Sunday, April 12, 2009

Nuclear Engineering Prof. Takes on Global Warming Alarmism

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution stunned those of us here at the Heartland Institute April 5 when it published a letter from Heartland friend James Rust, a retired Georgia Tech nuclear engineering professor with more than 50 years experience teaching and research in areas related to energy policy.

In running Jim’s letter, the AJC opened its door just a crack to allow a dissenting voice to its steady drumbeat of global-warming alarmism. Jim’s letter was so remarkable, for its brevity as well as its ability to slip by the AJC censors, that we reprint it here in full:
Dear Editor:

Sunday, March 29 AJC’s Other Opinions page (A19) allowed three quarters of the page to writings of climate alarmist journalists Thomas Friedman ("Mother Nature needs a rescue package") and Chris Mooney ("Follow the lead of sciences: Don’t play loose with facts"). Both writers maintain there is overwhelming scientific consensus carbon dioxide from human activity is producing catastrophic global warming (AGW). Thus we need to rapidly reduce use of fossil fuels by adopting alternative energy sources such as wind and solar.

There is no consensus on AGW. The computer models used to predict global warming can not duplicate actual conditions in the atmosphere. While carbon dioxide has been increasing at the rate of about one part per million annually the past century, global temperatures have risen, fallen, risen, and now falling the past ten years. Before rushing into wind and solar energy as replacements for fossil fuels, it might be prudent to look at the experience Great Britain is having with wind energy. Ultimately we probably will need to replace fossil fuels with practical alternatives. But don’t use AGW as an excuse to add further ruin to our economy by rushing into energy technologies that are impractical and uneconomical.


The Real Climate Deniers

For at least a decade, intimately connected with energy use, have been claims on climate change. Richard Lindzen, arguably the world's most renowned climate scientist, describes our understanding of the science of climate as "primitive." Yet many in the media persist in treating alarmist "climate experts" as "all-knowing." But then the same media have a long history of taking up "end is nigh" scaremongering. It's good for ratings. We have had a litany of warnings that "billions could die" when AIDS, Avian flu, SARS, Ebola, mad cow disease, the millennium bug -- the list is endless -- hit the headlines. When they didn't of course, media alarmists shrugged, claimed they "simply report the facts" and moved on to warn about the next looming disaster.

Since man set foot on the earth, however, nothing has quite gripped the angst-ridden imagination like the weather gods visiting their fury at human behavior and life, so much connected with the use of fossil fuel energy. Media editors know this. Where once we banished such "end is nigh" eccentrics to the limits of society, today, they are fĂȘted for spinning prediction as science and conducting publicly funded research to "save the planet." Their messages are aided by apocalyptic video game scenarios passing for media news reports.

Nowhere has this been thrown into more graphic relief than in two international climate conferences held in March this year. The "expert" conclusions of each could not have been more starkly divergent. But it is in the aims, nature and public pronouncements of each conference that we discern where the real science of climate understanding lays, and thus who are the real "climate deniers." All of which has profound implications for the future of energy, energy policy and energy investment.

The Alarmist Conference

The climate alarmist conference met in Copenhagen March 10-12 and was attended by over 2,000 activists, mostly non-scientists. It was billed as an "emergency summit" ahead of next December's UN global climate summit to be held in the same city. Such is the panic among climate/political activists that world governments will use the economic crisis as an excuse to avoid committing to binding national carbon targets come December, it was felt vital to up the political ante. If you thought that would mean scientists pointing to the latest accruing scientific evidence of impending disaster, however, you would be wrong. Far from presenting any new (or old) actual evidence, the conference majored on politicians doling out the media's headlines based on the latest apocalyptic computer-modeled predictions.

The conference duly warned of even higher sea levels and even higher global temperatures all presaging even greater catastrophes. Apparently warnings of temperature rises of 2 to 3 degrees C. clearly were not shocking us enough. Now they could be as high as 4 or 5 degrees C. The London Times reported the conference as claiming the "ice sheets are melting" and that increased global warming would lead to other "impacts," including more hurricanes, floods, and starvation.And just to show how previous prevarication by world leaders has already cost us, we learned that "two years ago it was widely thought that holding temperature increases to a maximum of 2C was achievable if governments made the effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent by 2050. It is now recognised that an 80 percent cut is needed."

To sum up, the alarmist conference in Copenhagen was not about science, it was about politics and prophecy. For the actual science, including the latest scientific evidence and trends, observers in Copenhagen would have had to travel to New York.

The Non-Alarmist Conference

Seven hundred climate "skeptics," many of them scientists, including Richard Lindzen of MIT, attended the Second International Conference on Climate Change, "Global Warming: Was It Ever Really a Crisis?" The conference sponsored by the Heartland Institute, was held in New York on March 8-10. This was a wholly different kind of affair. It focused on the empirical science of climate, the latest scientific data and climate trends. As such, in dealing with the gritty reality of climate science, it duly got almost zero mass media coverage. Most journalists, it seems, do not like dealing with real science and allaying public scares is just bad for business.

