Tuesday, February 02, 2010

“Climategate” Ignored in Coverage of SEC Ruling

Global warming alarmism took some big hits toward the end of the last year with “climategate” and the collapse of treaty talks in Copenhagen. This might explain why front page coverage of the topic has fallen off quite dramatically in recent weeks. But there’s an interesting New York Times piece in the business section concerning “interpretitive guidance” the Securities and Exchange Council (SEC) issued to help companies determine when they should disclose potential risks related to climate change.

Mary Shapiro, the SEC chairwoman, was very measured in her comments on the decision saying that there was no new legal requirement and that the agency was not staking out a position on the science. Might that have something do with the exposure of emails that show scientists with the Climate Research Unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia in Great Britain had doctored and manipulated their research?

The report is straightforward and appropriately detached from any policy stance as far as it goes. But there’s rub. Unlike their liberal counterparts overseas, The New York Times, has gone out of their way to avoid any acknowledgment of the email scandal that reveals who global warming science has been doctored and manipulated. This is the same science that has been so often cited as justification for new regulations.

An editor could argue that the scientific dispute over climate change is peripheral to this story and that the email scandal should be handled separately. But anytime The Times saw fit to recognize a scientist or policy expert who questioned the premise of man-made global warming theories in the past they were quick to identify this individual as an “industry-funded, corporate-backed” shrill of some kind, while giving the alarmist side carte blanche.

Kathleen Casey, a Republican appointee, is quoted in the final paragraphs and the reporter deserves credit for allowing her to highlight scientific disputes. But the entire tone of the article suggests that the SEC is engaged in a harmless administrative maneuver that will have little impact on business. In reality, the SEC appears to be opening the way to green activists who are determined to constrain and restrict potentially profitable exercises.

The article ends where new questions should be raised about shareholder activism and the political motivations of advocacy groups that place a greater premium on environmental dogma than they do on scientific data.


Bizarre Climategate Update: Prince Charles Supports Lawbreaking Science Unit

After the British government's Information Commissioner's Office concluded the Climate Research Center at the University of East Anglia violated Britain's Freedom of Information Act law, Prince Charles visited to show his support...

...that is, he showed support for the Climate Research Unit, not the Information Commissioner (the report starts at 4:16 in the video).

Surprising to me, the prince specifically met with Phil Jones (reported at 5:21 in the video), the head of the unit (on leave since the scandal broke) and the man most under fire for the FOIA violation.

Typically in these bad-PR situations an institution will get rid of problem-causers first, and then bring the bigwigs in for a photo op expressing support for the replacement team. Fresh start, break with the past, that kind of message.

Seems Prince Charles doesn't see a need for a fresh start.

John O'Sullivan on Climategate.com has another detail about the prince's visit. Reportedly, the prince told the Climategate team: "Well done all of you. Many, many congratulations on your work. I wish you great success in the future. Don't get downhearted by these little blips here and there!"

Well done? Blips?


Warmists chickening out of debate -- as usual

If you Google “global warming” and “climate change” you’ll get more than 100 million combined hits. And just about every hit yields an opinion. But what are the facts? That’s what science is supposed to find out, and there’s no consensus on climate change among the experts. But who says science is about consensus? If you could, ask Galileo, Newton and Einstein, to name a few of science’s luminaries who dissented from popular views and paved new paths toward understanding the mysteries of the universe.

Two learned men came to Eagle River over the weekend to give presentations in an event billed as the “Northwoods Climate Change Debate,” sponsored by the Northwoods Patriots, an area group whose motto is “Standing up for Faith, Family, Country.” A couple hundred people turned out at the Northland Pines High School field house in Eagle River on Saturday, Jan. 30 to take part.

Astrophysicist Dr. Willie Soon of Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass., and climatologist Dr. David Legates of the University of Delaware comprised the one-sided panel, representing the skeptical view of global warming, while John McCaughn, a retired chaplain and long-time Northwoods resident, played moderator and devil’s advocate.


Event organizer Kim Simac spent weeks organizing the debate and was clearly frustrated by her failed attempts to get some balance into the discussion. “I invited scientists from all over the country — even some from around the world — to a fair and balanced event,” she said. “I was amazed at the lack of response to the many invitations that went out, but more interesting were the insulting, mocking, sarcastic replies I received from scientists who seem to share a similar belief that a debate is ridiculous on such a settled science.”

