Wednesday, May 14, 2008


The pesky behaviour of the Earth's temperature over the last 10 years is at last beginning to rattle the Warmist true believers. One result of that is that we skeptics are now sometimes being responded to rather than being simply ignored. The believers are on the defensive. One example of that is below, where a mainstream German scientist -- Lennart Bengtsson [], a Professor at the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg -- has submitted a comment to Benny Peiser's mailing list for skeptics. I reproduce the comment plus two replies to it. I then reproduce a remarkably lame rejoinder from the German scientist. His rejoinder is just an affirmation of faith, with no mention of facts or detailed reasoning. His claim that temperature trends can only be detected over century timescales is not unreasonable but where is the temperature graph showing such a warming trend? There is none. There is only the discredited Mann "hockeystick"

I am not surprised of the reaction to the paper by Keenlyside et al in Nature. The fact that the climate system has natural variations has been known for a considerable time and most climate models do reproduce them. Climate shows periods of warming and periods of cooling due to natural processes such as the El Nino phenomenon. Some of them can affect regional weather systems for several decades and are seen as the main causes for climate variations recorded over the last centuries. However, they are essentially unpredictable beyond a time scale of at most a few months. I am afraid that in this respect the Nature paper has been misunderstood, perhaps deliberately so, as it does in no way constitute a prediction but only a possible development of the climate system. So a couple of colder years cannot be ruled out. Similarly, it can equally well be warmer than the long term trend. We are simply not able to predict these fluctuations which such accuracies that they will be useful for the public and will probably never be able to do it.

It is important to note that this will not affect the long-term evolution of the climate which will continue to warm unless we are able to reduce the greenhouse gases. We are, as IPCC correctly has stated, now with high probability sure that the long term warming of the climate and corresponding increase in water vapour, are due to more greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Any other explanation at our present understanding is simply not credible.

Two approaches are possible to counteract this. To produce energy from non-fossil fuel to a lower price and/or commence sequestration of CO2 on a large scale. The problem must be solved by technology and not by naive and unrealistic policies. They are bound to fail.

A comment on Bengtsson by F. James Cripwell [bf906@FreeNet.Carleton.CA]

It is with much trepidation that I write this letter. I read the letter from Lennart Bengtsson, Professor, Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, Hamburg, and it made no sense. I have re-read it many times, and it still makes no sense to me. But I merely have a BA in Physics, so who am I to make a challenge.

The warmaholics have a hypothesis that increased levels of CO2 in the atmosphere causes global temperature to rise. There is no experimental basis for this hypothesis. But in the latter part of the 20th century, CO2 levels rose, and global temperatures rose. Which was fine until we came into the 21st century, and global temperatures stopped rising. Future values of world temperatures are hanging like a Sword of Damocles over the warmaholics, and I was wondering what they would do.

Now we have two papers, Smith et al in Science and Keenlyside in Nature saying that there will be a pause in this rise for a number of years, but then the accumulated effects of AGW will come back with a vengence, and temperatures will reach the levels predicted by the IPCC.

The idea of AGW seems to be that a number of joules of heat fail to be radiated into space, and accumulate on earth; I call these "AGW joules". They are said to heat the earth's surface. However, if the earth is not heating up, and the AGW joules are accumulating, then they must be heating up something else; they have to "hide" somewhere. The only place that I can see that they can hide is in the deep oceans. For the warmaholics this seems to be enough; there is another hypothesis. But is this good enough for serious scientists?

Surely we need to be given the detailed physics of how these AGW joules can hide for 10, 15 or 20 years. Smith and Keenlyside have not addressed this problem; they just run computer models. My physics is not good enough to be able to prove that AGW joules hiding in the deep ocean (or wherever) is scientific nonsense, but I suggest that as scientists we are entitled to be told what this detailed physics is.

Or is this just the old business of "Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive".