In complete contrast to Copenhagen, the New York conference was addressed by a who's who of distinguished climate scientists. As well as hearing from Professor Lindzen, the conference was addressed by Professor Syun-Ichi Akasofu, former director of the International Arctic Research Center, Professor Paul Reiter of the Pasteur Institute, and Dr. Willie Soon of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, to name but a few. These eminent scientists are the very ones the media likes to smear as "crackpots" and "climate deniers." What the conference received was the fruit of real research and study that showed sea levels, far from experiencing dramatic rise, are seeing the same level of rise they have been seeing for over 200 years. Professor S. Fred Singer, highlighting the claim of one alarmist who warned a rise of even 18 cm over a century would be "catastrophic," pointed out that the gentleman concerned is "apparently unaware that 18cm a century is the ongoing rate of rise -- which implies no additional rise in sea levels. In other words, the human influence is zero."

Alarmist claims over the "melting of the Western Antarctic ice sheet" also got short shrift as it was revealed the long-term melting of the Western ice sheet has been known about for decades. Far more significant was the data that confirmed how the Antarctic is not melting at all except for one tiny corner, the Antarctic Peninsula. The lack of scientific evidence that global ice was in meltdown was tied in with the fact that key computer-modeled temperature predictions -- upon which the whole alarmist edifice stands -- assume a linear rise in temperatures as carbon emissions rise. But such computer predictions were shown to have proven consistently and hopelessly inept. Far from following the linear rise anticipated by the alarmists, the actual satellite-measured global temperature data reveals that global temperatures have flattened out in recent years and, more recently, dropped. On the plain scientific data, if the present trend continues, the world will in fact be 1.1 degree C. cooler by 2100. In short, the world's ice is not in meltdown.

Similarly, claims that hurricane activity was rising was refuted by the scientific data showing hurricane activity, currently, is at a 30-year low.
Much more could be said, but reading the New York presentations (linked below) one can only be impressed by the standard of empirical scientific study and debate and, in Copenhagen, the distinct lack of it. The juxtaposition of these two conferences is thus iconic of the entire climate debate -- or rather the mass media's collusive and shameful closing down of it. Unfortunately, many political leaders have simply bought the media-dominating alarmist line.

Vaclav Klaus, keynote speaker at the New York conference and current president of the European Union, lamented that, "the minds of world leaders are firmly shut to anything but the fantasies of the scaremongers." Yet it's those same leaders who are about to consider diverting vast economic and energy resources at the current G20 and at December's "Kyoto II." Frightening, when you consider they will do so based on an agenda propagated by a highly anti-intellectual, exclusively prophetic, anti-science 'faith' movement -- the real climate deniers.


NASA: Clean-air regs, not CO2, are melting the ice cap

Acid-rain countermeasures could drown London

New research from NASA suggests that the Arctic warming trend seen in recent decades has indeed resulted from human activities: but not, as is widely assumed at present, those leading to carbon dioxide emissions. Rather, Arctic warming has been caused in large part by laws introduced to improve air quality and fight acid rain.

Dr Drew Shindell of NASA's Goddard Institute of Space Studies has led a new study which indicates that much of the general upward trend in temperatures since the 1970s - particularly in the Arctic - may have resulted from changes in levels of solid "aerosol" particles in the atmosphere, rather than elevated CO2. Arctic temperatures are of particular concern to those worried about the effects of global warming, as a melting of the ice cap could lead to disastrous rises in sea level - of a sort which might burst the Thames Barrier and flood London, for instance.

Shindell's research indicates that, ironically, much of the rise in polar temperature seen over the last few decades may have resulted from US and European restrictions on sulphur emissions. According to NASA:
Sulfates, which come primarily from the burning of coal and oil, scatter incoming solar radiation and have a net cooling effect on climate. Over the past three decades, the United States and European countries have passed a series of laws that have reduced sulfate emissions by 50 percent. While improving air quality and aiding public health, the result has been less atmospheric cooling from sulfates.

Meanwhile, levels of black-carbon aerosols (soot, in other words) have been rising, largely driven by greater industrialisation in Asia. Soot, rather than reflecting heat as sulphates do, traps solar energy in the atmosphere and warms things up.

The Arctic is especially subject to aerosol effects, says Shindell, because the planet's main industrialised areas are all in the northern hemisphere and because there's not much precipitation to wash the air clean.

"Right now, in the mid-latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere and in the Arctic, the impact of aerosols is just as strong as that of the greenhouse gases," says Shindell.


Science by opinion poll

Global warming is likely to overshoot a 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 F) rise seen by the European Union and many developing nations as a trigger for "dangerous" change, a Reuters poll of scientists showed on Tuesday.

Nine of 11 experts, who were among authors of the final summary by the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2007 (IPCC), also said the evidence that mankind was to blame for climate change had grown stronger in the past two years.

Giving personal views of recent research, most projected on average a faster melt of summer ice in the Arctic and a quicker rise in sea levels than estimated in the 2007 report, the most authoritative overview to date drawing on work by 2,500 experts. "A lot of the impacts we're seeing are running ahead of our expectations," said William Hare of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.