On this bitterly cold day in late January, McCaughn, who graduated from Eagle River High School and the University of Wisconsin-Superior, noted wryly that he had woken up at 5:30 a.m. and the temperature outside his Conover home was 27 below. “They didn’t have anyone to represent the global warming side,” said McCaughn, who had refereed previous forums.

Deflecting criticism that they tour the country on behalf of industry giants such as ExxonMobil and others that have special interests to protect, Drs. Legates and Soon were quick to defend their integrity. “I maintain my objectivity and speak around the country to anyone,” said Dr. Legates, when asked whether he was funded by any particular group. “I don’t charge honorariums. If they pay my way I’ll be glad to speak. I haven’t received any money from oil and gas interests.”

Dr. Soon, also in response to the same question, said his scientific findings would be the same whether he gave them to Greenpeace or ExxonMobil, which had paid him from time to time to conduct research along with other corporations. “My condition is very simple; that there is no condition,” he said. “No amount of money could corrupt me. If CO2 is as bad as they say it is, I would be far ahead of Al Gore and say we must take action. But much of what is being said is based on false arguments. Science is not about he said, she said, but all about the data and evidence. I keep an open mind always.”


Dr. Legates said there is no question that humans have an impact on the environment, especially when it comes to land disturbances and changing the surface of the landscape. Such activity, for example, affects the possibility of flooding because vast expanses of grasslands and other porous soils have been replaced by parking lots and other impervious surfaces, causing water runoff. “Urbanization is definitely a factor in environmental changes, but the climate effects are almost negligible,” he said.

Chuck Boyd, a retired physicist who lives in the Northwoods, decried the efforts by vast segments of “the administration, Congress, media, industrial complex, and academia” to paint a distorted picture of the global warming debate. “All combined, they are willing to sacrifice the economic future of our country in the name of what I call a monumental anthropogenic global warming hoax.”

Spurred by former Vice President Al Gore’s 2006 documentary film “An Inconvenient Truth,” which asserted global warming is largely man-made and warned of dire consequences for the planet unless steps are taken to stem carbon emissions, proponents of this argument say evidence is indisputable. In his narration, Gore said climate change “is really not a political issue, so much as a moral one.” Many climate researchers found few faults with Gore’s thesis but some labeled it “junk science” and it caused one U.S. Republican Senator to call it “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people.” Others said that while Gore was right about many of his claims, he was went too far with his predictions of doom.

Just before Saturday's discussion, a series of short films, pro and con, were shown, one of which was produced by National Geographic propounding the warming theory. McCaughn, as moderator and taking the Gore side, summed up the global warming position by quoting several dire outcomes from the movie and asked the panelists to respond.

Drs. Soon and Legates, both of whom have PhD’s after their names and a long list of published papers and honors in their resumes, have not bought into the increasingly popular premise that the earth is getting hotter because of human activity such as the burning of fossil fuels and deforestration. Instead, they postulate that climate change is inevitable and that global warming is mainly due to natural causes such as solar activity and other phenomena.


Asked about Gore’s movie, Dr. Legates called it “very much of a staged show with little substance.”

Dr. Soon likewise poked fun at the former Veep by interrupting his slide slow Saturday by pretending to take a cell phone call from Gore and finding out that he was delayed in his travel plans by a snowstorm in Nashville, Tennessee (Gore’s home state). The audience got a big laugh out of that.

Dr. Soon concedes that scientific data has never been and is not now perfect. “The difference, though, is there is a tendency to make some sort of claim that is so exaggerated and so disproportionate that it amounts to an alarmist approach. The theme is all about scare. Michael Crichton wrote about this in his book, ‘State of Fear.’ It’s a big tragedy.”

Quoting Albert Einstein, who said, “No amount of experimentation can ever prove me right; a single experiment can prove me wrong,” Dr. Soon said conventional thinking about gases such as carbon dioxide is often wrong. “CO2 is not an air pollutant. It is food for plants and marine life,” he said. Atmospheric CO2 levels are controlled by temperature and other biological/chemical variables and not the other way around, he added.

