Wednesday, June 11, 2008


An email from Wendell Krossa [] on the nature of nature

Anne Gardiner presents a good summary of some of the pagan mythology behind modern environmental thought. Alston Chase similarly traces something of the mythological roots of this movement in his book In A Dark Wood.

Gardiner also expresses the great battle for human minds and freedom that this environmental movement is shaping up to be. It is becoming the defining issue of our time- the environmentalist assault on human freedom. Some have suggested that it could become a totalitarianism that would outdo totalitarianisms of the past because it wants to legislate human behavior in constraining detail that other movements did not engage. And it demands a reversal of the human enterprise (and humanity itself) on a scale that few other movements envisioned.

But I am not sure that Gardiner's alternative is up to the task of countering the core mythology of environmentalism. The Christian story is also one of human sacrifice and this does little to effectively challenge the similar pagan call for human sacrifice. Competing against one form of mythology with a similar story does not really resolve anything fundamental. Also, the Christian belief system assumes a fallen humanity which is little improvement on the devaluation of humanity offered by environmental paganism.

At the root of all this mythology is the valuation or perspective on humanity that people hold. This is a critical issue - how do we view and value humanity? What is our place in the overall scheme of things?

I would argue that with consciousness we hold a unique place in nature and a privileged responsibility to humanize nature and life. With consciousness we have awareness of what truly humane reality is about and we are responsible to bring this awareness to our engagement with the rest of life. Easterbrook (A Moment on the Earth) suggests that nature has waited a long time for us and our endowments of mind and intelligence. We can now help nature out of the dead ends that it has gotten into by its blind, random, and dumb processes (e.g. predation, disease, natural disasters).

A related issue here is how we view nature. Nature is not some pristine or pure reality aside from humanity. It has rightly been called a "wicked old witch" or Dark Nature (Lyall Watson). It is violent, disease ridden, and in need of rescue. While enlightened consciousness leads us to respect the rest of life, we should not apologize for our status and responsibility toward life and the Earth; to humanize nature. In fulfilling our responsibility, we ought to feel no guilt over our engagement of nature and our use of its abundant resources.

So nature has no inherent right to supremacy over humanity. Ideologies/mythologies that place something else above free human persons have always led to the neglect and abuse of real people. Such is the history of religious and ideological movements. Whenever people place something above human persons and their rights and freedom, then they fall prey to totalitarianism. This is equally true of this pagan nature worship. One would think it would be clear to most people that a dumb, blind, and randomly driven environment cannot take precedence over conscious persons.

I would suggest that an effective answer to this environmental mythology lies in the proper valuation of humanity or human persons. Each of us will do this in our own way according to our personal worldviews. Let me just note that helpful alternatives have been offered here by people like Joseph Campbell. Few have expressed the wonder of being human as well he has in his books Myths To Live By, The Power of Myth, and An Open Life. Catholic theologian Thomas Sheehan also offers an interesting valuation of humanity in his essay From Divinity to Infinity. He suggests that humanity is the new "marker" (or stand in) for divinity. Divinity, he says, has disappeared into humanity to explore the infinity of human potential in improving life. Campbell similarly offers the perspective that each of us embodies the great Consciousness or Mind of the universe. From such insight it becomes obvious that we are not just another animal subject to nature and its ecosystems (and after all, the story of humanity is one of freedom from natural constraints and limitations). We are so much more than just the 2 percent difference with apes. Others might prefer more secular perspectives on the wonder of being human such as that offered by Julian Simon in Ultimate Resource.

On the primitiveness or paganism of this contemporary environmental mythology I was reminded of a personal experience with a tribal man in Mindanao (Davao Del Norte province, Southern Philippines). He was fishing in a rainforest river. As he stood shivering on the bank holding his fishing spear I noticed that he had placed a piece of bamboo upright in the bank of the river with an egg held in the split top. I knew the mythology behind such sacrifice but I asked him anyway why he had done that. He replied, "So the river spirit will not be angry when I take fish from the river".