A comment on Bengtsson by Lee Rodgers []

I am afraid that in this respect the Nature paper has been misunderstood, perhaps deliberately so, as it does in no way constitute a prediction but only a possible development of the climate system. So a couple of colder years cannot be ruled out.

I don't believe the Keenlyside has been deliberately misrepresented (although there are those industrial apologists who might find far more expansive opportunities at fully exculpating CO2). Even Andy Revkin at the New York Times "dot Earth" column took a similar understanding, that warming would resume in earnest by 2014. Either the press release from Keenlyside was too easily misinterpreted or there's a broader sentiment afoot that is leading people to question a protracted rate of 0.2 degrC/decade. A long, unanticipated lull in temperature increases might have something to do with it. Having Al Gore trying to cash in on anthropogenic climate change hasn't helped (at least here in the States).
We are, as IPCC correctly has stated, now with high probability sure that the long term warming of the climate and corresponding increase in water vapour, are due to more greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Any other explanation at our present understanding is simply not credible.

This is where interested lay people like myself find ourselves in a quandary. We have your assertions of "high probability" in one hand, and the apparent, and apparently unexpected, falsification of long-trend warming-only climate model projections on the other hand. It's becoming such that almost any explanation would suffice.

Americans of my generation were drilled throughout our education to not tweak the data, to throw out the outlying data points, and to reject the hypothesis when it's found to be falsified by a particular piece of data. What I keep reading is that the NASA/GISS dataset is an outlier and that the IPCC projections (as recent as IPCC AR4) are now falling outside of statistical litmi. I can sustain a willingness to believe in the proclamations of a young science only so much. To convince me once again means I need a greater preponderance of evidence than before.

Nineteenth century evolutionary biology seemed just as unlikely as creationism. The fossil record (and now genetic analysis) serves up an empirical edifice that reifies theory into the realm of likelihood via the all-important litmus of evidence. It's a relative statement, if evolution seems unlikely, then creationism is nearly impossible. Frustrating as it may seem, this is the litmus test for credibility employed by skeptical laypersons: "Please show me."

What I, and I gather more and more well-read lay people like myself, want is a good, detailed and reasonable explanation, not desperate statements that we're deliberately misconstruing study findings. As recalcitrant as an old horse that is tired of being cajoled, the public is tiring of attempts to spur it into new taxes and bigger government with desperate pleas when the evidence doesn't seem overwhelming or conclusive.

It doesn't help that Al Gore is now deep into TWO big investment funds that derive profits from carbon credit trading. The climatology field might be comprised of earnest and honest researchers, but the scent of opportunism is wafting from the galleries of politicians and activists. Possibly out of naivete, scientists erred in oversimplifying the warming-only case with the hopes that either big perturbations wouldn't rear their ugly heads or the public would be more forgiving of perturbations in the outcome.

To also fail to equivocate about predictive power while also entrusting the dissemination of the science to those least qualified to adequately relay the concepts - the politicians and the media - seems to me rather incautious. I become ever more incredulous when the IPCC itself appears more of a mechanism intended to defend Kyoto than that of a clearinghouse to promote real climate science. I know how big bureaucracies work, and rarely does truth trickle out of the bottom (let alone I could enumerate any number of salient findings excluded from IPCC reports - replete with shenanigans).

What I getting at is this: If by 2015 - 2020 the temperature trend remains relatively stable and doesn't zoom upward to catch up with ever-accelerating CO2 levels, the standard by which climatology will have to be measured is sure to be set ever higher in the minds of the public. I think I'd be justified in concluding that a 15 year lull is more than just a mere perturbation due to natural variations. Frankly, I'd think that 7 years would be enough to cast deep doubts on the whole enterprise, but I'll grant a bit more forebearance yet. Just don't ask me to underwrite some very expensive remedies until then.

With that, I want to put my critique into perspective: I am a climate moderate. I believe that CO2 indeed causes some warming, but I've yet to see evidence of dangerous climate change. Were I only to judge this strictly on the basis of temperature trends, I'd say the current warming trend corroborates CO2's logarithmic warming curve of 1.2 degrC increase in temperature as CO2 levels trend from 280 - 560 ppm. That's a believable baseline and it's canonical in the field.

