Saturday, August 23, 2008

Northern Greenland glaciers showing fractures, large break; Is it global warming or natural?

The article below by Newsweak's Seth Borenstein is amusing. Even Greenie scientists he consulted would not buy into any scare but he nonetheless does his best to attribute a glacial breakup to global warming. Borenstein is an old Warmist from way back. See e.g. here. Also see real story on Greenland here.

In northern Greenland, a part of the Arctic that had seemed immune from global warming, new satellite images show a growing giant crack and an 11-square-mile chunk of ice hemorrhaging off a major glacier, scientists said Thursday. And that's led the university professor who spotted the wounds in the massive Petermann glacier to predict disintegration of a major portion of the Northern Hemisphere's largest floating glacier within the year. If it does worsen and other northern Greenland glaciers melt faster, then it could speed up sea level rise, already increasing because of melt in sourthern Greenland. [Pesky fact: 91% of earth's glacial ice is in Antarctica so any likely melts in Greenland would add only inches to sea level]

The crack is 7 miles long and about half a mile wide. It is about half the width of the 500 square mile floating part of the glacier. Other smaller fractures can be seen in images of the ice tongue, a long narrow sliver of the glacier. "The pictures speak for themselves," said Jason Box, a glacier expert at the Byrd Polar Research Center at Ohio State University who spotted the changes while studying new satellite images. "This crack is moving, and moving closer and closer to the front. It's just a matter of time till a much larger piece is going to break off.... It is imminent."

The chunk that came off the glacier between July 10 and July 24 is about half the size of Manhattan and doesn't worry Box as much as the cracks. The Petermann glacier had a larger breakaway ice chunk in 2000. But the overall picture worries some scientists. "As we see this phenomenon occurring further and further north - and Petermann is as far north as you can get - it certainly adds to the concern," said Waleed Abdalati, director of the Center for the Study of Earth from Space at the University of Colorado.

The question that now faces scientists is: Are the fractures part of normal glacier stress or are they the beginning of the effects of global warming? "It certainly is a major event," said NASA ice scientist Jay Zwally [A prominent Warmist] in a telephone interview from a conference on glaciers in Ireland. "It's a signal but we don't know what it means." It is too early to say it is clearly global warming, Zwally said. Scientists don't like to attribute single events to global warming, but often say such events fit a pattern.

University of Colorado professor Konrad Steffen, who returned from Greenland Wednesday and has studied the Petermann glacier in the past, said that what Box saw is not too different from what he saw in the 1990s: "The crack is not alarming... I would say it is normal."

However, scientists note that it fits with the trend of melting glacial ice they first saw in the southern part of the massive island and seems to be marching north with time. Big cracks and breakaway pieces are foreboding signs of what's ahead. Further south in Greenland, Box's satellite images show that the Jakobshavn glacier, the fastest retreating glacier in the world, set new records for how far it has moved inland. That concerns Colorado's Abdalati: "It could go back for miles and miles and there's no real mechanism to stop it."


Skeptical view of climate change gets an airing in major Irish newspaper

Article below by William Reville, professor in the biochemistry Department, Faculty of Science, at the University College Cork, in Cork, Ireland.

Global warming/climate change is a very serious and important issue. It has been under scientific investigation since 1986 by the UN-sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The IPCC declares global warming is a fact and it is driven largely by emissions of greenhouse gases from human activities (IPCC Report 2007 - I have reported the IPCC reports uncritically in this column, but a growing number of scientists are now presenting evidence that contradicts the IPCC position and I will give you a flavour of their position in this article.

Some scientists always disputed the findings of the IPCC but I dismissed this largely as expert opinion hired by the international oil industry. However, it is now clear that many eminent scientists, who are not beholden to vested interests, disagree with the IPCC (eg physicist Freeman J Dyson who argues that the modelling methods used by IPCC are not nearly discriminating enough to reliably predict future climate conditions). The American Physical Society recently issued a statement to say: "There is a considerable presence within the scientific community of people who do not agree with the IPCC conclusion that anthropogenic CO2 emissions are very probably likely to be primarily responsible for global warming since the Industrial Revolution."

