Tuesday, July 28, 2009

What Does & Does Not Cause Climate Change and the threat to integrity in science

by Piers Corbyn

A letter to Professor Sir Peter Knight, Senior Principal at Imperial College for research strategy and deputy to the Rector

Dear Peter

Further to the very interesting discussions we had at the Imperial College centenary dinner event in 2008 on matters of Climate Change and the integrity of Science I attach my updated presentation on What Does & Does not Cause Climate Change. This extends the points I made to you to include new findings I presented at the RCSA Centenary dinner on Dec 9th 2008 and the New York International Climate Change Conference on March 10th 2009 and also new graphs from USA scientists showing continuing decline in world temperatures despite rising CO2 levels.

The point I made that the CO2 driver theory of Climate Change is refuted by the evidence and will be cast aside by solar-based science and therefore it would be better for Imperial to lead its demise and advances in new science rather than lose credibility by defending the indefensible, stands more strongly than ever.

The CO2-centered Climate theory and all that stands with it in business and politics is doomed; or if it is not doomed then the integrity of science itself is surely doomed. It is incumbent on scientists of with moral fibre to defend evidence-based science and the integrity of science.

I recall that 40 years ago this week I and other students at Imperial stayed up all night to watch the Moon landing on 20th July 1969. That was an historic moment. If science and engineering then had been conducted at the abysmal level of integrity now displayed by 'Climate Science' & the theory of man-made Global Warming, the Moon landing would never have succeeded and neither would much of the advances of science since then.

Please have a look at and feel free to circulate the presentation and also the information I include therein about the proven significant skill of our solar-based method of long range forecasting (Solar Weather Technique) and let me know of any comments you may have.


On wood, burning questions

Once again, there's no such thing as a happy Greenie

Along the banks of the Piscataqua River, an ancient energy source is being transformed into retro chic renewable power. Every minute, a conveyor belt dumps about a ton of matchbook-sized wood chips into a seven-story-tall boiler that generates enough electricity to power 50,000 homes and, in the process, supporters say, helps combat global warming.

Wood - or biomass as it is often called - is hailed by many environmentalists, scientists, and politicians as a renewable energy source because it can easily be replenished by planting trees - and because the new trees will, over time, absorb the greenhouse gases the power plants emit.

But with more than 10 wood-burning power plants proposed throughout New England - including three extraordinarily controversial proposals in Western Massachusetts - wood’s green credentials are coming under attack. Just like wind projects, where concerns about bird safety and aesthetics have stalled dozens of proposals, biomass is the latest alternative energy source to undergo deep public scrutiny.

More than 400 people packed a Greenfield school last month to protest a proposed biomass plant there, for example. And, sparked partly by the opposition, Massachusetts energy and environmental officials are launching an in-depth review of biomass, from how the fuel is harvested to how quickly new trees can recapture the heat-trapping gases emitted from burning wood. Biomass plants burn virtually any wood material - from stumps to whole trees to branches and treetops left over from logging.

“Everyone says it is sustainable, but how do we know it is?’’’ said Mary Booth, an ecologist and cofounder of the Massachusetts Environmental Energy Alliance, a research and advocacy group that opposes large wood-burning power plants. While many biomass developers promise to burn wood leftover from logging or tree-trimming operations her group fears vast tracts of forests will be heavily cut. “There is no definition . . . no rules,’’ she said.

Advocates acknowledge that biomass will never make up a huge part of US power production, maybe somewhere between 5 percent and 10 percent by 2030. Today in New England, less than 3 percent of electricity comes from biomass.

Yet supporters say burning trees is important because, in the end, they don’t add any heat-trapping gases to the atmosphere that contribute to global warming. Biomass power plants do emit these gases, supporters say, but the same amount is reabsorbed by new trees planted to replace the burned ones - essentially recycling the pollutants over and over again. Fossil fuels, like coal, are extracted from deep in the earth and add extra gases to the atmosphere. Decades of burning fossil fuels has emitted so many heat-trapping gases, there is no natural way to absorb them all.

