Monday, April 27, 2009


An email from Mark Lawson [] of the Australian Financial Review about the Salonius effusion

I wish to respond to the post by Peter Salonius that takes the green alarmism to new extremes. For he suggests that the only way to save the planet is to go back to hunter-gathering lifestyles, and have no children. Anti-population groups (the best collective term I can think of for them) are common in Australia and I recently annoyed them by pointing to the obvious from official statistics - there is just no hint of any limit, anywhere.

There are many facets to the argument but let us briefly discuss one aspect - agricultural productivity. Salonius is fond of quoting Jared Diamond. In one book, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed (2005), Prof Diamond makes the valuable point that the Australian state of Western Australia is akin to a gigantic flower pot. The soil has few nutrients of its own so what farmers put in the way of fertiliser is what they get out in crops. If the fertiliser stops coming then no crops. Salonius says that phosphate will eventually stop coming, pointing to research suggesting a "phosphate peak" [This was a great scare in the 1970s but was rather defused by the discovery (now apparently forgotten) of vast phosphate deposits in the Western Sahara -- JR]

I groaned when I saw this. Arguing over forecasts of peak oil is bad enough, with all the immense complications of no standardisation in the way reserves are reported, and the interplay between price, demand, supply, oil exploration and technology. Then there are different types of oil (oil sands and shales) and substitutes (LNG or even coal if the price is right). But at least we understand a great deal about the most traded commodity as it is the subject of intense research. Trying to work out what phosphate production might be in, say, 50 years when far less is known about reserves and substitutes would be a waste of time. A dozen highly-paid analysts could examine the issue intensively for five years and come up with a forecast that could still be completely wrong.

When it comes to making forecasts Prof Diamond and his fellow travellers are likely to be no better than the rest of us. Although the chapter quoted above makes some valuable points, there are also howlers. Prof Diamond somehow manages to give the impression that Australia can barely feed itself, without actually saying so. In fact its agricultural surpluses are so large farmers have to make special efforts to find markets. He also manages to confuse the West Australian State Constitution (which is arranged to favour the agricultural sector) with the Federal Constitution (which isn't).

While on the question of productivity publications from the Australian Bureau of Agriculture and Resource Economics (ABARE) show that total factor productivity was increasing, in Australia at least, until perhaps 10 years ago. No one seems to know what this pause is due to, but the delay in bio-engineered crops may be an explanation. The increase in productivity is, in turn, only just keeping Australian farmers ahead of generally declining terms of trade (increase in prices for farm inputs, and general decline in real prices for agricultural commodities). It doesn't look like we will run out of food any time soon.


A new study on global streamflows has just been announced via press release by NCAR. Here is how the press release opens:

"Rivers in some of the world's most populous regions are losing water, according to a new comprehensive study of global stream flow. The study, led by scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), suggests that in many cases the reduced flows are associated with climate change. The process could potentially threaten future supplies of food and water."

Here is what the paper actually says:

"We emphasize, however, that the actual streamflow and discharge examined here likely include changes induced by human activities, such as withdrawal of stream water and building dams, and thus they are not readily suitable for quantifying the effects of global warming on streamflow."

Lets see how many news stories follow the press release rather than the paper.


Note: The Guardian does not disappoint. It always chooses the alarmist path.


Philip Stott

The Sun isn't playing ball with the 'global warmers'. Indeed, I expect one of our more rabid Labour ministers to come out any day now fatuously accusing the fading star of 'global warming' denial on a par with denying the effects of smoking or the link between HIV and AIDS. But one has to laugh. The sun is currently so inactive that even our 'global warming'-obsessed media has been forced, through heavily rose-tinted sunglasses, to admit the phenomenon, rushing to add, of course, that this doesn't mean that 'global warming' has halted, or that we must stop mending our evil ways.

'Global Warming' In Trouble

Yet, the truth is that 'global warming' [not, let's be clear, climate change] is possibly in trouble. The whole point is that climate is the most complex of systems, and that it is impossible - madness even - to try to predict future climates with respect to one variable, and a variable working at the margins to boot.

So what precisely is all the fuss about that very big other variable, the Sun? Put simply, a thing called 'Solar Cycle 24' is long overdue; it just can't seem to get going. Solar-cycle intensity is measured by the maximum number of sunspots. Sunspots are dark blotches on the Sun that mark areas of heightened magnetic activity. The more sunspots, the more likely it is that major solar storms will occur. The next 11-year cycle of solar storms (i.e. 'Solar Cycle 24') was predicted to begin in Autumn, 2006, but it appears to have been seriously delayed.

This is what Paul Stanko of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is reported as saying about this on the wonderful Watts Up With That web site: "My running mean of the International Sunspot Number [ISN} for 2009 just dipped below 1.00. For anything comparable you now need to go back before 1913 (which scored a 1.43) which could mean we're now competing directly with the Dalton Minimum.

