Wednesday, October 28, 2009

How unsettled can science get?

Below is the body of a letter to the EPA by Howard C. Hayden [], Professor Emeritus of Physics, UConn. Prof. Hayden added to his email the comment: "People will do anything to save the world -- except take a science course"

It has been often said that the "science is settled" on the issue of CO2 and climate. Let me put this claim to rest with a simple one-letter proof that it is false. The letter is s, the one that changes model into models. If the science were settled, there would be precisely one model, and it would be in agreement with measurements.

Alternatively, one may ask which one of the twenty-some models settled the science so that all the rest could be discarded along with the research funds that have kept those models alive. We can take this further. Not a single climate model predicted the current cooling phase. If the science were settled, the model (singular) would have predicted it.

Let me next address the horror story that we are approaching (or have passed) a "tipping point." Anybody who has worked with amplifiers knows about tipping points. The output "goes to the rail." Not only that, but it stays there. That's the official worry coming from the likes of James Hansen (of NASA/GISS) and Al Gore.

But therein lies the proof that we are nowhere near a tipping point. The earth, it seems, has seen times when the CO2 concentration was up to 8,000 ppm, and that did not lead to a tipping point. If it did, we would not be here talking about it. In fact, seen on the long scale, the CO2 concentration in the present cycle of glacials (ca. 200 ppm) and interglacials (ca. 300-400 ppm) is lower than it has been for the last 300 million years.

Global-warming alarmists tell us that the rising CO2 concentration is (A) anthropogenic and (B) leading to global warming.

(A) CO2 concentration has risen and fallen in the past with no help from mankind. The present rise began in the 1700s, long before humans could have made a meaningful contribution. Alarmists have failed to ask, let alone answer, what the CO2 level would be today if we had never burned any fuels. They simply assume that it would be the "pre-industrial" value.

The solubility of CO2 in water decreases as water warms, and increases as water cools. The warming of the earth since the Little Ice Age has thus caused the oceans to emit CO2 into the atmosphere.

(B) The first principle of causality is that the cause has to come before the effect. The historical record shows that climate changes precede CO2 changes. How, then, can one conclude that CO2 is responsible for the current warming? Nobody doubts that CO2 has some greenhouse effect, and nobody doubts that CO2 concentration is increasing. But what would we have to fear if CO2 and temperature actually increased?

* A warmer world is a better world. Look at weather-related death rates in winter and in summer, and the case is overwhelming that warmer is better.

* The higher the CO2 levels, the more vibrant is the biosphere, as numerous experiments in greenhouses have shown. But a quick trip to the museum can make that case in spades. Those huge dinosaurs could not exist anywhere on the earth today because the land is not productive enough.

* CO2 is plant food, pure and simple.

* CO2 is not pollution by any reasonable definition.

* A warmer world begets more precipitation.

* All computer models predict a smaller temperature gradient between the poles and the equator. Necessarily, this would mean fewer and less violent storms.

* The melting point of ice is zero degrees Celsius in Antarctica, just as it is everywhere else. The highest recorded temperature at the South Pole is -14 degrees, and the lowest is -117. How, pray, will a putative few degrees of warming melt all the ice and inundate Florida, as is claimed by the warming alarmists?

Consider the change in vocabulary that has occurred. The term global warming has given way to the term climate change, because the former is not supported by the data. The latter term, climate change, admits of all kinds of illogical attributions. If it warms up, that's climate change. If it cools down, ditto. Any change whatsoever can be said by alarmists to be proof of climate change.

In a way, we have been here before. Lord Kelvin "proved" that the earth could not possibly be as old as the geologists said. He "proved" it using the conservation of energy. What he didn't know was that nuclear energy, not gravitation, provides the internal heat of the sun and the earth. Similarly, the global-warming alarmists have "proved" that CO2 causes global warming. Except when it doesn't.

To put it fairly but bluntly, the global-warming alarmists have relied on a pathetic version of science in which computer models take precedence over data, and numerical averages of computer outputs are believed to be able to predict the future climate. It would be a travesty if the EPA were to countenance such nonsense.

Proxy crisis: Stalagmite climate record disputes ice-core findings

During the last glacial period, a number of rapid climate variations known as Greenland interstadials (GIs; also known as Dansgaard-Oeschger events) took place. These climate shifts have been observed in ice core records, but the precise timing of these events has been uncertain. To assign precise ages to some of the GI events, Fleitmann et al. obtain a new, well-dated carbon and oxygen isotope record from stalagmites in the Sofular Cave in northwestern Turkey. The authors note that the new stalagmite record, which covers the past 50,000 years, differs from the most recent Greenland ice core chronology by as much as several centuries at some points. Furthermore, although some scientists had suggested that GIs occurred on a 1470-year cycle, the new stalagmite record does not support that interpretation, the authors find. They also note that the new record indicates that the climate and ecosystem in the eastern Mediterranean changed rapidly in response to the GIs; these changes could have affected Neanderthal populations living in the area.


