Saturday, August 09, 2008

The two sides of the global warming debate

The story below from "The Australian" gives a much more comprehensive account of the realist view than one normally sees in a major newspaper

Has global warming stopped? The question alone is enough to provoke scorn from the mainstream scientific community and from the Government, which says the earth has never been hotter. But tell that to a new army of sceptics who have mushroomed on internet blog sites and elsewhere in recent months to challenge some of the most basic assumptions and claims of climate change science. Their claims are provocative and contentious but they are also attracting attention, so much sothat mainstream scientists are being forced torespond.

The bloggers and others make several key claims. They say the way of measuring the world's temperature is frighteningly imprecise and open to manipulation. They argue that far from becoming hotter, the world's temperatures have cooled in the past decade, contrary to the overwhelming impression conveyed by scientists and politicians. As such, they say there should be far greater scepticism towards the apocalyptic predictions about climate change. Even widely accepted claims, such as that made by Climate Change Minister Penny Wong that "the 12 hottest years in history have all been in the last 13 years", are being openly challenged.

"She is just plain wrong," says Jennifer Marohasy, a biologist and senior fellow of the Institute of Public Affairs. "It's not a question of debate. What about the medieval warming period? The historical record shows they were growing wine in England, for goodness sake; come on. It is not disputed by anyone that the Vikings arrived in Greenland in AD900 and it was warmer than Greenland is now. What Penny Wong is doing is being selective and saying that is a long time ago."

But selective use of facts and data is fast becoming an art form on both sides of the climate change debate now that real money is at stake as the West ponders concrete schemes to reduce carbon emissions. So what is the validity of some of the key claims being made by these new blogger sceptics? Their first claim is that the most basic aspect of climate change science - the measurement of global warming - is flawed, imprecise and open to manipulation.

The earth's temperature is measured using land-based weather stations - in effect, a network of thermometers scattered unevenly across the globe - as well as via satellites and ocean-based weather sensors. There are four agencies that measure the world's temperatures and each has different methodology and produces varying, although not dramatically different, results.

Sceptics accuse climate change believers of always quoting the agency that shows the highest level of warming, the US National Aeronautic and Space Administration's Goddard Institute for Space Studies run by prominent climate change scientist and activist James Hansen. An independent study by Yale University in the US shows GISS says the earth has warmed by 0.025C a year during the past eight years while the other best-known measurement agency, London's Hadley Centre, says it warmed by only 0.014C a year during the same period. Not surprisingly, the Hadley figures are the most quoted by climate change sceptics while the GISS figures are most popular with climate change believers.

David Evans, former consultant to the Australian Greenhouse Office, says Hansen's GISS is unreliable because it is the only measurement agency that relies almost wholly on land-based data instead of satellites. "Land-based temperature readings are corrupted by the urban heat island effect," he says. "Urban areas encroaching on thermometer stations warm the micro-climate around the thermometer due to vegetation changes, concrete, cars and houses." As such, he alleges that the GISS figures - which are enormously influential in the climate change debate - are "hopelessly corrupted" and may even be manipulated to suit Hansen's views on global warming.

A group of weather buffs in the US also has attacked GISS's methodology, putting together an online photo gallery of US weather stations at website that shows some thermometers situated next to asphalt runways and parking lots where they would pick up excess warming.

But GISS says the distorting impact of this urban warming is negated because data from these stations is modified to remove these effects and give a true reading. Hansen acknowledges there may be flaws in the weather station data because temperature measurement is not always a precise science. But he says this does not mean big-picture trends can't be drawn from the data. He says: "That doesn't mean you give up on the science and that you can't draw valid conclusions about the nature of earth's temperature change."

Hansen has been infuriated by the attacks on GISS by climate change critics. Last year Canadian blogger and retired businessman Stephen McIntyre exposed a minor mistake in Hansen's figures that had caused GISS to overstate US temperatures by a statistically small 0.15C since 2000. Sceptics were energised. "We have proof of man-made global warming," roared conservative American radio host Rush Limbaugh. "The man-made global warming is inside NASA."

Hansen struck back, saying he would "not joust with court jesters" who sought to "create a brouhaha and muddy the waters in the climate change story".

