Saturday, March 08, 2008


Let's start with some possible news from Heartland Institute's International Climate Change Conference. In the context of man-made global warming, climate sensitivity asks how much temperatures increase if one adds a specified amount of a greenhouse gas. In general, most climatologists accept the proposition, all things being equal, that if one doubles carbon dioxide in the atmosphere the average temperature will go up by +1 degree centigrade. But all things are not equal. In climate models, additional heat from carbon dioxide boosts atmospheric water vapor which in turn acts as a greenhouse gas. All models are dominated by this positive feedback loop. As a consequence, the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimated in its Fourth Assessment Report (4AR) last year that it "is likely to be in the range 2 to 4.5øC with a best estimate of about 3øC, and is very unlikely to be less than 1.5øC." In other words, doubling carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is likely to warm the planet by between 2 degrees and 4.5 degrees centigrade.

So how do we find out how sensitive climate is to CO2? During his luncheon keynote, University of Alabama climatologist Roy Spencer described how two of his new studies are attempting to answer that question. In 2001, Massachusetts Institute of Technology climatologist Richard Lindzen hypothesized that there might be what he called an "adaptive infrared iris" over the tropics through which tropical storms dissipate excess heat. But other researchers looked and found no strong evidence for such a mechanism.

Now Spencer and his colleagues using satellite data noticed big temperature fluctuations in the tropics in which strong warming was followed by rapid cooling. So Spencer looked at 15 strong intraseasonal oscillations in the tropics to see how clouds evolve. What was known is that tropical storms produce high cirrus clouds. Cirrus clouds are global warming culprits that retain heat and warm the planet. In the climate models, cirrus clouds tend to remain aloft for a long time. However, Spencer's satellite observations found that they in fact dissipate rapidly, allowing heat to escape back into space and thus cooling the planet.

"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 noted when the study was published in Geophysical Research Letters. "The big question that no one can answer right now is whether this enhanced cooling mechanism applies to global warming." Clouds constitute the biggest uncertainty in climate models and Spencer is hoping the modelers will include this effect in future runs to see how it would affect climate projections.

Next, Spencer discussed new research (accepted but not yet published) that he said strongly suggests that climate sensitivity is much lower than the climate models find. As I understood Spencer (and I could be garbling this), in the climate models a feedback is by definition a result of surface temperature change. As Spencer explained his preliminary thinking at the website Climate Science, "For instance, low cloud cover decreasing with surface warming would be a positive feedback on the temperature change by letting more shortwave solar radiation in. But what never seems to be addressed is the question: What caused the temperature change in the first place? How do we know that the low cloud cover decreased as a response to the surface warming, rather than the other way around?"

In fact, using satellite data combined with a small model, Spencer finds that changes in cloudiness appear to drive changes in temperature. If this is so, Spencer suggests, this means that models have fundamentally mixed up cause and effect. He reported that his study had been peer-reviewed by the two of the climatologists on whose work the IPCC relied for estimating climate sensitivity. "Both came back and said 'you're right,'" claimed Spencer.

If Spencer's results are confirmed-and this is a huge if-it would mean that the climate is far less sensitive to perturbation by carbon dioxide than the models suggest. Spencer says that if he is right about climate sensitivity that would imply that the average temperature of the planet might rise by +0.5 degrees centigrade by the end of this century due to the effects of rising carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere. (I will report more fully on Spencer's claims once the study is published and the climatological community has gotten a chance to respond to it).

But let's go back to politics. The final morning of the conference began with a rousing speech by Vaclav Klaus, the president of the Czech Republic. He made it clear that to call him a global warming skeptic would be a bit of an understatement. A point Klaus makes crystal clear in his just published book, Blue Planet in Green Chains - What is Endangered: Climate or Freedom? "My answer is clear and resolute: 'it is our freedom.' I may also add 'and our prosperity,'" declared Klaus.

Klaus noted that ideological environmentalism appeals to the same sort of people who have always been attracted to collectivist ideas. He warned that environmentalism at its worst is just the latest dogma to claim that a looming "crisis" requires people to sacrifice their prosperity and their freedoms for the greater good. Let me quote Klaus at length. "Future dangers will not come from the same source. The ideology will be different. Its essence will, nevertheless, be identical-the attractive, pathetic, at first sight noble idea that transcends the individual in the name of the common good, and the enormous self-confidence on the side of its proponents about their right to sacrifice man and his freedom in order to make this idea reality," warned Klaus. "What I have in mind [is], of course, environmentalism and its currently strongest version, climate alarmism."

Klaus added, "What I see in Europe (and in the U.S. and other countries as well) is a powerful combination of irresponsibility, of wishful thinking, of implicit believing in some form of Malthusianism, of cynical approach of those who themselves are sufficiently well-off, together with the strong belief in the possibility of changing the economic nature of things through a radical political project."