The IPCC is a huge UN effort, supported by governments, and enlists the efforts of a great many scientific experts. Why would anyone doubt its findings? Well, critics charge the following: First, IPCC is an activist/ political enterprise whose agenda is to control emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, and concentrates exclusively on evidence that might point towards human induced climate change. Second, leading IPCC scientists reflect the positions of their governments, or seek to persuade their governments to adopt the IPCC position. Third, a small group of activists wrote the all-important Summary for Policymakers (SPM) for the four IPCC reports to-date. SPMs are revised and agreed by the member governments. The thousands of scientists who do the scientific work have no direct influence on these selective summaries. Fourth, large professional and financial rewards go to scientists who are willing to slant scientific facts to suit the IPCC agenda.

Two things strike me about these charges. First, if they are true it is amazing that no whistle-blower has emerged from among the large ranks of IPCC. Second, why does IPCC not strenuously rebut these charges?

The US Science and Environmental Policy Project (SEPP) was set up "to base environmental policy on sound science rather than exaggerated fears". However, it has been accused of being influenced by the oil industry. SEPP has published scientific evidence (Nature, Not Human Activity Rules the Climate, S Fred Singer ed. The Heartland Institute, 2008) - NIPCC_final.pdf - to illustrate that 20th-century global warming is not the once-off phenomenon of recent historical times claimed by the IPCC, and that most of the current warming is the result of natural and uncontrollable variations in solar activity and very little is being caused, or could be caused, by human emissions of greenhouse gases. The SEPP also claims that we have little to fear from global warming since human civilisation always fared better during warmer than during colder periods.

If critics of IPCC are right, global warming is inevitable and we should now concentrate our efforts on planning how to live in a warmer world. If we were travelling by bus through the middle of a dangerous continent, where the only safe regions were coastal, and we noticed the bus was almost out of petrol, we would be much better advised to immediately start planning how to survive in the interior than to spend our time frantically searching for a gallon of petrol reportedly hidden on a nearby farm.

If IPCC is correct, we must take immediate steps to greatly reduce greenhouse gas emissions or we face awful consequences from global warming. Of course, it is important to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels anyway because of their relative scarcity, and this reduction would automatically reduce carbon dioxide emissions. If the critics are correct, any crash programme of reducing gas emissions would be a costly step that would have little or no effect on global warming but would divert funds away from fighting battles we could win - disease, poverty, etc.

Climate and weather are very complex physical phenomena and, as a biochemist, I am unable to critically adjudicate on the competing scientific claims of IPCC and its critics. IPCC represents the mainstream majority scientific position and, in the absence of very persuasive contrary evidence, I must support it. But, the growing scepticism does catch the eye and should not be ignored. It is also embarrassing to witness each side accuse the other of dishonesty. Scientists from both sides must come together to resolve this matter.


Climate change - is it really that dire?

CLIMATE change is typically discussed in terms of foreboding and predictions of catastrophe: droughts, famines, hurricanes and floods - even plagues of jellyfish! The threat of climate change" has become a political cliche, justifying innumerable and often onerous regulations.

The claimed threat rests on two key propositions deriving from United Nations reports: that global temperatures are determined mainly by carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere, and that human activity, especially the use of fossil fuels, is increasing these to historically high and dangerous levels. But as research continues and understanding grows, things look less straightforward - and less dire.

Existing doubts about a simple link between temperature and carbon dioxide were reinforced by a paper given at Bayreuth University last month. This reported that during at least three substantial periods in the last 200 years carbon dioxide levels have equalled or exceeded those prevailing today, although temperatures were lower.

On the second point, subsequent studies indicate that the United Nations report substantially underestimated natural contributions to the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, consequently exaggerating those attributable to human activity. A report that the contribution from human activity is much less than the UN suggested has been endorsed by 31,000 scientists, many more than advised the UN.

Finally, it has been argued that warmer temperatures and higher levels of carbon dioxide improve plant growth. The point is emphasised in a report by a scientific team led by Professor Fred Singer, the founder of the US weather satellite service, and confirmed by Nasa satellite surveys which show a substantial increase in global vegetation cover over the last couple of decades. The impact of a changing climate on farming and forestry may, therefore, be less threatening than is popularly suggested - and may even be beneficial.