Pagan, barbaric, and ignorant? Yes, it's all that. But it is even more unsettling when such primitive thought is promoted by PhDs in our universities. Bill Rees, the father of the ecological footprint concept, had us read The Re-Enchantment of the World and lectured us on Deep Ecology in grad school (Planning) at the University of British Columbia. He had PhD candidates lecture us on nature as Goddess. And he also stated that he would not only halt the human enterprise for taking from nature, but would actually reverse it. Earth can only sustain about one to two billion people, according to him.

You can't discuss science with such people. Once in the grip of a mythology as powerful as this pagan nature worship, you can only let their hysteria run its course. But when that hysteria begins to push its totalitarian solutions on the rest of us, then it is the responsibility of all of us to stand up and refuse to let such insanity undermine human freedom and progress.

A Christian Critique Of `Global Warming'

By Dr. R. W. Bradnock

One of the problems with making informed judgments is that `global warming' is an immensely complex and wide-ranging field, even in the meteorological sense. However, in my own narrow area of research, I know that many of the claims about the impact of `global warming' in Bangladesh, for example, are completely unfounded. There is no evidence that flooding has increased at all in recent years. Drought and excessive rainfall are the nature of the monsoon system. Agricultural production, far from being decimated by worsening floods over the last twenty years, has nearly doubled.

In the early 1990s, Houghton published a map of the purported effects of sea-level rise on Bangladesh. Coming from a Fellow of the Royal Society, former Head of the Met Office and Chair of the IPCC, this was widely accepted, and frequently reproduced. Yet, it shows no understanding of the complex processes that form the Bengal delta, and it is seriously misleading. Moreover, despite the repeated claims of the World Wide Fund, Greenpeace, and, sadly, Christian Aid, the melting of the Himalayan glaciers is of completely marginal significance to the farmers of the plains in China, India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. One could go on!

But does it matter? Is there a specifically Christian view of climate change, and of our responsibility for it? After all, we believe that this is God's world. We are now hearing the argument that before humans interfered with `natural climates', the climate was stable and guaranteed a stable God-given environment in which we could all live with security, and with a future for our children and grandchildren. The planet, we are told, having been a secure and stable home for all these generations, has now become threatened, if not doomed - and it is all our fault.

It is a short step - and one that many are now taking - to argue that the burning of fossil fuels is itself a sign of human greed. Some argue that we in the North have plundered the world's resources, and that the `global warming' that will result is our moral responsibility. One implication is that we should compensate those, especially poor countries, for the damage we are causing, and have caused, them. The policies which stem from this view are evident in the latest publication on climate change from the Joint Issues team of the Baptists, Methodists, Quakers, and URC, in effect an uncritical endorsement of the policies of pressure groups. Arguing that the Government's climate change bill does not go far enough, it is urging us, as Christians, to support the reduction of carbon emissions by 80%, to include the impact of sea- and air-travel, and to forego the buying of international carbon credits, reducing our own emissions instead.

Where do these policies lead? Already they have stimulated a dramatic diversion of agricultural land to the production of biofuels - now immediately denounced by the very same groups trying to "stop climate chaos" as "leading to an unsustainable loss of food producing land". At the same time, belief in the urgent reality of climate change is leading others, including our own government, to open the door again to nuclear power - equally refuted by many pressure groups.

If we go down the route of cutting carbon emissions to less than 20% of current levels, irrespective of cost, we should be clear on some fundamental truths about God's created world. There is not now, and never has been, a `stable environment'. Climate has changed, often far more dramatically than it is changing now, in very short periods of time - and quite unrelated to any human activity. These changes are very little understood, and we have no means of knowing where we are in the cycle of changing climates.

We have to ask: is there anything inherently Christian in a goal of "stopping climate change", as if that represented a return to a God-given stability and security? Cheap energy has been absolutely central to the massive improvements in health and well-being which have so enormously lengthened and improved the quality of life for millions across the world during the last century. Are these changes truly sinful and a sign of greed? It is not surprising that governments in the developing world, and their people, rate such improvements so highly that, come what may, they will continue to increase their energy consumption to achieve them. China is already the world's largest single emitter of carbon dioxide, and India is not far behind. Is it our Christian responsibility to tell them to stop?

