Thursday, June 19, 2008


An email from Steve Short [] below:

A new paper has been published in the journal Nature entitled: 'Subtropical to boreal convergence of tree-leaf temperatures' by Brent R. Helliker & Suzanna L. Richter, which has implications for climate reconstructions using tree ring and leaf data. The Abstract states:
The oxygen isotope ratio (18O) of cellulose is thought to provide a record of ambient temperature and relative humidity during periods of carbon assimilation. Here we introduce a method to resolve tree-canopy leaf temperature with the use of 18O of cellulose in 39 tree species. We show a remarkably constant leaf temperature of 21.4 2.2 øC across 50ø of latitude, from subtropical to boreal biomes. This means that when carbon assimilation is maximal, the physiological and morphological properties of tree branches serve to raise leaf temperature above air temperature to a much greater extent in more northern latitudes. A main assumption underlying the use of 18O to reconstruct climate history is that the temperature and relative humidity of an actively photosynthesizing leaf are the same as those of the surrounding air. Our data are contrary to that assumption and show that plant physiological ecology must be considered when reconstructing climate through isotope analysis. Furthermore, our results may explain why climate has only a modest effect on leaf economic traits in general.

There is a summary of the paper in Nature News here.

Now if I were a member of a certain school of paleobotany, I would be rather depressed right now. Quite apart form the 18O issue, your readers should be aware that entire careers have been built on the widespread use of leaf species and stomatal indices as proxies for past temperature, humidity and CO2 concentrations. There has emerged a 'consensual' school of paleobotany which claims the paleobotanical record clearly shows CO2 has generally been the major determinant of paleoclimates. Extra `kudos' has been gained (?) by this school by `linking' their work with that of prominent paleogeochemists (who would mostly barely know a leaf from a twig) e.g.: here

This effort has rolled on like a stream train despite odd cracks in the edifice popping up at annoyingly regular intervals e.g.: here and here

However, as we all know it is in the nature of orthodoxy to ignore `minor issues'. However, this time seems an even bigger dog has come to bite! So far it has not been seen with the scientific AGW establishment that one single paper comes along to destroy more or less the whole basis of many careers (yet) but I'd say this new Nature paper looks to be getting very close to such an occasion. Expect a firestorm of rebuttal, dissembling, and (dare I use the term?) denial.

British MP: 'Yes, I am a heretic on global warming'

By Ann Widdecombe

Much has been made of my voting with the Gov-ernment to allow the police to detain terror suspects for 42 days, rather than 28, in special cases. Yet there was a more important vote last week, in which I was one of only three Members of Parliament to vote against the might of all parties and defy the Climate Change Bill which will cost Britain hundreds of billions of pounds, will not mean any other country has to follow suit and, as we are responsible for only two per cent of the world's carbon emissions, will make no difference to the climate or to global warming.

Climate change has become a religion, with anyone who dares to throw?out?a?question?or?two instantly accused of heresy. I have had my doubts for some time, and certainly about major unilateral action on the part of the UK, but these have crystalised since reading Nigel Lawson's book An Appeal To Reason, subtitled A Cool Look At Global Warming.

Appallingly, this gem could not find?a British publisher because none was brave enough. One wrote: "My fear with this cogently argued book is that it flies so much in the face of prevailing orthodoxy that it would be very difficult to find a wide market."

Everybody who has English to GCSE standard can understand it and anyone who has uncritically swallowed the belief that the Earth is warming dangerously should open his or her mind at least a little bit.

It is a FACT that there has been no global warming this century, yet never has there been so much production of carbon dioxide, with India and China increasing their activity by the week.

It is a FACT that global temperature has varied throughout history and scientists explain this by changes in solar activity.

It is a FACT that not all climate scientists agree with the prevailing orthodoxy. Those who dare to dissent are treated with about as much respect as Galileo was by the medieval church.

Even if the predictions are true all they offer is a small increase in the globe's temperature over the next hundred years. As Lawson points out, the difference between the temperature in Finland and that in Singapore is vast but in both countries people thrive and so do their economies. Therefore we might be better off adapting rather than trying to reverse the trend.

I need not go on. You may believe one side of the argument or the other or, like me, you may suspend judgment but until matters are somewhat clearer, I am most certainly not prepared to vote to commit Britain to a course of action which will make not a jot of difference to global temperatures but which could change our way of life and leave us unable to compete with those countries that keep a better sense of proportion.