What the bloggers have succeeded in doing is to highlight that measuring climate change is an evolving science. But their success has been at the margins only. So far they have failed to prove that these discrepancies negate the broader core arguments about the trends of global warming.

However, the second argument being put forward by blogger sceptics is more accessible to the public and therefore is having a greater impact. They argue that, contrary to the impressions given about global warming, the earth's temperatures have plateaued during the past decade and may have cooled in recent years. This, they argue, should not be happening when carbon emissions are growing rapidly. This was not what the climate change modellers predicted. Their conclusion therefore is that carbon emissions are not the driver of warming and climate change and that the earth is not heading for a climate change apocalypse caused by greenhouse gases.

"All official measures of global temperature show that it peaked in 1998 and has been declining since at least 2002," says climate change sceptic Bob Carter, a science adviser to the Australian Climate Science Coalition. "And this is in the face of an almost 5 per cent increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide since 1998. Spot the problem?"

A careful analysis of global temperature graphs from each of the measurement agencies confirm that - despite variations between them - there has not been any notable warming since 2000. Depending on which graphs you use, global temperatures since 2000 have been more or less flat. Some, such as the GISS data, show a modest rise, while others show negligible movement and even a small fall in recent years.

Sceptics like to use graphs that date from 1998 because that was the hottest year on record due to El Nino influences and therefore the temperature trends for the decade look flattest when 1998 is the starting point. But ultimately this is a phony war because most mainstream scientists do not dispute that global temperatures have remained relatively flat during the past decade. Where they differ with the sceptics is on how this outcome should be interpreted.

"The changes in temperature over the past 10 years have basically plateaued," says Andy Pitman, co-director of the Climate Change Research Centre at the University of NSW. "But scientists did not anticipate a gradual year-by-year warming in temperature. What matters is the long-term trend. This outcome does not change any of the science but it does change the spin climate deniers can put on it."

The sceptics are having a field day with this trend. The IPA's Marohasy says: "In the last 10 years we have seen an increase in carbon dioxide levels yet temperatures are coming down. That, if anyone looks at the actual data, is not disputable. Carbon dioxide is not driving temperatures because there are other important climatic factors at play."

Most scientists are adamant that any assessment of climate change based on only 10 years of data is not only meaningless but reckless. "From a climate standpoint it is far too short a period to have any significance," says Amanda Lynch, a climate change scientist at Melbourne's Monash University. "What we are seeing now is consistent with our understanding of variability between decades. If we hung about for another 30 years and it kept going down, then you might start to think there is something we don't understand. But the evidence at this point suggests this is not something we should hang around and wait for."

Climate change scientists say we must go back much further than the past decade and pay attention to the longer-term trend lines that run through the temperature data and clearly trend upwards. Lynch says other factors beyond temperature are also relevant. "In the last 10 years there has been a catastrophic and massive Arctic sea ice retreat. We've seen glacial retreat, permafrost thaw and ocean thermal expansion, so temperature is not the whole story."

But the sceptics are undeterred. "It is widely alleged that the science of global warming is settled," says the US-based Science and Public Policy Institute. "This implies that all the major scientific aspects of climate change are well understood and uncontroversial. The allegation is profoundly untrue ... even the most widely held opinions should never be regarded as an ultimate truth."

Matthew England, from the Climate Change Research Centre, describes the latest blog war by climate change sceptics as an amazing phenomenon. "Climate change is a robust area of science and there is plenty that is still being debated and new discoveries are still being made," he says. "It is a topic (that) will keep attracting different opinions from enthusiasts and from bloggers. They are a minority but they are proving to be a very vocal group."


Global Warming: It isn't a hoax and it isn't a crisis

An interview with Iain Murray by

The Chilling Effect: We ran into you at the Americans For Prosperity/RightOnline event, where you were on speaking a panel regarding global warming. Some in the audience were certain that global warming is a hoax, while others were agnostic on the science. Given your review of the issue, what's your best guess on climate change?