Just in case you'd like another tidbit, here is something that puts our 20 to 30 day spotless runs in perspective... the mother of all spotless runs (in the heart of the Maunder Minimum, of course!) was from October 15, 1661 to August 2, 1671. It totaled 3,579 consecutive spotless days, all of which had obs[ervations]."

So Why Do Sunspots Concern Us Here On Planet Earth?

But why does a spotless sun matter to you and me? The reason is simple: there is a close correlation between variations in the sunspot cycle and Earth's climates. During an active solar period, violent eruptions occur more often on the Sun. Solar flares and vast explosions, called coronal mass ejections, shoot energetic photons and highly-charged matter towards Earth, affecting the planet's ionosphere and geomagnetic field, potentially disrupting power grids, critical communications, satellites, Global Positioning Systems (GPS), and even threatening astronauts with harmful radiation. These storms also illuminate night skies with brilliant sheets of red and green, called auroras or aurorae - the Northern Lights (aurora borealis) and the Southern Lights (aurora australis).

However, sunspot numbers also affect the temperature of the Earth. A famous student of solar cycles was Edward Walter Maunder (1851-1928). Maunder was an English astronomer who identified an historical climate period, dating from 1645 to 1715, which is now named after him as the 'Maunder Minimum' [see the graph right: reproduced under the GNU Free Documentation Licence Version 1.2. Original by the excellent 'Global Warming Art' website].

This was a period in the Little Ice Age when sunspots became very rare, as noted by observers of the era. During one 30-year period within the Maunder Minimum, astronomers recorded only about 50 sunspots. Although a simplistic correlation is rightly contested, the Maunder Minimum thus appears to coincide with the middle - and the severest part - of the Little Ice Age.

Moreover, a second time a cycle was delayed like our current Solar Cycle 24 occurred during the so-called Dalton Minimum, an especially cold period that lasted several decades from 1790. Northern winters became ferocious: in particular, the rout of Napoleon's Grand Army during the retreat from Moscow in 1812 was at least partly due to the lack of sunspots.

Thus, what currently is happening to the average temperature of the Earth's surface? Since at least 2001, it has been falling, and dramatically so during the last two years.

Nobody Knows

Will this lead to a new mini Little Ice Age? I don't know, and nor does anybody else, anymore, I might add, than the global warmers know 'the truth' about climate. What it does remind us, however, is that climate remains entirely beyond human control and management, and that there will be no predictable outcomes to managing CO2 emissions at the margins.

The question we should be asking every Minister who comes out blathering that we must 'fix' climate is: "What climate precisely are you going to conjure up for us?"

Political Madness: 'Global warming' is a quite extraordinary political madness. In the immortal words of Bruno Latour: "Nous n'avons jamais été modernes".


False prophet rewarded at the NSIDC (National Snow and Ice Data Center)

Last year we had the forecast from NSIDC’s Dr. Mark Serreze of an “ice free north pole”. As we know, that didn’t even come close to being true. Summer 2008 had more arctic ice than summer 2007, and summer 2007 was not “ice free” by any measure.

In spite of the spectacular failure of Dr. Serreze’s widely quoted prediction, there were no retractions, no apologies for misleading the public, no admissions of error, and inaccurate stories like the one above are still in place. So what could possibly be worse news from NSIDC?

The very man who made that ridiculous statement of “an ice free north pole in 2008″ is set to become the “incoming director” of NSIDC. Apparently alarmism pays, especially if you get press.



Departing ambassadors give valedictory addresses, most of which are stunningly dull. Not so the US special envoy to the EU, the exotically named C Boyden Gray, who had a stark warning for Europe and a dig at Britain as he shut the door behind him.

C Boyden was scathing about the European plan for a 20% drop in greenhouse gases between 1990 and 2020, which would allow 50% of the "savings" to be achieved via "offsets" in developing countries.

With one eye clearly on UK plans to build Kingsnorth and up to seven other coal power stations, he pointed out that European countries could hardly claim to be world leaders on climate change if they were going to increase coal consumption and get everyone else to make the cuts. How much more ethical was the US, planning to cut emissions just as deeply but to make all except 15% of the cuts at home!

The ears of the British diplomats in the audience burned, seeing as they were the chief cheerleaders of the EU's offset arrangements.


Cancelled: 'Snow and freezing winds' puts Edmonton's Earth Day on ice

Mother Nature upstaged Mother Earth in Edmonton this weekend. Earth Day celebrations in the Albertan capital that were planned for Sunday have been postponed because of the cold weather.

Organizer Janice Boudreau said exhibitors and entertainers had been pulling out all week as forecasts announced snow and freezing winds. "They did it last year, but they didn't want to do it again," she said. "This is supposed to be an enjoyable experience for everyone." The organizing team will meet Monday to pick a new date, hopefully one during May or June.

Boudreau made the decision to put the event on hold on Saturday. "Our philosophy is any day is Earth Day," she said. "This was not an easy decision to make."

April 22 was International Earth Day.



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