Saturday, January 09, 2010

US Weather Bureau Report

The Arctic ocean is warming up, icebergs are growing scarcer and in some places the seals are finding the water too hot, according to a report to the Commerce Department yesterday from Consul Ifft, at Bergen, Norway. Reports from fishermen, seal hunters and explorers, he declared, all point to a radical change in climate conditions and hitherto unheard-of temperatures in the Arctic zone. Exploration expeditions report that scarcely any ice has been met with as far north as 81 degrees 29 minutes. Soundings to a depth of 3,100 meters showed the gulf stream still very warm. Great masses of ice have been replaced by moraines of earth and stones, the report continued, while at many points well known glaciers have entirely disappeared. Very few seals and no white fish are found in the eastern Arctic, while vast shoals of herring and smelts, which have never before ventured so far north, are being encountered in the old seal fishing grounds.

The report above was from November 2, 1922 as reported by the AP and published in The Washington Post. Sounds like it was warmer then than it is now.


The graph below is also interesting. It shows that there was no pack ice off Iceland for about 180 years from 1020 to 1200 AD. So it was warmer then than now too. It seems clear that the alleged unusual warming of the late 20th century is totally bogus and nothing more than faked statistics from crooked Green/Left "scientists".

(Larger version here)


Climategate: You should be steamed

By NEIL FRANK (Neil Frank, who holds a Ph.D. from Florida State University in meteorology, was director of the National Hurricane Center (1974–87))

Now that Copenhagen is past history, what is the next step in the man-made global warming controversy? Without question, there should be an immediate and thorough investigation of the scientific debauchery revealed by “Climategate.”

If you have not heard, hackers penetrated the computers of the Climate Research Unit, or CRU, of the United Kingdom's University of East Anglia, exposing thousands of e-mails and other documents. CRU is one of the top climate research centers in the world. Many of the exchanges were between top mainstream climate scientists in Britain and the U.S. who are closely associated with the authoritative (albeit controversial) Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Among the more troubling revelations were data adjustments enhancing the perception that man is causing global warming through the release of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other atmospheric greenhouse gases.

Particularly disturbing was the way the core IPCC scientists (the believers) marginalized the skeptics of the theory that man-made global warming is large and potentially catastrophic. The e-mails document that the attack on the skeptics was twofold. First, the believers gained control of the main climate-profession journals. This allowed them to block publication of papers written by the skeptics and prohibit unfriendly peer review of their own papers. Second, the skeptics were demonized through false labeling and false accusations.

Climate alarmists would like you to believe the science has been settled and all respectable atmospheric scientists support their position. The believers also would like you to believe the skeptics are involved only because of the support of Big Oil and that they are few in number with minimal qualifications.

But who are the skeptics? A few examples reveal that they are numerous and well-qualified. Several years ago two scientists at the University of Oregon became so concerned about the overemphasis on man-made global warming that they put a statement on their Web site and asked for people's endorsement; 32,000 have signed the petition, including more than 9,000 Ph.Ds. More than 700 scientists have endorsed a 231-page Senate minority report that questions man-made global warming. The Heartland Institute has recently sponsored three international meetings for skeptics. More than 800 scientists heard 80 presentations in March. They endorsed an 881-page document, created by 40 authors with outstanding academic credentials, that challenges the most recent publication by the IPCC. The IPCC panel's report strongly concludes that man is causing global warming through the release of carbon dioxide.

Last year 60 German scientists sent a letter to Chancellor Angela Merkel urging her to “strongly reconsider” her position supporting man-made global warming. Sixty scientists in Canada took similar action. Recently, when the American Physical Society published its support for man-made global warming, 200 of its members objected and demanded that the membership be polled to determine the APS' true position.

What do the skeptics believe? First, they concur with the believers that the Earth has been warming since the end of a Little Ice Age around 1850. The cause of this warming is the question. Believers think the warming is man-made, while the skeptics believe the warming is natural and contributions from man are minimal and certainly not potentially catastrophic à la Al Gore.