Iain S. Murray: I think it's pretty conclusive that, all other things being equal, more greenhouse gases in the atmosphere leads to a warmer atmosphere. However, it's clear from the recent plateau in temperatures, while GHGs have continued to accumulate, that all other things are not equal. We really don't know very much about the other "forcings," as they call them, that go in to deciding the global temperature, and clearly need more research on them. We also don't know very much at all about the history of climate beyond 400 years ago. We need to know not just what regulates the atmosphere, but whether temperature swings are unusual or not.

TCE: What frustrates you most, then, about the current debate over climate change?

ISM: There are a lot of things we can do - the so-called "no regrets" policies - that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions and/or create a global economy more resilient to change that would be beneficial even if global warming doesn't turn out to be a problem. However, these policies are ignored by the global warming industry because they require a little lateral thinking and don't create massive bureaucracies and central control. Meanwhile, there are many who deride such policies because they see global warming as a hoax. The truth is it isn't a hoax, not is it a crisis. It's a risk to be managed. So let's manage it!

TCE: It doesn't take long to understand the thesis of your book, since the title does a great job of summing it up. One of the most interesting arguments you make is that "Gore's vision of greater state control over the economy has already produced some of the greatest environmental disasters in history." Can you give our readers a quick idea of what you mean?

ISM: The central insight of free-market environmentalism is that people with an ownership stake in the environment generally take care of their asset. Yet the Goreite approach to the environment seeks to take control out of the hand of the owner and give it to the commons either by regulation (forcing or even "nudging" the owner to do something he wouldn't otherwise) or by direct public ownership. This leads to what ecologist Garret Hardin called "The Tragedy of the Commons," as far back as 1968. So it was nationalization of the nation's waterways that led to the Cuyahoga catching on fire, biofuel subsidies and mandates that have led to food crises and deforestation, public management of forests that led to Yellowstone almost burning down 20 years ago, the de facto ban on DDT that led to the failure to control malaria in Africa and, worst of all, the Soviet direct management of waterways in Asia that led to the destruction of the Aral Sea.

TCE: When you get feedback from people who have read your book, what is the most common thing that they mention? What strikes or surprises them most, or what pushback have you gotten from critics?

ISM: The people I thought would criticize the book have largely ignored it, which seems to be the liberal environmentalist approach these days to things they don't like. They regard such arguments as literally unspeakable. Of those open-minded enough to read the book, the thing that has gotten the most attention is the revelation of the environmental movement's silence over a number of issues that plainly affect the environment by their own lights - the effects of the contraceptive pill on the nation's freshwater fish, the encouragement of mass immigration to the US and so on. And, of course, everyone wants to know about global warming. In fact, if I'd written my book purely on global warming I'm sure it would have sold more copies, but there are plenty of other books out there doing that. I wanted to stress how global warming alarmism is just the latest in a series of environmentally-based power grabs.

TCE: There are a lot of us who want to keep the world in good order but think the evidence just isn't there on global warming. For someone who cares about the environment, what are the best practical ways to keep our world clean and improve energy for the future?

ISM: The best practical steps, I think, are to exercise traditional virtues of thrift and conservation. Turn you lights off when you're not using them. Don't drive too far for something that isn't really worth it. Spend time with your children rather than leaving them in front of a TV or video game. All these activities will lower your bills and lower emissions. Better sources of energy will come as the market responds to them. If people are willing to pay more for "cleaner" energy, the market will respond. However, we must recognize that this is a luxury purchase. So were TVs 30 years ago. We must allow people to get richer, around the world, so that such energy sources cease to be luxuries. However, that, ironically, requires access to affordable energy. So the last thing we should do is seek to raise the price of energy for everyone.

TCE: Do you have any pet projects or quirky arguments/ideas that you wish policymakers or the think tank community would latch onto when it comes to the global warming and energy debate?

ISM: Reform the Air Traffic Control system! The current system is based on a 1920s system of beacons and is ridiculously labor-intensive in the days of GPS navigation. Simple reforms could reduce the amount of fuel used - and emissions generated - by 0.4 million barrels of oil per day. That's a great example of the sort of no regrets policy I mentioned earlier. Oh, and we need to remove all the regulatory barriers we have put in the way of energy innovation, but that's a longer argument for another day.


