection" title and have blasted the mayor for creating the new role - as well as for creating new jobs for other members of his senior circle and doling out hefty pay raises - while the city braces for a projected $233 million deficit next fiscal year and lawmakers contemplate reducing hospital operating room hours and delaying playground improvement projects to balance the budget.

But officials in the Newsom administration say that even 25 people working on climate issues is not enough and that having a director in the mayor's inner circle is necessary to coordinate all the city's climate initiatives. "If there are 25 people working on climate protection issues for the city, that's a good start," Newsom spokesman Nathan Ballard said. "Ten years ago, there probably weren't any. It's smart policy to have one point person at the highest level of city government to coordinate all 25 of them."

The city has a climate action plan, issued by Newsom after he took office in 2004, that aims to cut the city's greenhouse emissions by 2012 to 20 percent below 1990's level.

In addition to the director of climate protection initiatives in Newsom's office, San Francisco has an Energy and Climate Program team of eight people in the Department of the Environment, who combined earn more than $800,000 a year in salary and benefits, including a "climate action coordinator." At least 12 San Francisco Public Utilities Commission staff members work on climate issues related to water and energy, including a $146,000-a-year "projects manager for the climate action plan."

Also in the name of climate control, the Municipal Transportation Agency has a "manager of emissions reductions and sustainability programs" who works on making Muni's bus fleet greener, and the San Francisco International Airport has a "manager of environmental services" who oversees such projects as the installation of energy-efficient lighting and solar panels.

The list doesn't include the scores of staff members who work on broader environmental policies, like the recently hired $130,700-a-year "greening director" in Newsom's office, or Jared Blumenfeld, who earns $207,500 a year in salary and benefits as the head of the city's Environment Department, which has a staff of 65 and annual budget of about $14 million.

"I'm not entirely sure what the director of climate protection initiatives' job is, specifically, but I'm also not clear on what the global plan is for the city that justifies that many jobs on climate change," said Mirkarimi, who recently introduced his own climate control legislation that would require the city to take on a more unified effort in dealing with climate change initiatives rather than having each department work independently as many currently do.

In recent weeks, the wordy title of director of climate protection initiatives has become the butt of City Hall jokes about inflated bureaucratic jobs and Newsom's obsession with all things green. It also has sparked a debate over the mayor's spending and hiring practices after it was revealed that Newsom has been dipping into the budgets of cash-strapped city agencies to pay for the salary of his new climate control aide, and many others, while calling on other departments to implement hiring freezes and make drastic cuts.


An excuse I hadn't thought of

A few weeks ago I speculated what would happen if human-caused significant global warming (AGW) turned out to be false. There might be a number of people who will refuse to give up on the idea, even though it is false, because their desire that AGW be true would be overwhelming. I guessed that these people would slip into pseudoscience, and so would need to generate excuses why we have not yet seen the effects of AGW. One possibility was human-created dust (aerosols) blocking incoming solar radiation. Another was "bad data": AGW is true, the earth really is warmer, but the data somehow are corrupted. And so on.

I failed to anticipate the most preposterous excuse of all. I came across it while browsing the excellent site Climate Debate Daily, which today linked to Coby Beck's article "How to Talk to a Global Warming Sceptic". Beck gives a list of arguments typically offered by "skeptics" and then attempts to refute them. Some of these refutations are good, and worth reading. His attempt at rebutting the skeptical criticism "The Modelers Won't Tell Us How Confident the Models Are" furnishes us with our pseudoscientific excuse. The skeptical objection is

There is no indication of how much confidence we should have in the models. How are we supposed to know if it is a serious prediction or just a wild guess?

and Beck's retort is

There is indeed a lot of uncertainty in what the future will be, but this is not all because of an imperfect understanding of how the climate works. A large part of it is simply not knowing how the human race will react to this danger and/or how the world economy will develop. Since these factors control what emissions of CO2 will accumulate in the atmosphere, which in turn influences the temperature, there is really no way for a climate model to predict what the future will be.

This is as lovely a non sequitur as you're ever likely to find. I can't help but wonder if he blushed when he wrote it; I know I did when I read it. This excuse is absolutely bullet proof. I am in awe of it. There is no possible observation that can negate it. Whatever happens is a win for its believer. If the temperature goes up, the believer can say, "Our theories predicted this." If the temperature goes down, the believer can say, "There was no way to know the future."

What the believer in this statement is asking us to do, if it is not already apparent, is this: he wants you to believe that his prognostications are true because AGW is true, but he also wants you to believe that he should not be held accountable for his predictions should they fail because AGW is true. Thus, AGW is just true.

Beck knows he is on thin ice, because he quickly tries to get his readers to forget about climate forecasts and focus on "climate sensitivity", which is some measure showing how the atmosphere reacts to CO2. Of course, whatever this number is estimated to be means absolutely nothing about, has no bearing on, is meaningless to, is completely different than, is irrelevant to the context of, the performance of actual forecasts.

It is also absurd to claim that we cannot know "how the human race will react" to climate change while (tacitly or openly) simultaneously calling for legislation whose purpose is to knowingly direct human reactions.

So, if AGW does turn out to be false, those who still wish to believe in it will have to work very hard to come up with an excuse better than Beck's (whose work "has been endorsed by top climate scientists"). I am willing to bet that it cannot be done.



If two scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory are correct, people will still be driving gasoline-powered cars 50 years from now, churning out heat-trapping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere - and yet that carbon dioxide will not contribute to global warming.

In a proposal by two scientists, vehicle emissions would no longer contribute to global warming. The scientists, F. Jeffrey Martin and William L. Kubic Jr., are proposing a concept, which they have patriotically named Green Freedom, for removing carbon dioxide from the air and turning it back into gasoline. The idea is simple. Air would be blown over a liquid solution of potassium carbonate, which would absorb the carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide would then be extracted and subjected to chemical reactions that would turn it into fuel: methanol, gasoline or jet fuel.

This process could transform carbon dioxide from an unwanted, climate-changing pollutant into a vast resource for renewable fuels. The closed cycle - equal amounts of carbon dioxide emitted and removed - would mean that cars, trucks and airplanes using the synthetic fuels would no longer be contributing to global warming.

Although they have not yet built a synthetic fuel factory, or even a small prototype, the scientists say it is all based on existing technology. "Everything in the concept has been built, is operating or has a close cousin that is operating," Dr. Martin said.

The Los Alamos proposal does not violate any laws of physics, and other scientists, like George A. Olah, a Nobel Prize-winning chemist at the University of Southern California, and Klaus Lackner, a professor of geophysics at Columbia University, have independently suggested similar ideas. Dr. Martin said he and Dr. Kubic had worked out their concept in more detail than previous proposals.

There is, however, a major caveat that explains why no one has built a carbon-dioxide-to-gasoline factory: it requires a great deal of energy. To deal with that problem, the Los Alamos scientists say they have developed a number of innovations, including a new electrochemical process for detaching the carbon dioxide after it has been absorbed into the potassium carbonate solution. The process has been tested in Dr. Kubic's garage, in a simple apparatus that looks like mutant Tupperware.

Even with those improvements, providing the energy to produce gasoline on a commercial scale - say, 750,000 gallons a day - would require a dedicated power plant, preferably a nuclear one, the scientists say.



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