A comment in reply by Philip Stott, Emeritus professor of biogeography from the University of London
Your assertion that "global warming is happening faster than expected" exhibits a disturbing degree of cognitive dissonance ("Adapt or die ", September 13th). Since 1998 the world's average surface temperature has exhibited no warming, according to all the main temperature records. The trend has been a combination of flatlining and cooling, with a marked plunge over the past year; many countries, including Australia, Canada, China and the United States, experienced severe winters.
Moreover, recent work demonstrates that the Earth's temperature may stay roughly the same for at least a further decade through the impact of the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation. In addition, the next 11-year cycle of solar storms-Solar Cycle 24-is late by more than two years. The sun is currently spotless, conditions that obtained during the "Dalton Minimum", an especially cold period that lasted several decades starting from 1790 and which was implicated in the rout of Napoleon's Grand Army during the retreat from Moscow in 1812.
Finally, one expert, Victor Manuel Velasco Herrera of the National Autonomous University of Mexico, has gone so far as to give warning that the Earth may enter a new "Little Ice Age" for up to 80 years because of decreases in solar activity. The immediate portents thus point in the direction of a cooling period.
Whatever one thinks about longer-term trends in world average temperatures and their possible relationship with carbon emissions, it cannot be claimed that currently "global warming is happening faster than expected". It troubles me when a publication with the standing of The Economist permits such a gap between observed reality and political rhetoric.
MASSACHUSETTS GOVERNOR: PEOPLE COULD FREEZE TO DEATH THIS WINTER
Governor Patrick says there's a real possibility that people in America could freeze to death this winter due to the soaring cost of home heating fuel. Patrick met today with members of the Massachusetts congressional delegation on Capitol Hill and later testified before a House panel on the need for heating aid in cold-weather states.
Patrick said the cost of heating a home -- whether by electricity, gas or oil -- is expected to cost between 20 and 31 percent more than a year ago. He said that will have an impact on many families, and not just those who are defined as low-income.
The House has approved legislation to double the government's Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program to 5.1 billion dollars for the coming winter. Massachusetts would receive 163 million dollars under the plan, an increase of 36 million dollars from the last fiscal year.
Japanese convenience stores under attack
Facing attack from critics that want convenience stores to shut down at night as a measure to prevent global warming, the Japan Franchise Association has responded by stating that convenience stores play a crucial role as safe havens for lost children and victims of crime:
More than 13,000 cases of women finding refuge in convenience stores across the country were reported during fiscal 2007. Nearly half of them occurred after 11 p.m. and about 40 percent were due to stalkers and molesters, the association said. In addition, there were 6,000 cases of lost children requiring assistance and 12,000 cases of elderly people found wandering the streets alone.
The 12 companies that comprise the JFA operate around 42,000 convenience stores. Explaining the significance of convenience stores, a JFA official said they provide a "substitute for `koban' (police boxes) and streetlights in the middle of the night."
The National Police Agency says that koban and "hashutsujo" police branch offices are located at about 13,000 places across the country, but that number is down by around 1,000 from five years earlier.
In addition, the JFA has also stated that convenience stores with limited nighttime hours would still have to keep on their refrigeration systems when closed, so the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions would be negligible.
British Green heretic persecuted for his nuclear views
The climate change expert Mark Lynas has been scorned by eco-colleagues for daring to speak up for atomic power. He states his case below
I know I should be furious. The EDF takeover of British Energy means that four nuclear power stations could now be built around the UK, the first nuclear new build in a generation. As a long-standing Green party member, one who chops his own wood, grows his own leeks, keeps chickens and puts the kids in washable nappies, antinuclear indignation should spring easily to my lips.
After all, energy is something I care about. The last time I checked my carbon budget, I came in at a fifth of the national average. I rarely fly, even when booked to address faraway audiences about my personal obsession, climate change - a subject I've covered in three books. Whenever the word "nuclear" comes up at my talks, a shudder runs through the room. Because everyone knows that real environmentalists loathe nuclear power. It is just evil. Full stop.
Except, well, I don't believe that any more. Just a month ago I had a Damascene conversion: the Green case against nuclear power is based largely on myth and dogma. My tipping point came when I discovered just how much nuclear power has changed since I first set my mind against it. Prescription for the Planet, a new book by the American writer Tom Blees, opened my eyes to fourth-generation "fast-breeder" reactors, which use fuel much more efficiently than the old-style reactors, produce shorter-lived waste and can also be designed to be "walk-away safe".
Best of all, these new reactors - prototypes of which have already been tested - can produce power by burning up existing stocks of nuclear waste. As Blees puts it: "Thus we have a prodigious supply of free fuel that is actually even better than free, for it is material that we are quite desperate to get rid of." Who could object to that?
Just about everyone on the eco-scene, it turned out. I began to receive e-mails from friends and colleagues warning me off the topic. Did I really want to risk my entire reputation by alienating the green movement? The backlash to my first magazine article on the subject prompted my inbox to collapse, the blogs to drip with venom, the dirty looks to multiply.
A former Greenpeace campaigner posted on my website that I needed to show "a bit of humility" and "less arrogance". On Greenpeace's blog my views were mocked as "wishful thinking of the day". On Radio 4's Today programme, Green party leader Caroline Lucas accused me of having "lost the plot". When I argued back, she accused me of "just being silly". I was a traitor.
