Sunday, April 27, 2008

Climate Change 101: Key Global Warming Facts

By Dennis T. Avery (Dennis T. Avery is director of the Center for Global Food Issues at the Hudson Institute and co-author, with S. Fred Singer, of "Unstoppable Global Warming: Every 1,500 Years").

The Earth's warming since 1850 totals about 0.7 degrees C. Most of this occurred before 1940. The cause: a long, moderate 1,500-year climate cycle first discovered in the Greenland ice cores in 1983. The cycle abruptly raises our temperature 1 to 3 degrees C above the mean for centuries at a time--as it did during the Roman Warming (200 BC to 600 AD) and Medieval Warming (950 to 1300 AD).

Between warmings, Earth's temperatures shift abruptly lower by 1 to 3 degrees C--as they did during the 550 years of the Little Ice Age, which ended in 1850. The ice cores and seabed fossils show 600 of these 1,500-year cycles, extending back at least 1 million years.

CO2 Increases Lag Temperature Increases

In Al Gore's movie, the ice record from the Antarctic shows temperatures and atmospheric CO2 levels tracking closely together through the radical ups and downs of four Ice Ages. The movie implies that more CO2 in the air produces higher temperatures. But we've recently done more refined ice studies, which show the temperatures changed about 800 years before the CO2 levels. More CO2 did not produce higher temperatures; instead, higher temperatures released more CO2 from the oceans into the atmosphere.

If the climate models' original greenhouse predictions had been valid, the Earth's temperatures would have risen several degrees more by now than they have. The Earth's net warming since 1940 is a barely noticeable 0.2 degrees C, over 70 years.

For the sake of argument, let's give the alarmists credit for half of this, or 0.1 degree C. Moreover, the Earth has experienced no discernible temperature increase since 1998, nearly nine years ago. Remember, too, that the atmosphere is approaching CO2 saturation-- after which more CO2 will have no added climate forcing power.

Temperatures, Sunspots, Cosmic Rays

There is a 95 percent correlation between Earth's temperatures and sunspots since 1860. There is virtually no correlation between our temperatures and CO2 in the atmosphere. The sunspot number has recently dropped to zero. In the past, when sunspot numbers and our temperatures have diverged, the sunspots have been the leading indicator. The temperatures have soon shifted to follow.

Does this mean that Earth's temperatures will soon decline? History says yes. How long will the global warming alarmists be able to sustain the public hysteria without strongly rising temperatures? This will be a key factor in the short-term future of climate warming legislation. Henrik Svensmark of the Danish Space Research Institute says cosmic rays are the link between the sun's variability and Earth's temperatures. More or fewer cosmic rays, depending on the strength of the solar wind, seed more or fewer of the low, wet clouds that cool the Earth. Further experiments to document this impact are planned in Europe.

"There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gasses is causing, or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth's atmosphere and disruption of the Earth's climate". That statement comes from a petition signed by more than 19,000 American scientists, available online at a site hosted by the Oregon Institute for Science and Medicine at .

Warming Cycles Are the Norm

The Earth has had eight warming cycles since the last Ice Age. Several of these were apparently warmer than today, based on the evidence of fossils and isotopes. The Medieval Warming until recently was known as the little climate optimum. Human numbers increased with the long, stable growing seasons; there were fewer and milder storms; and there were fewer deadly disease epidemics. Bubonic plague attacked Europe during both the Dark Ages and the Little Ice Age.

No wild species have gone extinct due to higher temperatures during the unprecedented warming of the past century. All of the existing species have been through even stronger warmings in the past. We have not examined their coping strategies, preferring to demand instead that somehow the climate cycle be stopped.

Arctic ice area has hit a modern low in recent months, but this cannot be due to global warming because the Antarctic simultaneously has the most ice in modern times. The polar regions have their own climate cycles, which operate within the longer 1,500-year cycle. Earth also has the North Atlantic Oscillation, the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, the El Nino cycle, and a 22.5-year sunspot-related cycle in Southern Hemisphere rainfall.

