Thursday, October 09, 2008


"A role for atmospheric CO2 in preindustrial climate forcing"

By Thomas B. van Hoof et al.


Complementary to measurements in Antarctic ice cores, stomatal frequency analysis of leaves of land plants preserved in peat and lake deposits can provide a proxy record of preindustrial atmospheric CO2 concentration. CO2 trends based on leaf remains of Quercus robur (English oak) from the Netherlands support the presence of significant CO2 variability during the first half of the last millennium. The amplitude of the reconstructed multidecadal fluctuations, up to 34 parts per million by volume, considerably exceeds maximum shifts measured in Antarctic ice. Inferred changes in CO2 radiative forcing are of a magnitude similar to variations ascribed to other mechanisms, particularly solar irradiance and volcanic activity, and may therefore call into question the concept of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which assumes an insignificant role of CO2 as a preindustrial climate-forcing factor. The stomata-based CO2 trends correlate with coeval sea-surface temperature trends in the North Atlantic Ocean, suggesting the possibility of an oceanic source/sink mechanism for the recorded CO2 changes.


Roy Spencer, climate skeptic, speaks

Very kind of the journalist below to admit that Spencer is a "legitimate" skeptic. One wonders what criteria he uses to make that judgment. And would a person with no credentials in the physical sciences -- such as Al Gore -- fit those criteria?

Roy Spencer, one of a relatively small number legitimate climate skeptics, visited Houston today to give a talk sponsored by the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation. Spencer, a team leader on NASA's Aqua satellite, believes natural cycles account for most of last century's warming, with carbon dioxide increases contributing only a modest amount.

He also unveiled new research, which has been submitted to Geophysical Research Letters for publication, which appears to show that climate models overstate the positive feedback from more carbon dioxide, and therefore grossly overstate the projected warming during the next century. Spencer says his work suggests the Earth will warm by about 1 degree Fahrenheit or less during the next century, not the 4 to 8 degrees projected by the IPCC process. Careful readers will spot some of the questions suggested by readers.

Q: The IPCC estimates there's a 5 to 10 percent chance they're wrong about mankind's impact on global temperatures --

Any statements of probability are meaningless and misleading. I think the IPCC made a big mistake. They're pandering to the public not understanding probabilities. When they say 90 percent they make it sound like they've come up with some kind of objective, independent, quantitative way of estimating probabilities related to this stuff. It isn't. All it is is a statement of faith. Sorry for the rant.

Q: That's OK. But wasn't it part of their mandate to put probabilities on global warming?

I think they do need to have statements that will convey their confidence. But I think using numbers is misleading because it makes it sound more accurate than it is.

Q: Do you ever try to get your research published in Science and Nature?

Not anymore. Their editorial policy basically won't permit stuff like this. If they don't find an excuse to object outright, all it takes is them sending it to a reviewer like Kevin Trenberth who will say "This is garbage," and come up with some obscure, non-reason why. And then they don't have to deal with it. So I don't deal with them any more.

Q: With the current attitudes toward skeptics, then, can such viewpoints still get published in major climate and science journals?

We're finding, the only place I'm submitting right now is Geophysical Research Letters. The American Geophysical Union is still kind of open minded. They've come out with a policy statement that goes along with the IPCC, but it seems like their editorial policy for their journals is still pretty flexible. But again I don't think there's that much good skeptic science going on right now. There's a lot of good ideas, but nobody's funded to do anything.

Q: Is it simply a funding issue, then?

I think that's a huge part of it. Congress gives money to study problems. If manmade global warming is a problem, that's what the money goes to. If manmade global warming isn't a problem there's a risk of losing a lot of funding.

Q: How good would you say we are, today, at determining an average global temperature?

We do pretty good job with that right now. It doesn't matter what the absolute number is, because you can ask, "Well, do you mean at sea level, or at a 2-meter height above the Earth's surface, or do you mean the temperature of the Earth's skin, or do you mean a deep layer temperature?" With the satellites we get really good agreement between two satellites that are taking independent measurements. So we have really good measurements of year-to-year changes. So we can say that this year really was so many hundredths of a degree warmer or cooler than last year. The problem comes in determining long-term trends. I think the most significant thing to talk about what's happened during the last 100 years. And I think there's still substantial uncertainty in how much it's actually warmed.

Q: So if not mankind, then what accounts for the 0.7 degrees Celsius, or so, of warming during the last century? From your talk you seem to point to natural warming, and specifically cycles such as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation.

That was just the first one I looked at from among the main modes of natural climate variability. So I'm not necessarily hanging my hat on the PDO. What I'm saying is that it's entirely possible, and I think likely, that natural modes of climate variability have associated cloud changes. All it takes is a 1 or 2 percent change in global cloudiness and you can get this warming and cooling for decades upon decades, for a century.

Q: For you is there any observation that would make you believe humans are causing the planet to warm significantly?