One day - perhaps soon - that energy will have to come from sources other than fossil fuels. But let's not pretend that when that day comes, whatever other benefits it may bring with it, we will have been freed from the shocks of dramatic and often unpredictable climate change. For, along with earthquakes and tsunami, the scientific record demonstrates that climate change - dramatic, sudden, unpredictable, and sometimes potentially catastrophic - is an integral part of God's created world.

Does the non-use of the world's resources get us off any hooks, whether environmental, economic, or theological? Or should we be seeking to use the earth's resources as responsibly and productively as we can, while struggling to achieve fairness and justice in the opportunities that such development can bring?

More here

Climate fraud

I covered Doug Keenan's work a year or so back but the post below recycled from Freeborn John is a useful summary of it. Keenan's work dynamites an essential foundation of the IPCC story (their claim that they allow for UHI effects) so it is being zealously ignored -- which is a good reason to keep referring to it

Doug Keenan is an independent mathematician, formerly a financial analyst, based in London. After I re-published a list of peer-reviewed papers that question the received wisdom on climate science - received wisdom, it should be said, only in the political and media worlds, not the scientific - I received an email from Dr Keenan drawing my attention to two peer-reviewed papers he had written that are relevant. I have added them to the first post, but want to draw attention to them here. Both are very accessible to a lay reader. Both are absolutely gobsmacking, to use a technical word.

The first is titled: Grape harvest dates are poor indicators of summer warmth. A pdf of the full paper can be downloaded here (pdf) and an introduction can be read here. The following is an abridged version of that introduction (emphasis added). It casts a disturbing light on the process of peer review:
On 18 November 2004, Isabelle Chuine and co-workers published a research paper on global warming. The paper appeared in Nature, the world's most highly-regarded scientific journal. And it gathered some publicity. Chuine et al. claimed to have developed a method for estimating the summer temperature in Burgundy, France, in any given year back to 1370 (based on the harvest dates of grapes). Using their method, the authors asserted that the summer of 2003 was by far the warmest summer since 1370, in Burgundy.

I had been following global warming studies only as a disinterested outside spectator (and only occasionally). Someone sent me the paper of Chuine et al., though, and wondered what I thought of it from a mathematical perspective. So I had a look.

To study the paper properly, I needed to have the authors' data. So I e-mailed Dr. Chuine, asking for this. The authors, though, were very reluctant to let me have the data. It took me eight months, tens of e-mails exchanged with the authors, and two formal complaints to Nature, to get the data. (Some data was purchased from M‚t‚o France.) It is obviously inappropriate that such a large effort was necessary.

Looking at the data made it manifest that there are serious problems with the work of Chuine et al...
That is, the authors had developed a method that gave a falsely-high estimate of temperature in 2003 and falsely-low estimates of temperatures in other very warm years. They then used those false estimates to proclaim that 2003 was much hotter than other years.

The above is easy enough to understand. It does not even require any specialist scientific training. So how could the peer reviewers of the paper not have seen it? (Peer reviewers are the scientists who check a paper prior to its publication.) I asked Dr. Chuine what data was sent to Nature, when the paper was submitted to the journal. Dr. Chuine replied, “We never sent data to Nature”.

I have since published a short note that details the above problem (reference below). There are several other problems with the paper of Chuine et al. as well. I have written a brief survey of those (for people with an undergraduate-level background in science). As described in that survey, problems would be obvious to anyone with an appropriate scientific background, even without the data. In other words, the peer reviewers could not have had appropriate background.

What is important here is not the truth or falsity of the assertion of Chuine et al. about Burgundy temperatures. Rather, what is important is that a paper on what is arguably the world's most important scientific topic (global warming) was published in the world's most prestigious scientific journal with essentially no checking of the work prior to publication.

Finally, it is worth noting that Chuine et al. had the data; so they must have known that their conclusions were unfounded. In other words, there is prima facie evidence of scientific fraud. What will happen to the researchers as a result of this? Probably nothing. That is another systemic problem with the scientific publication process.
In this case Dr Keenan took no further action. But this experience led him to look more closely at some of the evidence on which the ideas about human-caused global warming were based. In the process, he uncovered something that he felt demanded further action. He has published a report about this, which can be downloaded here (pdf) and a brief timeline of events, still being updated, that can be read here. The paper is titled: The fraud allegation against some climatic research of Wei-Chyung Wang. Here's the abstract from the pdf:
Wei-Chyung Wang has been a respected researcher in global warming studies for decades. I have formally alleged that he committed fraud in some of his research, including research cited by the Fourth Assessment Report of the IPCC (2007) on “urban heat islands” (a critical issue). Herein, the allegation is reviewed, and some of its implications are explicated.
On the 20th February this year the University of Albany wrote to Dr Keenan confirming that they were going to investigate his allegation.

