Friday, June 12, 2009


Discussing: "Esper, J. and Frank, D. 2009. The IPCC on a heterogeneous Medieval Warm Period. Climatic Change 94: 267-273."

In an important paper recently published in the peer-reviewed journal Climatic Change, Swiss scientists Jan Esper (of the Swiss Federal Research Institute) and David Frank (of the Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research) take the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to task for concluding in their fourth assessment report (AR4) that, relative to modern times, there was "an increased heterogeneity of climate during medieval times about 1000 years ago."

This finding, if true, would be of great significance to the ongoing debate over the cause of 20th-century global warming, because, in the words of Esper and Frank, "heterogeneity alone is often used as a distinguishing attribute to contrast with present anthropogenic warming." On the other hand, if the IPCC's contention is false, it would mean that the warmth of the Current Warm Period is not materially different from that of the Medieval Warm Period (MWP), suggesting there is no need to invoke anything extraordinary (such as anthropogenic CO2 emissions) as the cause of earth's current warmth, which does not yet appear to have reached the level experienced a thousand years ago (when there was much less CO2 in the air than there is today), as is indicated by the materials archived in our Medieval Warm Period Project. And, of course, this outcome would also be of great significance.

So what did the two Swiss scientists find? By means of various mathematical procedures and statistical tests, Esper and Frank were able to demonstrate that the records reproduced in the AR4 "do not exhibit systematic changes in coherence, and thus cannot be used as evidence for long-term homogeneity changes." And even if they could be thus used, they say "there is no increased spread of values during the MWP," and that the standard error of the component data sets "is actually largest during recent decades." Consequently, the researchers concluded that their "quantification of proxy data coherence suggests that it was erroneous [for the IPCC] to conclude that the records displayed in AR4 are indicative of a heterogeneous climate during the MWP."

Nevertheless, the homogeneity issue remains unresolved, for as Esper and Frank also note, "an estimation of long-term spatial homogeneity changes is premature based on the smattering of data currently available." And that is why we continue to post the results of one new study each and every week that provides additional data on the Medieval Warm Period. We are determined to see this question -- and others associated with it -- clearly resolved, one way or the other. And as may be seen from the ever-expanding results of our Interactive Map and Time Domain Plot, the MWP is looking ever more global and substantial with every passing week.


Journal abstract follows:


By Jan Esper and David Frank


In their 2007 report, IPCC working group 1 refers to an increased heterogeneity of climate during medieval times about 1000 years ago. This conclusion would be of relevance, as it implies a contrast in the spatial signature and forcing of current warmth to that during the Medieval Warm Period. Our analysis of the data displayed in the IPCC report, however, shows no indication of an increased spread between long-term proxy records. We emphasize the relevance of sample replication issues, and argue that an estimation of long-term spatial homogeneity changes is premature based on the smattering of data currently available.


Science, belief and rational debate

From Scientific Alliance newsletter 12th June 2009

The scientific method is a valuable way to advance objective knowledge. By testing a hypothesis against observation, it can either be falsified or supported. Not proved, of course, but nevertheless over time sufficient evidence can accumulate for a hypothesis to be generally accepted as the best available explanation. It is then known as a theory. Hence, although the vast majority of scientists and citizens (at least in Europe) accept Darwin's description of evolution, this is still regarded as a theory rather than fact. This is important, because as our understanding develops, apparently satisfactory theories may be replaced by others.

For simple things such as the effect of the Earth's gravity on objects we are familiar with, collecting the evidence is straightforward and no experiments have been done which contradict the theory of gravity. But over the last century, it has been accepted that classical Newtonian mechanics is actually only valid at a certain scale (which encompasses everything in our normal Earthbound existence). At the atomic scale, we enter the abstruse realm of quantum mechanics, and on a cosmic scale Einstein's theory of relativity is currently the best description of what goes on across the observable universe.

Importantly, both of these deviations from the familiar everyday world as explained by Newton arose because observation did not fit with prediction: the theory broke down at very large and very small scales. The boundaries of knowledge have since been pushed back steadily, leading to a general acceptance of quantum mechanics and relativity as the best theories to date to explain observations.

On a cosmic level, there is still much we do not know. It is now generally accepted that the Big Bang theory describes the universe better than the previously-competing Steady State model. But current models require the universe to be composed largely of as-yet-undetected "dark matter" and "dark energy" if observations are to be consistent with theory. And on a broader scale, the search for a "theory of everything" which brings together quantum mechanics and relativity and explains gravity remains unresolved, with the large amount of work on the development of string theory potentially being a historical dead end.

This sort of work engenders fierce scientific rivalries, and the formation of a consensus view can take many years, but it is essentially an internal professional competition, of little direct relevance to the average citizen (apart from the fact that their taxes pay for it). However, when we come to issues which affect non-scientists more directly, other interest groups become more involved.