In order to have a smoking gun we would have to have about 50 years of really accurate satellite temperature data. It's even questionable whether the satellite data we have from the last seven years, which are our best, are good enough. But I think 50 years of satellite measurements would do it. But we don't have it.

Q: The global temperature trend since the year 2000 has been relatively flat. Have you seen any change in climate scientists' point of view as a result? Does this cause them consternation?

Not that I know of. I think too much is being made of that. I don't use that, or see that as any evidence that global warming has stopped. Because if you just look at the last 30 years we've had periods of no temperature increase for 7 or 8 years. That's because of natural climate variability on top of the global warming signal, whatever the global warming signal is due to. So I don't point to that.

Q: That's interesting, because I think some people are surprised by that.


Q: Yes, if you tell someone the planet hasn't warmed appreciably since the year 2000 they're often surprised. I see the global temperature trend in the same light as the Arctic Sea Ice, something simple that's iconic for the entire issue of global warming, something simple to serve as a proxy for much more complex scientific issues.

I do think that if it doesn't start warming for another five to 10 years, I think scientists will start questioning the theory, too.

Q: In Science, in 2005, you, John Christy and others admitted there was a correction needed in some of your data. Has that actually been incorporated into your temperature data?

Yes. I can't believe this keeps coming up. We made the corrections. It's a non-issue although it's one the BBC, I think it was two weekends ago, they had a special and they interviewed skeptics. It was a hit piece. I remember them interviewing me for two hours, and they kept asking me about this whole satellite data thing and basically what they wanted me to do was admit on camera that I made a mistake. Which I did, and we corrected it. That's science. But that's all the BBC showed from the interview.

Q: You've argued that temperature doesn't necessarily move in lock step with carbon dioxide emissions. But it's still not a good idea to emit carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Pre-industrial levels of carbon dioxide were 270 parts per million in the atmosphere. We're now at 385 or 390 ppm. Big greenhouses run CO2 at 1,000 ppm. I think the assumption that CO2 is necessarily bad is a philosophical assumption, not a scientific statement. Nature has picked a certain balance, but I don't see it as preordained, or necessarily the best balance. If you talk to some plant physiologists they make it sound like life on Earth is actually starved for CO2. I think that is a position that ought to be impassionately considering, rather than automatically assuming that putting more CO2 into the atmosphere is bad because that is not a scientific statement.

Q: If you and other global warming skeptics are right, and the IPCC is wrong, why do so many scientists feel so strongly about climate change?

Most scientists don't understand the big picture, and they are willing to defer to the climate modelers. The climate modelers are willing to put all of the different pieces together into the climate model. And then the climate model is supposed to magically give you the answer. I'll bet a lot of the scientists are skeptical, but they won't admit it publicly. If you talk to most of the scientists who are ardent about the issue, they have a political or ideological worldview that says mankind needs to stop putting CO2 into the atmosphere. It's a religious belief and it's widespread in the scientific community.

Q: So how did scientists like James Hansen, Kevin Trenberth and others gain ascendancy in the scientific community and become spokesmen for the issue, when not all scientists support their views?

By making bold statements. And what kind of statements get reported on in the media?

Q: What's it like being a skeptic in this field, in the year 2008?

Well, as I get older I have less and less energy. So this debate helps keep me awake. This wouldn't be important if it weren't for the policy implications. The direction we're going on policy is going to kill millions of people for no good reason. As it is environmentalists have already killed millions of people for no good reason, with the DDT ban.



The rising price of flights has prompted 50% of Brits to change their travel plans, according to a survey of 2,000 members of European travel portal The poll found that 10% flew less, 21% stayed at home and 4% did not make any long-distance trips.

But only 16% of Brits changed their travel plans due to climate change, and over 80% are skeptical about global warming. In fact, 40% believe it is all media hype and only 4% of respondents have cut back on flying because of environmental concerns.



In the coming months, as Washington struggles to contain the damage from Wall Street's precipitous financial free fall, one of the first casualties may be the top piece of legislation on the environmental agenda: the adoption of a sweeping national program to control greenhouse gases.

Democratic leaders in the House and Senate continue to rank climate-change legislation as one of their major priorities for the next Congress. So, too, do both presidential candidates. But there's growing acknowledgement that with the United States on the verge of a deep recession, passing a bill that mandates a reduction of greenhouse gases and places a price on emitting carbon will be extremely difficult.

"Clearly what's happening with the economy, and the scale it's happening, takes all the oxygen out of the room for virtually anything else for the moment,." said Debbie Sease, legislative director for the Sierra Club.

The odds are long for two reasons. First, with the nation facing the biggest economic crisis since the Great Depression and high energy prices, many legislators will be reluctant to pass a bill that - at least in the short term - will make all carbon-based fuels even more expensive. "Financial realities will make it much more difficult for the new administration or Congress to put forth a very aggressive, economy-wide climate bill," argued Sen. James Inhofe, ranking Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and one of Congress's harshest critics of any climate-change action. "I believe the current financial crisis will only reinforce the public's concerns about any climate bill that attempts to increase the costs of energy and jeopardizes jobs in the near term."

