Friday, August 07, 2009

Are climate skeptics psychologically maladjusted?

Psychologists are overwhelmingly Leftist. I know. I have a doctorate in psychology and used to teach it and have had many articles published in the academic journals of psychology. And psychologists have been trying to prove that conservatives are mentally inadequate in some way since at least 1950 -- with a singular lack of success if you insist on normal scientific standards of proof. See here, for instance. So it was only a matter of time before they attempted to tar climate skeptics with the same brush. The article below seems to be an attempt in that direction

Psychological barriers like uncertainty, mistrust and denial keep most Americans from acting to fight climate change, a task force of the American Psychological Association said on Wednesday.

Policymakers, scientists and marketers should look at these factors to figure out what might prod people take action, the task force reported at the association's annual convention in Toronto.

While most Americans -- 75 percent to 80 percent in a Pew Research Center poll -- said climate change is an important issue, it still ranked last in a list of 20 compelling issues such as the economy or terrorism, the task force said.

Despite warnings from scientists that humans need to make changes now if they want to avoid the worst effects of climate change, "people don't feel a sense of urgency," the association said in a statement.

Numerous psychological barriers are to blame, the task force found, including: uncertainty over climate change, mistrust of the messages about risk from scientists or government officials, denial that climate change is occurring or that it is related to human activity.

Other factors include undervaluing the risk. Even though an international study showed many people believe environmental conditions will worsen in 25 years, that could lead some to conclude that they don't have to make changes now.

Some people believe anything they do would make little difference and they therefore choose to do nothing.

Habit is the most important obstacle to pro-environment behavior, the task force found.

But habits can be changed, especially if changing saves money and people are quickly made aware of it. People are more likely to use energy-efficient appliances if they get immediate energy-use feedback, the task force said.

It identified other areas where psychology can help limit the effects of climate change, such as developing environmental regulations, economic incentives, better energy-efficient technology and communication methods.


Ice Age melting caused by solar radiation, not CO2

Long debate ended over cause, demise of ice ages – solar and earth wobble – CO2 not involved

A team of researchers says it has largely put to rest a long debate on the underlying mechanism that has caused periodic ice ages on Earth for the past 2.5 million years – they are ultimately linked to slight shifts in solar radiation caused by predictable changes in Earth’s rotation and axis.

In a publication to be released Friday in the journal Science, researchers from Oregon State University and other institutions conclude that the known wobbles in Earth’s rotation caused global ice levels to reach their peak about 26,000 years ago, stabilize for 7,000 years and then begin melting 19,000 years ago, eventually bringing to an end the last ice age.

The melting was first caused by more solar radiation, not changes in carbon dioxide levels or ocean temperatures, as some scientists have suggested in recent years.

“Solar radiation was the trigger that started the ice melting, that’s now pretty certain,” said Peter Clark, a professor of geosciences at OSU. “There were also changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels and ocean circulation, but those happened later and amplified a process that had already begun.”

The findings are important, the scientists said, because they will give researchers a more precise understanding of how ice sheets melt in response to radiative forcing mechanisms. And even though the changes that occurred 19,000 years ago were due to increased solar radiation, that amount of heating can be translated into what is expected from current increases in greenhouse gas levels, and help scientists more accurately project how Earth’s existing ice sheets will react in the future.

“We now know with much more certainty how ancient ice sheets responded to solar radiation, and that will be very useful in better understanding what the future holds,” Clark said. “It’s good to get this pinned down.”

The researchers used an analysis of 6,000 dates and locations of ice sheets to define, with a high level of accuracy, when they started to melt. In doing this, they confirmed a theory that was first developed more than 50 years ago that pointed to small but definable changes in Earth’s rotation as the trigger for ice ages.

“We can calculate changes in the Earth’s axis and rotation that go back 50 million years,” Clark said. “These are caused primarily by the gravitational influences of the larger planets, such as Jupiter and Saturn, which pull and tug on the Earth in slightly different ways over periods of thousands of years.”

That, in turn, can change the Earth’s axis – the way it tilts towards the sun – about two degrees over long periods of time, which changes the way sunlight strikes the planet. And those small shifts in solar radiation were all it took to cause multiple ice ages during about the past 2.5 million years on Earth, which reach their extremes every 100,000 years or so.

Sometime around now, scientists say, the Earth should be changing from a long interglacial period that has lasted the past 10,000 years and shifting back towards conditions that will ultimately lead to another ice age – unless some other forces stop or slow it. But these are processes that literally move with glacial slowness, and due to greenhouse gas emissions the Earth has already warmed as much in about the past 200 years as it ordinarily might in several thousand years, Clark said.

“One of the biggest concerns right now is how the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets will respond to global warming and contribute to sea level rise,” Clark said. “This study will help us better understand that process, and improve the validity of our models.”

