Sunday, September 27, 2009


An email below from Patrick Moore [], a co-founder of Greenpeace, to Benny Peiser

The issue of melting glaciers in the Himalayas, and elsewhere, makes my head hurt due to cognitive dissonance.

The UN COP15 Newsletter states, "Mountain glaciers in Asia are melting at a rate that could eventually threaten water supplies, irrigation or hydropower for 20 percent to 25 percent of the world's population, according to the UNEP report."

Lester Brown of the Earth Policy Institute puts it this way, "The melting of the glaciers in the Himalayas and on the Tibetan Plateau will deprive the Indus, Ganges, Yangtze and Yellow rivers of the ice melt that sustains their flow during the dry season and the irrigation systems that depend on them."

In other words the supply of melt water from the melting glaciers is threatened by the melting of the glaciers. This is correct in that if the glaciers melt completely there will be no more melt water from the glaciers.

What if the glaciers were not melting due to a colder climate? Then where would the irrigation water come from? How about if the glaciers were advancing 100 meters per year toward the villages that need the melt water for irrigation? How does the logic of this situation escape these bright minds?

It snows every winter in the Himalayas. When the snow melts it fills the rivers. Where there is net melting of the glaciers this adds additional water to the rivers. But they can't have it both ways. If they want to have continued melt water from the glaciers then the glaciers must continue to melt. Seeing that the glaciers are finite in size this would eventually result in no glacier, and reliance on annual snow melt. Am I missing something here?


Barack Obama has talked down the importance of sealing a global deal on climate change before the end of the year, world leaders said yesterday.

Obama's comments, made in private talks at the G20 summit, downplay the need to reach a strong deal at UN talks in Copenhagen in December and contradict the United Nations and others, who have billed the meeting as a crucial moment for the world to avoid catastrophic global warming. The president did win a partial victory on his signature climate issue at this G20 summit – removing fossil fuel subsidies – but there was no headway on the much bigger issue of climate finance, which Obama had taken up as his issue at the last G20.

Barring small but significant steps forward from China and India, there has been little progress this week at a UN summit or the G20 towards a deal at Copenhagen. Obama's remarks yesterday resonated among world leaders, who have been looking to America – as historically the world's greatest polluter – to lead on climate change.

"I would cite what President Obama said to us at our meetings and that is that while Copenhagen is a very important meeting we should not view it as a make or break on climate change. It will be a step, an ongoing step, in an important world process to deal with this critical issue," Canada's prime minister, Stephen Harper, said yesterday. Harper cited the comments when he said he was not inclined to take up Gordon Brown's challenge to attend the meeting himself, in order to add political weight to the negotiations.

South Korea's Lee Myung-bak also referenced Obama's remarks. "The Copenhagen climate summit meeting is not the end, but it is going to be the start of a new beginning, and having that kind of perception is more realistic," he said. There was no immediate comment from the White House on Obama's remarks.

It is accepted that the Copenhagen negotiations will not be able to finalise all details of a treaty to get the world to act together on global warming. But Obama's comments could jeopardise efforts to get the most comprehensive agreement possible, said observers.



By David Whitehouse

The recent spate of scientific papers that are attempting to predict what the earth’s temperature might be in the coming decades, and also explain the current global temperature standstill, are very interesting because of the methods used to analyse temperature variations, and because they illustrate the limitations of our knowledge.

Recall that only one or two annual data points ago many scientists, as well as the most vocal ‘campaigners,’ dismissed the very idea that the world’s average annual temperature had not changed in the past decade. Today it is an observational fact that can no longer be ignored. We should also not forget that nobody anticipated it. Now, post facto, scientists are looking for an explanation, and in doing so we are seeing AGW in a new light.

The main conclusion, and perhaps it’s no surprise, to be drawn about what will happen to global temperatures is that nobody knows.

The other conclusion to be drawn is that without exception the papers assume a constantly increasing AGW in line with the increase of CO2. This means that any forecast will ultimately lead to rising temperatures as AGW is forever upward and natural variations have their limits. But there is another way of looking at the data. Instead of assuming an increasing AGW why not look for evidence of it in the actual data. In other words let the data have primacy over the theory.