Some of the worst mistakes are made when all political parties agree. Our entry into Europe is a pretty good example with Ted Heath, Harold Wilson and Jeremy Thorpe all urging a "yes" vote and dissenters dismissed as flat-earthers. Yet what we thought we were joining (a tariff agreement and economic union) was very different from what we are now proved to have joined (a political union with gradual loss of control over our own affairs).

Healthy opposition is needed, if only to ensure that all arguments are heard. The media had a great deal to talk about last week and three MPs calling for a pause for thought over something most commentators consider a cast iron certainty did not get a great deal of attention. Yet the Bill still has some way to go before it becomes law. There is still time for a challenge if anyone is interested enough to take his head out of the sand.



The Julian Hodge Bank lecture given at Cardiff, April 2008 by Colin Robinson, Emeritus Professor of Economics, University of Surrey:

Many people in this audience will believe that significant changes in the world`s climate are already under way and that, in the medium to long term future, there will be further changes that will have catastrophic economic and social consequences if action is not taken in the near future to avert them. Virtually all the world`s opinion leaders subscribe to that view. As one example of this `doomsday view', take the comments of the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon who said of the scenarios in a report compiled by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)[2] in November 2007, `These scenes are as frightening as a science fiction movie. But they are even more terrifying, because they are real'[3]. Ban Ki-moon is talking about views of the future which cannot in any accepted sense be `real': his comment shows that the inevitability of severe climate change is now so taken for granted that the future has become merged with the present.

The hypothesis and some broad issues

Put simply, the usual hypothesis about climate change is that emissions of carbon dioxide and other `greenhouse gases', from the use of energy and from other human activities, will lead to a future trend towards warming of the earth and consequential damage to economic and social life.

There is general (though not universal) agreement that there has been some warming of the earth in the last hundred years or so, but it is relatively modest[4]. The IPCC puts the increase in global annual mean temperature at around 0.75 degrees centigrade over that period[5]. Future warming has become the main focus of concern: there is a wide range of estimates, varying from about 1 to over 6 degrees C[6], comparing the end of the twentieth century with the end of the twentyfirst century. Obviously, I cannot provide a critique of the hypothesis from a climate science viewpoint[7] but economists are in a position to comment on some of the underlying methodological issues, on the economic and social consequences of climate change and on possible policy responses and their effects. I begin by outlining the links in the chain that lead to the view that climate change will be damaging and make some initial comments on them.

1.1 A climate change trend?

Since the climate is always changing, the damaging change hypothesis is difficult to pin down, but I was careful to specify it as implying a trend towards global warming. I take it that those who support the hypothesis must think there is a such a trend. If we were merely in the upward phase of a cycle, caused by natural forces, presumably there would be much less cause for concern because, by definition, the direction of the cycle would reverse and global warming would be replaced by global cooling. Determining whether warming is a trend or just part of a cycle is extremely difficult, given the apparent very long time scale of climatic change, yet, from a policy point of view, the distinction between trend and cycle is clearly vital: if warming is to be replaced by cooling in the relatively near future, as part of the same natural cycle, action now to curb warming might well have perverse effects. The amplitude and length of any cycle are also critical issues.

1.2 The link with greenhouse gases

There is scientific evidence that, other things equal, increasing emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases will bring rising world temperatures. However, in the absence of complete scientific knowledge, the list of the `other things' and their effects is long but incomplete. There is considerable controversy over the significance of man-made emissions, compared with all the other effects on temperature. Most climate scientists would, like most economists, readily admit that their models are gross simplifications and that large areas of ignorance remain. Working out what happens when other things are constant is therefore not easy and it seems that experience in the twentieth century must lead to some doubts about the exact causal link between emissions and warming: despite continuously rising emissions during the century, the warming occurred in two periods (1920-1940 and 1975-1998), with slight cooling in between the two periods and no clear trend in the last ten years or so.

Economic and social consequences

Even if it could be established that there is a clear warming trend caused by greenhouse gas emissions, there are still important questions to be answered about the extent to which natural adaptation will deal with any economic and social consequences or whether, if action to combat the trend should be taken, what form it might take and what the costs might be compared with the benefits. Some economists, such as Sir Nicholas (now Lord) Stern, have attempted to answer these questions and to say what actions are required[8]. But, in the process, they have used some of the most heroic assumptions I have ever seen and tried to peer into the far distant future.