Trend lines, however aren't enough. When I read that the centennial boreal thaw has been ascribed largely to industrial soot deposition (C. Zender, et al) and is culpable for nearly 20 percent of all global warming, that tropospheric soot may contribute easily 35 percent to all global temperature anomalies (V. Ramanathan, et al), that the Argo autonomous submersibles have yet to locate the bulk of errant heat predicted by warming-only scenarios and the Aqua data is finding less-than-anticipated water vapor in the atmosphere and I find myself seriously tempted to conclude that the moderate warming scenario is far more credible in explaining this ongoing temperature plateau.

And not to put too fine a point on it, but then the sun is being reasonably forecast to be in the full throes of a solar grand minimum by 2020, with half-amplitude solar cycles for the rest of the century. Shindell, et al, of NASA/GISS modeled the results of solar grand minima in 2001 and found that SGM would indeed induce a moderate global cooling trend, with falling inland temperatures characteristic of the Little Ice Age.

I find all my statements to be perfectly reasonable and moderate qualifiers on the state of the art of climatology. Ramanathan himself clearly stated that his findings surprised not only him, but flew in the face of conventional thinking about aerosols. It seems reasonable then to subtract the warming caused by aerosols from the CO2 column. If it isn't reasonable to do so, then why not?

But do I hear mention of this or the other field data reversals from climatologists? No.

And yet these exceptions, these apparent nulls knocking on the side of the warming-only hypothesis, are tremendously salient to the discussion. It would seem then the neglect of their mention is a profession-wide sin of omission.

So where's the biggest credibility problem? With the industrial apologists who played their global cooling hand too early? They're not scientists! I know to already double check their speculations by verifying their sources. But when the media cites the warming-only scenarios to the exclusion of other important data, the field comes to resemble an agenda-driven crusade led by opportunists and activists, not sage and conservative empiricism. Climatology is suffering a crisis of confidence. Consider how it appears in the public eye as we're inundated on a daily basis that global warming causes just about everything, from increased flea bites to more-frequent shark attacks. When laypeople speculate about the thermal exchange capacity of the oceans and wonder if ENSO can offset more atmospheric heating than has been known, they're cast off as a deniers. But when scientists posit equally speculative statements about sharks and fleas, we're supposed to yield to their credentials? Really. Have some researchers no shame?

I think everyone wants to be sympathetic to calls against complacency, but the whole call to mobilize the world has acquired the hysterical tone of a poorly conceived children's crusade. It's time the climatology field did something to clean up its own back yard.

Lennart Bengtsson [] replies to Lee Rodgers:

Climate is complex but sometimes I believe to communicate climate research to laymen is even more difficult. What I tried to explain was that climate variations or for that matter weather variations on time scales of up to several decades are virtually unpredictable. The long-term evolution of climate on the other hand - and here I mean on a time scale of a century or longer - is in all likelihood more robust. Climate is, as we have found, undergoing a slow warming which broadly is consistent with a combined forcing of greenhouse gases and aerosols including enhancement from increasing water vapor. The range of this secular trend is 2-5 degrees C calculated to the best of our ability. Assuming present and projected emissions this is, in my view, the most likely change. I take here the same view as when I take an insurance on my house and its content. I prepare for the worst and hope for the best. We cannot presently do climate projections better than so at present. Maybe, we will never be able to do it as the system is partially unpredictable. A warming of a few degrees is no main disaster for the world during the next fifty to hundred years or so but a serious problem and the most serious is the very long residence time of CO2 in the atmosphere. We must find ways to get rid of it or else we will have to face increasing difficulties with raising sea level further ahead.

However, an even more serious problem is lack of suitable energy for the world and this must be addressed in all urgency. To do nothing is simply too risky. In this respect the industrial world has not been able to provide leadership.

