Monday, February 09, 2009

Tu B'Shevat

Today is the Jewish holiday celebrating the New Year for trees. It is only a minor holiday but it is a good occasion to plant a tree. I planted eight fast-growing crepe myrtle trees in my backyard five years ago and they now are about 12 ft high and produce masses of pink blossom every January. So take it from me: Planting trees is both rewarding and an expression of faith in the future.

Greenies seem to have given up on trees. They see it as a great victory that McDonald's now uses cardboard instead of polystyrene. Yet using cardboard causes whole forests of trees to be cut down. And the war on plastic bags is the same. Many vendors have now reverted to brown paper bags instead -- which again causes lots of trees to be cut down. So should Greenies now be renamed as "Brownies"? Maybe not. I think the average Brownie would be more logical.

The Right Honourable The Viscount Monckton of Brenchley comments on the latest effusion from Leaky Jonathan

I commented on Leaky Jonathan here yesterday. Comment below received by email from Lord Monckton []

The scare: An article published in early February 2009 by Jonathan Leake, the environment editor of The Times of London, said "The ice caps are melting so fast that the world's oceans are rising more than twice as fast as they were in the 1970s." The Times said that "scientists" had used satellites "to track how the oceans are responding as billions of gallons of water reach them from melting ice sheets and glaciers", an effect "compounded by thermal expansion". The article said that in the past 15 years "sea levels have been rising at 3.4mm a year, much faster than the average 1.7mm recorded by tidal gauges over the past 50 years." A scientist was quoted as saying, "This rate, observed since the early 1990s, could reflect an acceleration linked to global warming." The article added that figures from the UK Meteorological Office suggested that sea level in the tidal reaches of the River Thames could rise by as much as 6ft 6in by 2100.

The truth: First, there is nothing new in this article. Ever since the TOPEX/JASON sea-level monitoring satellites began transmitting data in 1993, they have shown sea level as rising at a near-linear rate equivalent to 1 ft/century, compared with the 8 in/century previously estimated for the 20th century by the use of tide-gages. However, it is thought likely that the apparent increase in the rate of sea-level rise is chiefly an artefact of the change in mensuration from tide-gauges to satellites in 1993. Furthermore, in response to the very sharp global cooling of the last few years, the rate of increase in sea level appears to have slowed somewhat, though it is not yet clear whether the trend will continue, and no data from the JASON satellite has been published since the late summer of 2008. In 2007 the UN reduced its high-end estimate of sea-level rise from 3 ft to less than 2 ft over the 21st century. The mean rate of sea-level rise over the past 10,000 years has been 4 ft/ century, though The Times was very careful not to provide this perspective in its article.

There is little scientific basis for the article's assertion that "the ice-caps are melting fast". There has been some decline in sea-ice extent in the Arctic, but this decline is well within natural climate variability and cannot be attributed to anthropogenic "global warming", because the mere fact of warming (which, in any event, has not occurred for 13 years) tells us nothing of the cause of the warming. In the Antarctic, however, sea-ice extent has recently reached a record high, and the current accumulation of land-ice at the South Pole is 8850 feet deep, increasing annually. The Times somehow failed to mention the Antarctic in its article.

For most of the past 10,000 years - most recently in the Roman and medieval warm periods - temperatures were up to 3 Celsius degrees (5.5 Fahrenheit degrees) warmer than the present. Each of the past four interglacial periods was up to 6 Celsius degrees (11 Fahrenheit degrees) warmer than the present. Humankind cannot have been to blame. End of scare.

"Solar cycle 24"

Above is the title of a book that I have just received from its author, the polymathic David Archibald. David Archibald is a Perth, Australia-based scientist operating in the fields of climate science, cancer research and oil exploration. He has published several technical papers on the role of solar cycles in climate. His initial climate paper in 2006 popularised monitoring sunspot cycles as a climate prediction tool.

This book details how the Sun, not carbon dioxide, controls climate and predicts a significant cooling for the next two decades. At the same time, the heating effect of carbon dioxide will be minuscule. Combined with its positive effect on plant growth, increased atmospheric carbon dioxide is shown to be wholly beneficial. It is estimated that the carbon taxes proposed for Australia will cost 1. l million jobs. This book shows that not only are these taxes exactly wrong in science, we should be doing all we can to increase the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

So that throws down quite a challenge! The book is very comprehensive, very well-produced and has lots of accessible graphs. And, as is the case with most skeptical writing, its appeal is to established scientific facts rather than the appeals to authority that characterize most Warmist writing. It retails for $25 in Australia which translates to about $16 in U.S. dollars. There is a form on David's site for book orders from within Australia. For orders from outside Australia email him on

Are polar bears going to become extinct because the Arctic ice is melting?