The new book Unstoppable Global Warming: Every 1,500 Years cites hundreds of peer-reviewed studies by more than 500 fully qualified scientists who found evidence that: 1) a natural, moderate 1,500-year climate cycle has produced several global warmings similar to ours since the last Ice Age and/or 2) our Modern Warming is linked strongly to variations in the sun's irradiance; 3) sea levels are failing to rise importantly; 4) our storms and droughts are becoming fewer and milder with this warming as they did during previous global warmings; 5) human deaths will be reduced with warming because cold kills far more people than heat; and 6) corals, trees, birds, mammals, and butterflies are adapting well to the routine reality of changing climate.

Despite being published in such journals such as Science, Nature, and Geophysical Review Letters, these scientists have gotten little media attention.


Another dissenter

Indiana State treasurer Richard Mourdock has a graduate degree in geology and is a licensed professional geologist and former field geologist

After running 26.2 miles in the Boston marathon Monday, Richard Mourdock, Indiana's state treasurer, spoke with students Thursday evening about issues in Indiana....

Mourdock serves as the chief investment officer for the state of Indiana, so he decides where to invest the money."The value of the U.S. dollar is dropping," Mourdock said.

"We've probably never been in as turbulent a time as now. I predict we'll see $200 per barrel of oil in the next 18 months. "With a graduate degree in geology, Mourdock said his studies have convinced him that global warming is not happening."I'm scared to death about each of the three candidates and their positions on global climate change," Mourdock said. "Global caps in the last 15 years receded until last year on Mars, but what do we have in common with Mars? Last time I checked, only the sun."

Mourdock explained that humans aren't the cause of global warming and that it's something bigger in the universe, such as the sun. He also discussed hydrogen fuel cell-driven vehicles, the world's first full-scale coal gasification plant in Knox County, Ind., and the largest wind farm in the U.S. with hypermodern wind turbines in Benton, Ind.


Global Warming Holiday

Polls are cruel. Voters consistently say they want to stop global warming. They also say consistently that energy prices, especially for gasoline, are too high. So what are politicians supposed to do? The answer, apparently, is to pretend the contradiction doesn't exist. The latest episode in this long-running bipartisan ruse aired last week, when John McCain proposed a "gas tax holiday" that would suspend federal levies between Memorial Day and Labor Day. "Americans need relief right now from high gas prices," a press release put it, and the holiday will "act immediately to reduce the pain." His Arizona colleague, Jon Kyl, promptly introduced it as Senate legislation.

The 18.4 cent tax per gallon of gas (24.4 cents for diesel) funds interstate highway repairs and other transit needs, though general revenue would offset losses from the moratorium. But even assuming such savings are passed on to consumers, it won't offer much help at the pump. Most of the price of gasoline is determined by the global price of crude oil, which is spiking now due to a combination of the weak dollar and commodity speculation. The source of the problem isn't the tax. Domestic demand for gas always goes up with summer driving, but the McCain holiday doesn't affect production, and anyway, only applies over the short term.

More notably, it makes a hash out of the climate-change policies that the candidate purports to favor. In 2003, Mr. McCain and Joe Lieberman introduced the first Senate bill to mandate greenhouse-gas reductions through cap and trade. "There is no middle ground," Mr. McCain said in 2005. "You've got to have an immediate effort to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. Anything less than that is a fig leaf and a joke."

As honest environmentalists admit, any effective policy to reduce emissions must increase the price of carbon, encouraging cuts in consumption and creating an incentive for competing energy sources. This is justified as a necessary sacrifice to avert "dire consequences . . . if we let the growing deluge of greenhouse gas emissions continue," as Mr. McCain said last year.

But as the gas-tax moratorium gambit shows, such purity is dumped as soon as voters start complaining about high prices. Not that the Republican is alone: Hillary Clinton, slipping into her new role as tribune of the working class, has endorsed the holiday, while Barack Obama is opposed because he believes a windfall profits tax on oil companies would provide more relief.