Second, skeptics argue that CO2 is not a pollutant but vital for plant life. Numerous field experiments have confirmed that higher levels of CO2 are positive for agricultural productivity. Furthermore, carbon dioxide is a very minor greenhouse gas. More than 90 percent of the warming from greenhouse gases is caused by water vapor. If you are going to change the temperature of the globe, it must involve water vapor.

Third, and most important, skeptics believe that climate models are grossly overpredicting future warming from rising concentrations of carbon dioxide. We are being told that numerical models that cannot make accurate 5- to 10-day forecasts can be simplified and run forward for 100 years with results so reliable you can impose an economic disaster on the U.S. and the world.

The revelation of Climate­gate occurs at a time when the accuracy of the climate models is being seriously questioned. Over the last decade Earth's temperature has not warmed, yet every model (there are many) predicted a significant increase in global temperatures for that time period. If the climate models cannot get it right for the past 10 years, why should we trust them for the next century?

Climategate reveals how predetermined political agendas shaped science rather than the other way around. It is high time to question the true agenda of the scientists now on the hot seat and to bring skeptics back into the public debate.


Not by Fire but by Ice

By Alan Caruba

Considering the thousands of absurd claims made about the discredited fraud of “global warming”, a recent National Geographic News story, “North Magnetic Pole Moving East Due to Core Flux”, struck me as potentially far more significant.

“Earth’s north magnetic pole is racing toward Russia at almost 40 miles a year due to magnetic changes in the planet’s core, new research says.” The article by Richard A. Lovett, noted that “The core is too deep for scientists to directly detect its magnetic field, but researchers can infer the field’s movements by tracking how Earth’s magnetic field has been changing at the surface and in space.”

Most people are familiar with magnetic north because that is where compass needles actually point. It is not the same as the North Pole and, currently, magnetic north is close to Canada’s Ellesmere Island on the edge of the Arctic. The movement has been erratic since first located by scientists in 1831. In 1904, it began to shift northeastward at about nine miles per year. In 1989, it sped up a bit and is now “galloping toward Siberia.”

If I hadn’t read Robert W. Felix’s latest book, “Magnetic Reversals and Evolutionary Leaps”, I frankly would have paid little attention to the news, but I had to pause because Felix asks, “Could this movement be the beginning of the next reversal? I don’t know, but I wouldn’t rule it out.”

Why is this of interest? Because ice ages recur every 11,500 years and right now the Earth is at the end of the latest interglacial period, i.e., the interim between ice ages.

Since ice ages and magnetic reversals appear to occur together, it is entirely likely that what we’re really looking at is the next ice age and, to make matters much worse, a potential magnetic reversal.

“Among the many species of mammals now existing in Europe and Asia, all but six appeared during the past two million years, with no time to evolve,” says Felix, neatly dispatching Charles Darwin’s theory that species evolve over tens of millions of years.

At some point in the past 200,000 years Homo sapiens climbed down out of the trees, stood upright, and began their trek toward what we call civilization and civilization as we know it—the spread of agriculture and the rise of cities—is only about 5,000 years old.

The late paleontologist, Stephen Jay Gould, said, “We have not a shred of evidence for any genetic improvement since then. I suspect that the average Cro-Magnon, properly trained, could have handled computers with the best of us.”

The bad news about magnetic reversals is that they have often been accompanied by massive extinctions and, as noted, they return in a dependable, predictable cycle. “Mass extinctions,” says Felix, “have been the rule, rather than the exception, for the 3.5 million years that life has existed on this planet.”

Many scientists maintain that the last magnetic reversal occurred about 780,000 years ago at the Brunhes/Matuyama boundary, but in addition to full-scale reversals, Felix includes magnetic “excursions” in his calculations.

Magnetic excursions are times when the earth's magnetic north pole moved south for a short while--sometimes as much as 500 years--and then moved back. Magnetic excursions are apparently aborted magnetic reversals, says Felix. They recur about every 11,500 years. And they are deadly.

The last one, the Gothenburg magnetic excursion, took place about 11,500 years ago. Is it just a coincidence that some 40 percent of the large animal species, including the sabre-toothed cat, the mammoth, the mastodon, and the great Dire wolf went extinct at the time? "No," says Felix. "That was no coincidence.”