A classic recent example which is often quoted is of the cause of stomach and duodenal ulcers. Many readers will remember that stress and spicy foods were considered the primary causes of peptic ulcers, until the Australian scientists Robin Warren and Barry Marshall discovered the bacterium Helicobacter pylori in 1982 and proposed that colonisation by this micro-organism was the main factor. Warren took the rather extreme step of deliberately infecting himself (and inducing symptoms of gastritis) and publishing the results before the theory began to gain acceptance.

In this case, doctors and scientists "knew" that stress and diet were the main causative factors for ulcers because that was what they had been taught and that was the basis on which patients were treated. It is human nature to accept facts rather than continually question them: indeed, society would probably not function if we did not behave like this. To overturn received wisdom requires either unexplained observation (as for the behaviour of the universe) or one or more awkward individuals who are sufficiently motivated to do their own experiments.

But when we turn to environmental issues, the situation becomes more complex still. To test a hypothesis, it is always best if only one independent variable can be changed at a time. In the laboratory, this is usually possible, but when hypotheses have to be tested purely by observation of highly complex systems, life gets much more difficult. And it is difficult to think of something much more complex than global climate.

It is well known that there were serious concerns raised about climate change in the 1970s, although at that time the worry was about cooling and descent into a new Ice Age. However, attention soon turned instead to global warming. A sudden jump in temperature in the mid-1970s was followed by an upward trend over the next two decades, and it was perfectly logical to hypothesise that this increase was caused by rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

This quickly became the new paradigm, linking humankind's burning of fossil fuels directly to environmental change on a global scale. Unfortunately for the cause of rational debate, this also quickly became the only acceptable hypothesis for large swathes of the scientific community, pretty much everyone who considered themselves an environmentalist and the liberal elites in Western democracies. The problem was, is (and will remain so for the foreseeable future) that it is impossible to do experiments on the Earth's climate. All we can do is observe.

Scientists often model systems to predict what effects might be expected if variables change in a certain way. In the absence of anything resembling evidence for the causative effect of global warming, computer modelling was enthusiastically embraced to project likely changes on the basis of the understanding of how climate worked. So far, so good, but the output from these models, rather than being seen as indications of what might happen if the hypothesis was right, have taken the place of experimental observation.

So, in a circular argument, the models which are based on a particular hypothesis (the greenhouse effect with positive feedback) are taken to "prove" the hypothesis because they reproduce the pattern of twentieth century temperature change. Similarly, the projections for future temperature rise (which, we should remember, cover a large range) are regularly quoted as what will happen if carbon dioxide emissions are not drastically cut back.

Large numbers of people have been sufficiently convinced by the arguments to take it as read that the greenhouse gas hypothesis is essentially correct and that disaster will occur unless radical cuts are made in emissions. They have moved beyond the stage of questioning to simply not listening to anyone who raises doubts. But, what is worse, they are putting their faith in a hypothesis unsupported by anything more than circumstantial evidence. Because no-one can do more than point to observations, no new evidence is going to be produced which – as in the story of peptic ulcers – will provide direct, irrefutable corroboration of an alternative theory.

In the meantime, the belief in the greenhouse gas hypothesis is such that legitimate criticism based on contradictory evidence – the lack of predicted warming of the upper troposphere, the measured cooling of Antarctica, the lack of change in the rate of sea level rise or the failure of the models to explain or predict recent temperature trends, for example – are dismissed as the propaganda of paid lobbyists or cranks. All societies will gain if we make sure we understand the problem before taking corrective action rather than jump on the currently fashionable bandwagon. Addressing critics' questions seriously is a necessary first step.

Whatever the result, a better understanding of our climate will ensure that we take appropriate action rather than invest so much in one particular preferred "solution" which shows little chance of success. Whatever the result, science will be the stronger for it. But, if things continue as they are and the catastrophists' view of climate change turns out to be wrong, it would hardly be surprising if the average person fails to place much faith in science.


Prosecuting “Future Crimes”

From Ed Ring's new site:

The “World Future Council” has recently issued a press release stating “Crimes against Future Generations need to become taboo” (pdf), with a lead sentence that states the following: “How can we prevent and prosecute activites today that severely threaten the living conditions and health of those living in the future?”

Does this sound sinister to you? If you don’t buy into some of the dominant concepts of mainstream environmentalism today, if you appreciate the potential for unintended consequences, and if you are paying attention the ongoing momentum of mainstream environmentalism, you will find this pronouncement sinister indeed. Here’s more:

“The fundamental rights of future generations need to be recognized in international justice. Investigating the concept of Crimes against Future Generations is a very important initiative to support this,” according to Prof. Marie-Claire Cordonier Segger, a World Future Council “Councillor.”