This was a moment I had been dreading for nearly three years, ever since I first suspected that much of what I had been brought up to believe about nuclear power - that it is, without exception, dirty, dangerous and unnecessary - was untrue. Science has moved on. The old figures just don't stack up any more.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, nuclear is just as low-carbon a power source as wind and solar: the world's 439 operating nuclear reactors save the planet from 2 billion extra tonnes of carbon dioxide per year, which would have been emitted had coal been used instead.
And those dangers? They're still there but we need to discuss them truthfully. Take Chernobyl. We all know it was a disaster: the Greenpeace website states a death toll of 60,000 already and predicts another 140,000 deaths in the future. But these statistics fly in the face of mainstream science: according to the World Health Organisation and the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation, 28 people died in the initial phase and several thousand more have suffered from nonfatal thyroid cancer because of the accident. The UN report concludes that "there is no evidence of a major public health impact attributable to radiation exposure 20 years after the accident" - so the real death toll from the world's worst nuclear accident is tiny. On a deaths per gigawatt-year basis, nuclear is safer than coal and oil.
Curiosity whetted, I searched the scientific literature for evidence to support the other great green charge levelled at nuclear power: it kills its neighbours. I sifted through piles of rigorous epidemiological studies from all over the world, searching for proof that people who live near nuclear sites are more prone to cancer and leukaemia. None of the reputable journals turned up a link. These are just two examples of eco-myths: there are many more. If only we were allowed to discuss them without being flayed for heresy.
When I e-mailed a senior ecological scientist with my conclusions, he agreed, but only privately. "Do not cite me as promoting nuclear," he begged. I am still shocked that people of his stature are too intimidated to speak out. The result of this fear is that the public is dangerously misinformed about nuclear power.
I have finally thought of something useful that I can do with my Green party membership card: I'll auction it on eBay and send the money to EDF - with a suggestion that it beefs up its marketing department. Any bids?
Global warming has paused: We still need to study nature's contribution to trend
By Syun-Ichi Akasofu, a former director of the Geophysical Institute and the International Arctic Research Center, both on the campus of the University of Alaska Fairbanks
Recent studies by the Hadley Climate Research Center (UK), the Japan Meteorological Agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the University of East Anglia (UK) and the University of Alabama Huntsville show clearly that the rising trend of global average temperature stopped in 2000-2001. Further, NASA data shows that warming in the southern hemisphere has stopped, and that ocean temperatures also have stopped rising.
The global average temperature had been rising until about 2000-2001. The International Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) and many scientists hypothesize rising temperatures were mostly caused by the greenhouse effect of carbon dioxide (CO2), and they predicted further temperature increases after 2000. It was natural to assume that CO2 was responsible for the rise, because CO2 molecules in the atmosphere tend to reflect back the infrared radiation to the ground, preventing cooling (the greenhouse effect) and also because CO2 concentrations have been rapidly increasing since 1946. But, this hypothesis on the cause of global warming is just one of several.
Unfortunately, many scientists appear to forget that weather and climate also are controlled by nature, as we witness weather changes every day and climate changes in longer terms. During the last several years, I have suggested that it is important to identify the natural effects and subtract them from the temperature changes. Only then can we be sure of the man-made contributions. This suggestion brought me the dubious honor of being designated "Alaska's most famous climate change skeptic."
The stopping of the rise in global average temperature after 2000-2001 indicates that the hypothesis and prediction made by the IPCC need serious revision. I have been suggesting during the last several years that there are at least two natural components that cause long-term climate changes.
The first is the recovery (namely, warming) from the Little Ice Age, which occured approximately 1800-1850. The other is what we call the multi-decadal oscillation. In the recent past, this component had a positive gradient (warming) from 1910 to 1940, a negative gradient (cooling - many Fairbanksans remember the very cold winters in the 1960s) from 1940 to 1975, and then again a positive gradient (warming - many Fairbanksans have enjoyed the comfortable winters of the last few decades or so) from 1975 to about 2000. The multi-decadal oscillation peaked around 2000, and a negative trend began at that time.
The second component has a large amplitude and can overwhelm the first, and I believe that this is the reason for the stopping of the temperature rise. Since CO2 has only a positive effect, the new trend indicates that natural changes are greater than the CO2 effect, as I have stated during the last several years.
Future changes in global temperature depend on the combination of both the recovery from the Little Ice Age (positive) and the multi-decadal oscillation (both positive and negative). We have an urgent need to learn more about these natural changes to aid us in predicting future changes.
Climate change only the 5th priority for Australians
AUSTRALIANS rate protecting jobs and strengthening the economy ahead of tackling climate change on a list of foreign policy goals, according to a new poll. In a rearrangement of priorities reflecting the level of global financial uncertainty, climate change tumbled from being the most important issue in last year's pre-federal election Lowy Institute Poll to just equal fifth this year. A majority still said climate was a highly important issue, but the drop was significant - from 75% to 66%.
Comparatively, the importance of keeping the economy strong (79%) and job protection (70%) both increased. "Concern over economic issues has risen at the expense of the environment," Lowy Institute executive director Allan Gyngell said.
Environmental issues seem to create a disconnect in the public. While an overwhelming majority want action on climate change, more than half of those polled - 53% - were not willing to pay more than $10 extra a month on their electricity bill to help the fight against rising greenhouse gas.
Political leaders are often quick to highlight the limits on Australia's ability to combat global environment problems alone. However, recent surveys indicate Australians are more attuned to climate concerns. A Melbourne University AsiaLink poll earlier this month showed almost 60% of Australians ranked climate change as their main worry, compared with barely 20% of Indonesians. While in the United States, a poll in March suggested almost 60% of Americans did not believe global warming would pose a serious threat to their way of life.
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