The rumours spreading here in France now seem to be confirmed. Claude Allègre, a former socialist minister of research and an avid climate sceptic is on his way back, this time possibly back into government under the conservative Francois Fillon. Allegre has published several climate-critical texts. In a recently held television show he even called my boss and official IPCC French envoy, Jean Jouzel, a "tricheur" ("deceiver").
His contacts with Sarkozy appear to have intensified in recent times. Today, a fax was sent to all institutes of the IPSL (a group of laboratories located in Paris which work on climate issues) that Allègre is being considered as a successor of French environment minister Jean Luis Borloo. Allègre nomination, many think, is probably linked to a general shift in French climate policy. Some of my colleagues here at IPSL fear this may also have an influence on the part of the budget which deals with the funding of climate research. As usual, there have already been calls for strikes and demonstrations. [transl. BJP]
NOTE from Benny Peiser: Despite the conspicuous date of the above story, the blog rumours are no April fool's joke. In recent days, the French media have been reporting that President Nicholas Sarkozy is considering a cabinet reshuffle after the European Elections in June and that Claude Allègre is considered a possible ministerial candidate who may replace environment minister Jean Luis Borloo. See here. Allègre is France's most eminent climate sceptic. The very fact that he is a serious contender for the post of environment minister in itself is a clear signal that climate policies and politics in Europe are changing rapidly.
Amazing: Giscard a skeptic too. Will France be the first to break ranks? They are independent-minded enough to do so
An email from Christian Gerondeau [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Please find below the translation of the preface to my book "CO2: un mythe planétaire". The Preface was written by the former French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing, a highly esteemed European personality. As you can see, you can now count President Giscard d'Estaing among the "climate sceptics".
The great advantage of a scientific mind is that it reasons in an objective and inventive manner. This is true of the renowned engineer Christian Gerondeau, who has given much thought to one of the dominant concerns of our times, climate change.
Mr Gerondeau begins with an original line of thought, leading to a series of fundamental questions. He believes that we are on the wrong track as it is not realistic to try to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. In his view, the only way of doing so would be to stop extracting fossil energy resources or at least to set a ceiling on them. However, we are doing exactly the opposite by encouraging oil exploration, developing natural gas transport networks and by opening new coal mines. Once these fossil energies have been extracted, they will naturally be consumed and will produce carbon dioxide emissions. If we do not extract them, other countries will, thus producing the same volume of carbon dioxide emissions. The only solution would be to limit the extraction of oil, natural gas and coal, but there is no global consensus to propose this.
Christian Gerondeau puts forward another original idea, indicating that there will probably be little harm done to the planet as he shows, like other scientists, that no definite relationship has been established between the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide and possible changes in the climate. The latter are due to far more complex evolutions which doubtless find their origin well beyond the atmosphere.
Mr Gerondeau also deduces that the considerable sums of money that different countries throughout the world believe to be devoting to "saving the planet" will be completely wasted, like those serving to cover France with wind turbines, which disfigure our landscapes and for which we have no need in terms of energy supplies. The result is poor use of public funds for an ineffective production of electricity.
This book has the virtue of helping us question generally accepted ideas and perhaps discover more realistic solutions for the future.
Valéry Giscard d'Estaing
NEW PAPERS AT SPPI
An email from Bob Ferguson [email@example.com], President, Science and Public Policy Institute [www.scienceandpublicpolicy.org]
The most recent issue of SPPI ScareWatch has been posted. Excerpt follows:
The scare: For years, scientists, politicians, journalists, academics, and schoolteachers have been fabricating lurid and imaginative disaster stories about the supposed environmental impact of anthropogenic "global warming". There have been apocalyptic predictions about soaring temperatures, Arctic ice-melt, sea-level rise, hurricanes, extreme-weather events of all kinds, species extinction, etc., etc. These scare stories have little basis in scientific reality: they are pure inventions, usually designed to attract funding or increase circulation.
