Wednesday, October 21, 2009

More on the new Canadian temperature "hockeystick"

The Mann and Briffa "hockeysticks" (records of a late 20th century temperature rise) were eventually shown to depend on just a few atypical tree rings, and tree-rings are an unreliable reflection of temperature anyway, so the latest "hockeystick", based on various creepy-crawlies found in a far-Northern Canadian lake, must be giving the Warmists frabjous joy. As I and various others pointed out yesterday, however, one swallow doesn't make a summer, and factors other than global warming could account for the changes observed.

Furthermore, evidence that the creepy-crawlies are NOT a good proxy for temperature is readily to hand. The whole point of their claim is that there has been a temperature upsurge just in the last 50 years -- and yet we have REAL temperature measurements for that time, and indeed for a century or so before that. So we can test the validity of using creepy-crawlies as a proxy for temperature. And a test shows them to be in fact invalid. They do not measure temperature. As a correspondent observed: "The original article is in PNAS and (like a lot of things in lightly reviewed PNAS) is a joke. Not one reference to real-world temperature records that are nearby and show nothing like what is in the paper."

Another correspondent draws attention to the fact that the paper depends on the old "correlation is causation" fallacy. They don't look for alternative explanations of what they have observed. The correspondent writes:
For what it's worth, two things occur to me.

1. "several types of mosquito-like midges that for many thousands of years thrived in cold climate surrounding the lake suddenly began declining at around 1950" — Have they accounted for the use of DDT, then? Seems to me that DDT on Baffin Island could have been very popular among trappers and the military in the 50s. Possibly pertinent too:

DDT and its breakdown products are transported from warmer regions of the world to the Arctic by the phenomenon of global distillation, where they then accumulate in the region's food web. See here. Thus there might be a human impact on this parameter, but of another kind.

Beyond that, though, if the authors are suggesting that CO2 has caused a mosquito or midge shortage up north, they should consult caribou herds, whose route of wandering is traceable to wind direction, so desperate are these animals to escape the floating bloodsuckers.

In the Canadian Arctic, researchers who bared their arms, legs, and torsos in an experiment reported as many as 9,000 [mosquito] bites per minute. See

Who knows, then? Changing wind patterns and a consequent shift of caribou migration (the supporting host) or DDT usage might account for the decline of midge bodies in this particular study of Ayr Lake. But CO2?

2. "The Earth is now some 600,000 miles (966,000 kilometers) further from the sun during the Northern Hemisphere summer solstice than it was at the time of Jesus Christ" — A sad example of allegation that’s already become a repeated "fact" simply because no one’s bothered to investigate it. I have, and find no indication that this million km claim is true.

Warmism is very destructive to real science.


As expected, it is looking very much like a one-off. Below is the abstract of what appears to be a very similar but more cautious study, complete with diatoms and chironomids (midge larvae) but with very dissimilar results.

Similarities and discrepancies between chironomid- and diatom-inferred temperature reconstructions through the Holocene at Lake 850, northern Sweden

By I. Larocque and C. Bigler


A quantitative temperature reconstruction using chironomids and diatoms has been attempted from a high elevation lake in northern Sweden (Lake 850). Since 7000 cal. years BP, both chironomids and diatoms recorded similar temperatures (in the range of present-day estimates) but the correspondence between chironomid and diatom-inferred temperatures was highest in the recent Holocene (2500 cal. years BP to the present). Between ca. 9000 and 7000 cal. years BP, inferred temperatures from chironomids were warmer than today (ca. 1–2°C), in accord with other climate reconstruction using pollen, plant macrofossils and oxygen isotope analysis in lakes of northern Scandinavia. In contrast, diatom analysis did not infer warmer temperatures during this period. The insensitivity of diatoms to temperature in Lake 850 between 9000 and 7000 cal. years BP could be attributed to other environmental factors affecting the diatom assemblages through time, especially lake-water pH. Diatom-inferred pH showed a gradual decrease (0.5 pH units) between 9000 and 7000 cal. years BP while it remained more or less constant since 7000 cal. years BP. Changes in lake-water pH acting on diatoms seem to mask the effect of climate, leading to temperature reconstructions that are inaccurate. Ways of disentangling climate and other environmental factors when attempting climate reconstruction should be further investigated.