Bearing in mind these broad issues, in the rest of the lecture I will try to deal with a number of matters which seem important in deciding whether scepticism is justified about claims that damaging man-made climate change is in prospect. My purpose is not to say that there is no such prospect, but to argue that the sceptics should be taken seriously and that we should be careful not to plunge into large-scale, expensive, centrally run programmes to combat prospective climate change based on the assumption that we know more about the future than is possible. After making some rather critical comments about climate alarmism in the first part of the lecture, at the end I will accentuate the positive and suggest how it might be best to face a very uncertain future prospect.

My starting point is to try to place the global climate change debate in a more general context.

More here


Oil makes hypocrites of us all. Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary general who last year took office declaring that his main goal was to fight "man-made climate change", has spent most of his weekend in Jeddah attempting to persuade King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia to ramp up the kingdom's oil production.

This is just the global edition of Gordon Brown's earlier plea to the Saudis to "do something" about the high price of oil; a remarkable display of diplomatic chutzpah from a man who, as Chancellor, spent a decade telling us that increasing the price of petrol on British forecourts through fiscal means was very much in the best interests of the whole planet.

Meanwhile the US Senate has threatened to launch a prosecution of OPEC for its alleged fixing of the world oil market, to the detriment of the American consumer. The American legislature's hypocrisy in this matter takes a different form to ours: the politicians who are now howling with rage about the shortage of oil supply are in essence the same people who have long blocked the oil industry from developing vast deposits both in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and off their own coastline - about 80 per cent of the US continental shelf is out of bounds, on environmental grounds.

I imagine that when King Abdullah told Mr Ban that "national policies in the West" were partly to blame for the current very high price of crude oil, the Americans' refusal to drill for oil in their own most geologically promising territories might have been one of the factors he had in mind.

Ban Ki-moon was not, needless to say, acting solely as an emissary for the United States: he was representing the teeming billions in nations as diverse as China, India and Malaysia. Yet if you look at this seizure in the oil market from the point of view of demand, rather than supply, then these same countries have also contributed directly to the problem they have asked Mr Ban to sort out for them.

All have for years had a policy of subsidising the price paid by their consumers and industry for oil products - and on a vast scale. According to the head of the International Energy Agency, Nobuo Tanaka, such subsidies are currently running at a rate of about one hundred billion dollars a year. In other words, these countries' biggest energy consumers are being shielded from the effects of high oil prices, and therefore are not adjusting their consumption downwards - quite the reverse, in fact.

Nowhere is this more obvious than in the People's Republic of China. Beijing has a rigorous price cap, which means it simply pays companies such as PetroChina and Sinopec vast sums to compensate them for a state-imposed inability to pass on their increased raw material costs to the end-users. While crude oil prices have doubled, the price of a tank full of petrol on the forecourts of the Middle Kingdom has not increased by a single renminbi - and is not likely to do so this side of the Olympic Games.

In this context, the article by the vice-premier of China's state council in yesterday's Financial Times was almost comical. Wang Qishan argued that his government "gives high priority to energy and resources conservation and the protection of the environment". No one can doubt the pressures the Chinese Politburo is under to meet the aspirations of its people and neither should we in the West criticise their desire to enjoy the opportunities which industrialisation bestowed on us. But still, how can the representative of a government which pays its industries to burn more fuel expect to be taken seriously as a proponent of "energy conservation"?

This seems, on the surface, to be one of the greatest paradoxes of the modern world: while democracies such as those in the European Union have been sufficiently insensitive to the wishes of their consumers as to have provoked disturbances over the price of petrol and diesel - augmented as they have been by very high taxes - totalitarian states such as China have pre-empted the possible political consequences of high domestic gasoline prices.

Perhaps it is because the rulers of such countries know their people do not have the safety valve of elections to let off steam; so if things get ugly they could get very violent indeed. There is a less charitable explanation. In China, only the wealthiest two per cent own a motor car; the proportion is not much more in many of the other developing countries with high petrol subsidies: so we are seeing the subsidisation of the richest in the Third World at the expense of all.

This is not unusual: indeed it is absolutely standard in the upside-down world of market intervention. It is exactly the same as the global food market, in which subsidies ostensibly designed for the benefit of everyone are in fact disproportionately directed at the richest, paid for by national exchequers which supposedly represent the interests of nations as a whole.