The truth: For years, the Science and Public Policy Institute has been drawing public attention to the flimsiness of the alarmist case, both in its popular Scarewatch series and, more recently, in its authoritative and influential Monthly CO2 Reports, which have revealed that the rate of increase in atmospheric CO2 concentration is half the UN's central estimate...
Full paper can be read here.
Also, the following new papers have been recently posted:
A Farmer's View of Carbon Credits -- by Farmer Steve
Global Warming - A Classic Case of Alarmism -- by David Evans
Your "Carbon Legacy" -- by Sherwood, Keith and Craig Isdo
Catastrophic droughts in Africa are the norm, claim scientists
Catastrophic droughts in Africa such as the those which devastated the Continent in the late 20th century are the norm and not due to human activity, claim scientists. Researchers believe the drought that struck parts of Northern Africa in the 1970s and 1980s, killing hundreds of thousands and displacing millions more, may have been the result of a natural climate cycle.
In the past, many scientists thought the drought in the Sahel zone – a band that runs just below the Sahara – was caused by humans overusing natural resources in the region. But a new study in the journal Science shows that they are a natural part of weather pattern of the area for the last 3,000 years. If anything the droughts were less severe than those seen historically, with previous periods without rain lasting more than a century.
The earlier dry spells dwarfed the well-documented drought that plagued West Africa in the late-20th century, and as the planet warms, the study's authors believe the region's rainfall patterns will have an even greater impact.
During the 1970s and 1980s the drought pushed the Sahara desert south, destroying farmland. It had a major impact on many countries including Nigeria, Niger and Mali. Clearly, much of West Africa is already on the edge of sustainability and the situation could become much more dire in the future with increased global warming," said Jonathan Overpeck of the University of Arizona.
The findings emerged from sediments that lie at the bottom of Lake Bosumtwi in Ghana, deposits of soil and organic matter that contain annual bands of light (winter) and dark (summer) layers that stretch back more than three millennia. The study shows regular periods of dryness, particularly droughts in the 30-40 year range. Some have even lasted centuries.
The team, which reported its findings in Science, believe the arid periods correspond with fluctuations in sea surface temperatures, a pattern called the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO).
Previous researchers produced a computer model that included ocean surface temperature, the amount of moisture in the soil, and loss of vegetation. With all those conditions, the computer model behaved just like the Sahel drought – producing a long period of dry, cool weather. "What's disconcerting about this record is that it suggests the most recent drought was relatively minor in the context of the West African drought history," said co-author Timothy Shanahan, of the University of Texas,
"If we were to switch into one of these century-scale patterns of drought, it would be a lot more severe, and it would be very difficult for people to adjust to the change."
JOHN MADDOX: THE SKEPTICAL PROPHET
More background on the courageous Sir John
A good prophet is hard to find, and we've lost one of the best with the death of John Maddox, the former editor of Nature. My colleague William Grimes describes his career well, telling how he transformed Nature and was not shy when it came to fighting for the scientific principles he held dear.
I spoke with Dr. Maddox about prophecy in 1994, on the 25th anniversary of the landing on the Moon, when I reviewed some of the prophecies made a quarter century earlier. The moon landing tended to inspire either technological rhapsodies (forecasts of colonies on the moon by 2000) or ecological nightmares about the destruction of "Spaceship Earth," but Dr. Maddox didn't succumb to either extreme.
He debunked the catastrophists, most notably in his 1972 book, "The Doomsday Syndrome," in which he argued that Spaceship Earth had more carrying capacity and ecological resilience than environmentalists realized. His book was denounced at the time by John P. Holdren, who is today the White House science advisor. In a 1972 article in the Times of London, Dr. Holdren and his frequent collaborator, the ecologist Paul Ehrlich, dismissed Dr. Maddox as "uninformed" and clearly unable to understand "simple concepts" of population theory. They wrote:
"The most serious of Maddox's many demographic errors is his invocation of a "demographic transition" as the cure for population growth in Asia, Africa and Latin America. He expects that birth rates there will drop as they did in developed countries following the industrial revolution. Since most underdeveloped countries are unlikely to have an industrial revolution, this seems somewhat optimistic at best. But even if those nations should follow that course, starting immediately, their population growth would continue for well over a century-perhaps producing by the year 2100 a world population of twenty thousand million."