Second, with the nation's voters furious at poorly regulated financial markets that helped create the current meltdown, Congress is going to be reluctant to create a cap-and-trade system in which a new commodity - carbon emissions - will be traded on a large scale. Said William Kovacs, vice president for environment, technology and regulatory affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, "Anyone who thinks you can have a cap-and-trade system in which trillions of dollars of new securities will be traded is just not paying attention to what's happening on Wall Street."

All this, as well as the concern that a cap-and-trade system will mean the creation of a federal regulatory system that will further swell the budget deficit, has left environmentalists acutely aware of the daunting challenges ahead on federal climate legislation. "If you frame climate change as a regulatory program that's going to have a lot of costs," said Eileen Claussen, president of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, "then it will take a while for it to get back toward the top of the legislative agenda."

Inhofe and other opponents note that last year, despite broad support from the environmental community, Democratic leaders couldn't muster the 60 votes they needed to prevent a filibuster of their global warming bill. That measure, sponsored by Independent Sen. Joe Lieberman and Republican Sen. John Warner, would have created a cap-and-trade program allowing businesses to eventually buy and sell greenhouse gas emission credits on the open market.

David Kreutzer, a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation, said that even before the financial crisis hit, climate-change legislation was losing votes because it has the potential to raise the cost of electricity from coal-fired power plants. "When you put this kind of tax in place, you make energy more expensive," he said. "You lose lots of jobs. You really hit manufacturing."

More here


The future of coal-fired power generation in Europe was called into question yesterday after a European Parliament committee backed new laws that would force power companies to pay for all of their carbon dioxide emissions from 2013.

The decision, which could cost the power industry $46 billion a year and trigger a steep rise in electricity bills, represents a huge boost for Europe's renewable energy industry. It also casts fresh doubt over the likelihood of a œ1.5 billion coal-fired power plant being built at Kingsnorth, Kent, by E.ON, the German power group.

In addition, it flies in the face of British government policy. Last month, John Hutton, the former business secretary, told the Labour Party conference that "no coal . . . equals no lights. No power. No future."

Chris Davies, an MEP who backed the legislation, said that the decision by the European Parliament's environment committee "effectively prevents the building of new coal-fired power plants from 2015 unless equipped with CCS [carbon capture and storage technology]". The new rules require final approval from the European Parliament and EU countries. If granted, they will transform the economics of burning coal to generate electricity.

The move came despite fierce resistance from power industry lobbyists, who said that that the EU's aggressive emissions-cutting targets should be weakened because of the global financial crisis.

Avril Doyle, an Irish MEP on the committee, said: "For all the trouble we have, the single greatest challenge facing us is climate change."

The committee backed proposed changes to the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), an existing programme in which the bulk of permits are handed out to energy companies for free. Members voted in favour of auctioning all emissions permits after 2013 for power companies. The committee proposed that other polluting industries, such as steelmaking, should pay for 15 per cent of permits in 2013, rising to 100 per cent by 2020. It had been unclear how the ETS programme would evolve after 2012.

The committee also offered to plough $10 billion from the scheme into carbon capture and storage (CCS) research, an untried technology designed to strip out greenhouse gases at source and store them underground.

The bill is a key plank of the EU's plan to reduce Europe's carbon dioxide emissions by 20 per cent by 2020. The CBI welcomed the scheme last night, saying that it would provide greater clarity for businesses.

Europe's renewable energy industry also endorsed the decision. Maria McCaffery, of the British Wind Energy Association, said: "This new target underlines the urgency of action to deliver clean, sustainable energy now if we are to keep global temperatures within acceptable limits."

A spokeswoman for E.ON, which relies heavily on coal-fired power stations in Germany, as well as in the UK, said: "We are taking our time to review and assess the decision."

A vote before the full European Parliament is likely in December, although opposition is expected from some heavily coal-dependent countries, such as Poland. France, which has the EU presidency at the moment, wants to enshrine the Bill in law by the end of the year.



A key part of the EU's climate change policy - the Emission Trading System (ETS) - could destroy the economic viability of Europe's aluminium industry. The European Parliament's Environment Committee recognised the impact of CO2 costs passed into electricity prices (indirect effects) as one of the criteria for carbon leakage, as it has a large negative effect on the competitiveness of energy intensive industries. Therefore, it is inexplicable that the Committee failed to adopt provisions for a legal mechanism to address this problem.

According to Patrick de Schrynmakers, Secretary General of the European Aluminium Association (EAA), 'Europe will export jobs and import energy intensive products, with no environmental gain. While EAA welcomes the provisions for free allocation of emission allowances for the direct emissions, this would address only a small fraction of the costs imposed on aluminium by the ETS. By far the larger impacts will be from the indirect effects, caused by increases in electricity prices due to power generators passing through their CO2 costs into electricity prices. This will take place in a dysfunctional electricity market, where, already, barriers to competition have forced prices to prohibitive levels.

More here


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