Friday, March 26, 2010

Public scepticism prompts British Science Museum to rename climate exhibition

The Science Museum is revising the contents of its new climate science gallery to reflect the wave of scepticism that has engulfed the issue in recent months. The decision by the 100-year-old London museum reveals how deeply scientific institutions have been shaken by the public’s reaction to revelations of malpractice by climate scientists.

The museum is abandoning its previous practice of trying to persuade visitors of the dangers of global warming. It is instead adopting a neutral position, acknowledging that there are legitimate doubts about the impact of man-made emissions on the climate.

Even the title of the £4 million gallery has been changed to reflect the museum’s more circumspect approach. The museum had intended to call it the Climate Change Gallery, but has decided to change this to Climate Science Gallery to avoid being accused of presuming that emissions would change the temperature.

Last October the museum launched a temporary exhibition called “Prove It! All the evidence you need to believe in climate change”. The museum said at the time that the exhibition had been designed to demonstrate “through scientific evidence that climate change is real and requires an urgent solution”.

Chris Rapley, the museum’s director, told The Times that it was taking a different approach after observing how the climate debate had been affected by leaked e-mails and overstatements of the dangers of global warming. He said: “We have come to realise, given the way this subject has become so polarised over the past three to four months, that we need to be respectful and welcoming of all views on it.”

Professor Rapley, a climate scientist and former director of the British Antarctic Survey research centre, said that the museum needed to remain neutral in order to be trusted: “The Science Museum will not state a position on whether or not climate change is real, driven by humans or threatening.”

“The climate science community, by and large, has concluded that humans have intervened in the system in a way that will lead to climate change. But that is their story. It’s not our story, so that can’t be our conclusion. If we take sides we will alienate some of the people who want to be part of the discussion. “Although there is an extreme faction who very much disagree, there is a much bigger contingent who are not convinced. We want to welcome them into the debate by being as neutral and fairhanded as we can be.”

Professor Rapley said that the gallery, which is to open in November before the climate summit in Cancun, Mexico, would refrain from scaring visitors with apocalyptic predictions of rising sea levels and would be honest about the conflicting views on the scale of possible changes to the climate.

“You can argue about how much effect the carbon in the atmosphere will have on the system and what we should do about it,” he said. “The role of the museum should be to lay out honestly and fairly what the climate science community has found out about the science.

“There are areas of uncertainty which are perfectly reasonable to raise and we will present those. For example, the extent to which the climate is as sensitive to the CO2-loading that humans have put in or not.”

Professor Rapley declined to give his own views on climate change, saying that they were not relevant. However, in 2007 he said: “The more greenhouse gases we add, the warmer we’ll be. It’s not rocket science.”


Endangered findings

Now that health care is done (for the time being), expect global warming to be high on the Obama administration's "to do" list. But cap-and-trade legislation and its alternative, a direct tax on carbon-based fuels, can't be passed via "reconciliation" and are far short of the needed 60 Senate votes.

As a result, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is itching to step in and dictate how and how much we can drive, fly, consume, or make. This the agency made clear in its "endangerment finding," a necessary precursor to regulation, released last December.

Expect the administration to use 2010 global-temperature data as backup for the EPA's regulatory power grab. Global temperatures shot upward around the beginning of this year thanks to El Niño, a warming of the tropical Pacific that takes place every few years. The average global temperature has a reasonable chance of beating the last high, set back in 1998 (also an El Niño year).

Meanwhile, a number of studies point to sources other than greenhouse gases as explanations for the modest warming trend of the late 20th century. This could doom the EPA's finding. But do not expect it to go quietly.

The EPA did no scientific research of its own to buttress its endangerment finding, relying on the 2007 report of the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and a similar "Synthesis Report" from the U.S. Climate Change Science Program as the basis for its conclusions. According to these reports:

Most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid–20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic [greenhouse gas] concentrations. "Most" means "more than one-half," and the IPCC says "very likely" means a probability of between 90 and 99 percent. This claim may have constituted the "settled" science of climate change in 2007, but things have become greatly unsettled since then.