A growing number of states are adopting rules, or plan to, to ensure that biomass fuel is green, including potentially banning the burning of wood from threatened landscapes and requiring environmentally sensitive logging practices. Environmentalists, meanwhile, are working to ensure federal climate legislation includes rules for biomass.


Save the habitat, kill the turtles

By Vin Suprynowicz

in the name of heaven, I demand to know -- are those responsible for enforcing the Endangered Species Act going to do something about remediating the habitat devastation and starting to recover the minuscule remaining population, before it has dwindled past the point of no return, of that brave and noble beast, the poodle?

What? Are you serious, Vin? There are, like, 68 million domestic pet dogs in this country, and the poodle is the seventh most numerous breed. There are millions of poodles out there.

As a matter of fact, purebred poodles are among the 4 million to 6 million dogs euthanized in America each year because homes can't be found for them. America's dog and cat problem is not species extinction; it's overpopulation.

Well, to anyone tempted to respond in that manner, let me clarify for you what the Endangered Species Act is really all about. You see, the number of poodles living in domestic captivity doesn't count. Once we have succeeded in getting the noble poodle listed as threatened or endangered -- as it most certainly is, in the traditional range of its wild habitat -- all that will matter is the number of wild, untouched acres set aside. Once you've developed a house and a yard and put two happy poodles in it, for purposes of the federal ESA, you might as well have just shot the pups, because you have destroyed wild poodle habitat, and we are going to count your poodles as "taken," meaning dead. In fact, we may have to take steps to stop you from allowing them to breed, up to and including "euthanizing" your captive slave dogs, since "Unlimited breeding of an endangered species in captivity is something the community has to look into."

You think I'm making this up? Here in Las Vegas, Clark County's Desert Conservation Program -- a well-paid division of the county Department of Air Quality and Environmental Management -- is currently going hat in hand to the appropriate chain of federal agencies, asking "permission" to amend the so-called Desert Tortoise (and 77 other critters, including bugs and mosses) Habitat Plan, with the purpose of "allowing" the county to develop an additional 215,000 acres of adjoining stinking desert in the decades to come.

The theory, you see, is that any human activity which "moves dirt" destroys tortoise habitat, and cannot be allowed unless developers obtain federal permits for the "incidental take" of tortoises (regardless of whether a single tortoise is seen or killed), including a fee or fine of $550 per acre, which is used to build "tortoise fences" to keep the turtles from crossing the road to get to water, and so forth.

Wow. Under that theory, there must be practically no tortoises left in the Las Vegas Valley, which has now been heavily developed for decades. Right?

Actually, officials have rounded up more than 10,000 of the little buggers, right here in the Vegas Valley, turning them over to the Fish and Wildlife's Desert Tortoise Conservation Center, where they and their progeny are farmed out as pets, or for experiments. Those that aren't euthanized for having runny noses, you understand. Marci Henson of the county's Desert Conservation Program estimates about 2 percent of the poor little "threatened" reptiles get "euthanized." ("Run, little tortoises, run!" as former County Commissioner Don Schlesinger once put it.)

Sometimes, on a Saturday morning, I drive around this town, visiting garage sales. I've seen quite a few kids playing with their desert tortoises in their driveways. Cliven Bundy, the last cattle rancher in Clark County, tells me when the Kern River pipeline people came through and did a federally mandated tortoise population density study as part of their required Environmental Impact Statement, they found several times more tortoises per acre on the lands where the Bundys have water tanks for their cattle than they found in the hot, dry desert -- and literally 10 times the tortoise population density -- the highest densities recorded -- right here in the Las Vegas valley.

This isn't even counterintuitive. Early explorers found precious few tortoises in the dry Mojave desert, where the toothless reptiles struggle to find enough water and edible tender shoots. The Spaniards found only shells and thought them extinct. These animals developed in an ecosystem which had large toothy vegetarians -- deer, elk, whatever -- to crop back the brush, a role now filled only by cattle.