Just as in agriculture, while the West is rightly condemned for the distorting effects of its subsidies, the developing world tends to escape criticism for the consequences of similar policies, which are ultimately to the greatest detriment of its own people; BP's chief economist, Christof Ruehl, pointed out last week that the developing world uses more than three times more energy per unit of Gross Domestic Product than the developed countries of the OECD.

So it's not just that these poorer countries are building up their national debt to subsidise the use of oil; their economies will ultimately lose out in competitiveness to those in the West, where prices are liberalised. It won't seem so at the moment to heavy users of fuel in the developed world, naturally: but in the long term, if oil prices stay at these levels, the countries which change the way they use energy will suffer the least pain.

It is, despite all the dire forecasts which are now the rage, not certain that the unprecedented high price of oil will hold. The Saudis have no long-term strategic interest in the world learning how to cope with much less oil. That might possibly be why last weekend King Abdullah told Ban Ki-moon that the kingdom would increase its output by 500,000 barrels a day in July.

The strange thing is that there isn't an absolute shortage of oil in the markets, despite the sentiment of fear which haunts them. There's already a sufficient amount of the black stuff to go round to meet current levels of demand, as the Saudis have wearily insisted often enough over the past few months.

In fact, King Abdullah's pledge to the UN secretary general is the purest politics, simply to get the weight of the world's opprobrium off his kaffiyeh. I don't blame the King, however; when hypocrisy abounds it is hard for anyone not to pay homage to it, even an absolute monarch.


Afloat on an Ocean of Oil

Considering how much untapped oil is known to exist, not just in the United States, but worldwide, one would think that its current price was some kind of anomaly — and it is. It is more the result of speculation than anything else.

The most basic fact about oil worldwide is that there is lots of it. Though frequently overlooked, the ability to refine crude oil plays an essential role in the supply and demand equation. More refining capacity is needed worldwide. Finally, there’s the fact that, in general, oil is very expensive to get at and often found in the most inhospitable places on Earth.

For sheer insanity, however, consider a nation that has an estimated 31 billion barrels of oil offshore of its coasts and 117 billion barrels of oil under land owned or managed by the government, plus 139 billion barrels beneath privately held land.

In just one area, a desolate place designated a wildlife refuge, there’s an estimated 7.7 billion barrels untapped. The nation with this abundance of oil is, of course, the United States of America. Most of the areas where oil is known to exist have been ruled off-limits to any exploration or extraction by the government. In the areas where it is accessible, drilling for it is hugely encumbered and often denied by the National Environmental Policy Act, the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the National Historic Preservation Act.

If, however, you connect the dots, you will have noticed by now that America’s energy problems, namely the price of a gallon of gasoline or heating oil, are making everyone miserable thanks in great part to environmental legislation designed to make it impossible to access oil on both public and privately held lands. Then, just to make matters worse, the government requires that every gallon of gasoline include the additive, ethanol, which reduces mileage and increases its cost.

Further, we’re told that Senator Barack Obama, if elected, intends to seize “windfall profits.” This is sufficient reason for American oil companies to decide to drill anywhere else. The last time a windfall profits tax was implemented was at the end of President Carter’s term. It had such a negative impact on U.S. oil companies that drilling for oil domestically dropped dramatically. It has stayed that way since the 1980s. Their actual profits are now less than pharmaceutical, high tech, and other elements of the economy. Imagine how thrilled they were to hear Rep. Maxine Waters’ threat to nationalize them.

No profits. No exploration. No drilling. And no domestic oil with which to correct our dependence on foreign oil and thus provide a measure of security to a nation that runs on oil. If you wanted to bring the United States to ruin, you could not have designed and implemented a more perfect scheme. Along with too many members of Congress, environmentalists are America’s Fifth Column.

As my friend, Seldon B. Graham, a veteran petroleum engineer and oil industry attorney, and a graduate of West Point says of oil, “If it is worth dying for in the Near East, it is worth drilling for in the United States.”

As to the claim that the Earth is running out of oil, that can be easily dismissed simply by reading information available in respected publications such as Business Week that, “The Saudis have embarked on an ambitious expansion program that should see more than 2 million barrels of new production capacity come onstream by the middle of next year.”

Those of us who follow energy trends read the Energy Tribune because it has some of the best information available on what is really occurring. In its May edition, Matt Pickard wrote about the expansion worldwide of offshore drilling, noting that today’s prices are being driven by increased demand from rapidly developing nations such as China and India. This demand is going to increase over the next two or three decades. Unless the United States begins to free up its own oil and natural gas reserves, Americans are going to be paying more at the pump and in their homes for a very long time to come.