Panic off: West Antarctic ice loss overestimated by NASA satellites

Inadequate allowance made for rebounding bedrock

Scientists using a network of ground sensors emplaced in Antarctica say that NASA satellites have overestimated the amount of ice that is melting and running off into the ocean from the polar continent.

The new results come from the West Antarctic GPS Network (WAGN), which uses 18 locator stations "bolted to bedrock outcrops" in the Western antarctic to discover "ground truth" regarding the phenomenon of "postglacial rebound", where the bedrock lifts as the mile-thick ice sheet atop it diminishes.

Postglacial rebound is important, as NASA's Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellites estimate ice loss by measuring regional gravitational forces as they fly overhead. Both ice loss and bedrock rebound contribute to GRACE grav-scan readings, and according to the WAGN measurements, rebound figures used to estimate ice loss have now been shown to be wrong. "The take home message is that Antarctica is contributing to rising sea levels. It is the rate that is unclear," says Ian Dalziel, lead investigator for WAGN.

The WAGN boffins say they are sure that recent figures for ice loss calculated from GRACE readings have been overestimated, but they are not yet sure by how much. However, they say that there is no dispute about the fact that ice is disappearing from the antarctic sheet - this process has been underway for 20,000 years, since the thickness peaked during the last "glacial maximum". "The published results are very important because they provide precise, ground-truth GPS observations of the actual rebound of the continent," said Vladimir Papitashvili of the Antarctic Earth Sciences Program at the National Science Foundation, which supported the research.

The results are given in the paper "Geodetic Measurements of Vertical Crustal Velocity in West Antarctica and the Implications for Ice Mass Balance", published here in the journal Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems (subscriber link). There's also some layman-level exposition from Texas uni here.

SOURCE (See the original for links).

Note also that nobody is claiming that East Antarctic is melting --and it accounts for much the largest part of Antarctic ice. ALL of Antarctica would have to melt to get Al-Gore-like sea-level rise and there is not the remotest sign of that happening. Most reports indicate an overall GAIN in Antarctic ice in recent years

German economists on "Green Jobs" in Germany

The "green jobs" hoax has been a fiasco wherever governments have tried to implement it. Most recently, the German think tank Rheinisch-Westfälisches Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung has published a report titled Economic impacts from the promotion of renewable energies: The German experience. The report is well worth reading in its entirety. It points out that the "green jobs" that have been created through government subsidies are more than offset by the inefficiency of the resulting energy production:
While employment projections in the renewable sector convey seemingly impressive prospects for gross job growth, they typically obscure the broader implications for economic welfare by omitting any accounting of off-setting impacts. These impacts include, but are not limited to, job losses from crowding out of cheaper forms of conventional energy generation, indirect impacts on upstream industries, additional job losses from the drain on economic activity precipitated by higher electricity prices, private consumers' overall loss of purchasing power due to higher electricity prices, and diverting funds from other, possibly more beneficial investment.

I have often written that no government can create wealth by subsidizing the inefficient production of energy. The German think tank puts it in more official language:
Proponents of renewable energies often regard the requirement for more workers to produce a given amount of energy as a benefit, failing to recognize that this lowers the output potential of the economy and is hence counterproductive to net job creation. Significant research shows that initial employment benefits from renewable policies soon turn negative as additional costs are incurred.

The "green jobs" that have been produced in Germany are almost unbelievably expensive:
In the end, Germany's PV [solar energy] promotion has become a subsidization regime that, on a per-worker basis, has reached a level that far exceeds average wages, with per-worker subsidies as high as 175,000 € (US $ 240,000).

The think tank also evaluated the claim that subsidizing "green jobs" is good because it leads to innovation:
Claims about technological innovation benefits of Germany's first-actor status are unsupportable. In fact, the regime appears to be counterproductive in that respect, stifling innovation by encouraging producers to lock into existing technologies.

Because the "green jobs" produced by government subsidies are absurdly inefficient--as noted above, up to $240,000 per job!--the report says that should subsidies be ended, nearly all of them would quickly disappear. There is one hope, though--the United States might be dumb enough to take this inefficient energy production off the German government's hands:
It is most likely that whatever jobs are created by renewable energy promotion would vanish as soon as government support is terminated, leaving only Germany's export sector to benefit from the possible continuation of renewables support in other countries such as the US.