Climate change computer models are limited

Computer models that predict climate change have improved during the past decade, but they still have deficiencies such as predicting precipitation over specific regions, according to a report released recently by a unit of the Energy Department. The U.S. Climate Change Science Program's report, "Climate Models: An Assessment of Strengths and Limitations," examined some computer models of the earth's climate and their ability to simulate current climate change.

To assure that future climate projections are used appropriately, it's important to understand what current models are able to simulate effectively, the document said. "This report makes an important contribution in helping to describe and explain the current state of high-end climate modeling for the non-specialist," said David Bader, with DOE's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and the coordinating lead author for the report.

The report described complex mathematical models used to simulate the earth's climate on powerful supercomputers and assesses the model's ability to reproduce observed climate features. It also studied the model's sensitivity to changes in conditions such as atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide.

Despite progress in modeling over the last 10 years, a number of systematic biases remain, particularly in the simulation of regional precipitation, the report said. On smaller geographic scales, when compared to the current climate, the simulated climate varies substantially from model to model, it added. "No current model is superior to others in all respects, but rather different models have differing strengths and weaknesses," the report stated.

To develop the report, DOE chartered a Federal Advisory Committee comprised of 29 members drawn from academia, the government scientific community, nonprofit and for-profit organizations that drafted and oversaw the review of the report.


Hydrogen-Wind-Nuclear Plant in Ontario Not Currently Worthwhile, Study Shows

A recent case study on using hydrogen to store the electricity generated by a mix of wind and nuclear power in Ontario, Canada, has shown that the hydrogen addition won't be worth the cost, at least not at the current state of hydrogen technology development. Bruce Power - Canada's first private nuclear generating company - is considering including a hydrogen storage and distribution component to go along with a large scale wind farm, all presently sharing the main electrical transmission line in Bruce County, Ontario.

The province's first commercial wind farm, Huron Wind, is located on the shore of Lake Huron. Its five wind turbines provide a maximum output power of 9 MW. Additional large scale wind farms are located close by, using the same transmission lines.

Bruce Power's nuclear power plant, located about 250 km northwest of Toronto, consists of six reactors. Together, the reactors generate a total output power of 4,830 MW, which supplies more than 20% of Ontario's electricity.

Using hydrogen as a storage and distribution method for the electricity generated by the wind farm and nuclear plant from the same region could have several potential benefits. When the cost of electricity is low, for example, the company could store part of its electricity production as hydrogen, and then sell it back to the electricity market when the price increases. Similarly, electricity could be stored as hydrogen when there is not enough line capacity to transfer it all at once. In periods of low winds, hydrogen storage could help make up for the variability and in periods of high winds and constrained transmission capacities, hydrogen could be used to store the electricity. In the future, the hydrogen itself could be sold to a hydrogen market, which could be more profitable than selling it back to the electricity market.

However, costs of the initial investment, production, and operation won't be matched by the profit solely from storing electricity as hydrogen, according to the study by Gregor Taljan and Gregor Verbi? from the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia, and Claudio Ca¤izares and Michael Fowler from the University of Waterloo, Ontario.

Even with an optimistic hydrogen production efficiency of 60% through electrolysis, the researchers' evaluation shows that the electricity stored as hydrogen would need to be sold to the electricity market at a high price that rarely happens in order for the scheme to be profitable. As the researchers demonstrate, the selling price of electricity would need to be about four times the buying electricity price for the hydrogen system to profit from storing electricity.

"This study is very important from the viewpoint of finding synergies between electrical energy and chemical energy stored in hydrogen," Taljan told "The study shows that currently, hydrogen is not profitable solely for electricity storage. On the other hand, it might be economically acceptable to produce hydrogen from electricity at advantageous electricity/hydrogen prices. Furthermore, hydrogen is shown to be a highly favorable option when there are electricity transmission constraints in the area, limiting sales of electricity of a power producer."

As the researchers explain, hydrogen storage might be an economically feasible option for storing electricity in times of insufficient electricity transmission line capacities, which would otherwise be dumped. This could be especially true in cases where the upgrade of transmission systems is not an option due to various reasons (such as remote location, resistance of local population, etc.).