The good news is that the offshore oil and gas industry, despite the huge risks and costs involved and despite an aging, understaffed workforce, is making strides to meet demand. Whether it’s in the Gulf of Mexico or the North Sea, the icy waters of the Barents Sea or offshore of Brazil and Africa, massive new reserves of oil are being found.

“Large discoveries offshore Brazil, the continued progress in every region’s major projects, and the ongoing push for Arctic exploration and production point to the industry’s potential for growth over the next 20 to 30 years,” wrote Pickard. Brazil is poised to become a major producer. In its Tupi field, “Petrobas announced an aggressive development plan, with an early production system possible within two or three years,” reports Pickard. The nearby Jupiter field has gas reserves to rival Tupi. None of this is a secret! Both privately owned U.S. and foreign national oil companies are going to find more oil and gas.

Neither candidate for President is telling the truth these days because both believe global warming is real and both keep blathering on about “alternative” energy. The big problem for the rest of us is that you can’t pour wind or solar energy into a gas tank.

The U.S. mandate for ethanol as a gasoline additive has already significantly put the world’s food supply in jeopardy, but most Americans are blissfully unaware that it requires 1.5 gallons of ethanol to produce the same energy as a gallon of gasoline. It actually emits more carbon dioxide than gasoline. It is an environmental hoax.

The world is afloat on an ocean of oil. Meanwhile, the United States continues to rule 85% of its offshore oil off-limits to exploration and extraction. This is occurring while the Chinese prepare to pump oil just offshore of Cuba, a mere 90 miles from Florida. It is occurring while the Russians are looking to plant their flag on potential reserves of subterranean oil in the Arctic.

The next time you hear a politician say we need to be “energy independent,” ask him or her why Americans cannot have access to the oil reserves known to exist in California, in Alaska, and in many of our other States or off the coastlines of Florida and elsewhere. Ask them why the fate of the condors and little known species is more important than the family budget of Americans forced to make choices between more food and more gasoline. Ask them why they continue to claim that global warming is a threat when the entire Earth is now in a decade-old cooling cycle. Ask them why they insist on blaming investor-owned oil companies whose own reserves are barely four percent of the world’s known oil reserves? Ask them how they expect these oil companies to compete in the global marketplace when they threaten to seize their profits.

Energy is the master resource. It determines which nations thrive and which lag behind. For now, America is being ill-served by a Congress that refuses to permit access to our own energy resources. Ask yourself how we have arrived at a point in time when both candidates for President believe in a non-existent global warming and whose proposals offer no practical solution to our current and future energy needs.


Australia: Crown-of-thorns starfish on wane at Great Barrier Reef

Global warming was often blamed for the starfish plague so I guess this proves global cooling.. Since the climate IS cooling, maybe this is one they got right!

The potentially devastating crown-of-thorns starfish is in retreat on the Great Barrier Reef, with its numbers hitting a 20-year low, researchers say. Findings from the Australian Institute of Marine Science released Tuesday, June 17, indicate the latest outbreak of the coral-eating pest is near an end. Surveys of the Reef in 2007 detected fewer crown-of-thorns starfish than in any year in the past two decades, the head of AIMS' long-term monitoring program, Hugh Sweatman, said. "There were outbreaks on 6 per cent of the 104 reefs surveyed in 2006, and on just 4 per cent of the reefs we surveyed in 2007," he said. "Historically, the numbers of the starfish have increased drastically every 15 years, and in 2000 up to 17 per cent of the reef was afflicted." However, the crown-of-thorns starfish remains a "mysterious phenomenon", according to AIMS, and it is not known when the next outbreak could begin.

AIMS researchers have also detected a fall in coral cover on outer sections of the Reef due to coral diseases, particularly a disease known as white syndrome. The cause of the disease was unknown but it killed off massive areas of coral on previously healthy reefs, Dr Sweatman said. "The disease is found particularly where hard coral cover is high," he said. "What we see is that the healthy reefs with lots of coral cover are the ones at risk."

Seven reefs in the Capricorn-Bunker sector and six in the Swain sector of the Great Barrier Reef were surveyed. No crown-of-thorns starfish were recorded on Swain reefs but scuba surveys found the starfish for the first time at Fairfax Reef in the Capricorn-Bunker group.



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