But assume that man-made global warming is a genuine crisis. That it is a real gigantic open access commons problem. Wouldn't that require some kind of governmental action to coordinate a solution to the problem? I have recently come out in favor of using a carbon tax as a way to spur the technological innovation toward a low-carbon energy economy (and incidentally as a way to also reduce taxes on labor and capital). This was not a popular position at the conference. Why not?

While many environmentalists focus on mitigation (cutting greenhouse gas emissions), many of the economists who spoke at the conference argued that adaptation through wealth creation is the better strategy. Policies aimed at reducing energy consumption to mitigate man-made global warming would likely result in a poorer, less technologically adept future in which future generations would be less able to address the problems caused by climate change. This is clearly true and as a reluctant proponent of a carbon tax, I am painfully aware of this trade-off.

As John Locke Foundation economist Roy Cordato explained: "A higher tax today means lower production and output of goods and services tomorrow, making future generations materially worse off. In setting a carbon tax you must show that future generations would value the problems solved by reduced global warming more than they would value the goods and services that were foregone." He argued it's not possible to know the preferences of future generations, but providing them with more wealth and better technologies will give them more options to express whatever preferences they have.

One final note, geophysicist Russell Seitz gave an interesting talk about the future of "fossil hydrogen." Fossil hydrogen? Yes indeed. Seitz pointed out that coal varies considerably in the amount of hydrogen it contains. Some varieties of bituminous coal are 65 percent carbon and some are 46 percent carbon. Seitz suggested that in an ideal case utilities could cut their carbon dioxide emissions by 30 percent by switching to high hydrogen coal.


The enemy within

Post below lifted from Prof. Brignell. See the original for links

When your bending author was an industrial apprentice half a century ago there was an undeclared war going on. It was being conducted by communists and their target was the British economy. They had infiltrated the main trades unions and had effective control over vital swathes of industry. If you worked in a section of the factory where there was a communist shop steward you could feel the constant apprehension. The workers put on a face of treating it all as a joke, but they betrayed themselves in unguarded moments. It was a stressful situation for a teenager to be in and the stuff of subsequent nightmares. The activity was little short of persistent industrial sabotage. Then and since, people have derided the very idea that this happened. Revelatory accounts such as the dramatic film, The Angry Silence, with Alfred Burke as the sinister agent provocateur, or the more comic yet cogent treatment in I'm all right Jack are routinely dismissed as wild exaggerations, but they were not.

Now a similar war is going on, but most of the participants and some of the methods are different. The colour has changed, but the objective is the same, as are some of the people (Danny the Red is now Danny the Green). The way to bring down a modern state is to cut off its access to energy, and that is the objective of the new war. The infiltration goes on, but it is more ambitious and more successful, the target now being the leading components of the scientific, media and political establishment.

There is no more blatant example than that unspeakable travesty of a journalist Johann Hari. The lefty-greeny faction likes to throw around words like fascism, but this man is a genuine fascist. He is a demonstrable liar who wishes to cast aside democracy and install authoritarian government. There has been yet another example of his ruthless mendacity in his attack on Spiked. Without any evidence he trots out the old canard of an ad hominem assault of his targets being funded by Big Oil. How even The Independent, which has so egregiously betrayed the hopes that were raised by its foundation, can tolerate the fellow is a mystery.

Today's most extreme prophet of doom

Throughout history, prophets of doom have always got a hearing -- and humanity has not changed

In 1965 executives at Shell wanted to know what the world would look like in the year 2000. They consulted a range of experts, who speculated about fusion-powered hovercrafts and "all sorts of fanciful technological stuff". When the oil company asked the scientist James Lovelock, he predicted that the main problem in 2000 would be the environment. "It will be worsening then to such an extent that it will seriously affect their business," he said. "And of course," Lovelock says, with a smile 43 years later, "that's almost exactly what's happened."

Lovelock has been dispensing predictions from his one-man laboratory in an old mill in Cornwall since the mid-1960s, the consistent accuracy of which have earned him a reputation as one of Britain's most respected - if maverick - independent scientists. Working alone since the age of 40, he invented a device that detected CFCs, which helped detect the growing hole in the ozone layer, and introduced the Gaia hypothesis, a revolutionary theory that the Earth is a self-regulating super-organism. Initially ridiculed by many scientists as new age nonsense, today that theory forms the basis of almost all climate science.

For decades, his advocacy of nuclear power appalled fellow environmentalists - but recently increasing numbers of them have come around to his way of thinking. His latest book, The Revenge of Gaia, predicts that by 2020 extreme weather will be the norm, causing global devastation; that by 2040 much of Europe will be Saharan; and parts of London will be underwater. The most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report deploys less dramatic language - but its calculations aren't a million miles away from his.