Lean and Rind try to isolate and analyse the various factors that affect decadal changes in the temperature record; El Nino, volcanic aerosols, solar irradiance and AGW. Their formula that links these factors together into a time series is quite simple (indeed there is nothing complicated about any of the papers looking at future temperature trends) though in the actual research paper there is not enough information to follow through their calculations completely.

El Nino typically produces 0.2 deg C warming, volcanic aerosols 0.3 deg C cooling on short timescales, solar irradiance 0.1 deg C (I will come back to this figure in a subsequent post) and the IPCC estimate of AGW is 0.1 deg C per decade.

It should also be noted that natural forces are able to produce a 0.5 deg C increase, although over a longer period. The 0.5 deg C warming observed between say 1850 and 1940 is not due to AGW.

The temperature increase since 1980 is in fact smaller than the rise seen between 1850 - 1940, approx 0.4 deg C. This took place in less than two decades and was followed by the current standstill. A fact often overlooked is that this recent temperature increase was much greater than that due to the postulated AGW effect (0.1 deg C per decade). It must have included natural increases of a greater magnitude.

This is curious. If the recent temperature standstill, 2002-2008, is due to natural factors counteracting AGW, and AGW was only a minor component of the 1980 -1998 temperature rise, then one could logically take the viewpoint that the increase could be due to a conspiracy of natural factors forcing the temperature up rather than keeping the temperature down post 2002. One cannot have one rule for the period 2002 - 2008 and another for 1980 -1998!

Lean and Rind estimate that 73% of the temperature variability observed in recent decades is natural. However, looking at the observed range of natural variants, and their uncertainties, one could make a case that the AGW component, which has only possibly shown itself between 1980 - 98, is not a required part of the dataset. Indeed, if one did not have in the back of one’s mind the rising CO2 concentration and the physics of the greenhouse effect, one could make out a good case for reproducing the post 1980 temperature dataset with no AGW!

Natural variations dominate any supposed AGW component over timescales of 3 - 4 decades. If that is so then how should be regard 18 years of warming and decades of standstills or cooling in an AGW context? At what point do we question the hypothesis of CO2 induced warming?

Lean and Rind (2009) look at the various factors known to cause variability in the earths temperature over decadal timescales. They come to the conclusion that between 2009-14 global temperatures will rise quickly by 0.15 deg C - faster than the 0.1 deg C per decade deduced as AGW by the IPCC. Then, in the period 2014-19, there will be only a 0.03 deg C increase. They believe this will be chiefly because of the effect of solar irradiance changes over the solar cycle. Lean and Rind see the 2014-19 period as being similar to the 2002-8 temperature standstill which they say has been caused by a decline in solar irradiance counteracting AGW.

This should case some of the more strident commentators to reflect. Many papers have been published dismissing the sun as a significant factor in AGW. The gist of them is that solar effects dominated up to 1950, but recently it has been swamped by AGW. Now however, we see that the previously dismissed tiny solar effect is able to hold AGW in check for well over a decade - in fact forcing a temperature standstill of duration comparable to the recent warming spell.

At least the predictions from the various papers are testable. Lean and Rind (2009) predict rapid warming. Looking at the other forecasts for near-future temperature changes we have Smith et al (2007) predicting warming, and Keenlyside et al (2008) predicting cooling.

At this point I am reminded that James Hansen ‘raised the alarm’ about global warming in 1988 when he had less than a decade of noisy global warming data on which to base his concern. The amount of warming he observed between 1980 and 1988 was far smaller than known natural variations and far larger than the IPCC would go on to say was due to AGW during that period. So whatever the eventual outcome of the AGW debate, logically Hansen had no scientific case.

There are considerable uncertainties in our understanding of natural factors that affect the earth’s temperature record. Given the IPCC’s estimate of the strength of the postulated AGW warming, it is clear that those uncertainties are larger than the AGW effect that may have been observed.


Lean and Rind 2009, Geophys Res Lett 36, L15708

Smith et al Science 2007, 317, 796 - 799

Keenlyside et al 2008, Nature 453, 84 - 88



The Arctic ice “is melting far faster than had been previously supposed,” we heard this week from the UN’s Environment Program, in releasing its 2009 Climate Change Science Compendium.