The study also showed that a hydrogen sub-system for producing hydrogen could be profitable if there is sufficient hydrogen demand. For instance, transportation applications (such as cars, trains, and planes) could provide a market for buying hydrogen produced by a mixed wind-nuclear plant.

"Hydrogen production might become profitable when the Hydrogen Economy becomes fully mature, i.e. when the demand, and correspondingly prices, for hydrogen increases (expected mainly from the transportation sector)," Taljan said. "This might happen when the prices of fossil fuels rise as a result of many different possible factors (e.g. shrinking reserves, higher demand, political instabilities, CO2 emissions trading schemes). In this scenario, hydrogen might become a real fossil fuel substitute option which will drive up the hydrogen demand and prices, making the hydrogen production a lucrative business.

"In this context, it is also important that research into hydrogen production, storage, transmission, distribution and consumption components `wins the battle' with the electron economy, where the energy carrier is considered to be electricity. Those two economies compete in many different areas, such as efficiencies, durability, and prices. Currently, hydrogen is advantageous in terms of higher energy density and durability but still lags in efficiencies."

The team's investigation into the feasibility of hydrogen is further elaborated in two other recent studies. "Hydrogen storage for mixed wind-nuclear power plants in the context of a Hydrogen Economy," which is published in the International Journal of Hydrogen Energy, deals with how the excess oxygen and heat utilizations would improve the economics of hydrogen systems primarily designed for storing of electricity.

The second study, "Study of Mixed Wind-Nuclear-Hydrogen Power Plants," which is going to be presented at this year's North American Power Symposium in Calgary, demonstrates that hydrogen is not economically feasible for the sole purpose of storing electricity, in spite of residual heat and oxygen utilization, and based on current hydrogen production and utilization technologies.


Global warming: Where is the heat and science?

What the mainstream media has been feeding our nation on the issue of global warming is more hype than heat and more scam than science. Thus, for a change, we shall look at the facts. First question: Where is the heat?

Scientist Robert Balling Jr., director of the Laboratory of Climatology at Arizona State University, examined the temperature records from European ground stations over the last 250 years. What were his findings? He said,

"There had been no warming in Europe during the past 65 years. Europe warmed only .58 degrees Celsius during the past 250 years, with all of the warming taking place between 1890 and the mid-1930s and at the same time as an increase in the output of the sun.

An in-depth study released by the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine states: "The average temperature of the Earth has varied within a range of about 3 degrees Celsius during the past 3,000 years. It is currently increasing as the Earth recovers from a period that is known as the Little Ice Age. ... "Compiled U.S. surface temperatures have increased about 0.5 degrees Celsius per century, which is consistent with other historical values of 0.4 to 0.5 degrees Celsius per century during the recovery from the Little Ice Age. ... Three intermediate trends are evident, including the decreasing trend used to justify fears of `global cooling' in the 1970s.

"While the average temperature change taking place as the Earth recovers from the Little Ice Age is so slight that it is difficult to discern, its environmental effects are measurable. "Greenland, for example, is beginning to turn green again, as it was 1,000 years ago during the Medieval Climate Optimum. Arctic sea ice is decreasing somewhat, but Antarctic ice is not decreasing and may be increasing, due to increased snow.

"All of the observed climate changes are gradual, moderate and entirely within the bounds of ordinary natural changes that have occurred during the benign period of the past few thousand years. "There is no indication whatever in the experimental data that an abrupt or remarkable change in any of the ordinary natural climate variables is beginning or will begin to take place."

The facts tell us that the average temperature increase over the past 100 years is 0.5 degrees C and this is all in the range of normality. So where is the heat? It is minimal and in the range of normality. Second question: Where is the science?

In 1996, The Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change, a United Nations Organization, released its report "The Science of Climate Change 1995." It addressed the issue of the human impact on the earth's climate and was hailed by the media as the latest and most authoritative statement on global warming. Soon after its release, there was a protest by some scientist of the handling of this document and the version of it that was released to the media. The Wall Street Journal carried this article titled "A Major Deception on Global Warming"˜ by Frederick Seitz. In the editorial, Seitz had this to say:
"In my more than 60 years as a member of the American scientific community, including service as president of both the National Academy of Sciences and the American Physical Society, I have never witnessed a more disturbing corruption of the peer-review process than the events that led to this IPCC report.