Gore’s claims that polar ice melting is another proof of global warming brings this response from Dr. Soon: “Who says that the ice was not melting before?” Weather records before around 1850, when the last ice age is said to have ended, are unreliable, calling into question the accuracy of old data, he added.

Global warming proponents took a hit when it was revealed that last November, someone hacked into computers at a climate research unit located at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England, and released thousands of emails that showed scientists may have distorted or withheld key data. The episode became known as "Climate Gate" in the mass media and raised a firestorm over whether some scientists were slanting some information to buttress their global warming claims while deliberately suppressing or downplaying other data that undermined their position.


Dr. Legates said climate change is both constant and variable in that no one day and no one year is like another and while trends are discernible for short periods of time climates are anything but stable. Looking at average temperatures, a case could be made that one year is hotter than another or cooler, but that over time, nature has a way of stabilizing herself. “From 2000 to the present, there has been no increase in global temperatures,” he said pointing to a graph supporting his remark.

On the other side of the question, however, fears mount that an increase in global temperature will cause sea levels to rise and alter the amount and pattern of precipitation, changing green areas to subtropical deserts. Warming in the Arctic would coincide with the retreat of glaciers, permafrost and sea ice, and other threats include species extinctions and reductions in crop yields.

All conjecture at best, say Drs. Soon and Legates, the latter producing another slide that showed a U.S. Weather Bureau report stating: “The Arctic Ocean is warming up, icebergs are growing scarcer and in some places the seals are finding the water too hot. Reports all point to a radical change in climate conditions and hitherto unheard-of temperatures in the Arctic Zone. Expeditions report that scarcely any ice has been met with as far north as 81 degrees 29 minutes. Great masses of ice have been replaced by moraines of earth and stones, while at many points well known glaciers have entirely disappeared.” The dire report was made in 1922.

Dr. Soon says any global warming is more the result of solar cycle variations that cause temperature fluctuations rather than man-made CO2 emissions, which represent a tiny fraction of the earth’s atmosphere made up of 78% nitrogen and 21% oxygen, with only 0.038 percent carbon dioxide and the rest small amounts of other gases.


As the author of many papers on solar and stellar behavior, Dr. Soon and co-author Sallie Baliunas shook things up with a review paper in the journal Climate Research that concluded “the 20th century is probably not the warmest nor a uniquely extreme climatic period of the last millennium.”

In another controversial area, Dr. Soon and others in an article disputed claims that polar bear survival was not so much a result of global warming, but possibly because of more human-bear interaction. Dr. Soon also maintains that the ozone layer that surrounds the earth, which protects the planet from the sun’s potentially damaging ultraviolet rays, even while depleted, can fully replenish itself in a matter of 150 days rather than hundreds or thousands of years as some have contended.

While nothing was settled during Saturday’s session, it provided much food for thought. There will always be people who are persuaded that man is chiefly responsible for warming the planet and people who remain skeptical of the idea, and ask for concrete proof. Perhaps the late Bishop Fulton J. Sheen had insight into the matter when he wrote, “The scientist does not tell nature its laws; nature tells the scientist.”


Britain shivers through coldest January since 1987... and February starts with more snow and temperatures of -7c

More sun and less rain - what's to complain about? Quite a lot, actually. For January this year turned out to be perishingly cold.

The sunnier and drier than usual combination is normally ideal for most of us. But the usual rules were turned on their head in the first half of January when heavy snow meant it was also the coldest for 20 years, according to a monthly review by climatologist Philip Eden. He said: 'Although the second half of the month was unremarkable temperature-wise, the severity of the cold period during the first half was such that January turned out to be the coldest since 1987, and the ninth coldest in the past 100 years.

'Snow fell frequently and sometimes heavily during the first fortnight, notably on the 4th/5th when depths of 25-35cm (10-14ins) were measured across a large area from the Cotswolds to the Weald. 'Accumulated depths of 40-60cm (16-24ins) were noted in upland parts of eastern Scotland and North-East England and here snow on the ground lasted throughout the month. 'Overall it was both drier and sunnier than an average January although most of the sunshine came during the first and last weeks.'

Temperatures dropped to minus 22.3c (minus 8f) at Altnaharra, Sutherland, overnight on January 7-8 - the lowest temperature recorded in the UK since late December 1995, Mr Eden said. The lowest daytime maximum occurred on January 10 when the temperature failed to climb higher than minus 13.5c (8f) at Altnaharra. A peak daytime high of 12.4c (54f) was recorded in Exeter on January 16 while the warmest night was 9.2c (49f) at St Mary's in the Isles of Scilly on January 14-15.