IPCC Author Selection Process Plagued by Bias, Cronyism

The selection of authors for the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), whose 2007 assessment report is often referred to as the definitive consensus regarding climate science, has been riddled with bias and cronyism, falling far short of the broad scientific consensus by which IPCC describes itself, reports a new study by the Science and Public Policy Institute (SPPI).

"The IPCC is a single-interest organization, whose charter directs it to assume that there is a human influence on climate, rather than to consider whether the influence may be negligible," lead author John McLean, an Australian researcher, observes in the study.

The study documents that instead of seeking input from a wide array of scientists representing a broad swath of the scientific community, IPCC's climate science assessment is dominated by a small clique of alarmists who frequently work closely with each other outside the IPCC process.

Focusing on chapter 9 of IPCC's latest assessment--the crucial chapter asserting greenhouse gases are the primary cause of the Earth's modest recent warming and predicting a substantial acceleration of warming in the near future--McLean reports, "More than two-thirds of all authors of chapter 9 of the IPCC's 2007 climate-science assessment are part of a clique whose members have co-authored papers with each other and, we can surmise, very possibly at times acted as peer-reviewers for each other's work. Of the 44 contributing authors, more than half have co-authored papers with the lead authors or coordinating lead authors of chapter 9.

"It is no surprise, therefore, that the majority of scientists who are skeptical of a human influence on climate significant enough to be damaging were unrepresented in the authorship of chapter 9, most of whose authors were climate modelers unwilling to admit that their models are neither accurate nor complete," McLean observes.

Two coordinating lead authors were in charge of establishing the procedures and overseeing the substance of chapter 9's final product, the SPPI study notes. The two coordinating lead authors and seven additional lead authors selected the 44 contributing authors for the chapter.

The two coordinating lead authors for chapter 9 were neither objective nor willing to seek broad representation in the selection of contributing authors, the SPPI study documents. One of the two lead authors is a staffer for the environmental activist group Environment Canada, and the other is an alarmist from Duke University who previously co-authored papers with at least 12 of the 44 contributing authors selected for chapter 9.

Of the 53 coordinating lead authors, lead authors, and contributing authors chosen to write chapter 9, 41 co-authored papers together ... which they then cited in the IPCC final report. In short, a close-knit group of IPCC authors cited their own prior work to justify their alarmist assertions, and then passed this off as the "broad consensus" of the scientific community, the SPPI study shows.

Disturbingly, at least eight of the authors had previously co-authored articles with Environment Canada's Francis Zwiers, raising serious concerns about their objectivity. Scientists and scientific papers that dispute and contradict the assertions of this close-knit group of alarmists were frequently and predictably ignored by them.

Moreover, lead authors frequently chose their subordinates to compose the report. For example, Peter Stott of the British government's Hadley Center for Forecasting was chosen as a lead author, and then eight additional Hadley Center staffers were chosen to work under him as contributing authors of chapter 9.

Far from ensuring a wide range of opinions from a broad cross-section of scientists, more than 20 percent of the chapter 9 contributing editors consisted of staff from the Hadley Center working in a supervisor/subordinate structure.

Of the remaining contributing authors, 23 also had pre-existing work relationships with each other. For example, two Duke University staffers were chosen to be lead authors. Coordinating lead author Gabriele Heger, who would supervise them for IPCC, was also from Duke University.

All told, 32 of the 53 chapter 9 authors had pre-existing and ongoing relationships with other authors as coworkers, supervisors, or subordinates. That is in addition to the previously documented 41 of 53 authors having previously co-authored papers together.

"This network of relationships between most of the authors of chapter 9 demonstrates a disturbingly tight network of scientists with common research interests and opinions. The contrast between this close-knit network and the IPCC's stated claim to represent a global diversity of views is remarkable and does not augur well for the impartiality or reliability of chapter 9's conclusions," the study noted.

As a result, the study summarizes, "Governments have naively and unwisely accepted the claims of a human influence on global temperatures made by a close-knit clique of a few dozen scientists, many of them climate modelers, as if such claims were representative of the opinion of the wider scientific community. On the evidence presented here, the IPCC's selection of its chapter authors is so prejudiced towards a predetermined outcome that its entire process is valueless, its scientific assessment of the climate meaningless, and its conclusions useless."