Like most utopian concepts, this all sounds great except for one glaring, fatal flaw: We can’t predict the future, or the judgement of history. For example, in their press release, WFC notes the problem of rainforest destruction due to oil drilling - ignoring the fact that most rainforest destruction in the past decade or more has been financed by proceeds from European emissions allowance auctions, because “carbon neutral” biofuel plantations were considered until fairly recently to be eligible carbon offset projects. Deforestation on the scale of hundreds of thousands of square miles was enabled by social engineers of WFC’s ilk, their misguided utopian idealism only matched by their political savvy. In this case, the judgement of the future is already here - and the guilty parties are the same people who are proposing we create a new area of international law to prosecute who, themselves? Clearly, in the case of rainforests, they didn’t see the future very well at all, nor are they being honest today about what really happened.

Another obvious example of the simplistic arrogance of the WFC’s press release is their distaste for nuclear power, despite the potential of nuclear power to make significant contributions to global energy supply. Nuclear power is cleaner and safer than ever, but to read this press report you would think Chernobyl was yesterday. The irony is fascinating - these people presume to be so certain of the judgement of history some time in the future that they wish to prosecute those of us today whose projects may not fit their world view, yet these futurists have no faith in the potential for technology to deliver safe nuclear power! What technologies do they like, and why, and will their assessments be any more accurate than the ones that lead to the incineration of Indonesian rainforests to plant oil palms?

If crimes against the future are going to be prosecuted, perhaps we should prosecute those who in the name of environmentalism, fought, often successfully, to eliminate nuclear power, eliminate coal power, banned DDT and genetically modified crops, and in general restricted resource development of all kinds. Because when the history of the 21st century is written, it may be this version of environmentalism will be to blame for condemning humanity to a dark age of scarcity that was completely, utterly avoidable. So where are the legal briefs for this case? In what international court shall we file this lawsuit against environmentalists for “crimes against the future?”

Environmentalism today has been hijacked by powerful vested interests, including public sector unions, corporate cartels, and the “international community,” whose primary concern is preserving their elite status and squelching competition. They are abetted by irresponsible journalists who have not taken it upon themselves to verify all of the doomsday predictions coming out of the PR mills such as that of the WFC, nor are willing to consider alternative world views that might embrace entrepreneurial activity and resource development. They are also abetted by ambitious consultants, service professionals and entrepreneurs of all stripes who see in the green mania a good way to grow their businesses - and if they don’t think too hard, they may even consciously think they are saving the planet. But when the judgement of history is upon us, one hundred years hence, maybe it will be those who wanted to reform environmentalism, right-size government, and roll back the power of big labor who will be seen to have fought the good fight. Green is a complex color - it reflects a great deal of genuine beauty and promise, but shades of darkness as well.

Prosecuting “crimes against the future” is a snake pit, writhing with opportunists and their useful zealots, and nothing more. It is dangerous, it discredits the genuine values and challenges of environmentalism that should be addressed, and threatens our freedom.


Caterpillar CEO Commits to Pro-Cap-and-Trade Lobbying Course While Admitting Risk to USA and His Own Corporation; Says Stockholders Who Object Can Just Sell Their Stock

Should We Sell Our Stock in America, Too, Mr. Owens?

Caterpillar CEO James Owens admitted Wednesday at his company's annual stockholder meeting that the carbon caps his company supports could hurt the U.S., U.S. heavy industry and Caterpillar itself. Owens made the admission in response to questioning by Tom Borelli, director of the National Center for Public Policy Research's Free Enterprise Project, who attended the meeting on behalf of the Free Enterprise Action Fund.

Owens told Borelli and stockholders that the U.S. and Caterpillar will be harmed if carbon caps are adopted by the U.S. but not adopted by the rest of the world. The key industrial nations of China and India are extremely unlikely to adopt carbon caps.

Borelli also asked Owens how Owens would be held accountable if Caterpillar's lobbying led to "a regulatory avalanche leaving the U.S. in an uncompetitive situation." Owens responded by telling Borelli to just sell his stock.

"Caterpillar CEO Owens' flippant remark that stockholders can just sell their stock if Caterpillar's lobbying efforts harm the company leaves me wondering: Does Owens expect us to sell our stock in America, too? Because by lobbying for legislation that would harm individual Americans and American competitiveness, it sure seems like that's what Mr. Owens and his board of directors have done," said Amy Ridenour, president of the National Center for Public Policy Research. "Mr. Owens freely admits the legislation his firm backs will hurt the country and his company unless it also is adopted by major nations worldwide, but everyone knows the powerhouses China and India have no interest in doing so."

Owens also said Caterpillar did not support the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill, which was approved by the House Energy and Commerce Committee in May. When pressed by Borelli, Owens declined to say Caterpillar would lobby against Waxman-Markey if it went to the floor, but Owens also declined to deny the company would lobby for it.