According to Mr Eden, the Central England Temperature of 1.1c (34f) was 3.1c (38f) below the 1971-2000 mean, the lowest since 1987. The CET in January 1987 was 0.8c (33f). The month started off as normal, but within a week virtually the whole country was covered in snow with temperatures below zero. Up to two inches could settle in northern Scotland and in northern and western Wales, with lighter snow showers expected in Merseyside, Shropshire and Derbyshire. Temperatures dropped well below freezing over the weekend with a low of -7c recorded in Benson, Oxfordshire.

The Met Office warned of widespread icy roads in Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales, north-west and south-west England and the West Midlands. But the chilly spell will be replaced by warmer weather as bands of rain move in from the West, forecasters said.

Heavy snow in some parts over the weekend caused disruption to motorists and forced the cancellation of several sports fixtures. The worst-hit areas were the east and west coasts of England, northern Scotland and south-west Wales. Drivers had to battle icy conditions and road closures as snow hit parts of the North East on Friday night.

There were five separate crashes on Bonemill Lane in Sunderland on Saturday morning and police were forced to close the road for an hour-and-a-half. And an icy road surface led to a three-vehicle collision at a roundabout near Crowther Road in the city. Nobody was injured in any of the incidents, police said.


Australian pro-liberty thinktank vindicated on climate

By Greg Lindsay, Executive Director

Eighteen months ago in Tokyo, my two year term as President of the Mont Pelerin Society, founded by F.A. Hayek in the wake of World War II, came to an end. I was succeeded by development economist Professor Deepak Lal.

In my Presidential address, I traced the history and intellectual lineage of that famous Society back to the great thinkers of the Enlightenment and speculated about some of the problems and threats to freedom that modern-day liberals faced.

What I singled out in particular was the so-called ‘debate’ about the theory that man-made carbon emissions are responsible for causing potentially catastrophic increases in global temperatures. My concern wasn’t the evidence for this theory, per se, but what I described as ‘the regrettable features of the climate change debate, which I believe has descended into anything but a reasoned and scientific discussion judged by Enlightenment standards.’

My point was that scepticism – the rigorous evaluation of evidence – a fundamental building block of intellectual and scientific progress, was in danger of being swept away by a new form of pre-enlightenment quasi-religious belief and rent seeking:
'What is disquieting, and should be disquieting to all who cherish the principles of the Enlightenment, is the certainty of belief displayed by some of the believers . . . The politics of climate change have become intensely ideological, and far distant from a rational debate which allows for a free exchange of ideas. The debate, such as it is, has struggled to rise above the ridiculous, at its worst demonstrated by the morally offensive use of the labels ‘denier’ or ‘delusionist’ to discredit all who are so ‘unsound’ as to question the dominant interpretation of the science . . .

There is no question that we should apply the best scientific techniques to discover the truth about this issue and then deal with it appropriately. Unfortunately, one has to question the integrity of a great deal of climate research. This is because climate research has become an industry which is heavily reliant on the steady drip of government funding. Competing and challenging research is too often swept away . . .'

Just a year after that speech, a torrent of disclosures about dubious climate science practices has underlined my concerns. Popular tags such as Climategate have been applied and will stick; reputations have been tarnished and many will most likely be trashed. It seems that key scientists have allowed questionable objectives to politicise their science and have put at risk the standard procedures of the scientific method including peer review.

If the disclosures of the past few months do anything, they should restore some balance to this debate and allow competing ideas, theories and evidence to be tested. Apocalyptic visions distilled from the propaganda of climate activists that ended up in official reports should be seen for what they are. That international bureaucracies such as the IPCC should be taken in by such material should come as no surprise.

If anything good comes out of all this it should be to question the increasing dependence by scientists in all fields on government funding. Hopefully, policymakers will also pause to think through the implications of the dirigiste policies they plan to combat ‘global warming’.

The above is a press release from the Centre for Independent Studies, dated February 1. Enquiries to cis@cis.org.au. Snail mail: PO Box 92, St Leonards, NSW, Australia 1590.


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 blogger.com is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here


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