By Dr. Thomas P. Sheahen []. (Dr. Thomas P. Sheahen is an MIT educated physicist, author of the book "An Introduction to High-Temperature Superconductivity", and writer of the popular newspaper column "Ask the Everyday Scientist", from which the post below is reproduced)

This is a topic that is beset with great confusion. The biggest problem of all is hype, because the entire topic makes terrific copy for a fund-raising letter. Children in elementary grades are sometimes being told that this is one of the terrible things happening because of mankind releasing too much CO2. The emotional appeal is very strong, because polar bears are a memorable feature of any trip to the zoo. There is a book entitled "Why Are the Ice Caps Melting?" by Anne Rockwell, aimed at the 4 - 8 year old range. There was also a British band named "The Melting Ice Caps" who sang totally unrelated songs. Publicity and excitement abounds, but science says otherwise. Let's start with a few facts:

First, the native people of Nunavut (northern Canada bordering the Arctic Ocean) hunt polar bears for food all their lives, and they haven't noticed any shortage of polar bears. Nobody is trying to protect polar bears from people.

Second, polar bears easily swim 100 km (over 60 miles). A polar bear "stranded" on an ice floe offers a photo distressing to humans, but if the ice floe is close enough to be filmed, the bear has a pretty easy trip back to solid ground.

Third, Arctic sea ice is not diminishing; it's currently back to the same extent as in 1979, three decades ago. This was reported in December 2008 by the University of Illinois's Arctic Climate Research Center; derived from satellite observations that keep track of the extent of sea ice, which varies every summer and winter.

Fourth, the Endangered Species Act contains several classifications of concern for animals, and the mildest form is "threatened." The Department of the Interior issued a statement in May 2008 that one sub-group of polar bears (in Alaska) are "threatened." The basis for invoking that classification was the computer-modeled projection that sea ice might decline further in the years ahead. The reasoning goes: polar bears aren't threatened currently, only sometime in the future IF the sea ice goes away. Here's an excerpt from the press release:
"Interior Department Secretary Dirk Kempthorne cited dramatic declines in sea ice over the last three decades and projections of continued losses. . Kempthorne also said, though, that it would be `inappropriate' to use the protection of the bear to reduce greenhouse gases, or to broadly address climate change."

Because of that latter limitation, Kempthorne was severely criticized by environmental groups.

The same press release underlined the first point above: "Canada, home to two-thirds of the world's polar bears, will not for now follow the U.S. lead in listing the animals as threatened, Environment Minister John Baird indicated."

The good news contained in the third point above completely negates the reason cited for assigning the classification "threatened" in the first place. On that basis, the category should be withdrawn. But don't hold your breath waiting for that!

Thus, the polar bears are not actually endangered in any way at all. So what's all the fuss about? What is really going on underneath all this is the attempt by strident environmentalists to prevent exploration and drilling for oil in the Arctic. That's the real issue, and the polar bears are merely a surrogate having emotional appeal.

Here's how a typical fund-raising pitch goes (example from the NRDC): "Polar Bear SOS ! We must make [the government] protect the polar bear as an endangered species and save it from extinction. I want to help NRDC mobilize one million Americans in support of full-fledged protection and fight in court for the sake of polar bear survival. Enclosed is my tax-deductible membership contribution ." And in an accompanying angry message to the Secretary of the Interior: "I am outraged you would allow global warming pollution and Arctic oil exploration to continue unabated while the polar bear is in mortal danger." And still more: "The plight of the polar bear is urgent. We can still save this magnificent species but the window for action is closing rapidly."

This alarming notice is obviously aimed at those who haven't taken the time to examine the issue, but who simply hear some buzzwords and easily get alarmed. The pitchmeisters lay it on thick in the hope of making such folks reach for their checkbook. Needless to say, if you make your living as a fund-raiser, you become very adept at weaving together little snippets of news and claims and statements here and there into an urgent call for action - and contributions. But you must also learn to ignore scientific evidence to the contrary when making your pitch.

Although Arctic sea ice had decreased a lot by September 2007, it returned to 1979 levels by December 2008. That scientific fact is unwelcome news to alarmists.

More Warmist confusion

We now have a guy saying that volcanic eruptions cause warming. Usually they say that volcanoes put up a cloud of particulate matter which in effect "shades" the earth and causes global cooling. One has to conclude that they are all just speculating. Nasty for that mythical "consensus", though

Sulfur dioxide emitted from volcanoes and from burning fossil fuel is the primary initiator of global climate change, according to Dr. Peter L. Ward, a retired U.S. Geological Survey scientist who continues to study the earth and its environment through his own company, Teton Tectonics. "Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas compounding global warming, but it is not the initiator of climate change," according to Ward.

In a paper to be published this week, Ward concludes that sulfur dioxide emissions regulate the ability of the atmosphere to clean itself by oxidizing greenhouse gases. Sulfur dioxide reacts quickly with available oxidants, leaving few to react with other greenhouse gases. The primary oxidants, created by the effects of ultraviolet sunlight on ozone, are, like ozone, in limited supply.