Here are some brief excerpts from the same pdf report (abridged, emphasis added):
The work of Jones et al. (1990) is a significant paper in global warming studies (see below for details). In February 2007, Stephen McIntyre blogged about evidence he had found showing that it was “impossible” for Jones et al. to have carried out their work as they had claimed.1 An anonymous comment on the blog then indicated potential issues with the closely-related work of Wang et al. (1990).2 Further study by myself found additional evidence of problems. The evidence particularly implicates Wei-Chyung Wang—the lead author of Wang et al. and a co-author of Jones et al.

Wang is a professor at the University at Albany, State University of New York.
He has been doing research on climate for over 30 years...
Meteorological stations sometimes move, and this can affect the temperature measurements of the stations.
It is clear that when a station moves, the temperature data from before the move is not, in general, directly comparable to the data from after the move.
In global warming studies, an important issue concerns the integrity of temperature measurements from meteorological stations. The latest assessment report from the IPCC indicates that the global average temperature rose by roughly 0.3 °C over the period 1954–1983. Thus, if errors in temperature measurements were of similar size to, or larger than, 0.3 °C, there could be a serious problem for global warming studies. The papers of Jones et al. and Wang et al. both consider this issue. The paper of Jones et al. is one of the main works cited by the IPCC to support its contention that measurement errors arising from urbanization are tiny, and therefore are not a serious problem.
Regarding station movements over time, the papers of Jones et al. and Wang et al. make the following statements.
The stations were selected on the basis of station history: we chose those with few, if any, changes in instrumentation, location or observation times. [Jones et al.]
They were chosen based on station histories: selected stations have relatively few, if any, changes in instrumentation, location, or observation times.... [Wang et al.]
Those statements are essential for the papers.
Jones et al. and Wang et al. consider the same 84 meteorological stations in China. Regarding 49 of those stations, the DOE/CAS report says, “station histories are not currently available” and “details regarding instrumentation, collection methods, changes in station location or observing times ... are not known” (sect. 5). For those 49 stations, then, the above-quoted statements from the two papers are impossible.

Regarding the remaining 35 stations that were analyzed by the two papers, I have prepared a summary of the relevant information from the DOE/CAS report. The summary is available at As an example from the summary, one station had five different locations during 1954–1983, with the locations as much as 41 km apart. Two other stations each had four different locations. At least half the stations had substantial moves (two other examples, of 25 km and 15 km, were given above). Moreover, several stations have histories that are inconsistent, making reliable analysis unattainable.
The essential point here is that the quoted statements from Jones et al. and Wang et al. cannot be true and could not be in error by accident. The statements are fabricated.
I thoroughly recommend Doug Keenan's website in general. There are other relevant papers, all written with great clarity, generally accessible to a lay reader. (There's also a Knuth cheque to ogle).

Has global warming research misinterpreted cloud behavior?

Climate experts agree that the seriousness of manmade global warming depends greatly upon how clouds in the climate system respond to the small warming tendency from the extra carbon dioxide mankind produces. To figure that out, climate researchers usually examine natural, year-to-year fluctuations in clouds and temperature to estimate how clouds will respond to humanity1s production of greenhouse gases.

When researchers observe natural changes in clouds and temperature, they have traditionally assumed that the temperature change caused the clouds to change, and not the other way around. To the extent that the cloud changes actually cause temperature change, this can ultimately lead to overestimates of how sensitive Earth's climate is to our greenhouse gas emissions.

This seemingly simple mix-up between cause and effect is the basis of a new paper that will appear in the Journal of Climate. The paper's lead author, Dr. Roy W. Spencer, a principal research scientist at The University of Alabama in Huntsville, believes the work is the first step in demonstrating why climate models produce too much global warming.