"A comparison between the report approved by the contributing scientists and the published version reveals that key changes were made after the scientists had met and accepted what they thought was the final peer-reviewed version.

"If they lead to carbon taxes and restraints on economic growth, they will have a major and almost certainly destructive impact on the economies of the world. Whatever the intent was of those who made these significant changes, their effect is to deceive policy makers and the public into believing that the scientific evidence shows human activities are causing global warming."

John Coleman, founder of the Weather Channel and a television meteorologist for more than 54 years, has called global warming alarmism "The Greatest Scam in history˜."Scientists with environmental and political motives manipulated long-term scientific data to create an illusion of rapid global warming," he said.

The truth is, there has been scientific manipulation of the facts for a desired outcome. That is the reason Dr. Frederick Seitz and several other credible scientists started the "Petition Project"˜ that states that global warming is not a crisis and that we should all oppose higher energy tax schemes as well as the Kyoto Treaty. How many have signed this "Petition Project"?˜ More than 31,000 American scientists have signed the Petition!

Where is the heat? It is little, normal and natural. Where is the science? It is limited and manipulated, to be certain, and used to promote a certain political and economical outcome.


Aggressive Greenie "protesters" in England

Coercion and self-publicity are the stock in trade of the Green/Left. They NEED to be noticed

Hundreds of riot police pushed back protesters at the Kingsnorth coal power station "climate camp" in Kent yesterday, as officers raided the site and made eight arrests. Kent Police seized four men aged between 24 and 45 for public order offences in dawn skirmishes. A 27-year-old man was also arrested for obstructing police and a 40-year-old man was held on suspicion of possessing a prohibited weapon.

Scuffles broke out as shield-carrying officers moved in to surround protesters in the afternoon after the high-profile arrival of five campaigners who are trying to breach a court order banning them from entering the site. Police also stopped food deliveries to the camp.

The five protesters - Paul Morozzo, Jonathan Stevenson, Ellen Potts, Mel Evans and Oli Rodker - were among 29 that were arrested in June for stopping a coal delivery train outside Drax power station in North Yorkshire. Their bail conditions ban them from going near any British power station and from attending the climate camp but they phoned ahead to warn the local police commander of their arrival aboard the 1.33pm train from London Victoria to Chatham, Kent.

Mr Morozzo, 41, was arrested after being identified as a bail-breaker but the other four managed to sneak inside the camp despite the police sealing off the perimeter and holding identity checks. Another man was arrested at the time. Lawyers warned the group they are likely to face prison by entering the site. A spokeswoman for Kent Police said: "Police are investigating the arrival of campaigners believed to have breached their bail conditions but we cannot confirm how many arrests have been made."

About 700 protesters were on site yesterday; police sources said they expect about 2,000 this week, gathering to show their disapproval at plans by the plant's owners, E.ON, to build a new coal-powered station on the site. Protesters have promised to shut down Kingsnorth on Saturday.

Before arriving at the site, Mr Morozzo said: "I'm pretty nervous about being arrested because I've never been to prison. It will be bad but the worst thing about being arrested will be that I won't get to go to an event that I have been planning for a long time. This is one of the most important issues of our generation and it's vital that we are allowed to discuss it. It's tragic that the police seem to want to stop that."

Mr Stevenson, 26, who remained at large last night, had prepared for arrest by posting his father a birthday card and texting his parents: "I'm sorry I haven't said anything before, but I didn't want to worry you. It looks like I might be arrested at climate camp. It is my choice and it's something I feel strongly about. Please don't be angry." Ms Potts, 32, added: "We are also doing this because we feel our bail conditions are disproportionate to our supposed offences. I can see the logic in keeping us away from power stations, but to keep us away from this event, where people are meeting to discuss how to tackle climate change, is wrong."



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1 comment:

OBloodyHell said...

> Currently, hydrogen is advantageous in terms of higher energy density and durability but still lags in efficiencies."

It also lags considerably in the area of safety -- not just large scale handling but also small scale and distribution.

There's a reason the name Hindenberg is associated with disaster.