Ward observed that the highest rates of global warming in the past 46,000 years occurred precisely when volcanoes were most active. "When very large volcanic eruptions occur every few months," Ward says, "rapid warming follows. Too much sulfur dioxide in a short period of time causes warming."

Large eruptions in the past 2000 years occurred once per century. Yet by 1962, human activities were putting as much sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere every 1.7 years as one of these large eruptions. That was enough to cause world temperatures to climb rapidly. Beginning in 1979, global efforts to reduce acid rain cut power-plant sulfur emissions 18% by 2000. By 2000, global temperature stopped increasing, a fact unexplained by current climate theories.

"By reducing acid rain, we accidentally reduced global warming," Ward said. "The problem now is that sulfur dioxide emissions are rapidly increasing again as new power plants come on line every week around the world. But we know how to reduce sulfur emissions both technically and politically. It is much easier to do than reducing carbon dioxide emissions."

Ward's paper will be published in the next issue of "Thin Solid Films," a physics journal published by Elsevier Press, available online at


A terrible but foreseeable tragedy in Australia

These fires are a regular occurrence so why are not vulnerable communities protected by regular backburning? Is it just another case of chronic government bungling or is it because of characteristic Greenie opposition to backburning? If the latter, the blame must be put fairly and squarely where it belongs and any future such opposition firmly discredited and resisted

More than 100 people are feared dead as the worst bushfires in Victorian history rage out of control. Police this morning confirmed 108 people, including four children, died in firestorms described by Premier John Brumby as "hell on earth". Shocked survivors said parts of the state looked as though they had been hit by a nuclear bomb. Most of the damage was done by two massive fires - one that virtually wiped out towns northeast of Melbourne including Kinglake and Marysville, and a second inferno that raced across Gippsland. The toll passes the Black Friday holocaust of 1939 in which 71 were killed, and the Ash Wednesday fires of 1983, which claimed 47 Victorians.

Twenty-two people were in the Alfred hospital with shocking burns, 10 in a critical condition. Heart-wrenching tales of tragedy and heroism emerged from the apocalypse. But it is feared many more bodies will be found in the swathe of destruction. As the scale of the disaster unfolded:

750 HOMES were confirmed destroyed and 330,000ha of land burnt.

PREMIER John Brumby said: "I have never seen anything like this and hope to never see it again."

POLICE were disgusted that some fires may have been deliberately lit.

PRIME Minister Kevin Rudd called in the army and started a $10 million relief fund.

At least 29 people died in Kinglake, Kinglake West, St Andrews and Marysville where a monster fire is still raging on a 100km front. At least nine were dead in Gippsland at Callignee, Hazelwood, Callignee South and Jeeralang. Those two fires and a blaze near Beechworth are the major concerns for firefighters.

Picturesque Marysville was virtually wiped out and there are fears nearby Narbethong suffered a similar fate. "It was a most horrible day. It's going to look like Hiroshima, I tell you, it's going to look like a nuclear bomb. There's animals dead all over the road," Kinglake resident Dr Chris Harvey said. Six of the victims were in one car trying to outrun the inferno which swept through Kinglake in minutes.

Dr Harvey said the town was littered with burnt-out cars, and he believed many contained bodies. His daughters Victoria and Ali, both in their 20s, told of a local man, Ross, who lost both his daughters and possibly a brother. "He apparently went to put his kids in the car, put them in, turned around to go grab something from the house, then his car was on fire with his kids in it, and they burnt," Victoria said.

With cooler weather predicted for the next seven days, authorities are racing to contain all fires while they have the chance. Thousands of exhausted firefighters remained on the firefront last night, many still unable to return to their own ravaged communities. Teams of disaster victim identification experts were flying in from around the nation to perform a grisly task Police Chief Commissioner Christine Nixon compared to the Bali Bombings aftermath.

Mr Rudd announced Defence Force officers and bulldozers would be assigned to help build containment lines around major blazes continuing to burn unchecked. "The nation grieves with Victoria tonight," he said.

Police suspect some of the fires were started by arsonists as the state reeled in a heatwave which saw the mercury soar to a record 46.7C in Melbourne on Saturday. Forensic detectives and specialist arson investigators will visit the fire zones in the days ahead. CFA deputy chief officer Steve Warrington said even yesterday an arsonist was hampering efforts to fight fires in the Latrobe Valley. "We know we do have someone who is lighting fires in this community," he said. "While we often think it's spotting, we also know that there are people lighting fires deliberately."

Mr Brumby said his heart went out to those caught up in the disaster and called on Victorians to dig deep to help the thousands of people who have lost loved ones or houses. "It is one of the most tragic events in Victoria's history," he said. "For so many of us the scale of this tragedy defies comprehension. It is your generosity and selflessness that will see Victoria through this dark hour."

More here. Note: In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG pays his tribute to the true heroes fighting the terrible bushfires in Victora and South Australia.


For more postings from me, see DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


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