The evasions continue down the line. It is easy for everyone to say the U.S. needs a "Manhattan Project" for alternative energy because the phrase is meaningless. Most politicians favor a cap-and-trade regulatory policy, instead of a carbon tax, because it would shift higher emissions costs onto businesses, which would pass them on to consumers indirectly. Yet the most popular Senate bill that would create a cap-and-trade program applies only to utilities and industry. It excludes automobiles, though about one-third of annual U.S. carbon emissions come from cars and trucks.

Such contradictions are easy to paper over now, because big climate change legislation is still a ways off in Congress. But it's becoming clearer all the time that whatever emerges will be so shot through with loopholes and exemptions that its effect on carbon emissions will be minimal, while still imposing economy-wide distortions. No one could get elected, or for that matter govern, on a platform that called explicitly for increased energy prices. So we get contradictions like a gas tax moratorium married to cap-and-trade carbon limits. To quote Mr. McCain, it's "a joke."


Cooked Books, Warmed Earth

Two Experts Say Data Are Wrong

It may be folly or even apostasy - but only in the eyes of some - to do this mere hours after another Earth Day has passed. But, as we see it, now is the perfect time to praise courageous men, those who persistently stick to their own data and conclusions as they swim against the gadarene tide of global warming. Men like William Gray and Patrick Michaels.

Mr. Gray, a professor of atmospheric science at Colorado State, is the world's pre-eminent authority on hurricanes. He is also an outspoken foe of the global-warming "consensus," one who has testified before Congress, delivered numerous speeches, and penned myriad articles on the subject. Here's his pungent take on the matter: "I am of the opinion that this is one of the greatest hoaxes ever perpetrated on the American people. I've been in meteorology over 50 years. I've worked damned hard, and I've been around. My feeling is some of us older guys who've been around have not been asked about this. It's sort of a baby-boomer, yuppie thing."

Still, Mr. Gray, now 79, has not merely been ignored. He has been ostracized, his research funding cut off. But such is his conviction that he has poured more than $100,000 of his own money to fight what he deems a rank canard.

Mr. Michaels, a professor of environmental sicence at University of Virginia, knows the feeling all too well, though he is reputed to be the nation's most popular lecturer on the subject of global warming. But he, too, is a warming "skeptic." This mindset was most recently revealed in his commentary piece — "Our Climate Numbers Are a Big Old Mess" — in Friday's Wall Street Journal. Mr. Michaels not only cast a cool eye on recent legislative and executive endeavors to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions — we'll have to do with less energy, as no technology is available to achieve said goals — but also implied that, given the skewed state of data accumulation, these initiatives may not be necessary.

The key paragraph in Mr. Michaels' article is the fourth: "The earth's paltry warming trend, 0.31 degrees Fahrenheit per decade since the mid-1970s, isn't enough to scare people into poverty. And even that 0.31 degree figure is suspect."How so? While records from surface thermometers have indicated a warming trend these last 30 years, data from satellites and weather balloons did not concur — that is, until incessant revisions were made, always in the direction of a warming trend.

Mr. Michaels doesn't say so in such pungent terms, but his piece seems to contend the books have been cooked, or at least "warmed." Consider this, as he does: Six major revisions have been made to warming figures in recent years, all trending the same way. "[I]t's like flipping a coin and getting tails each time," he wrote. "The chance of that occurring is 0.016, or less than one in 50. That doesn't mean that these revisions are all hooey, but the probability that they would all go in one direction on the merits is pretty darned small."

Furthermore, Mr. Michaels takes issue with what the "consensus" scientists abjectly refuse to discuss — for instance, the state of the Eurasian arctic. For thousands of years after the last ice age, it was so much warmer in summer than it is now that green forests extended all the way to the Arctic Ocean. How do we know? Because the trees of these forests are buried in areas now too cold to support them. In other words, what once was forest is now tundra. These facts are conveniently overlooked.

But such is the state of climatology that the news is always bad, Mr. Michaels said. Mr. Gray would attribute this to a zeal, bordering on the religious, to "organize, propagandize, force conformity, and exercise political influence."The key word in that sentence, we believe, is "political." The one missing, but clearly implied, is "power."