The journal article is "Timing and climatic impact of Greenland interstadials recorded in stalagmites from northern Turkey" by D. Fleitmann et al., published in Geophysical Research Letters, 2009

British science museum's climate change poll backfires

The museum’s Prove It! website, which is designed to influence politicians at the Copenhagen climate summit in December, allows members of the public to pledge their support, or lack of it, to the environmentalist cause. But so far those backing the campaign are out-numbered nearly six-to-one by opponents.

By Saturday, 2,385 people who took the poll said “count me out” compared to just 415 who said “count me in”, after being asked whether they agreed with the statement: “I’ve seen the evidence. And I want the government to prove they’re serious about climate change by negotiating a strong, effective, fair deal at Copenhagen.”

The website, which accompanies a major new exhibition at the venerable South Kensington museum, claims to offer "all the evidence you need to believe in climate change".

Ed Miliband, the Energy and Climate Change Secretary, and David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, helped to launch the project by unveiling a map devised by the Met Office which depicts how Britain will be affected by rising sea levels, flood and drought if global temperatures rise more than seven degrees F (four degrees C).

At the launch, a statement from the Science Museum said: "We're convinced climate change is caused by humans and requires urgent action." The Prove It! project is designed to win public support for a global deal on climate change, and will also be used by the Foreign Office to persuade other countries to agree a cut in greenhouse gas emissions.

A Science Museum spokesman said: "Three thousand responses in just three days shows how important this subject is in the run up to the Copenhagen summit. "Prove It! has mobilised both sides of the debate and this was one of the aims of the project. The Science Museum stands by its position that climate change is real and urgent."



Japan cautioned on Friday that it could water down planned 2020 cuts in greenhouse gas emissions if other rich nations fail to make deep reductions as part of a U.N. deal due in Copenhagen in December.

In Brussels, a draft report showed that European Union states were preparing to endorse an estimate by the European Commission that developing countries will need about 100 billion euros ($150.1 billion) annually by 2020 to tackle climate change.

Disputes over 2020 emissions cuts by developed nations and the amounts of cash to help developing nations combat global warming are among the main sticking points in sluggish U.N. talks meant to end in Denmark on Dec. 18 with a new treaty.

"The possibility is not zero," Japanese Environment Minister Sakihito Ozawa told Reuters when asked if Japan could change its 2020 target of cutting emissions by 25 percent from 1990 levels if Copenhagen falls short on ambition.

He declined to say what alternative target Japan, the world's fifth biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, had in mind for cutting emissions, mainly from burning fossil fuels.

Japan's 25 percent offer made last month is tougher than that put forward by the previous government and among the deepest by any rich nation. "As environment minister, I want to go ahead with this pledge, but the government announced it with a precondition at the United Nations (climate change summit last month) so of course it could change," he said.

Many other nations have offered a range of cuts, hinging on Copenhagen's outcome, but Tokyo has not given a fallback position. Its offer is premised on an ambitious goals by all major emitters, including China and the United States.


In praise of scepticism

In a light-hearted essay, Australian humourist and crypto-conservative Clive James looks at Montaigne and attitudes towards climate change sceptics, among other things. Excerpt only below

What do I know? Montaigne asked himself, and in answering that question during the course of several volumes of great essays he touched on many subjects...

From our viewpoint, he often doesn't seem very sceptical at all. But at the time he seemed sceptical enough to excite a whole generation of readers with the idea that some falsehoods might masquerade as facts, and that an enquiring, critical attitude was the one to have.

Shakespeare was only one of his many readers who caught fire at that idea. Shakespeare knew Montaigne's writings inside out. They helped set the standard for the way our greatest playwright separated what he knew from what he didn't know.

In Montaigne's day you could get into terminal trouble for taking scepticism too far, which is probably one of the reasons why not even he pushed it on the subject of religion.

Since then, a sceptical attitude has been less likely to get you burned at the stake, but it's notable how the issue of man-made global warming has lately been giving rise to a use of language hard to distinguish from heresy-hunting in the fine old style by which the cost of voicing a doubt was to fry in your own fat.

Whether or not you believe that the earth might have been getting warmer lately, if you are sceptical about whether mankind is the cause of it, the scepticism can be enough to get you called a denialist.