Global warming hysteria reaching new heights

New Scientist, which revealed last year that obesity causes global warming, now tells us that global warming will make days longer, which has been confirmed by NASA. So not only is at least one global warming hysteric worried that efforts to stop global warming may slow the rotation of the earth, but the hysterical New Scientist reports that global warming itself slows it:
Global warming will make days longer as well as hotter, say Belgian scientists. A team led by Olivier de Viron of the Royal Observatory of Belgium has calculated the impact of global warming from the build-up of greenhouse gases in the air on the angular momentum of the planet.

So we might at well get used to longer and longer days. Who needs Daylight Savings Time anymore?

Oops, days already are getting longer, and have been for billions of years before Bill Clinton ate his first Big Mac or scientists had too much time on their hands and too much tax money to spend.

The Left is beyond parody. NASA's next manned mission to the moon is further away than the first mission was when President Kennedy announced the goal of getting there and back within the decade. Iran is building an atomic bomb, North Korea has one, the Russians and Chinese are rapidly increasing the size of their militaries, Islamofascist fanatics are killing people over cartoons, and NASA is busy calculating that a hypothetical half meter increase in sea level brought on by global warming will increase the effective radius of the earth by one part in 20 million, thus slowing its rotation and lengthening the day.

What I find truly evil is not that Belgian scientists are frightening people into worrying that the world will stop rotating; after all, NASA is brave enough about it. No, what is truly evil is that Al Gore and his scientific prostitutes take advantage of people's ignorance. Al Gore must have said a thousand times that we must "stop climate change" on a planet that has had billions of years of climate change. We must preserve the composition of an atmosphere that has never had a stable composition.

Astronomy Today by Eric Chaisson and Steve McMillan says in a passage that too few students seem to have read or remembered that tidal effects are slowing down the rotation of the earth. A half billion years ago, days were only twenty-two hours long. If the rate of slowing in the preceding billion and a half years was the same as it has been in the last half a billion, then two billion years ago, days lasted only sixteen hours.

The rotation of the earth is slowing, the distance of the moon is increasing, the atmosphere of the earth and the radiation of the sun keep changing, continents drift together and break apart, volcanoes erupt unpredictably, asteroids crash intermittently, and Al Gore, the Nobel committee, three presidential candidates, and the United Nations tell us that we have to sacrifice one tenth of our economy to keep it from all happening.


Interesting though the examples given above are, an even weirder example has just emerged: A claim that global warming will poison your cornflakes. It is too much in an imaginary world of its own to be worth a detailed reply but one might note that even the newspaper site reporting the claim put it in its "weird" section

Kiwi Climatology

Global-warming alarmists tend to understate the true costs of cutting greenhouse gas emissions. So give credit to New Zealanders, who seem poised to give the rest of us a real-life illustration of those costs. This month, Wellington is debating a cap-and-trade scheme to meet its Kyoto Protocol targets. Because New Zealand is already a low carbon-dioxide emitter, the bulk of its emissions come from agricultural sources, such as, well, sheep. So the government is proposing to implement caps not only on carbon dioxide from industry but also on methane and nitrous oxide from farms. If passed, the Kiwi plan would be the broadest cap-and-trade program to date.

As in smaller schemes in the U.S. and European Union, the government would cap the country's emissions at a level allowable under Kyoto, and then distribute tradeable credits to businesses and farmers. Low emitters could sell excess credits, while high emitters could buy credits to cover their "extra" emissions. Under Kyoto, New Zealand committed to reduce its emissions to 1990 levels, in effect a 30% reduction from expected emissions in 2012.

Meeting those targets will be hard. New Zealand already uses a wide range of hydropower and renewable energy to cut carbon dioxide use. For the agricultural gases, new kinds of fertilizers might help, but only to a point. For the rest of the cuts, farmers will have to persuade cows and sheep to emit less - or have fewer cows and sheep.