Jeb Bush skeptical about global warming

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush says he is "light green" on the environment and is skeptical that humans are causing global warming. Bush, whose two terms ended in 2007, also said Wednesday that he "can't imagine" running for national office and isn't interested in being Sen. John McCain's running mate.

The younger brother of President George W. Bush made the comments during an address to several hundred business people meeting in a hotel ballroom. Earlier in the day, he met with other directors of Dallas-based Tenet Healthcare Corp., the hospital chain whose board he joined last year.

As governor, Bush, a Republican, was largely silent on global warming. His successor, Charlie Crist — who is often mentioned as a possible GOP running mate for McCain — has said Florida should become a leader in addressing climate change because its low elevation makes it vulnerable if ocean levels rise.

Bush said those who advocate action to limit climate change are acting out of something like religious zeal. "I don't think our policies should be based on emotion; they should be based on sound science," he said. Rather than reducing oil consumption, Bush said the United States should focus on "energy security" — reducing dependence on oil imported from hostile or politically unstable countries by encouraging alternative fuels.

In response to a question, Bush said he isn't thinking of running for national office. He said he only wanted to be governor. "I loved every minute of it, and when I finished, I finished," he said. He said he didn't "have any burning ambitions" beyond his foundation, which advocates education testing. "I can't imagine that I would get recharged up to do something else," he said.


A cool idea to warm to

The article below by Christopher Pearson appeared in Australia's national daily

About the beginning of 2007, maintaining a sceptical stance on human-induced global warming became a lonely, uphill battle in Australia. The notion that the science was settled had gathered broad popular support and was making inroads in unexpected quarters. Industrialists and financiers with no science qualifications to speak of began to pose as prophets. Otherwise quite rational people decided there were so many true believers that somehow they must be right. Even Paddy McGuinness conceded, in a Quadrant editorial, that on balance the anthropogenic greenhouse gas hypothesis seemed likelier than not.

What a difference the intervening 15 months has made. In recent weeks, articles by NASA's Roy Spencer and Bjorn Lomborg and an interview with the Institute of Public Affairs' Jennifer Marohasy have undermined that confident Anglosphere consensus. On's bestseller list this week, the three top books on climate are by sceptics: Spencer, Lomborg and Fred Singer. Archbishop of Sydney George Pell, a shrewd cleric who knows a dodgy millennial cult when he sees one, has persisted in his long-held critique despite the climate change alarmism of his brother bishops. Even Don Aitkin, former vice-chancellor of the University of Canberra, whom I'd previously been tempted to write off as a slave to political correctness, outed himself the other day as a thoroughgoing sceptic.

The latest countercultural contribution came in The Australian on Wednesday. Phil Chapman is a geophysicist and the first Australian to become a NASA astronaut. He makes the standard argument that the average temperature on earth has remained steady or slowly declined during the past decade, despite the continued increase in the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide, with a new twist. As of last year, the global temperature is falling precipitously. All four of the agencies that track global temperatures (Hadley, NASA Goddard, the Christy group and Remote Sensing Systems) report that it cooled by about 0.7C in 2007.

Chapman comments: "This is the fastest temperature change in the instrumental record and it puts us back where we were in 1930. If the temperature does not soon recover, we will have to conclude that global warming is over. It is time to put aside the global warming dogma, at least to begin contingency planning about what to do if we are moving into another little ice age, similar to the one that lasted from 1100 to 1850." A little ice age would be "much more harmful than anything warming may do", but still benign by comparison with the severe glaciation that for the past several million years has almost always blighted the planet.

The Holocene, the warm interglacial period we've been enjoying through the past 11,000 years, has lasted longer than normal and is due to come to an end. When it does, glaciation can occur quite quickly. For most of Europe and North America to be buried under a layer of ice, eventually growing to a thickness of about 1.5km, the required decline in global temperature is about 12C and it can happen in as little as 20 years.