It's a nasty word to be called, denialist, because it calls up the spectacle of a fanatic denying the Holocaust. In my homeland, Australia, there are some prominent intellectuals who are quite ready to say that any sceptic about man-made global warming is doing even worse than denying the Holocaust, because this time the whole of the human race stands to be obliterated.

Really they should know better, because the two events are not remotely comparable. The Holocaust actually happened. The destruction of the earth by man-made global warming hasn't happened yet, and there are plenty of highly qualified scientists ready to say that the whole idea is a case of too many of their colleagues relying on models provided by the same computers that can't even predict what will happen to the weather next week.

In fact the number of scientists who voice scepticism has lately been increasing. But there were always some, and that's the only thing I know about the subject. I know next to nothing about climate science. All I know is that many of the commentators in newspapers who are busy predicting catastrophe don't know much about it either, because they keep saying that the science is settled and it isn't.

Speaking as one who lives at sea level, I don't relish the prospect of my granddaughter spending her life on a raft 30 feet above where she now plays in the garden, but I still can't see that there is a scientific consensus. There are those for, and those against. Either side might well be right, but I think that if you have a division on that scale, you can't call it a consensus.

Nobody can meaningfully say that "the science is in", yet this has been said constantly by many commentators in the press until very lately, and now that there are a few fewer saying it there is a tendency, on the part of those who still say it, to raise their voices even higher, and harden their language against any sceptic, as if they were protecting their faith.

Sceptics, say the believers, don't care about the future of the human race. But being sceptical has always been one of the best ways of caring about the future of the human race. For example, it was from scepticism that modern medicine emerged, questioning the common belief that diseases were caused by magic, or could be cured by it.

A conjecture can be dressed up as a dead certainty with enough rhetoric and protected against dissent with enough threatening language, but finally it has to meet the only test of science, which is that any theory must fit the facts, and the facts can't be altered to suit the theory.


A much-honoured Greenie nut

Being a crank makes you a "public intellectual" apparently. Comment from Australia by Andrew Bolt below

THIS sure is a strange way for Professor Clive Hamilton to spend the few years that he - and we - have left. I mean, if you thought the end of the world was nigh, would you really waste your last moments trying to become the next member for Higgins?

Still, who knows what now goes on in the grim skull of the Greens candidate for the Melbourne seat just vacated by former treasurer Peter Costello. And who understands what dark currents swirl in the brains of the thousands who will vote for him on December 5, in a poll that will measure how mad these times now are.

Hamilton has a CV that might make an innocent reader, impressed by titles, think: "Wow! This man must be smart." He describes himself as a "public intellectual". He's written books and is professor of public ethics at the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics. The Rudd Government made him a Member of the Order of Australia. Yet that CV measures not Hamilton's greatness, but this country's idiocy.

His message is just one preached by religious cranks for centuries: "Repent, for the end of the world is nigh!" Here's his new version of this faith: "I think where we're going is to begin to see a Gaian earth in its ecological, cybernetic way, infused with some notion of mind or soul or chi, which will transform our attitudes to it away from an instrumentalist one, towards an attitude of greater reverence." And if we don't repent? "Unless we do that, I mean we seriously are in trouble, because we know that Gaia is revolting against the impact of human beings on it."

In fact, Hamilton fears we're doomed already by Gaia's revolt against wicked us and our greenhouse gases: "It now seems almost certain that, if it has not occurred already, within the next several years enough warming will be locked into the system ... (and) humans will be powerless to stop the shift to a new climate on Earth, one much less sympathetic to life."

So sure is Hamilton of this danger that voters may get just one chance to vote him in - and none to throw him out if the world's temperatures start rising again: "The implications of (a rise of) 3C, let alone 4C or 5C, are so horrible that we look to any possible scenario to head it off, including the canvassing of emergency responses such as the suspension of democratic processes."

Even our freedom to shop offends this embryonic dictator: "Shopping has become both an expression of the meaninglessness of consumer society and an attempted cure for it." But good news: "It has recently been shown that compulsive shopping disorder can be effectively treated with certain anti-depressant drugs ... "

Can't wait to see Hamilton lash the ladies of Higgins out of their fine shops in Chapel St and Toorak Rd. Still, be fair. He actually wants all of us to be poorer, and not just the rich: "We can only avoid catastrophe - including millions dying in the Third World - if we radically change the way we in the rich countries go about our daily lives. Above all, we must abandon our comfortable belief in progress."

Here's how: "Australia, along with the rest of the world, must cut its emissions by at least 60 per cent ... " But how to get people to agree with a target so ruinous? Hamilton's answer: "Personally I cannot see any alternative to ramping up the fear factor." Actually, Clive, consider that fear factor ramped. If you're now the kind of thinker voters prefer, even I will agree we're doomed.



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 are mirrors of this site here and here


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