The rise in global surface temperatures as measured by the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia (yes, the "Climategate" folks) is 0.70 degrees Celsius since 1950, or a little over a tenth of a degree per decade. But the most recent refereed science literature argues otherwise.

Soon after the IPCC report, David Thompson and several others (including Climategate's Phil Jones) published a paper in Nature showing a cold bias in measurement of sea-surface temperatures from the early 1940s through the mid 1960s. Accounting for this drops the rise in temperature to 0.55 degrees Celsius.

At the time of the IPCC report, Canada's Ross McKitrick and I published a paper in the Journal of Geophysics showing that there was a clear and systematic "non-climatic" warming — from changes in land use and problems with station maintenance — in temperatures measured at weather stations. The bias isn't all that much when measured globally, but it subtracts another .08 degrees Celsius, leaving 0.47 degrees Celsius.

Earlier this year, Susan Solomon of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration published a bombshell in Science in which she argued that the lack of recent warming was likely due to fluctuations in water vapor way up in the stratosphere — changes that bear no obvious relationship to greenhouse-gas emissions. Given the limited stratospheric data that we have going back to 1980, her finding reduces the remaining trend to 0.41 degrees Celsius.

In 2008, V. Ramanathan of the Scripps Institute of Oceanography summarized the scientific literature on the emissions of black carbon (aka "soot") and concluded this was responsible for about 25 percent of global warming. Carbon particles are not greenhouse gases. This drops the supposedly greenhouse-gas-caused warming to .31 degrees Celsius — 44 percent of the original 0.70.

Note that it's not even necessary to bring in variations in the sun in order to ascribe more than half of the warming to non-greenhouse changes.

So, where are the studies refuting these findings? They don't exist. The EPA is wrong. The IPCC was wrong, too, that it is "very likely" that "most" of the warming since 1950 is from greenhouse-gas changes. The EPA has lost the scientific linchpin of its proposal to regulate our lives.

While the president will surely brandish the El Niño–driven warmth of 2010 as the reason for the EPA to regulate where the Senate can no longer act, the EPA needs to accept that the "settled" science of global warming has shifted tectonically since the last IPCC report.


Suing our way to a carbon-free world

Having bullied unwilling House members into supporting his health care package, President Obama can move to his next big legislative goal -- making Americans pay more for energy in an attempt to reduce carbon emissions.

Just days from now, Obama's Environmental Protection Agency is expected to propose new regulations on carbon emissions. If the agency makes them as draconian as the letter of the law requires, your McMansion could become a federally regulated stationary source of pollution.

But don't worry: These regulations are not designed to take effect, but rather to scare the hell out of Congress so that it enacts milder restrictions. It is a regulatory and legislative game of chicken.

This probably sounds like a bad method for making laws, and it is. But there's an even worse method: to have a jury of angry Mississippians decide the issue of global warming once and for all.

Trial lawyers on the Gulf Coast, representing Mississippi property owners, have sued dozens of energy and chemical companies in a case called Comer v. Murphy Oil. They allege that dozens of energy firms, by causing carbon emissions, caused the climate to change and made Hurricane Katrina more intense than it would have been otherwise. As a result, they claim, the storm did greater damage to their property than it would have otherwise.

The federal district court threw the case out of court in 2007 on the grounds that such claims cannot be decided in court. This was not a simple public nuisance case, in which a company produced toxic sludge and caused a town's residents to become ill.

This was a question over global warming and its potential causes and effects, about which very little is known with scientific certainty. If presented in court, it would call upon a jury to adjudicate yet-unproven and probably unknowable questions about how greenhouse gases affect particular weather patterns -- in this case, how they affected one particular 2005 weather pattern.