As with most people, my panic about climate change is equalled only by my confusion over what I ought to do about it. A meeting with Lovelock therefore feels a little like an audience with a prophet. Buried down a winding track through wild woodland, in an office full of books and papers and contraptions involving dials and wires, the 88-year-old presents his thoughts with a quiet, unshakable conviction that can be unnerving. More alarming even than his apocalyptic climate predictions is his utter certainty that almost everything we're trying to do about it is wrong.

On the day we meet, the Daily Mail has launched a campaign to rid Britain of plastic shopping bags. The initiative sits comfortably within the current canon of eco ideas, next to ethical consumption, carbon offsetting, recycling and so on - all of which are premised on the calculation that individual lifestyle adjustments can still save the planet. This is, Lovelock says, a deluded fantasy. Most of the things we have been told to do might make us feel better, but they won't make any difference. Global warming has passed the tipping point, and catastrophe is unstoppable.

"It's just too late for it," he says. "Perhaps if we'd gone along routes like that in 1967, it might have helped. But we don't have time. All these standard green things, like sustainable development, I think these are just words that mean nothing. I get an awful lot of people coming to me saying you can't say that, because it gives us nothing to do. I say on the contrary, it gives us an immense amount to do. Just not the kinds of things you want to do." He dismisses eco ideas briskly, one by one. "Carbon offsetting? I wouldn't dream of it. It's just a joke. To pay money to plant trees, to think you're offsetting the carbon? You're probably making matters worse. You're far better off giving to the charity Cool Earth, which gives the money to the native peoples to not take down their forests."

Do he and his wife try to limit the number of flights they take? "No we don't. Because we can't." And recycling, he adds, is "almost certainly a waste of time and energy", while having a "green lifestyle" amounts to little more than "ostentatious grand gestures". He distrusts the notion of ethical consumption. "Because always, in the end, it turns out to be a scam ... or if it wasn't one in the beginning, it becomes one."

Somewhat unexpectedly, Lovelock concedes that the Mail's plastic bag campaign seems, "on the face of it, a good thing". But it transpires that this is largely a tactical response; he regards it as merely more rearrangement of Titanic deckchairs, "but I've learnt there's no point in causing a quarrel over everything". He saves his thunder for what he considers the emptiest false promise of all - renewable energy. "You're never going to get enough energy from wind to run a society such as ours," he says. "Windmills! Oh no. No way of doing it. You can cover the whole country with the blasted things, millions of them. Waste of time."

This is all delivered with an air of benign wonder at the intractable stupidity of people. "I see it with everybody. People just want to go on doing what they're doing. They want business as usual. They say, 'Oh yes, there's going to be a problem up ahead,' but they don't want to change anything."

Lovelock believes global warming is now irreversible, and that nothing can prevent large parts of the planet becoming too hot to inhabit, or sinking underwater, resulting in mass migration, famine and epidemics. Britain is going to become a lifeboat for refugees from mainland Europe, so instead of wasting our time on wind turbines we need to start planning how to survive. To Lovelock, the logic is clear. The sustainability brigade are insane to think we can save ourselves by going back to nature; our only chance of survival will come not from less technology, but more.

Nuclear power, he argues, can solve our energy problem - the bigger challenge will be food. "Maybe they'll synthesise food. I don't know. Synthesising food is not some mad visionary idea; you can buy it in Tesco's, in the form of Quorn. It's not that good, but people buy it. You can live on it." But he fears we won't invent the necessary technologies in time, and expects "about 80%" of the world's population to be wiped out by 2100. Prophets have been foretelling Armageddon since time began, he says. "But this is the real thing."

Faced with two versions of the future - Kyoto's preventative action and Lovelock's apocalypse - who are we to believe? Some critics have suggested Lovelock's readiness to concede the fight against climate change owes more to old age than science: "People who say that about me haven't reached my age," he says laughing.

But when I ask if he attributes the conflicting predictions to differences in scientific understanding or personality, he says: "Personality." There's more than a hint of the controversialist in his work, and it seems an unlikely coincidence that Lovelock became convinced of the irreversibility of climate change in 2004, at the very point when the international consensus was coming round to the need for urgent action. Aren't his theories at least partly driven by a fondness for heresy? "Not a bit! Not a bit! All I want is a quiet life! But I can't help noticing when things happen, when you go out and find something. People don't like it because it upsets their ideas."

But the suspicion seems confirmed when I ask if he's found it rewarding to see many of his climate change warnings endorsed by the IPCC. "Oh no! In fact, I'm writing another book now, I'm about a third of the way into it, to try and take the next steps ahead."

Interviewers often remark upon the discrepancy between Lovelock's predictions of doom, and his good humour. "Well I'm cheerful!" he says, smiling. "I'm an optimist. It's going to happen." Humanity is in a period exactly like 1938-9, he explains, when "we all knew something terrible was going to happen, but didn't know what to do about it". But once the second world war was under way, "everyone got excited, they loved the things they could do, it was one long holiday ... so when I think of the impending crisis now, I think in those terms. A sense of purpose - that's what people want."