The Rheinisch-Westfälisches Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung's conclusion is sobering:
Although Germany's promotion of renewable energies is commonly portrayed in the media as setting a "shining example in providing a harvest for the world" (The Guardian 2007), we would instead regard the country's experience as a cautionary tale of massively expensive environmental and energy policy that is devoid of economic and environmental benefits.

The facts, of course, won't deter the Obama administration from making the subsidization of massively inefficient energy production a centerpiece of its economic policy. The effect will be to impoverish us all.


An excitable claim from Australia: Warming harms mental health

Warmists are certainly disturbing a lot of people (That's their aim) but there is no evidence that warming is, just assertions. The stuff below is just health academics trying to clamber aboard the global warming bandwagon

The negative impact on mental health worldwide may be one of the most severe effects of climate change, with children at greatest risk, according to experts. ["Experts" say that something "may" happen. Not much more persuasive than "My old Mommy told me"]

As climate change causes extreme weather events, drought, financial strain and changes in work and migration patterns, people will be at increasing risk from mental health issues such as post traumatic stress disorder and depression, said Dr Helen Berry from the National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health at the Australian National University (ANU). Despite the risk, this is an area that has received little attention, she added.

She spoke at an Australian Science Media Centre online briefing on 16 October alongside Professor Brian Kelly, Director of the Centre for Rural and Remote Health at the University of Newcastle, and Dr Lyndall Strazdins, a Fellow at the National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health and the ANU. "Mental health problems aren't just collateral damage from climate change, they could well be one of the most profound effects," said Dr Berry.

According to Dr Berry, scientists, health services and governments need to work together to stop the damage to mental health at a regional level before it becomes a serious problem. "It's becoming apparent that we're experience the IPCC's worst case scenario of climate change - or even worse," said Berry. "We need to address the impact that this will have on mental health, now."

Climate change can affect people in a number of different ways, according to Dr Berry. It can act directly on mental health through trauma exposure, for example a cyclone caused by increasing temperatures, or it can act indirectly via disease and community changes. "All of these factors interact and could result in a great increase in severe mental health problems," she added.

Currently half of all Australians will suffer mental illness at some point in their life, and this number is set to increase, according to the Dr Strazdins. "Mental health problems are already the second largest burden of disease in Australia, and by 2020 this is predicted to be the case worldwide," said Dr Strazdins. "Climate change amplifies the existing risks, particularly for children," she added.

According to Dr Strazdins, the mental health impacts of climate change will be more severe for children because they will be exposed to climate change for longer over their lifetime. Children are also less mentally prepared to deal with the stress from climate change related trauma, such as bushfires, which are set to increase by up to 75 per cent by 2050, said Dr Strazdins. A study on children whose school burnt down during the Canberra 2003 fires found that at least 40 per cent were suffering mild to moderate post traumatic stress disorder.

The impact that climate change has on others, such as financial strain put on parents, will also affect children, Dr Strazdins added. "A number of studies have revealed that children are already anxious and fearful about climate change. They need to be at the centre of the debate - yet the impact of climate change on children and the costs to future generations is not being discussed," said Dr Strazdins.

According to Professor Kelly, in order to minimise the problem we need to predict how people will adapt to and cope with climate change, and provide services that will help them to 'bounce back' more easily. "The people most at risk are those that are in isolated regions. In order to reach them, health services need to work very closely with organisations that respond to other impacts of climate change, such as financial counsellors, vets and local banks. "The aim is to try to see mental health as part of an overall strategy that deals with climate change impact," he said.

Despite their warnings, it's not all bad news - Dr Berry added that there could be a positive side effect to communities facing the risks of climate change. "Climate change could motivate collective action, which is the number one thing to protect mental health," she said.


Time for Inaction on Global Warming

Congress should consider the costs before passing "cap and trade."


"Global" and "warming" are perhaps the two most important words used to justify the approaching governmental control of our economy. In reality, global warming is barely occurring: In the 30 years starting in 1977, warming amounted to 0.32 degree Fahrenheit per decade, and in the next hundred years it is estimated to be about half a degree per decade.