Nor is it a coincidence that more than one million huge elliptical holes - some the size of a small city - were blasted into the earth at the same time. Today, those huge holes are sometimes known as Carolina Bays, Grady Ponds, Maryland Basins, or, in Texas, Salinas.

Then there was the Mono Lake magnetic excursion of 23,000 years ago, when the earth descended into catastrophic glaciation, and the mammoths were almost decimated. And prior to that was the Lake Mungo magnetic excursion of 33,500 years ago, when the Neanderthal went extinct and the earth descended into yet another period of glaciation.

If this cycle holds true, says Felix, the next magnetic reversal—--and extinction—is due any day.

Solar scientists have been watching the sun with a fair amount of trepidation lately. As Felix notes, “At the beginning of each (geological) cycle, magnetic polarity on the Sun reverses and magnetic north becomes magnetic south. No one knows why.”

We are in the Holocene cycle that began about 10,000 years ago.

Anthony Watts, a climate scientist—-one of the many that did not buy into the global warming fraud—-recently reported that “The sun has seen a resurgence of activity in December, with a number of cycle 24 sunspots being seen.” That’s good news because sunspot activity seems to correlate with warming and cooling cycles. The fewer the sunspots, the cooler the Earth becomes.

“If the past two years have taught us anything,” says Watts, “it is that the sun can be tricky and unpredictable.”

Will the next ice age begin shortly? Depends on what you mean by “shortly” because it could be tomorrow or it could be another two centuries or so. One thing is sure; the Earth’s latest interglacial period is nearing an end.

A magnetic reversal would likely have a devastating effect on planet Earth and, frankly, I don’t want to be around when it occurs.


How Dense Can They Get?

When it comes to power, energy density is the key. Solar power, wind power, and ethanol are so expensive because they are derived from very diffuse energy sources. It takes a lot of energy collectors such as solar cells, wind turbines, or corn stalks covering many square miles to produce the same amount of power that traditional coal, natural gas, or nuclear plants can on just a few acres.

Each of these alternative energy sources is based on mature technology. Agriculture and fermentation have their roots in prehistory; windmills date back at least to 65 B.C.; the photovoltaic effect was discovered in 1839. Yet nowhere in the world are these technologies serving as primary energy sources without significant government subsidies. While incremental improvements can be expected, it would take an order-of-magnitude increase in productivity for them to become viable. As old and as well-researched as the technologies are, such improvements are possible but unlikely. As significant future energy sources, these technologies are dead ends, which is why the government, and not the private sector, is funding them.

Industry is more than willing to risk research dollars on technologies that show real promise, but it is not willing to flush shareholder money down a rat hole. Politicians, however, operate from different incentives. When a crisis, real or imagined, makes headlines, they want voters to see them “doing something” about it, and they must move quickly because election cycles and constituent attention spans are short. Funding long-term research in promising technologies doesn’t meet politicians’ needs. Solar panels, wind turbines, and ethanol refineries are all current technology and can be erected quickly with fanfare and photo ops. By the time these alternative power sources prove to be financial and, possibly, environmental busts, the politicians will have been reelected and voters’ attention will have shifted to the next crisis.

Another benefit of subsidizing “shovel ready” solutions is that existing technologies have existing supporters who can provide campaign funds. Such supporters, however, constitute a well-financed status quo that will make government funding, once started, difficult to end. For example, even though corn-based ethanol has driven up food and fuel prices, increased auto emissions, raised atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations (by causing additional acreage to be tilled), and possibly resulted in net energy losses, the government is still subsidizing the industry and still requiring that the fuel be added to gasoline.

Wind energy, for its part, has been “just a few years away” from being economically competitive with conventional power for at least the last 25 years, and this will not change any time soon. The Energy Information Agency predicts that in 2016 wind power will still be 49 percent to 77 percent more expensive than electricity from either coal or natural gas. Furthermore, because wind turbines work only when the wind blows, wind farms cannot replace conventional plants. Backup power from conventional sources, usually gas turbines, must be ready to come on line the moment the wind fails. Despite these fundamental problems, subsidies continue to flow thanks to an entrenched lobby.