"The McLean analysis of the processes of the IPCC 4th Assessment Report supports prior criticisms of IPCC processes and results," said Robert Ferguson, president of the Science and Public Policy Institute. "We now have a better understanding of how the IPCC 3rd Assessment Report 'hockey stick' fiasco, in which bogus statistical data was presented to support a nonexistent warming record, was allowed to occur," Ferguson noted. "That is to say, the UN's IPCC is a political organization feigning science as a cover for its political ends. "The UN's careful selection of layers of like-minded 'authors' for the critical chapter 9 shows it quite successfully counted on a small clique of authors avoiding any meaningful peer review of their assertions," Ferguson said.


Kingsnorth: a camp of uncritical conformity

The British 'climate campers' pose as radical - yet their disdain for consumerism and love of sustainability makes them little different from Prime Minister Brown

Environmental activists have built a climate camp near a power station in Kingsnorth, south-east England, to protest against plans for a new coal-fired plant. Yet Britain's energy infrastructure is heading rapidly for obsolescence, and the British authorities need to start building coal-fired plants now if we are to avoid a shortfall in energy supply. That is of little concern to the climate campers, however - they would positively embrace a fall in energy supply, and the austerity that would follow.

Britain is facing a double whammy of competing problems in terms of electricity generation. For one thing, the ageing stock of power stations currently in use - particularly the nuclear plants - is reaching the end of its life. The amount of electricity generated by these plants will decline sharply over the next 10 years as the plants are decommissioned.

At the same time, there is a widespread desire to reduce the amount of CO2 being produced. One way this might be done is by increasing the proportion of energy we get from low-carbon renewable sources: wind, solar and wave power, in particular. These may supply - if all goes to plan - around 20 per cent of Britain's electricity by 2020 (and that's being ambitious).

But if the nuclear stations, which currently supply more than 20 per cent of our electricity, are not replaced, then Britain will still need to find about 80 per cent of its electricity supplies from non-renewable sources. That mostly means by burning fossil fuels - gas and coal - with all of their accompanying CO2 emissions. Even if the current stock of nuclear stations could be replaced in the next 10 years, there would still be a massive shortfall in electricity supply that must continue to be met by fossil fuels. And the government's one viable plan to replace the ageing nuclear stations - by flogging the company that owns the plants to French power company EDF - has just gone belly-up.

Whatever happens with nuclear and renewables, we're facing a severe shortfall in power in the future unless we use fossil fuels. What we need are more power stations that use reliable technology as soon as possible. Reducing CO2 emissions will simply have to wait. As David Porter, chief executive of the Association of Electricity Producers, pointed out in the Guardian: `If we want diversity of supply - not being overdependent on one fuel, such as gas - and security of supply, we need coal for the foreseeable future.' Paul Golby, head of E.ON, the company that wants to build the new coal-fired plant at Kingsnorth, was blunter still: `The climate campers believe that a combination of wind and wave power and increased energy efficiency will be enough to bridge the gap. But that is simply unrealistic.'

The climate campers' blinkered attitude is not surprising, since meeting the needs of consumers is not very high on their list of priorities. In fact, some of them seem to believe that an `energy crunch' is just the sort of useful thing that might halt our mindless consumption.

One climate camper, Isabelle Michel, told BBC TV's Newsnight: `One of the most important things we need to do is to learn to reduce consumption. I think one of the reasons for saying that nuclear is necessary and renewables will not be enough is if we look at maintaining the levels of consumption or even increasing the levels of consumption - because that's the mentality. So we need more, more, more.' Another protester, Kevin Smith, bemoaned `the madness of trying to maintain a world of perpetual economic growth in a world of finite resources'.

This has always been the most fundamental tenet of environmentalism: that economic growth is a bad thing. We humans should reduce our `ecological footprint' and learn to make do with less because resources are finite - and apparently, as we expand our impact on the planet, we are squeezing out other living things that are just as worthy of existence as we are. This is in direct contradiction to any notion of progress, to the idea that through the development of society and technology, we can generate greater quantities of material wealth that allow us to live longer, healthier, more comfortable and potentially freer lives.