This same week, National Geographic reported that the Arctic ice is probably melting far slower than previously supposed. After ramping up the rhetoric — two years ago National Geographic told us that “the Arctic Ocean could be nearly ice-free at the end of summer by 2012, much faster than previous predictions,” and last year that “Arctic warming has become so dramatic that the North Pole may melt this summer” — National Geographic now advises that “the Arctic probably won’t experience ice-free summers until 2030 or 2040.”

If you’re confused by stats on Arctic melting, you have lots of company. Arctic stats are easy to misunderstand because the Arctic environment is unlike our own — the Arctic magnifies the changes we experience in the temperate regions. In summer, our days get longer and theirs get really, really long, just as in winter, when our days gets shorter, theirs all but disappear. By analogy, the Arctic also magnifies temperature variations, and resulting changes to its physical environment.

In the Arctic, the ice has indeed been contracting, as the global warming doomsayers have been telling us. But it has also been expanding. The riddle of how the Arctic ice can both be contracting and expanding is easily explained. After you read the next two paragraphs, you’ll be able to describe it easily to your friends to set them straight.

Each winter, the Arctic ice pack rapidly expands and each summer it rapidly contracts, as you can see thanks to photos from a Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency satellite that tracks the changes in the ice pack. On its website, you can also get data showing the area of sea ice for every month going back to 2002.

Compare March of this year to previous Marches, for example, and you’ll see that the Arctic ice has been expanding of late — a story rarely told. But compare August of this year to previous Augusts and you’ll see that the August ice over the years has tended to contract — this is the basis of the scary stories that we hear about the Arctic ice disappearing. A snapshot of the Arctic ice, without knowledge of the bigger picture, can lead to scary conclusions.

To give your friends an even bigger picture, inform them that during the Little Ice Age, in the 1600s, much of the continent was frozen over. New Yorkers in winter could walk from Manhattan to Staten Island. Ever since, the ice has been contracting, spurring attempts by fabled explorers such as Henry Hudson and Sir John Franklin to seek a Northwest Passage through Canada’s Arctic. By the early 1900s, as we continued to come out of the Little Ice Age, the ice had receded enough to allow Roald Amundsen to traverse the Northwest Passage in fits and starts, his ship needing three years to navigate through the ice. Not until 1944 did the ice recede enough to allow a schooner to cross the Northwest Passage in a single season. The Northwest Passage remains too risky to allow commercial shipping to thrive, and although some have confidently predicted the advent of commercial shipping, the insurance premium required to navigate through the perilous ice floes effectively rules it out for the foreseeable future. If a new Little Ice Age soon sets in, as many scientists consider likely, commercial shipping will not happen in our lifetimes.

By taking a snapshot in time, and by ignoring the history and the ecology of the Arctic, global warming alarmists can make a grim case for a disappearing Arctic, and even fool themselves. In May of this year, a six-country effort involving 20 scientists and an aircraft outfitted with precision equipment went to Canada’s Arctic in an expedition designed to prove that the Arctic ice was thinning. The expedition found the opposite — newly formed ice was up to four-metres thick, twice what was as expected. Around the same time, three other explorers, on behalf of the Catlin Arctic Survey in London, set off on skis on a trek to the North Pole to measure the thickness of the melting spring ice. Unprepared for blizzard winds of 40 knots and Arctic temperatures of 40 degrees below zero, the expedition made little headway, ran out of food, suffered from frost-bite, and finally had to be airlifted to safety — at their slow-going rate of progress, they couldn’t have survived the 82 days required to travel the remaining 542 kilometers.


An epidemic of OCD: Obsessive Carbon Dogma

From living in virtual darkness to minutely measuring their water-use, greens’ fixation with carbon counting is verging on a mental illness.

It was the seventieth anniversary of Sigmund Freud’s death yesterday. Despite the work of Freud and others, it is tragic that many people are still debilitated by the affliction known as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Freud characterised it as Obsessive Neurosis. Others describe OCD – a disorder that compels a person to commit ritualistic actions – as a physiological disorder caused by neurological triggering mechanisms in the brain. Whatever the cause, the sufferer’s repetitive behaviour is intended to reduce anxiety, but can still lead to depression and thoughts about self-harm.