The research was done in collaboration with scientists from the Geological Survey of Canada, University of Wisconsin, Stockholm University, Harvard University, the U.S. Geological Survey and University of Ulster. It was supported by the National Science Foundation and other agencies.

More HERE (See the original for links, graphics etc.)

Journal abstract follows:

The Last Glacial Maximum

By Peter U. Clark et al.

We used 5704 14C, 10Be, and 3He ages that span the interval from 10,000 to 50,000 years ago (10 to 50 ka) to constrain the timing of the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) in terms of global ice-sheet and mountain-glacier extent. Growth of the ice sheets to their maximum positions occurred between 33.0 and 26.5 ka in response to climate forcing from decreases in northern summer insolation, tropical Pacific sea surface temperatures, and atmospheric CO2. Nearly all ice sheets were at their LGM positions from 26.5 ka to 19 to 20 ka, corresponding to minima in these forcings. The onset of Northern Hemisphere deglaciation 19 to 20 ka was induced by an increase in northern summer insolation [heat from the sun], providing the source for an abrupt rise in sea level. The onset of deglaciation of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet occurred between 14 and 15 ka, consistent with evidence that this was the primary source for an abrupt rise in sea level ~14.5 ka

Science 7 August 2009: Vol. 325. no. 5941, pp. 710 - 714

Svensmark strikes back

Forbush decreases confirm Svensmark's cosmoclimatology. It's been known for over a century that sunspot activity correlates with weather changes on earth but nobody could explain why. In typical Greenie fashion, Warmists said that because they could not explain the correlation, therefore it does not exist. Svensmark has now however explained the correlation at length. Will the Warmists take notice? Don't hold your breath

By LuboŇ° Motl

Recall that cosmoclimatology of Henrik Svensmark and others postulates that the galactic cosmic rays are able to create “seeds” of low-lying clouds that may cool the Earth’s surface. A higher number of cosmic rays can therefore decrease the temperature. The creation of the cloud nuclei is caused by ionization and resembles the processes in a cloud chamber.

The fluctuations of the cosmic ray flux may occur due to the variable galactic environment as well as the solar activity: a more active Sun protects us from a part of the cosmic rays. It means that a more active Sun decreases the amounts of low-lying clouds, which means that it warms the Earth.

Because the low-lying clouds remove 30 Watts per squared meter in average (over time and the Earth) or so, one has to be very careful not only about the very existence of the clouds but also about the variations of cloudiness by 5% or so which translates to a degree of temperature change.

A systematic effect on the clouds – e.g. one of the cosmic origin – is a nightmare for the champions of the silly CO2 toy model of climatology because the cloud variations easily beat any effect of CO2. Two alarmists, Sloan and Wolfendale, wanted to rule out Svensmark’s theory by looking at the Forbush decreases, specific events of a solar origin named after Scott Forbush who studied them 6 decades ago, involving the plasma. However, their paper was incorrect. In April 2008, this blog (The Reference Frame) published the following relevant article:

Sun-climate link: a reply to Sloan and Wolfendale.

Sloan and Wolfendale complained that no cosmoclimatological signal could have been seen during the Forbush decreases, i.e. short episodes when the activity of our beloved star decreases the amount of cosmic rays reaching Earth. However, Nir Shaviv explained that it should be expected that such a signal is not seen in the averaged monthly data they had used.

In order to see the “tiger in the jungle”, using Svensmark’s words from a press release:

Cosmic meddling with the clouds by seven-day magic

that will be published tomorrow (I am allowed to read it now because my uncle lives in Melbourne which already has August), and in order to separate these clean effects from the huge meteorological noise, one needs to increase the temporal resolution to several days and also cover the whole globe to dilute the effects of local weather.

Newest paper: Tomorrow, on August 1st, 2009, Geophysical Research Letters will publish a new paper by Henrik Svensmark, Torsten Bondo, and Jacob Svensmark:

The People’s Voice (summary of the paper)
Cosmic ray decreases affect atmospheric aerosols and clouds (full text).

When you click the second link above and obtain an error message, press alt/d and enter to reload the URL: without a direct external link, the PDF file will be displayed correctly. Or open the Google cache as PDF-like HTML.

Svensmark and his collaborators have looked at 26 Forbush events since 1987 (those that were strong according to their impact on the spectrum seen in the low troposphere where it matters): most of them occur close to the solar maxima (in the middle of the 11-year cycles). The observations with a much better temporal resolution imply that the mass of water stored in clouds decreases by 4-7%, with the minimum reached after a nearly 1-week delay needed for the cloud nuclei to get mature. Roughly three billions of tons of water droplets suddenly disappear from the atmosphere (they remain there as vapor, which is more likely to warm the air than to cool it down).