So global warming looks like neither the alarmists' serious threat, nor an immediate crisis that requires governmental control of America's economy to reduce it. Nevertheless the government solution to these increases--the Waxman-Markey bill, which passed the House earlier this year--is estimated to lower global temperatures only about 0.18 degree Fahrenheit in the next 90 years.

And now comes the new Boxer-Kerry Senate bill, which would require a 20% reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions by 2020.

As a practical matter, what would such a reduction mean to us and our economy? Steven Hayward of the American Enterprise Institute calculates that a 20% reduction would mean cutting America's greenhouse gas emissions to our 1977 levels, and that would radically change both the U.S. economy and our personal lives.

As Mr. Hayward notes, we had 220 million people in America then; today we have 305 million. In 1977 our economy was produced $7.2 trillion (in 2008 dollars); today it is twice as large, at $14.2 trillion. Back then we had 145 million vehicles on the road; today we have 251 million. America has substantially grown, and our energy needs have grown as well.

So what would we have to do get back to 1977 emission levels and meet the Boxer-Kerry requirement? First, car and truck miles travelled would have to be reduced by one-third (or fuel efficiency improved by one-third, hard to do in 10 years), which would seriously reduce travel and transportation, and likely force changes in automobile design that consumers would not like.

Next, the amount of coal burned to generate electricity would have to be cut in half. So we would close more than 200 of our coal-fired power plants, and as Mr. Hayward says that would reduce our electricity supply by some 800 million megawatts. To replace those millions of megawatts with non-hydro renewable power sources like wind, solar and geothermal power would be virtually impossible. We have about 130,000 megawatts generated by them now, and the growth rate of these power sources over the last five years suggests it would take 97 years to make up for the shutdown of 200 coal-fired plants.

Nevertheless, the Boxer-Kerry bill, at least in its draft form, is an improvement over Waxman-Markey. It is in favor of nuclear power--which, in Sen. John Kerry's words, "needs to be a core component of electricity generation if we are to meet our emission reduction targets"--though it does not mention the construction of the 70 to 100 nuclear plants we would need to add to the 104 we now have in order to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. It is also in favor of expanding offshore drilling and natural-gas exploration and production, something that Waxman-Markey does not support.

On the other hand, Boxer-Kerry would be as bad for our economy as Waxman-Markey in two respects. First, it too contains the protectionism of the Waxman "border adjustment program" to begin a new American policy of putting tariffs on goods imported from counties that do not adopt acceptable environmental standards, which surely would result in retaliation tariffs on our exported goods.

And the bill aims to achieve targeted emission declines through a similar cap-and-trade program involving carbon permits. This is said to cover only 2% of U.S. businesses, but it would drive up the cost of electricity, food and other goods for all households and businesses, and its 20% emission reduction is even larger than the 17% in that bill (our current recession has already reduced emissions by 6%, which Sens. Kerry and Barbara Boxer apparently think is real progress). The bill would reduce the portion of emissions covered by the caps, eliminating regulation of methane emissions from coal mines, landfills, and oil and gas pipeline distribution.

Both bills include offsets which would allow emitters (and the politicians in Washington) to claim we are hitting our reduction targets while actually emitting more carbon by "investing" in projects in the U.S. and other countries that ostensibly reduce carbon (whether or not they actually do)--a process that is fraught with potentials for fraud and abuse.

And both bills suffer from the flawed logic of thinking a cap-and-trade system would actually work, when we know it has not worked in Europe, and that the only way a cap-and-trade system could meet its emission targets in the U.S. is by shrinking our economy.

Congressional Budget Office director Douglas W. Elmendorf testified last week before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee that the cap-and-trade provisions of the House bill would reduce the U.S. gross domestic product by 0.25% to 0.75% in 2020 ($60 billion to $180 billion), and by 1.0% to 3.5% in 2050.

Like Waxman-Markey, Boxer-Kerry would expand the control the government has over the American economy, businesses, and individuals. It would have little impact on reducing global warming but would significantly depress our economy. One wonders if the purpose of the Boxer-Kerry bill is really just to give the U.S. something to take to Copenhagen for the United Nation's Climate Change Conference in December.

High-cost policies with low-impact results are not in America's best interests, so we should postpone both bills and think through more clearly our desired energy policies.



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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