In the 1920s and 1930s, tortoise populations swelled artificially as ranchers ran cattle on these lands and killed the tortoises' main predators, the coyote and the raven. As "environmentalists" have succeeded in running the ranchers off the land, the cattle have vanished, no one is any longer shooting coyotes and ravens, and thus tortoise populations have slumped back to historically normal levels.

Are there now more tortoises, or fewer, than when cattle grazed the land? How many tortoises are there? Fish and Wildlife is still working to establish a "baseline population number," Ms. Henson replies.

Twenty years after the tortoise received an "emergency listing" as a threatened species in 1989, they're still trying to establish a "baseline"? So when will they be able to tell us whether we have enough new tortoises, bred in their joyous cattle-free paradise, to de-list the species and allow humans to get back to developing our land as we see fit? Eighty years from now? Eight hundred?

Twenty years and no one has done a simple control experiment, releasing 300 tortoises on Cliven Bundy's grazed land with its water tanks and cattle, and another 300 tortoises on an adjoining dry, desolate and cattle-free valley, coming back three years later to count which valley has more tortoises and which seem healthier?

All this bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo is based on the presumption that any "human interference" with the dry and stinking desert ruins it as tortoises habitat, when the truth -- that tortoises actually do much better with people around, just like roaches and pigeons and hummingbirds -- stares us right in the face.

Cue "Thus Spake Zarathustra." Remove the blindfold, please. No, Mr. Tortoise, you haven't died and gone to heaven. We call this ... a golf course.

If they really wanted more tortoises, any old desert rat can tell them the solution is to shoot ravens and coyotes. Mind you, I'm not recommending that. We've got plenty of tortoises right now. These people don't care about tortoises -- they're euthanizing them, for heaven's sake. The tortoise -- or whatever moss or bug or flycatcher eventually takes it place -- is merely a stand-in, a cat's paw, to give federal bureaucrats and their lunatic green pals complete control over development of private land in the West.

Just how fecund are those 10,000 captive tortoises, I asked Marci Henson. "Oh, we think a lot of those ten thousand were pet tortoises, we believe as few as 2 percent may have actually been wild." How can they tell -- the turtles came in wearing little knitted sweaters and booties? They keep trying to sit up and shake hands? Besides, Ms. Henson said, quite seriously, "Unlimited breeding of an endangered species in captivity is something the community has to look into." "To stop it?" I asked. "Yes," said Marci Henson.


Global warming was good for the Incas

Supreme military organisation and a flair for agricultural invention are traditionally credited for the rise of the Incas. However, their success may have owed more to a spell of good weather — a spell that lasted for more than 400 years.

According to new research, an increase in temperature of several degrees between AD1100 and 1533 allowed vast areas of mountain land to be used for agriculture for the first time. This fuelled the territorial expansion of the Incas, which at its peak stretched from the modern Colombian border to the middle of Chile. “Yes, they were highly organised, and they had a sophisticated hierarchical system, but it wouldn’t have counted a jot without being underpinned by the warming of the climate,” says Dr Alex Chepstow-Lusty, a palaeo-ecologist from the French Institute for Andean Studies in Lima, Peru.

As the treeline moved higher up the mountains, the Incas re-sculpted their landscape to maximise agricultural productivity. They carved terraces into the mountainsides and developed a complex system of canals to irrigate the land. Although the climate remained dry, the gradual melting of glacial ice meant that they had a constant supply of water to nourish their crops.

The resultant surplus of maize and potatoes freed a large part of the growing population for activities outside food production, such as constructing roads and buildings, and serving in an increasingly ambitious army. “It was the perfect incubator for the expansion of a civilisation,” says Dr Chepstow-Lusty, who led the study.

The Incas’ Royal Road, which went through the highlands for a distance of 3,250 miles, and the Coastal Road, which stretched for 2,520 miles, were both constructed during the warm spell. So, too, was Machu Picchu, “the Lost City of the Incas”, where temples, sanctuaries and houses stand remarkably intact today, demonstrating the scale and the skill of Inca architecture.