By contrast, consider the significant oil-industry investments in researching biofuels made from algae. Unlike ethanol, biofuels are chemically similar to fuel made from petroleum and, like petroleum-based fuels, have a significantly higher energy content than ethanol. Biofuels can also be handled by current fuel distribution systems and can be burned in today’s vehicles.

Algae can be grown in brackish water on desert land and, with today’s technology, can produce over 2,000 gallons of fuel per acre each year. This compares favorably with the approximately 250 gallons of ethanol that can be produced from an acre of corn—a ratio of 8 to 1. Accounting for the differences in BTU content, the ratio jumps to over 12 to 1. It may even be possible to boost productivity to 100,000 gallons per acre per year, raising algae’s potential to over 600 times that of corn-based ethanol!

Biofuels are carbon-neutral because the carbon dioxide released when they are burned is extracted from the atmosphere by the algae. Unlike burning petroleum-based fuels, then, burning biofuels will not result in a net increase in atmospheric CO2 levels.

With algae’s vast potential, it is easy to understand why private industry is interested and why no government subsidies are needed to encourage investment. Moreover, if algae-based fuels do not prove viable, the companies now researching them will have no “status quo” problems with ending their investments and shifting scarce resources to more promising technologies—where “promise” is measured in density.


“We Want to be Regulated”

Efforts in Washington to write a major climate-change law are causing some Bootlegger/Baptist coalitions to fall apart and new ones to emerge. In late September Exelon Corporation, a major electric utility, followed industry partners Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) and PNM when it resigned from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber opposed the Waxman-Markey climate-change bill, which would sharply limit carbon emissions, raise the cost of power, and in effect impose as much as a 15 percent tax increase on each U.S. household. Exelon, PG&E, and PNM favor the law. They are also heavy nuclear-power producers.

In an earlier comment on the fracturing of the U.S. Climate Action Partnership (USCAP), an industry-environmentalist coalition pushing for cap-and-trade carbon emission controls, Environmental Defense Fund president Fred Krupp repeated a commonly held misconception about government regulation when he said: “It’s very unusual for big corporations to raise their hands and say, ‘We want to be regulated for something that we’re not regulated for now.’” Exelon, PG&E, and PNM apparently make his point.

But as a matter of fact, industry support of regulation is not rare at all; indeed, it is the norm. And in the United States it is as American as apple pie.

Historical Examples

A somewhat casual investigation of business history reveals that it was the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, with the special assistance of General Electric president Gerard Swope, that supported passage of President Roosevelt’s 1933 National Industrial Recovery Act. The Act, with its Blue Eagle codes affecting 2.3 million employers, attempted to place all American industry in a price-fixing cartel. But while the Chamber and many large firms supported FDR’s cartel, many other firms, including Ford Motor Company, did not.

Going back further, we are reminded by Howard Marvel, writing in the 1977 Journal of Law and Economics, that it was the owners of the newly built water-powered textile plants that supported the English Factory Acts (1802 and on), not the owners of older mills that used far more labor per unit of output. The legislation limited child labor and hours and conditions of work, which raised the costs of labor-intensive producers. The industrialists who joined with other crusaders to support the legislation are remembered as philanthropists.

In 1907 it was the electric utility industry, led by Samuel Insull, that lobbied for state regulation in the hopes of escaping less predictable and intractable municipal control. In 1910 American Telephone and Telegraph Company chairman Theodore Vail successfully called for federal regulation of long-distance telephone calling just when the Bell patents were expiring and new competition was, as he put it, “skimming the cream” from the market. Even the Magna Carta (line 35) specifies a standard width for all cloth sold in the kingdom—all in the name of consumer protection, scholars tell us. The standard happened to be the width of looms operated by the London weavers. The less fortunate Bristol weavers had to break and modify their looms to compete.