Like ME (Myalgic Encephalopathy, also known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome), OCD is regularly caricatured as one of the ailments of our modern, materialistic Western societies, endorsed by the fact that it has some curious symptoms and some celebrity sufferers. Cameron Diaz says that she habitually rubs doorknobs before opening doors. Leonardo Di Caprio forces himself not to step on chewing gum stains on the pavement. Daytime TV ‘therapist’ Jeremy Kyle licks his mobile phone every time it rings and Labour MP Sir Gerald Kaufman says that he has ‘self-diagnosed OCD’ whereby he needs to eat the same breakfast every morning from £220 Waterford crystal bowls, hence their inclusion on his expense account.

For some celebrity hypochondriacs, OCD has become a fashion statement, for others it is just a chain around their neck. But there is one major obsessive compulsion that has become a central feature of all our lives to the extent that there is real kudos in becoming its victim. Far from reducing anxiety, the latest OCD – Obsessive Carbon Dogma – actually raises anxiety in order to give itself some therapeutic rationale. Fear of rising tides, of population growth, of China and India, of motor cars, of energy use, and of most other aspects of contemporary society, has led us to develop an infatuation with carbon and the mindless repetitive trivia of everyday life. Such is the extent of this compulsion that it has even become government policy in many developed countries.

Paul Kelly, the Australian newspaper’s editor-at-large, says that ‘carbon is the currency of a new world order’; UK foreign secretary David Miliband thinks that ‘the idea of a personal carbon card is pretty iconic’; and Canadian opposition leader, Stephane Dion, has a dog called Kyoto. Meanwhile, the town board of Woodstock, New York, has adopted a Zero Carbon initiative, in what Councilman Stephen Knight called a therapeutic step towards ‘rescuing the nation from embarrassment’.

Nowadays, we are all encouraged obsessively to check what is euphemistically called ‘our waste stream’; to worry that the gas fire or bath taps are turned off; compulsively to monitor our CO2 usage and to assess our carbon footprint. We are collectively developing a carbon foot fetish. These days, many of us cannot leave the room without frantically switching off the lights, appliances and standby buttons in an obsessive, ritualistic frenzy.

So while genuine sufferers of OCD try to cure themselves, everybody else is being encouraged to suffer the Obligatory Carbon Diet. As such, many people take perverse pleasure in performing mundane tasks many times over – it seems to give them a high level of confidence and satisfaction, but in fact it locks them into a depressing, navel-gazing psychosis.

Tony Sanders, described by the Sun newspaper as ‘Britain’s greenest homeowner’, happily spends two hours a day sorting out his rubbish. But you’re never too young to be allowed into the fanatical fold. Sara Pearson, a pre-school practitioner at a nursery for three-year-olds in Barrow, England, says that her pupils ‘have all been looking forward to the trips to the recycling bins’ (1). This means that families that are outside the mainstream education system in the UK are likely to be slightly off-message. For example, in a BBC report on Romanian traveller communities, a British gypsy commented: ‘[There are] children from seven to eight years old up to maybe 12 years old, playing and sorting out rubbish. Obviously I wouldn’t want my children doing that.’ (2)

Get with the programme! All of us are told in no uncertain terms that we must carbon count, carbon trade, carbon monitor, carbon ration or carbon audit. We can track our carbon, assess it, compare it, or trade it. We can, in fact, watch every aspect of our once meaningful lives reduced to a carbon calculation and then we can spend all of our remaining time looking to see if it all adds up. As the ultimate symbol of Obsessive Carbon Decadence, we can even offset our carbon by paying someone in the Third World not to develop on our behalf (see Is carbon-offsetting just eco-enslavement?, by Brendan O’Neill). We have become a carbon-infatuated society.

It is now commonplace to insist that homeowners habitually measure their waste and carbon production, energy and water usage as if these were the most important activities in life. Rummaging in bins and parcelling up your garbage is deemed to be the new cultural highpoint of the carbonista lifestyle. Haverford College in Pennsylvania celebrates ‘an entirely student-designed-and-executed initiative’ focusing on ‘composting’.