Ten of 11 experts said it was at best "unlikely" -- or less than a one-third chance -- that the world would manage to limit warming to a 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) rise above pre-industrial levels. "Scientifically it can be done. But it's unlikely given the level of political will," said Salemeel Huq at the International Institute for Environment and Development in London.

And David Karoly, of the University of Melbourne, said the world was "very unlikely" to reach the goal. "The concentration of long-lived greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is already enough to cause warming of more than 2C above pre-industrial levels, and we are continuing to emit more and more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere," he said.


Britain: Fined £75, the man who pinned up a sign and 'harmed a living tree'

After losing two of his prized paintings, Anton Cataldo decided to make a direct appeal to the public. The 28-year-old artist, who specialises in pet portraits, made posters of his missing paintings and pinned them to half a dozen trees in his local park. He included his phone number and email address as well as the offer of a £100 reward for their safe return.

But the only message he received was from a council official who took exception to Mr Cataldo's use of the local fauna - and fined him £75 for harming the 'living' trees. The email said the council had been made aware of the artist's decision to search for his lost property and said: 'Some of these posters had been stapled to trees. You appear to have little understanding that trees are living things. 'Wounding the bark of a tree in any way can lead to attack by airborne fungal spores which, in the worst-case scenario, could lead to the loss of the tree.'

The email, from a Brighton and Hove City Council enforcement officer, went on to inform Mr Cataldo that while several of his posters had already been taken down by the council, he should make every effort to remove the rest himself. It read: 'Whilst we accept that the subject matter of these posters has sentimental value to you, we simply can not allow every person who loses property to resort to the kind of actions as taken by yourself. 'The city council will, on occasions, permit residents or charities to attach posters to its property in cases, for example, where pets go missing or to raise funds, but, as I have said, not for the purpose of trying to locate lost property.' The email ended: 'We genuinely hope that the paintings are found and returned to yourself.'

Mr Cataldo, a Brighton resident whose artistic endeavours supplement his income as a part-time carer, painted the portraits of his parents' labradors, Oscar and Sam, last October and said they had added sentimental value after 17-year-old Sam later died. He then gave the 8in by 12in wood-framed pictures to his parents - Mario, a 56-year-old IT consultant, and Dwenda, 58 - to put up in their home in Uckfield, East Sussex. He later borrowed them to take to a job interview as part of his portfolio. It was on his return that they went missing.

He said: 'I put them on my car roof while I unlocked the door outside my studio in Brighton but then drove off with them still on the roof. 'I feel really stupid. The paintings obviously slid off on the way to my parents house about 20 miles away but there is no way of knowing where. I did everything I could think of to find them. I put adverts on websites, left flyers in pubs and put up posters. I really had no idea I might be doing anything wrong.

'I found the council email quite patronising. I'm not an expert but I doubt very much that a staple could cause so much damage to a tree that it would actually die.' He continued: 'I'm quite a considerate person and I would never knowingly do anything to harm a tree. I didn't realise there was a law about putting posters up, as you often see them around.

Mr Cataldo complained to the council about the fine, which has since been cancelled. A council spokesman said: 'This was probably a case of an officer who was a little bit over-zealous.'


Failure to get connected means "renewable" British electricity projects may never be turned on

Energy companies are having to shelve projects that would help Britain to meet its 2020 renewables target because they cannot connect them to the national grid. With waits of several years, and in one case almost a decade, before connections can be built, several wind farm projects might have to be put in abeyance.

Delays for land-based turbines caused by grid connection dates are a longstanding grievance of the on-shore wind industry and now threaten to affect the off-shore sector. To avoid a repeat of the delays on land the national grid has called for the off-shore sector to be split into regions to allow for a strategic approach. Under the present system a tender to connect off-shore wind farms is put out for each project, which executives at National Grid plc believe puts costs up and discourages potential investors.

Dividing the off-shore developments into regions would allow for strategic planning that could consider which part of the seas to concentrate on rather than skip back and forth between individual projects hundreds of miles apart. “There is a lack of joined-up thinking, particularly in the current economic climate,” Stewart Larque, of National Grid, said. “Having transmission regions would allow better economies of scale, which is good in the current climate for raising financing. It is generally a much better way to ensure we are best placed to meet the country’s renewables targets.”

Attempts are also under way to introduce a strategic approach on land after pressure from renewable energy companies frustrated at costly delays. Talks between National Grid, renewables companies, the Government and the regulator have identified several wind farm projects that could have their grid connection dates brought forward. Among them is a scheme by Renewable Energy Systems to build 21 wind turbines at Drummuire, Caithness, which has been given a grid connection date of 2016 despite having been given planning permission in 2005.

Richard Ford, grid connections manager for RES, is awaiting a final decision but said it appeared that some progress was being made. Nevertheless, another project that the company is planning in Scotland has been given a connection date of 2018 and it is thought likely that it will slip back to at least 2020. Mr Ford said: “If we really believe there is no prospect of better, whether or not we get planning approaval, we have to question whether it is appropriate to put it through planning.”

National Grid is responsible for organising grid connections and for deciding when they can be put in. Delays inherent in the planning system have been among the biggest problems, with the connections being subject to the same rules as the projects, often attracting intense local opposition.



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