A focus on environmental regulation reveals a host of Bootleggers and Baptists who have coalesced, sometimes quietly, to support output restrictions. In hearings before passage of the 1972 federal Water Pollution Control Act, industrialists located along the Ohio River argued for the law. They faced pollution controls imposed by the Ohio River Sanitation Commission and wanted a national level playing field. Only federal regulation would solve their problem, and they supported it. It was the coal interests in Ohio and West Virginia, along with environmentalists, that lobbied for the 1990 Clean Air Act amendments requiring scrubbers on newly built and modified coal-fired electric utilities. As Bruce Ackerman and William Hassler famously noted in their 1981 book, Clean Coal/Dirty Air, the scrubber requirements eliminated the clean-burn advantage of western coal and kept the eastern coal producers happily burning their higher-sulphur coal.

Yes, industry support of legislation that imposes restrictions on output is commonplace, but one begins to understand this more fully after careful scrutiny of the lobbying process. It is seldom the case that every firm in an industry supports restrictions. When John Deere petitioned the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) to increase the stringency of the air-emission standard on small gasoline engines, it was because Deere had a patent on cleaner engines. When the Chicago meat packers lobbied Congress to pass the 1906 Meat Inspection Act, it was because of markets lost to consumer fear over Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle and Argentine beef producers who were invading the U.S. market with lower-priced food.

And when nuclear-power producers Exelon, PG&E, PNM, and others lobby for a federal statute that would impose high costs on coal-fired competitors, there should be no question why.


Australia: Hunger strike is a desperate response to a Greenie-motivated injustice

On Tuesday I visited Peter Spencer, 10 metres up a wind monitoring mast on his property in the high country south of Canberra. Spencer lives there these days, inside a tent on a small platform. State laws restricting the clearing of native vegetation have helped make his land unviable. Some years ago he was unable to meet his mortgage repayments and his sister and brother-in-law took over the debt from the bank. Spencer has been unable to repay them, and soon the sheriff will be arriving to arrange for a forced sale of the property. There are important political issues here, but it is also a family tragedy, and a personal one.

Spencer has talked a lot in recent weeks about climate change and carbon sinks, but the root of his problem with government lies in the native vegetation laws that have prevented him from clearing - and farming - much of his land. In 2004 the Productivity Commission produced a report on the impact of the laws. It recorded how many farmers had lost income, their property had been devalued, and they had received very little or no compensation, and said the worst affected "often suffered serious personal stress in the face of the resultant marginal viability, or even loss, of their property".

The effect on Spencer has been greater than on most, because of his unique personal circumstances. He's now 61, but in his younger days worked in the hotel and tourism industry in Papua New Guinea. Apparently he was successful there, and ended up owning some hotels. He sometimes stopped fights between tribesmen and at one point had his nose pierced so he could wear a bone through it on festive occasions. (You can still see light though the hole if you catch him in profile.) ABC television made a documentary on him in the 1980s.

Spencer's long-term dream was to return to NSW and become a farmer in the high country, where his mother's people had lived for generations. From 1980 he began buying adjacent blocks of land as they came up for sale at Shannons Flat, just south of the Australian Capital Territory. It took him about 15 years to put together a holding that was big enough, and to build a house. He finally had a farm of 5600 hectares, of which 60 per cent was cleared. It was his intention to keep the other 40 per cent uncleared, and to log its alpine ash and mountain gum in a sustainable manner.

During this period he was still working in Papua New Guinea, so he did little farming, and vegetation grew on much of the cleared land at Shannons Flat. In the mid-'90s he was hired by the office of the PNG prime minister, and wrote a paper on corruption and law and order that didn't make him many friends. He says one night some men knocked on the door of his home, dragged him outside and tried to shoot him with a homemade gun. It misfired and Spencer escaped in the dark. Shortly after, he hopped on a plane and hasn't been back. He settled at Shannons Flat, with the intention of spending the rest of his life as a farmer.

A pressing task was to clear the saplings that had grown over much of the previously cleared land on his property, but with the clearing bans he discovered his farm had been turned into a vast nature reserve. He ran sheep on the small proportion that was still cleared, but was unable to make a living. Land clearing was not his only problem. His farm was not good grazing country on the whole, and like many farmers he was affected by the drought and by low wool prices. Opinions differ as to how important these various factors were to his financial failure. Some of his family believe he was undercapitalised and not a good farmer. A rural counsellor who tried to help him says much of the blame lies with the land-clearing regulations.