Some acute sufferers are severely afflicted to the extent that it affects their judgement. Victoria Clarke from Stockport, for instance, was so keen to sort her rubbish that she left several bin bags on the pavement a day earlier than necessary. She was offered shock therapy in the form of a £700 fine for ‘advancement of waste’. The Ecologist magazine describes life in an OCD home: ‘I was unpacking a delivery of seasonal veg with my five-year-old daughter’, says a desperate father, ‘when I looked round and saw that she’d peeled a couple of leaves off a cabbage and was fashioning them into a pair of shoes’ (3).

Whatever help there is for these sufferers tends to remind us that we are, in fact, morally fallible and predominantly a lost cause. One private company that writes school lesson plans wants students to ‘examine their role in polluting the environment’. A British Carbon Rationing Action Group - which is a support group for carbon obsessives – reminds us that: ‘Carbon criminals leave lights on. Turn them off, even if you’re only leaving the room for a short time.’ As we can see, OCD is one of the most intrusive ailments of our time. It invades our privacy and encourages the authorities to pry into our daily lives. Under new UK guidelines, for example, each occupier of a truly zero-carbon home should flush the toilet no more than 1.46 times per day! Carbon counting is sending us all round the bend.

Many have gone over to the dark side – literally – and may never recover. In 2007, Peter and Sarah Robinson explained to BBC News how they get up early in the morning, but refuse to put the lights on. They open the curtains just enough to let sufficient daylight into the room to help them navigate their furniture safely, but not so much that too much heat escapes. In the dark mornings of winter, they see by the borrowed light from a streetlamp fortuitously placed outside their window. They own no television and their children are allowed to watch DVDs only on the weekend and only if the brightness control is turned down.

Most evenings, the family spends its time in the kitchen in order not to have to switch ‘more lights on than necessary’ in other rooms. Mr Robinson’s Obligatory Carbon Doctrine started after he visited a prison with a group of psychology students. He noticed the repetitive routine that warders used to unlock and secure doors and he was lulled into performing his own rigorous lock-down activity at home. Because of OCD, the Robinsons have turned their home into a personal prison (4).

There is a simple cure for OCD sufferers and it is up to us who haven’t succumbed to the Obsessive Carbon Delusion to save them from themselves. We simply need to argue for rationality and reasoned debate. We should point out that not only should our world not revolve around reducing carbon emissions, but it is, in fact, CO2 that makes the world go round. Humanity is not simply the sum total of its carbon emissions – in fact humans make carbon meaningful. We would be nothing without expending energy, and lots of it, to transform the world and to make us what we are.

Even if carbon emissions are causing global warming, and even if global warming has the potential to cause dangerous sea-level rise, it still doesn’t follow automatically that we should use less carbon. Maybe we should use more carbon. More carbon energy to create flood defences, build escape roads, construct new cities, expand cheap flights to improve the ability of people to choose where they live. Unfortunately, the more that we become blinded by a carbon infatuation, the more we are in very real danger of losing sight of our options and our humanity. The cure for OCD is to use, create, invent and develop more things. Rather than keeping our heads stuck in our bins, this is the creative way to solve problems.



There's a reason that the Internet backbone is made of fiber-optic cables: photons transport bits of information faster than electrons. But while photons and fiber are the most efficient way of sending data across continents, it's still cheaper and easier to use electrons in copper wiring for most data transfer over shorter distances.

Now Intel plans to sell inexpensive cables with fiber-optic-caliber speed to connect, for instance, a laptop and an external hard drive, or a phone and a desktop computer. At the Intel Developer Forum (IDF) in San Francisco Wednesday, the company announced a new type of optical cable that it hopes will be fast, cheap, and thin enough to make it an attractive replacement for multiple copper wires.

By 2010, says Dadi Perlmutter, vice president of Intel's mobility group, the company hopes to ship an optical cable called Light Peak that will be able to zip 10 gigabits of data per second from one gadget to another, a rate equivalent of transferring a Blu-ray movie from a computer to a mobile video player in 30 seconds.



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