Well, contrary to Drs. Holdren and Ehrlich, the industrial revolution and the demographic transition did indeed arrive in developing countries.
And their projection for 2100 - that even a best-case scenario would produce a world with 20 billion people - looks way off to today's demographers, whose projections tend to be only about half as large. Perhaps Dr. Maddox really did understand some of those "simple concepts" of population.
Dr. Maddox was also skeptical of the dramatic predictions for space travel, and during the Apollo program he criticized the moon missions as an extravagance that would lead nowhere. In 1994, that prediction was also looking as accurate as some of his environmental forecasts, and I asked him to look ahead another quarter century. Here's how I summarized the predictions of Dr. Maddox for 2019:
On this planet, he expects a continuation of the technological changes that have been gradually increasing the food supply, income and life expectancy of the average human. And away from this planet, he doesn't expect much of anything for the average human.
"This business of carting people around the solar system is going to remain enormously difficult," he said, "and for the foreseeable future there's no worthwhile purpose for it." He can imagine humans someday scanning for dangerous earthbound asteroids from an observatory on the moon, or perhaps a satellite of Jupiter, but not until much better spaceships are available - which he does not expect soon.
"I hope this won't make me sound too crusty," he said, "but my guess is that this sort of space travel is 250 years down the road."
I hope he's wrong about space travel - not 250 years! - but it would be nice if he were right about humans coping well on this planet. I'll leave you with a remark of his on global warming, made after attending a conference of climate skeptics in London in 2005. (Hat tip: CCNet.) David Adam, the science correspondent for the Guardian, reported from the meeting:
"Bob May, the president of the Royal Society, said the sceptics were a "denial lobby" similar to those who refused to accept that smoking caused cancer.
But John Maddox, a former editor of the journal Nature, who attended yesterday's meeting, said the sceptics might have a point.
He did not dispute that carbon dioxide emissions could drive global warming, but said: "The IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] is monolithic and complacent, and it is conceivable that they are exaggerating the speed of change."
Any predictions on whether he's right about the future of the environment or space travel? Or any thoughts on his many accomplishments?
Australia: Climate plan to close coal mines
A CONFIDENTIAL industry briefing to Federal MPs warned at least two NSW coal mines would close under planned climate change laws. Mining giant Xstrata Australia's chairman Peter Coates said the Emissions Trading Scheme would make some mines unprofitable and cut new investment. His warnings, regarded as extremely sensitive in the industry, added to concerns the Government's ETS, to start in July 2010, would cost thousands of jobs.
They were revealed ahead of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's bid to downplay the fears by launching a "think tank" on cleaning up the coal industry. Mr Rudd will today open the Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute in Canberra, to examine ways to reduce and divert emissions.
In briefings in recent weeks in his role as Minerals Council of Australia climate change committee chairman, Mr Coates gave two case studies - an Illawarra mine and one in the Hunter. He said that the Illawarra mine produced 1.5 million tonnes a year of gassy coking coal, costing an extra $27 million a year to buy a permit for its carbon emissions under the ETS. The Hunter mine's 1.8 million tonnes a year of gassy thermal coal would add $39 million to its costs. Mr Coates' study found both mines and others will close, leading to 5000 to 10,000 job losses in the coal industry nationally.
He did not identify the mines and Xstrata does not have an Illawarra operation. An Xstrata spokesman yesterday told The Daily Telegraph the company would not name mines that might be threatened because it would alarm workers, saying only that "marginal, gassy mines" would be most at risk.
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 blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.