Owens also said the U.S. Climate Action Partnership (USCAP), an environmentalist-big business coalition to which Caterpillar belongs, did not support Waxman-Markey, but USCAP urged members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee to vote in favor of the legislation's passage when the bill was considered in the committee last month.


Beware of blood lust on the Left

Scratch a global warming fanatic these days and you may find a wannabe executioner

The way I figure it, wish death upon your political opponents once and it can be ignored as just a warped jest. Do it twice and it looks like evidence of mounting frustration with your neighbors’ inability to see your cause’s crystalline righteousness.

Do it three times and folks around you should start reaching for their hog legs (Don’t know the meaning of that firearms industry technical term? Google it, then read the entry in the Urban Dictionary).

It seems there are more than a few global warming fanatics these days whose patience is wearing thin with those of us who refuse to endorse repeal of what the true believers view as three of the 20th century’s greatest evils – privately owned cars that empower people to go where they please, suburbs that let them permanently escape city life, and free market capitalism that produces a wider prosperity than seen anywhere else in human history.

So we increasingly hear such folks muttering darkly about things that remind of Robespierre’s cure for counter-revolutionary thinking. Take the most recent example, a post on Talking Points Memo by “The Insolent Braggart” who poses an interesting question: “So when the right wing f--ktards have caused it to be too late to fix the problem, and we start seeing the devastating consequences and we start seeing end of the World type events - how will we punish those responsible. It will be too late. So shouldn’t we start punishing them now?”

It would be easy to dismiss this as an isolated example, something akin to the slightly warped jest mentioned above, except for one thing: The sentiment expressed in this anonymous post on one of the Left’s most widely read blogs isn’t exactly unique.

As Marc Morano of Climate Depot (yes, he’s a confirmed denier) points out, global warming fanatics have for several years now been calling for jail or execution for people who disagree with them: “NASA’s James Hansen has called for trials of climate skeptics in 2008 for ‘high crimes against humanity.’

Environmentalist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. lashed out at skeptics of 2007, declaring ‘This is treason. And we need to start treating them as traitors.’ In 2009, RFK, Jr. also called coal companies ‘criminal enterprises’ and declared CEO’s ‘should be in jail... for all of eternity.’

In 2006, the eco-magazine Grist called for Nuremberg-Style trials for skeptics. In 2008, Canadian environmentalist David Suzuki called for government leaders skeptical of global warming to be thrown ‘into jail.’”

What worries me is that this blood lust for vengeance among global warming extremists is mirrored elsewhere on the Left on other issues. The ardor of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. John Conyers for show trials of former Bush administration officials for their roles in the Iraq War may have cooled for now, but don’t think for a minute they’ve given up on the idea.

Never mind that such trials would unleash a deadly cycle of revenge and counter-revenge not seen since Oliver Cromwell rolled Charles I’s head down the steps of Parliament. Lose a political bout in those days, and you probably lost your head, too.

Then there is the Obama administration’s stealth drive to silence Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, and the rest of the conservative Talk Radio firmament. They’re not calling it the Fairness Doctrine any more. Now it’s “diversity panels,” which supposedly are citizens groups that will “advise” radio stations on whether or not they are airing sufficiently diverse programming.

This ACORN-izing of broadcast audience feedback will put the mob inside the offices of programming directors everywhere. When mobs with political agenda s don’t get what they want, they start busting up people and property.


Australia has best start to a snow season in a decade

Global cooling strikes again

THE best start to a snow season in a decade should have all of Australia's major ski fields up and running by the weekend. Extensive snowfalls this week have created a good base at all the major NSW and Victorian ski resorts with more snow due over the next two days. Snowmaking machines will also be enhancing the natural cover. For the first time in history, Perisher is looking to open Mt Perisher for the second weekend of the season.

The heaviest fall in either state in the past 24 hours has been at the Victorian cross country venue at Lake Mountain, where only three months ago the state's deadly bushfires had ravaged the landscape. Some 40 centimetres has fallen at Lake Mountain and all cross country trails are open. Of the main downhill locations, the Victorian resorts of Mount Buller and Falls Creek had registered the highest falls, each receiving around 25cm in the 24 hours to 5pm (AEST) on Wednesday.

Falls Creek had an average cover of 44cm with one lift open, and Mt Buller had 56cm on the ground, where six lifts are due to roll on Friday. Two lifts operated on Wednesday at Mt Hotham where there was an average cover of around 40cm.

In NSW, one lift operated at Thredbo on Wednesday with 10cm of fresh snow bringing the overall cover to around 50cm, but the slopes remained officially closed to the public. Perisher had two lifts in action with one run open, but snow falls throughout the day have made prospects of a more extensive opening likely later this week. Snowmaking will add to the cover in all resorts with a new front expected to cross the Alps from Friday.



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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