By the time the Spanish colonials arrived in 1533, the Incas had built up food supplies to last the population more than ten years. However, internal divisions, the Spanish invasion and the consequent introduction of new diseases led to the Inca population plummeting.

The team behind the study identified the change in climate by examining the sediment on the floor of a small lake called Marcacocha, in the Cuzco region of the Peruvian Andes, from where the Incas began their expansion. Each layer of sediment represents a period of time, rather like the rings in the trunk of a tree. By analysing pollen, seeds and other environmental indicators buried in the layers of mud, the team were able to find clues to the climate at the time.

They noted the appearance for the first time of a range of trees and crops at the lake, which is 11,000ft above sea level, over the critical period, corresponding to a tree line edging upwards. The lake sediments also revealed a major drought that took place around AD880, and that may have been responsible for the collapse of a previous empire, known as the Wari.

The study’s authors say that the findings have important implications for Peru and other countries facing the prospect of the most extreme shifts in climate because of global warming. For many countries, the prospect of warming is unwelcome. However, with the correct landmanagement techniques some of these countries might be able to turn a warmer climate to their advantage.


Treason in the Air

by Bjørn Lomborg

Discussions about global warming are marked by an increasing desire to stamp out “impure” thinking, to the point of questioning the value of democratic debate. But shutting down discussion simply means the disappearance of reason from public policy.

In March, Al Gore’s science adviser and prominent climate researcher, Jim Hansen, proclaimed that when it comes to dealing with global warming, the “democratic process isn’t working.” Although science has demonstrated that CO2 from fossil fuels is heating the planet, politicians are unwilling to follow his advice and stop building coal-fired power plants.

Hansen argues that, “the first action that people should take is to use the democratic process. What is frustrating people, me included, is that democratic action affects elections, but what we get then from political leaders is greenwash.” Although he doesn’t tell us what the second or third action is, he has turned up in a British court to defend six activists who damaged a coal power station. He argues that we need “more people chaining themselves to coal plants,” a point repeated by Gore.

The Nobel laureate in economics Paul Krugman goes further. After the narrow passage of the Waxman-Markey climate-change bill in the United States House of Representatives, Krugman said that there was no justification for a vote against it. He called virtually all of the members who voted against it, “climate deniers” who were committing “treason against the planet.”

Krugman said that the “irresponsibility and immorality” of the representatives’ democratic viewpoints were “unforgivable” and a “betrayal.” He thus accused almost half of the democratically elected members of the House, from both parties, of treason for holding the views that they do – thereby essentially negating democracy.

Less well-known pundits make similar points, suggesting that people with “incorrect” views on global warming should face Nuremburg-style trials or be tried for crimes against humanity. There is clearly a trend. The climate threat is so great – and democracies are doing so little about it – that people conclude that maybe democracy is part of the problem, and that perhaps people ought not to be allowed to express heterodox opinions on such an important topic.

This is scary, although not without historical precedent. Much of the American McCarthyism of the 1940’s and 1950’s was driven by the same burning faith in the righteousness of the mission – a faith that saw fundamental rights abrogated. We would be well served to go down a different path.

Gore and others often argue that if the science of climate change concludes that CO2 emissions are harmful, it follows that we should stop those harmful emissions – and that we are morally obliged to do so. But this misses half the story. We could just as well point out that since science tells us that speeding cars kill many people, we should cut speed limits to almost nothing. We do no such thing, because we recognize that the costs of high-speed cars must be weighed against the benefits of a mobile society.

Indeed, nobody emits CO2 for fun. CO2 emissions result from other, generally beneficial acts, such as burning coal to keep warm, burning kerosene to cook, or burning gas to transport people. The benefits of fossil fuels must be weighed against the costs of global warming.

Gore and Hansen want a moratorium on coal-fired power plants, but neglect the fact that the hundreds of new power plants that will be opened in China and India in the coming years could lift a billion people out of poverty. Negating this outcome through a moratorium is clearly no unmitigated good.