The cost, for farmers and industry alike, is likely to be prohibitive. The New Zealand Institute of Economic Research, an independent consulting firm, recently estimated that the government's plan would result in 22,000 job losses by 2012, or 1% of today's employment. That translates into NZ$4.6 billion ($3.6 billion) annually in lost GDP, or a NZ$3,000 cut in each household's annual spending.

This analysis assumes that as greenhouse gas fees make Kiwi industry less competitive globally, businesses and jobs will move overseas. The government disputes this conclusion, mainly because its own analyses assume New Zealanders will be willing to take lower wages. That's debateable, to say the least. That aside, give the Kiwis credit for honesty. Having signed up for Kyoto, they're actually talking about shouldering the costs of meeting their commitments. Whether or not they end up regretting it, other countries will now have a chance to see what the anticarbon crusade does to an economy.


Wind ($23.37) v. Gas (25 Cents)

Congress seems ready to spend billions on a new "Manhattan Project" for green energy, or at least the political class really, really likes talking about one. But maybe we should look at what our energy subsidy dollars are buying now.

Some clarity comes from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), an independent federal agency that tried to quantify government spending on energy production in 2007. The agency reports that the total taxpayer bill was $16.6 billion in direct subsidies, tax breaks, loan guarantees and the like. That's double in real dollars from eight years earlier, as you'd expect given all the money Congress is throwing at "renewables." Even more subsidies are set to pass this year.

An even better way to tell the story is by how much taxpayer money is dispensed per unit of energy, so the costs are standardized. For electricity generation, the EIA concludes that solar energy is subsidized to the tune of $24.34 per megawatt hour, wind $23.37 and "clean coal" $29.81. By contrast, normal coal receives 44 cents, natural gas a mere quarter, hydroelectric about 67 cents and nuclear power $1.59.

The wind and solar lobbies are currently moaning that they don't get their fair share of the subsidy pie. They also argue that subsidies per unit of energy are always higher at an early stage of development, before innovation makes large-scale production possible. But wind and solar have been on the subsidy take for years, and they still account for less than 1% of total net electricity generation. Would it make any difference if the federal subsidy for wind were $50 per megawatt hour, or even $100? Almost certainly not without a technological breakthrough.

By contrast, nuclear power provides 20% of U.S. base electricity production, yet it is subsidized about 15 times less than wind. We prefer an energy policy that lets markets determine which energy source dominates. But if you believe in subsidies, then nuclear power gets a lot more power for the buck than other "alternatives."

The same study also looked at federal subsidies for non-electrical energy production, such as for fuel. It found that ethanol and biofuels receive $5.72 per British thermal unit of energy produced. That compares to $2.82 for solar and $1.35 for refined coal, but only three cents per BTU for natural gas and other petroleum liquids.

All of this shows that there is a reason fossil fuels continue to dominate American energy production: They are extremely cost-effective. That's a reality to keep in mind the next time you hear a politician talk about creating millions of "green jobs." Those jobs won't come cheap, and you'll be paying for them.


The glories of public transport in Australia's biggest city

Another reason why most people will stick to their cars

I heard him before I saw him - a young man with hands on his ears standing still amid the churning, lurching chaos that is platform one at Town Hall station. "Can you please just shut up. Christ. Just shut up." It turned out I was not the only one being driven mad by the lecturing, hectoring voice on the platform speakers, the latest horror to confront commuters.

Town Hall at peak hour is a dirty, dangerously overcrowded, stifling hot environment that looks and feels like an accident waiting to happen. But now, in what is presumably an effort to give the impression that something is being done, the captive commuters squashed on the platforms are lectured on safety, crowding, and train-travel etiquette by some insufferable Big Brother.

"Can that man sitting on the steps please move," the invisible voice booms. Then louder. "That man on the steps who is blocking the way. Please move." Then, infuriated: "You, that man in the brown overcoat, there's no reason to block the steps. You are holding up people who want to use the stairs." Finally, the tired commuter who has been held up to us all as the cause of our mutual subterranean unhappiness, realises he has been made the scapegoat. The woes of Town Hall station are all his fault. He slinks off to join the other miserable but upright commuters.