An independent set of measurements has also shown that the amount of aerosols, i.e. potential nuclei of the new clouds, also decreases. All these “strength vs decrease” graphs display a lot of noise but the negative slopes are almost always significant at the 95% level (with one dataset being an exception, at 92%, which is still higher than the official IPCC confidence level that climate change is mostly man-made).

Each Forbush decrease can therefore warm up the Earth by the same temperature change as the effect of all carbon dioxide emitted by the mankind since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. While you might think that such an effect is temporary and lasts a few weeks only, it is important to notice that similar variations in the solar activity, the solar magnetic field, and the galactic cosmic rays take place at many different conceivable frequencies, so there are almost certainly many effects whose impact on the temperature – through the clouds – is at least equal to the whole effect of man-made carbon dioxide.

SOURCE (See the original for links, graphics etc.)

Journal abstract follows:

Cosmic ray decreases affect atmospheric aerosols and clouds

By Henrik Svensmark et al.

Close passages of coronal mass ejections from the sun are signaled at the Earth's surface by Forbush decreases in cosmic ray counts. We find that low clouds contain less liquid water following Forbush decreases, and for the most influential events the liquid water in the oceanic atmosphere can diminish by as much as 7%. Cloud water content as gauged by the Special Sensor Microwave/Imager (SSM/I) reaches a minimum ≈7 days after the Forbush minimum in cosmic rays, and so does the fraction of low clouds seen by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) and in the International Satellite Cloud Climate Project (ISCCP). Parallel observations by the aerosol robotic network AERONET reveal falls in the relative abundance of fine aerosol particles which, in normal circumstances, could have evolved into cloud condensation nuclei. Thus a link between the sun, cosmic rays, aerosols, and liquid-water clouds appears to exist on a global scale.


Climate bill may fall by the wayside

With the fight over health care reform absorbing all the bandwidth on Capitol Hill, Democrats fear a major climate change bill may be left on the cutting-room floor this year. A handful of key senators on climate change are almost guaranteed to be tied up well into the fall on health care. Democrats from the Midwest and the South are resistant to a cap-and-trade proposal. And few if any Republicans are jumping in to help push a global warming and energy initiative. As a result, many Democrats fear the lack of political will and the congressional calendar will conspire to punt climate change into next year.

“The reality is [the health reform bill] is going to happen before cap and trade,” said House Agriculture Committee Chairman Rep. Collin Peterson, who’s been working with farm-state senators on the climate legislation. “Who knows if it will ever come out of the Senate?”

Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), a senior member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee and chairman of the Democratic Policy Committee, has also publicly questioned efforts to move a Senate climate change bill this year. “It’s very hard for the United States Congress to wrap itself around one very large, significant, very controversial issue, and we’re being asked to do that in the midst of a very deep recession,” he told POLITICO last week.

But not every Democrat has so little confidence in his or her colleagues. “Everything is hard, everything is slow,” said West Virginia Democratic Sen. John Rockefeller, chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee. “My answer to that is let’s do what we always did with [former Senate Majority Leader] George Mitchell and stay until Dec. 22. We did that every year he was majority leader.”

Democrats also have a diplomatic reason to make a push in the Senate: They’d like to pass legislation before the Copenhagen international climate negotiations in December. Unless the U.S. takes public steps to lower its greenhouse gas emissions, it will be hard to persuade China, India and other developing countries to make significant reductions, according to international climate change experts.

If Democrats fail to pass a bill this year, it won’t get any easier during an election cycle next year, when Democrats will be even more afraid of taking unpopular votes.

Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) aims to release her cap-and-trade legislation when Congress returns from recess in September. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has asked her committee, along with five other powerful panels — Agriculture, Commerce, Energy and Natural Resources, Finance and Foreign Relations — to complete work on the bill by Sept. 28. Reid will then piece together the larger legislation. “All my committee chairs agreed with that,” Reid told reporters on a conference call. “It’s a date that’s doable. We can’t let that slip.”

But moving the legislation to the full Senate will pose a tougher problem than the committee deadlines. “If we come together and get a [health care] bill that doesn’t make everyone upset and angry, then I think we have a good shot on moving forward,” said Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.). “Time’s not the issue — it’s just hard stuff’s hard.”


Endangered Species and How Honest Intentions Go Extinct

By Justin Williams

On every issue, whether its health care, taxes, or the environment, both sides give their points and counterpoints, the people are polled, and then comes the legislation. After the new bill hits the President's desk and he signs it into law, the pundits end their polls and battles and move on to a different hot button issue.