Likewise, reasonable people can differ on their interpretation of the Waxman-Markey bill. Even if we set aside its masses of pork-barrel spending, and analyses that show it may allow more emissions in the US for the first decades, there are more fundamental problems with this legislation.

At a cost of hundreds of billions of dollars annually, it will have virtually no impact on climate change. If all of the bill’s many provisions were entirely fulfilled, economic models show that it would reduce the temperature by the end of the century by 0.11°C (0.2°F) – reducing warming by less than 4%.

Even if every Kyoto-obligated country passed its own, duplicate Waxman-Markey bills – which is implausible and would incur significantly higher costs – the global reduction would amount to just 0.22°C (0.35°F) by the end of this century. The reduction in global temperature would not be measurable in a hundred years, yet the cost would be significant and payable now.

Is it really treason against the planet to express some skepticism about whether this is the right way forward? Is it treason to question throwing huge sums of money at a policy that will do virtually no good in a hundred years? Is it unreasonable to point out that the inevitable creation of trade barriers that will ensue from Waxman-Markey could eventually cost the world ten times more than the damage climate change could ever have wrought?

Today’s focus on ineffective and costly climate policies shows poor judgment. But I would never want to shut down discussion about these issues – whether it is with Gore, Hansen, or Krugman. Everybody involved in this discussion should spend more time building and acknowledging good arguments, and less time telling others what they cannot say. Wanting to shut down the discussion is simply treason against reason.


Ignoring Science

A further comment on a paper I mentioned on 24th

A new scientific paper says that man has had little or nothing to do with global temperature variations. Maybe the only place it's really getting hotter is in Al Gore's head. Because he must be getting flustered now, what with his efforts to save the benighted world from global warming continually being exposed as a fraud.

The true believers will not be moved by the peer-reviewed findings of Chris de Freitas, John McLean and Bob Carter, scientists at universities in Australia and New Zealand. Warming advocates have too much invested in perpetuating the myth. (And are probably having too much fun calling those who don't agree with them "deniers" and likening skeptics to fascists.) But these scientists have made an important contribution to the debate that Gore says doesn't exist.

Their research, published in the Journal of Geophysical Research, indicates that nature, not man, has been the dominant force in climate change in the late 20th century. "The surge in global temperatures since 1977 can be attributed to a 1976 climate shift in the Pacific Ocean that made warming El Nino conditions more likely than they were over the previous 30 years and cooling La Nina conditions less likely" says co-author de Freitas. "We have shown that internal global climate-system variability accounts for at least 80% of the observed global climate variation over the past half-century. It may even be more if the period of influence of major volcanoes can be more clearly identified and the corresponding data excluded from the analysis."

These findings are largely being ignored by the mainstream media. They simply don't fit the worn narrative that man is dangerously warming the Earth through his carbon dioxide emissions and a radical alteration of Western lifestyles mandated by government policy is desperately needed. They will be ignored, as well, by the Democratic machine that is trying to ram an economy-smothering carbon cap-and-trade regime through Congress.

Despite efforts to keep the global warming scare alive, the growing evidence that humans aren't heating the planet is piercing the public consciousness and alarmists are becoming marginalized. Sharp Americans are starting to understand H.L. Mencken's observation that "The urge to save humanity is always a false front for the urge to rule it." That pretty much sums up the modern environmentalist movement.



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John A said...

"Wood - or biomass as it is often called - is hailed by many environmentalists, scientists, and politicians as a renewable energy source because it can easily be replenished by planting trees - and because the new trees will, over time, absorb the greenhouse gases the power plants emit.

Been there before. It used to be the argument for heating with wood, and the resulting expansion in manufacture/sales of wood-burning stoves and such. Until the neighbors complain about the smoke - resulting in a spreading bans on them...

Mark Hanson said...

Everyone in my area lives in the woods and burns wood, at least part time, if not full time. So we would be complaining against each other.