Despite what the anti-growth greens might claim, it's not as if we live in a world where everyone has a private jet and dines on foie gras. The current fuel and food prices are reminding many of us of how little spare cash we really have, even in Britain, one of the richest countries in the world. For the billions in the world who live on less than one dollar per day, environmentalists' demand to `reduce consumption' and `halt economic growth' must sound like a sick joke. Behind environmentalists' various debates about energy supply, coal, nuclear and renewables, there lurks their central moralistic belief system: humans are nothing special, in fact they are destructive, and it is high time they learned to live on less.

What is particularly sickening, given the pressing needs of humanity both at home and abroad, is that the climate camp in Kingsnorth is being presented as the cutting edge of radical protest. When so little else is happening politically, an assortment of slick green campaigners, lentil-eating hippies, misguided, idealistic students and assorted middle-aged oddballs has come to be seen as the touchstone of anti-establishment politics.

In fact, these climate campaigners are very far from anti-establishment. With sustainability at the heart of every government policy, the government shares most of the ideas espoused at Kingsnorth right now. Telling people to tighten their belts and put up with less is an idea that politicians have been keen to stress for centuries, while reducing our impact on the planet is the nearest thing to a `big idea' that the political class possesses today. Indeed, it is hard to tell the difference between Isabelle Michel's demand that we rein in consumption and Gordon Brown's recent advice that we should avoid being wasteful by throwing away our food. From the very top of government right through to the edgy green protest movement, there is a consensus that the greedy, thoughtless masses are demanding too much.

The problem for our political leaders - and the source of charges of hypocrisy from the green movement - is that this sustainability-obsessed outlook must live side-by-side with the need to make society work. And that means addressing practical challenges such as making sure the lights work when you hit the switch, that food gets produced and can be delivered to the shops, and so on. The result of this clash between a low-horizons outlook and the practical need to keep British society chugging along is the kind of administrative paralysis we have seen at the heart of the New Labour government.

If practicality versus ideology is proving a problem for the government, it is starting to generate cracks in the green movement, too. Underpinning green thought is a moral distaste for the vulgarity of consumption, which has an almost religious passion to it: fire and brimstone millenarianism meets monkish self-denial. But even greens want to eat, travel, receive medical treatment, and get an education. And these things require a highly developed society that uses up resources and are a constant reminder of the need for humanity to control Nature.

This paradox within environmentalism is best reflected in the current debate about nuclear power. Those greens who are concerned with climate change above all else can see why nuclear, a low-carbon technology, makes sense in the current `emergency'; most famously, Gaia theorist James Lovelock supports the introduction of nuclear power as a way of `saving the planet'. Other greens, however, would rather see society grind to a halt than allow the construction of one more nuclear power station. So some environmentalists can only put the case for nuclear from the scaremongering standpoint that if we don't go nuclear the world will end - while others oppose nuclear on the basis of unfounded fears about waste and risk, which illustrates their deeply selective attitude towards `scientific evidence'.

These debates paint a pretty unpleasant picture of where society stands at present. Contemporary debate is dominated by fearmongering about global warming and nuclear energy on one side, and anti-consumerist moralism on the other. The end result is crippling indecision rather than a clear-cut vision of how people's needs and desires can be met now, and how their lives can be improved in the future. If this carries on much longer, we might need to get used to the lights going out.


A new Greenie excuse for protecting old houses

In rather devious reasoning, Australia's National Trust calls for 'wasted energy' demolition tax

The National Trust in South Australia is calling for a tax on the energy it says is wasted when a building is knocked down. Ian Stephenson from the National Trust says pre-1920 buildings have a thick wall mass and therefore a lot of stored energy, making them energy stable. He says research shows that if these buildings are demolished, it will take 60 years to get the energy equation back to zero. "They should probably be introducing a tax for energy waste - if you want to knock a building down, if you want to waste that energy, then you have to make a payment for it," he said.

But the Property Council's Nathan Paine says introducing such a tax would have negative repercussions for people looking to buy a house. "If we suddenly introduce significant increased costs on new homes, that will actually drive houses to an unaffordable level and that will actually lock another generation out, so we actually have to look at this in a holistic sense," he said.



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