Chapman says: "The next descent into an ice age is inevitable but may not happen for another 1000 years. On the other hand, it must be noted that the cooling in 2007 was even faster than in typical glacial transitions. If it continued for 20 years, the temperature would be 14C cooler in 2027. By then, most of the advanced nations would have ceased to exist, vanishing under the ice, and the rest of the world would be faced with a catastrophe beyond imagining. Australia may escape total annihilation but would surely be overrun by millions of refugees."

Chapman canvases strategies that may just conceivably prevent or at least delay the transition to severe glaciation. One involves a vast bulldozing program to dirty and darken the snowfields in Canada and Siberia, "in the hope of reducing reflectance so as to absorb more warmth from the sun. We may also be able to release enormous floods of methane (a potent greenhouse gas) from the hydrates under the Arctic permafrost and on the continental shelves, perhaps using nuclear weapons to destabilise the deposits".

He concludes: "All those urging action to curb global warming need to take off the blinkers and give some thought to what we should do if we are facing global cooling instead. It will be difficult for people to face the truth when their reputations, careers, government grants or hopes for social change depend on global warming, but the fate of civilisation may be at stake."

The 10-year plateau in global temperatures since 1998 has already sunk the hypothesis that anthropogenic greenhouse gas will lead to catastrophic global warming. To minds open to the evidence, it has been a collapsing paradigm for quite some time. But Chapman's argument about last year's 0.7C fall being "the fastest temperature change in the instrumental record" ups the stakes considerably. It replaces an irrational panic in the public imagination with a countervailing and more plausible cause for concern. It also raises, more pointedly than before, a fascinating question: since there are painful truths with profound implications for public policy to be confronted, how will the political class manage the necessary climb-down?

In Australia, Rudd Labor's political legitimacy is inextricably linked to its stance on climate change. If the Prime Minister wants a second term, he'll probably have to start "nuancing his position", as the spin doctors say, and soon. A variation on J.M. Keynes's line - "when the facts change, I change my mind" - admitting that the science is far from settled and awaiting further advice, would buy him time without necessarily damaging his credibility.

Taking an early stand in enlightening public opinion would be a more impressive act of leadership. While obviously not without risk and downside, it would make a virtue out of impending necessity and establish him, in Charles de Gaulle's phrase, as a serious man. I don't think he's got it in him. But we can at least expect that some of the more ruinously expensive policies related to global warming will be notionally deferred and quietly shelved. Innovation, Industry, Science and Research Minister Kim Carr will be allowed to invest in high-profile nonsense such as funding "the green car". But the coal industry is unlikely to be closed down or put into a holding pattern. Nor are new local coal-fired power stations going to be prohibited until the technology is developed to capture and sequester carbon.

Since the greater part of the funds for the research underpinning that technology is expected to come from the private sector - and there's a limit to what government can exact by administrative fiat - as the debate becomes calmer and more evidence-based, business will be increasingly reluctant to outlay money on a phantom problem. Budgetary constraints and rampant inflation provide governments with plenty of excuses for doing as little as possible until a new and better informed consensus emerges on climate.

Ross Garnaut could doubtless be asked to extend his carbon trading inquiry for the life of the parliament and to make an interim report in 12 months on the state the science. In doing so, he could fulfil the educative functions of a royal commission and at the same time give himself and the Government a dignified way out of an impasse.

Whatever happens in the realm of domestic spin doctoring, economic realities in the developing world were always going to defeat the global warming zealots. Before the election, Kevin Rudd had to concede that we would not adopt climate policies that were contrary to Australian interests unless India and China, emitters on a vastly larger scale, followed suit.

However, it has long been obvious that neither country was prepared to consign vast parts of their population to protracted poverty and to embrace low-growth policies on the basis of tendentious science and alarmist computer projections. Even if their governments were convinced that global warming was a problem - and they clearly aren't - it's doubtful they could sell the self-denying ordinances we're asking from them to their own people.

A likelier scenario would be full-page ads in our broadsheets and catchy local television campaigns paid for by the Indian and Chinese coal, steel and energy industries that buy our raw materials. Their theme would surely be that if many of the West's leading scientific authorities no longer subscribed to catastrophic global warming, why on earth should anyone else.



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