At moments I wonder about Lovelock's credentials as a prophet. Sometimes he seems less clear-eyed with scientific vision than disposed to see the version of the future his prejudices are looking for. A socialist as a young man, he now favours market forces, and it's not clear whether his politics are the child or the father of his science. His hostility to renewable energy, for example, gets expressed in strikingly Eurosceptic terms of irritation with subsidies and bureaucrats. But then, when he talks about the Earth - or Gaia - it is in the purest scientific terms all.

"There have been seven disasters since humans came on the earth, very similar to the one that's just about to happen. I think these events keep separating the wheat from the chaff. And eventually we'll have a human on the planet that really does understand it and can live with it properly. That's the source of my optimism." What would Lovelock do now, I ask, if he were me? He smiles and says: "Enjoy life while you can. Because if you're lucky it's going to be 20 years before it hits the fan."


Ice, ice, baby

Land of 10,000 lakes is now the land of one thick ice sheet. KARE-TV reported that ice is unusually thick in Minnesota this winter, and it is killing the fish. On some lakes, that thick ice sheet, and snow cover have proved to be a double-whammy for the fish population. The DNR says that blocks sunlight, affects photosynthesis, and robs fish of oxygen. So-called winterkill can then occur.

So, rather than leave the fish to die, the DNR temporarily lifted the limits on more than 30 lakes this winter. Anglers can catch as many fish as they want. "They would die anyway, might as well have an ability to use these fish," said Roy Johannes, DNR Fisheries Program Consultant.

But hey, this cannot be happening. Al Gore said the scientific debate is over. The world is suffering from Global Warming. Now if we could just convince the dead fish.



EU industry commissioner Guenter Verheugen is pushing for EU leaders at their summit next week to agree that energy intensive industries should have a special status when it comes to the bloc's pollution-reducing emissions trading scheme (ETS). German daily Handelsblatt reports that Mr Verheugen next week, during the 13-14 March summit, will argue that industries due to be heaviest hit by the emissions scheme - a system that was tightened up at the beginning of the year - should be exempted.

Mr Verhuegen's position threatens to run into opposition from within the commission itself, with President Jose Manuel Barroso and environment commissioner Stavros Dimas recently indicating that a decision on possible exceptions from the emissions system should only be taken in 2011. Under the ETS, permits to emit carbon dioxide are traded between companies with those polluting less, able to sell their pollution credits to industries that pollute more. Particularly energy-intensive industries include the chemical, steel, cement and paper industries.

Mr Verheugen told Handelsblatt that EU leaders next week should send out a very clear signal on the issue. "Energy intensive sectors need a clear, binding undertaking so that they stay in Europe and do not have to stop their development plans," said the commissioner.

Mr Barroso has previously argued for waiting to make a decision on exemptions in case there is a worldwide climate change agreement - negotiations on this are to start next year - that would require industries beyond the EU to lower carbon dioxide emissions as well. They argue that in this case, the EU's energy-intensive industries would not be disadvantaged, so would not need to be exempted. But Mr Verheugen says that if such industries do not know where they stand now, then they will move outside the EU.



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.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

[Typo's fixed. Nothing lit up. I have a Mac computer. It has spelling and even some grammar automation (things get underlined in red). But it wont work in my browser except very simple spelling errors. I'll figure this out. So dear sir, if you decide to not moderate this comment, here is the edited version, which if I read it again will become twice as long again, new ideas building on the old ones....]

"In climate models, additional heat from carbon dioxide boosts atmospheric water vapor which in turn acts as a greenhouse gas. All models are dominated by this positive feedback loop."

This really isn't rocket science is it? Rockets crash if the model of their performance is wrong (or if the idiotic Canadians use the wrong energy units when collaborating with NASA).

But water vapor in the air is like one's combined fridge/freezer appliance. The freezer hinge will eventually break if you keep allowing the water vapor from the fridge to condense in the freezer portion.

The Earth is like a combo fridge with a built-in freezer called Antarctica. It sucks up, very rapidly, all excess water vapor, due to God creating winds by blowing hot air out of his ass, er, I think the latest computer brain says it's because of Him never getting tired of spinning the Earth about its axis, and the water vapor can't keep up since it's not attached to the ground. A competing hypothesis is that He opens the fridge door of the Universe too often.

Monks must be consulted; you know...the guys who support their sedentary lifestyle by selling upscale beer in (imported) authentic cork-capped bottles which are made of ceramic in kilns fired by coal, as are their stainless steel (painted to look like brick) fermentation tanks pump away all day, as they rake their New Age crushed rock gardens so any intruders' footprints will show up much better during sun or moonlit hours.