Spencer and his co-author, principal research scientist William (Danny) Braswell, used a simple climate model to demonstrate that something as seemingly innocuous as daily random variations in cloud cover can cause year-to-year variation in ocean temperature that looks like -- but isn't -- "positive cloud feedback," a warmth-magnifying process that exists in all major climate models. "Our paper is an important step toward validating a gut instinct that many meteorologists like myself have had over the years," said Spencer, "that the climate system is dominated by stabilizing processes, rather than destabilizing processes -- that is, negative feedback rather than positive feedback."

The paper doesn't disprove the theory that global warming is manmade. Instead, it offers an alternative explanation for what we see in the climate system which has the potential for greatly reducing estimates of mankind's impact on Earth's climate. "Since the cloud changes could conceivably be caused by known long-term modes of climate variability -- such as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, or El Nino and La Nina -- some, or even most, of the global warming seen in the last century could simply be due to natural fluctuations in the climate system," Spencer said.

While the paper's two peer reviewers, both climate model experts, agreed that the issue is a legitimate one, Spencer knows the new paper will be controversial, with some claiming that the impact of the mix-up between cause and effect will be small. "But we really won't know until much more work is done," Spencer said.

"Unfortunately, so far we have been unable to figure out a way to separate cause and effect when observing natural climate variability. That's why most climate experts don't like to think in terms of causality, and instead just examine how clouds and temperature vary together. "Our work has convinced me that cause and effect really do matter. If we get the causation wrong, it can greatly impact our interpretation of what nature has been trying to tell us. Unfortunately, in the process it also makes the whole global warming problem much more difficult to figure out."


Nova Scotia 'temperatures falling so low the lobsters were not crawling'

Harvesters were worried when they first began the season of running into problems that may have been caused by post tropical storm Noel but although they were hard pressed to find larger lobster in the fall, by spring their catch was once again up.

Water temperature played a big part in the last minute scramble that closed the season with temperatures falling so low the lobsters were not crawling. In order for the lobsters to crawl into a trap the water has to be at least over the 40-degree mark and Crouse said the spring season has hardly any times when the conditions are right. "Our spring is just not viable," he said. "Global warming is having the opposite effect for us and we are seeing the temperatures of the water stay lower for longer."

He also blamed the hardships facing harvesters on the growing seal problem. "It is a very hot political issue and a very emotional one for people around here," he said. Many fish harvesters have been increasingly frustrated with the seal, which are known to eat 30 to 40 pounds of fish per day, including bait from the lobster traps. "They've got the bottom just about cleaned," Crouse said.

Crouse is frustrated with the harbour seal's protection status but said that despite lobbying the government for years to have this changed, it is an issue they do not want to be tied to.

As for an outlook on next season and if Crouse expects for it to be a better year he just gave this simple advice. "I've been doing this for 37-years and learned you have to take one year at a time," he said. "We've had some good ones and we've had some bad ones."

More here

Seattle has coldest first week of June since 1891

Seattle just experienced the coldest first week of June, according to climate records dating to 1891, said Cliff Mass, University of Washington metrologist. Both 1999 and 2008 share the record, with 1917 falling in second place, he said. "Just wait until tomorrow," he said, when temperatures are going to be even colder.

A heavy snow warning has been issued for the Washington Cascades and Olympics as a storm from the Gulf of Alaska plows into the state tonight. Forecasters with the National Weather Service said up to a foot of snow may fall in the mountains as low as 3,000 feet, which means Snoqualmie Pass may get a dusting. State transportation crews will be parking their mowers and driving snowplows. "We will have crews working through the night, and we'll have extra crews on standby just in case this storm hits hard," said Monty Mills, Washington Department of Transportation maintenance manager for snow and ice operations... For the last few weeks, crews have stopped fighting snow to mowing grass, tackling weeds, striping lane lines and sweeping roads. It's back to winter operations tonight."

In 30 years I can only remember two other times when it snowed this late in the season," said Sam Krahenbuhl, Snoqualmie Pass assistant maintenance superintendent. "One time it snowed on a Fourth of July weekend. This is really rare. "While it won't snow in the Puget Sound area, records for the lowest high temperature may be broken today and Tuesday. Forecasters said the high temperature today should be 57 degrees, 1 degree below the record set last year.