It does not stop there. "The all-stations train to Bankstown is now at Circular Quay . the train should be here in about two minutes. So just be patient," the voice booms. We know that. It says so on the board. "Can passengers please stay behind the yellow line while the train approaches." I would gladly do so if a three-person deep crowd was not exploding behind me.

"Those people crowding the train doors - you are a danger to yourselves as well as to others." No, the real danger here is that nothing has been done to upgrade this station to cater for today's crowds. But on it goes. The voice is relentless, monotonous and narky. "We all want to get home, and pushing and shoving won't make things happen more quickly."

We don't know what's good for us, is the message, and CityRail is going to make sure we understand. If there was any real concern about overcrowding at Town Hall station, built in 1916, then new exits would be created. It can take an eternity in peak hour just to get on the escalator from the bowels of the station. A fire down there would be . well, it's not worth thinking about.

If there was any concern about the risk of commuters falling from platforms the station would be redesigned so those waiting were not forced on top of one another. And if there was any thought at all about commuter comfort there would be more than just token seating (I, too, have had to sit on the stairs - when eight months' pregnant) and a real attempt to fix the stifling conditions.

In 2005, when RailCorp announced a multi-million-dollar plan to upgrade Town Hall, the tender package warned that the station was a serious danger to the public. Last month the Herald revealed that a report by Parsons Brinckerhoff found the station "cannot currently be fully evacuated in the morning and evening peaks within times stipulated by [the fire safety standard]".

RailCorp said a widening of the main concourse and ticket barrier expansion had improved access, but the projected commuter growth remained unaccounted for. Within eight years 168,000 people would pass through the station each day, up from about 140,000 now. By 2021 there will be 178,000.

For more than 10 years I have used the station to get to work, but it is only this year that have had to do so in peak hour. In that time I have had trouble breathing in sauna-like conditions; had to tiptoe around pools of blood and been caught on overcrowded trains where people were forced to travel to the next stop while jammed helplessly against the doors. Many times I have thought how easy it would be to fall off the narrow platforms, or to be accidentally pushed off. Just one person losing their footing would do it or - perhaps more likely - just one person losing their mind.



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sbvor said...

There is a great deal more I can and will (later) post on this topic. For now, you may find these two posts (and associated sub-links) of interest:
CO2 is Not a Problem
The Current Cooling Trend

OBloodyHell said...

> NASA's next manned mission to the moon is further away than the first mission was when President Kennedy announced the goal of getting there and back within the decade.

I was at the 1992 WorldCon, held in Orlando, FL, which is about 40 miles from Cape Canaveral. As such, it had a lot of additional people there representing NASA than it usually does (and, since SF fans are one of NASA's most reliable backers, they usually have a greater than average presence anyway).

At this convention, there was a seminar held by NASA mid-level people about upcoming NASA plans. During the seminar, the NASA people offered the opinion that NASA could not send a man to the moon within the next ten years, even if they wanted to.

Many in the audience did a double-take.

"What, you mean that you don't think there's the support for it, right? You mean you could not get the finding... correct?"

"No, I mean we literally can't do it. We don't have the technology. The amount of funding available would be irrelevant."

At this point, people started getting annoyed. These wonks actually, seriously, didn't believe that we could, with 1990s technologies, manage to accomplish something that the USA managed to do with 1960s technologies.

I do not believe that you can get more wrongheaded than that. You certainly would take different approaches with current tech as opposed to 60s tech, but, as R.A. Heinlein put it: "If you're in orbit, you're halfway to anywhere!"

I don't believe anything that matters has changed at NASA in the subsequent 15 years. They have become incompetent bureaucrats and easy-funding chasers.

NASA has utterly lost its way, and, personally, I believe that every space-oriented dime should be taken away from their budget and used to create X-Prizes with the goals of putting man in space and keeping him there, profitably.