Spencer could have walked off his farm, but he was too attached to it to do this. He protested for years about what had been done to him. This included complaints to politicians, unsuccessful efforts to motivate the NSW Farmers Association, and many court cases, where he often represented himself. A passionate and intelligent man, although without much formal education, he spent a lot of his time learning about the law. After a while his third wife, Anna, left the farm and took their young sons to Europe to live with her parents.

Meanwhile his sister and brother-in-law were looking to recover the debt he owed them. They felt he was turning to political argument and legal action when he should have been more concerned about repaying them. Maybe government had hurt him, but that was life: it was time to sell up and move on.

Spencer's legal actions failed. One of them involved a government offer, made many years after the land clearing restrictions came in, to buy the farm. The price was based on the property's present value, but Spencer argued it ought to be the value had the land clearing bans not been in place.

In 2008 Justice Stephen Rothman in the Supreme Court rejected this claim, but expressed some sympathy for Spencer's situation. He noted: "The State Vegetation Acts had a crippling effect … on the business of Mr Spencer … it is an extremely disheartening and sad occasion that a person, whose life and resources have been placed into rural property for the purposes of conducting a grazing and farming business, has been required to resort to this action." He further observed: "While all members of society must accept that there will be restrictions on their activities for the 'greater good of society', when those restrictions prevent or prohibit a business activity that was hitherto legitimate, because of the area in which it is operating, and assistance is offered which does not fully compensate for the restrictions imposed, society is asking Mr Spencer, and people in his position, to pay for its benefit … it is a most unfortunate aspect of the operation of the scheme that a person in Mr Spencer's position is effectively denied proper compensation for the restrictions imposed upon him by a scheme implemented for the public good." However, he concluded, "that is a matter for government [not the courts]".

Peter Spencer is a complicated and volatile character. Most of us would regard going on a hunger strike as extreme, and he has shown a propensity for self-harm in the past. There was an occasion about 1970 when he went up a hill in Canberra and shot himself, as part of an effort to get attention during a dispute with his first wife.

Some of those who deal with him have described him as obsessive, and this is certainly my limited experience. I stayed in touch with him after writing a column on land clearing five years ago, and on one occasion when I wasn't displaying enough sympathy he hung up and didn't speak to me for a year. He can be a thoughtful and articulate human being who draws on a considerable experience of life, but he is also a righteous man given to monologues and high emotion.

Spencer's siblings are upset about what has happened, and believe politics has clouded what is essentially a family dispute over a loan. This is understandable, yet there is a genuine political issue here. The land clearing bans have played a big role in what has happened to him.

Spencer has now been without food for 48 days. He spends the time listening to animals and reading the Bible. On Thursday night he said he was losing strength and would give no more interviews.

How should politicians respond to the action he has taken? They should not change laws because of a hunger strike. But it might give them pause to reflect on those laws. Others are already doing this: in the past week there has been a lot of media coverage here and some overseas, and much discussion on the internet. In a poll on Today Tonight, 14,000 people (98 per cent of those who voted) wanted Kevin Rudd to meet with Peter Spencer.

This level of response is a reminder of the moral ambiguity of a hunger strike. On the one hand it allows people to question the mental health of the person engaged in the strike. On the other, it can attract attention to an important injustice: if Spencer hadn't embarked on this action, no one today would be talking about land clearing. His action has been effective precisely because it is unusual, and unusual things tend to be done by unusual people.

Mr Rudd has been much praised for making public apologies to Aboriginal people and to those who suffered as children in state care. These apologies are welcome, but in a historical sense they are (as I'm sure he would agree) regrettably late. With farmers and land clearing, we could say sorry while there's still time to do something about the suffering that's been caused.

But if anyone's going to say sorry, it ought to be the Premier of NSW. After all, it was the State Government that brought in the native vegetation laws.



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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