On Tuesday, under windy and rainy skies, the temperature should only get to 54 degrees, 2 degrees below the record set in 1972. "It's not completely unusual to get snow in June," said forecaster Dennis D'Amico. "But this is a lot of snow and it's an unseasonable cold system."

Said Mass: "People are really upset about this weather."He said in the mix of all the statistics, he's put together the "barbecue" index. That's the number of times since March 11 (the usual start of spring here) temperature climbs to 60 degrees or more - a temperature that Mass thinks people are comfortable being outside in. "It turns out that this year was the worst year of the barbecue index since 1917," said Mass. "We only got to 60 degrees 23 times this year. Compare that to 1934 (74) times or 1992 (69) times."Mass said the coldest spring was 1917. This year is tied with 1908 for 2nd coldest, he said. The warmest spring was 1934.



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Anonymous said...

"A myth is a fixed way of looking at the world which cannot be destroyed because, looked at through the myth, all evidence supports that myth." - Edward de Bono

I think us "skeptics" have come to the communal suspicion that a large slice of the Alarmist's pie tastes of poison, of pure negativity, which you call "hatred of humans." This outlook is beyond the reach of logical argument of those who wish for the pox in their own lifetimes, for no other reason than that any heaven they might go to is rather boring (even the Islamic one in which sex is now like having steak every day, for centuries).

But! There *is* a well known psychological shift in brain state organization known as being "reborn" or "enlightenment." A change of a naturally religious person (a doomsday fanatic) to a reasoned, academic-type of hard-science skeptical personality is, in a few seconds of thought, not statistically likely, personally, or en masse.

However, a fanatically GOOD NEWS type of conversion, of brain organization, away from a DOOMSDAY outlook is well within the bounds of known personality change. Classic cases are well behaved infants turning two years old ("the terrible twos") then often turning back into learning-obsessed children, or the beginning, middle, and final end of puberty, or the idealism of college followed by the bitterness of slight old age followed by the happier years of actual older age.

In other words, just as Hitler realized, a fanatic of any type is easier to make into a fanatical National Socialist than any non fanatic, and we are dealing indeed with fanatics. The most severe atheists make a religion of it.

"Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned." - Congreve

The answer is thus neither political nor Enlightenment-based logical, and not even really religious, despite one side being religious in nature, but more related to a simple change in worldview from one emotive outlook to another, one in which the Sky is Falling, the other in which the Sky is Beautiful.

But there must be a POSITIVE worldview offered. So merely being logically skeptical of a very strong myth is not enough. Polar Bear steaks and farmed tiger meat from China should be on the menu, as should nuclear energy and a return to not the logic of the Enlightenment, but to its sense of progress and new frontier, here, on Earth.

Skeptics, in their turn, must swallow the bitter pill that changing minds cannot be done with logic, but by producing sudden swings in seeing a very deep sunset not as a sign of too much smog due to too many people, but as a mere beautiful result of there being so many people indeed.


OBloodyHell said...

Grape Harvests? How about The Citrus Line?

The Citrus Line is the nominal point in Florida (or north into Georgia) where it is "safe" to grow oranges -- citrus trees.

The average life of a citrus tree is 'x'. A hard freeze tends to shorten the life of a tree substantially. If you attempt to plant citrus trees north of a certain point, the grove is more likely to die (or be markedly unproductive) if hard freezes occur too often. Hence, there is a point in the state north of which you pretty much will not find any citrus groves.

Some 30-odd years ago, the Citrus Line was located well north of Orlando, FL (I recall passing trees many times when driving north from Orlando on the Florida Turnpike).

As the 80s passed, though, freeze after freeze struck, and that line moved notably south of Orlando, until the rolling hills, once covered with Orange groves, returned to scrub, or were planted with other crops less subject to freezing temperatures.

I once saw a map that showed that the Citrus Line was all the way north into Georgia back in the 1880s. Now it's more than 200 miles south.

I haven't seen anything on this as a measure of "Global Warming", but it seems to me to be highly reflective of such. You will likely have to adapt the data to deal with economic elements, but it would seem to me that a southwarrd movement of 200 miles in the course of 130 years is probably a visible long term trend.