But, of course, this is never where the story ends. Most people do not realize what goes on behind the scenes after a law is enacted, and that's a major reason why Public Choice Economics was invented. Take for example the Endangered Species Act (ESA). This bill, passed in 1973, with the stated intent was to protect the lives of certain important species of animals that were supposedly "endangered." Sounds innocent enough…even noble

Both sides usually agree that something has to be done on the issue, but then the debate moves to whether it should be done through private or public means. And that's where the fleecing takes place.

The private plan would be what the United States did with the bison that was quickly going extinct. The private plan allowed ranchers to own, breed, and sell them just like cattle or chicken. As a result, now there are plenty of bison all around America, proving that the profit motive can save animals – without forcing the taxpayers to finance bureaucrats.

The public plan through the ESA, on the other hand, holds major negative consequences on economic activity. The bill authorizes the government "to acquire land for the conservation of listed species." Not to mention the many other highly costly regulatory authority is given, including the statewide limitations of certain pesticides in various states (below from the USDA).

But what makes the ESA especially dangerous "solution" is that it gives government bureaucrats the power to take land and seize property at any cost.

And that's not all. The ESA gives the authority of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services' (USFWS) funding to the Interior subcommittee of the House Appropriations committee. This committee holds substantial power over the bureaucrats who make key decisions in the ESA program.

Economists E. Patrick Rawls and David Laband have found that "for the entire 28 year period of [their] analysis [states with representation on the committee] had an estimated 46 fewer ESA listings than a state with no representation" on that committee. In other words, congressmen who sit on the committee use their budgetary powers to keep the number of ESA listings down to protect their states' economies.

What is even more interesting is that these economists found no empirical relationship between population density and the ESA listings, which seems counterintuitive, as conservation groups have often blamed population growth for the extinction of animals.

Public Choice Economics has been called "politics without romance," and there is no doubt that the romance left a long time ago between congressional leaders and the cuddly animals that ESA was meant to save. Nowadays, as politicians simply are more interested in getting reelected than standing on principle.

So whether one agrees with the ESA or not, when a politician says "Save the Animals," the one animal whose hide he protects is the two legged variety sitting behind the ornate desk in his own oak-paned congressional office.

And yet there's more. The truth is, these congressional leaders wouldn't be caught dead proposing the highly successful privatization, as in the case of the bison, since that would remove a powerful tool for reelection.

So the next time there is a hotly debated issue, the solution is not to hand important powers to Congress and bureaucrats, since the only endangered species they really care about is the American taxpayer – only so that they can continue to sheer them on a daily basis.


Britain: Tax the poor!

Bar them from selling their junky old houses until they upgrade them to top Greenie standards

Owners of poorly insulated homes should not be allowed to sell or rent them until they have invested in energy efficiency measures, the Government’s advisory body on domestic energy use says.

The Energy Saving Trust said that the 5.5 million homes in the lowest two bands for energy performance — more than a fifth of all homes — should also be subject to higher council tax bills and additional stamp duty. It believes that tough measures will be needed to achieve the Government’s target of reducing carbon dioxide emissions from home heating by 29 per cent by 2020 and to “almost zero” by 2050.

The trust estimates that 85 per cent of the homes in bands F and G could be made fit to sell for less than £5,000. However, owners of the remaining 15 per cent face paying as much as £10,000 to upgrade their homes to a new minimum standard.

Since last October, all homes offered for sale or rent have had to have an energy performance certificate, which ranks them in one of seven bands, from A to G. The trust is advising the Government to make it illegal, from 2015, to offer for sale homes rated lower than Band E. There would be exceptions for listed buildings if the owners could prove that energy efficiency measures would damage their historic character.

The Government said in its low carbon White Paper last month that existing measures, which focus on giving advice and offering grants towards the cost of insulation, might not be sufficient to achieve reductions in energy use.

There are very few A-rated homes, which feature triple glazing, heavily insulated walls and ceilings and solar panels for heating water. F-rated homes include Victorian terraced properties with single-glazed sash windows and boilers at least ten years old. G-rated homes tend to be detached and have no loft insulation.

In an interview with The Times, Marian Spain, the trust’s director of strategy, said: “We need a powerful incentive to act as a backstop in case other measures do not work. To sell your home you would need to have done the basics to take it out of the F and G ratings. The final deadline should be 2015.”

Ms Spain said that homeowners were likely to recoup their investment, because buyers would be willing to pay more for a home with lower energy bills. The prospect of higher council tax would also help to push people into paying for insulation.

The trust is also recommending that planning permission for extensions should be made conditional on the whole home improving its energy performance.

Jonathan Stearn, of Consumer Focus, the government-funded watchdog for energy prices and fuel poverty, welcomed the trust’s proposals but said they needed to be balanced by improved grants to help poorer households to pay for insulation. “We need a mixture of carrot and stick,” he said. “We have particular concerns about those who can’t afford energy efficiency measures.”



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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