Even worse, this case could potentially implicate everyone in the United States. Think about it for a moment, assuming not only that global warming is man-made but also that it fueled Hurricane Katrina.

Do you drive a car, ride the bus or cause carbon emissions of any kind? If so, you could be named as a defendant in the next lawsuit over Katrina -- or even in this one. You may not bear as much of the responsibility as Murphy Oil or Massey Energy, or any of the other defendants in the case, but you are liable all the same.

So is your neighbor. So is your employer. If you need someone to blame, just throw a rock in the air.

In October, a 2-to-1 panel on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated the case. (The two were Clinton appointees, in case you were wondering.) Despite a raging political battle over global warming in Washington, Judge James Dennis ruled that the suit does not present a political question that is more properly handled by Congress. For a few months, it appeared that a Mississippi jury would get to decide whether the oceans stop rising or not.

Earlier this month, the full Fifth Circuit changed its mind and agreed to give the case another hearing. It could determine just who bullies you into paying more for your energy -- President Obama, the Congress or the trial lawyers.


Governor Shreds New Jersey Climate Change Programs

Kills Emission Reporting, Diverts Green Energy Fund & Defunds Climate Office. Greenie wail below

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has taken a wrecking ball to the state's touted Global Warming Response Act, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). In recent weeks, the Christie administration has blocked required reporting from greenhouse gas sources, diverted $300 million in Clean Energy Funds dedicated to energy efficiency and proposed to zero out the state's Office of Climate Change and Energy.

"New Jersey's Global Warming Response Act is now a dead letter," stated New Jersey PEER Director Bill Wolfe, referring to 2007 legislation regarded as the crowning environmental achievement of the Corzine administration. "Whatever progress on climate change we can expect will have to come from Washington, because Trenton has gone AWOL."

Apparently by mutual agreement of the ongoing Corzine and incoming Christie administration, a proposed rule to require monitoring and reporting of emissions of greenhouse gases was allowed to quietly die on January 20, 2010 - one year after it was first proposed. This emission monitoring regime is a key mandate of the state's Global Warming Response Act. Without monitoring and reporting, New Jersey cannot track emissions or develop a regulatory program to meet the reduction milestones set forth in the Act.

On October 30, 2009, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency adopted its first federal greenhouse gas monitoring requirements. Compared to EPA rules, however, the New Jersey law (and its now abandoned monitoring plan) is broader, covering more gases, more emissions sources and with lower thresholds. Ironically, in its public comments this fall, the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) urged the EPA to integrate more stringent state rules into its proposal.

Sweeping executive orders imposing a regulatory moratorium, cost-benefit analysis requirements, and a policy of rolling back to minimum federal standards in the first weeks of the Christie administration make it unlikely that any new plan for greenhouse gas monitoring will ever emerge again from DEP. Several other major environmental and public health policies, such as the recently shelved drinking water standard for perchlorate, a chemical used in rocket fuel, are apparently also destined for the scrap heap.

This Christie anti-regulatory stance is compounded by diversions of $300 million in Clean Energy Funds dedicated to energy efficiency and renewable energy programs. In addition, Governor Christie's proposed budget for FY 2011, beginning this July, will eliminate funding for the Office of Climate Change and Energy--the office responsible for implementing the Global Warming Response Act--even diverting revenue from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) emission credit auctions to the General Fund.

"The current governor has decided that investment in a clean energy future for New Jersey is a luxury that we can no longer afford," added Wolfe. "In terms of public health and welfare, New Jersey will soon start to resemble states like Mississippi that can only provide minimal state services."


Now it's CowGate: expert report says claims of livestock causing global warming are false

It is becoming difficult to keep pace with the speed at which the global warming scam is now unravelling. The latest reversal of scientific “consensus” is on livestock and the meat trade as a major cause of global warming – one-fifth of all greenhouse gas emissions, according to eco-vegetarian cranks. Now a scientific report delivered to the American Chemical Society says it is nonsense. The Washington Times has called it “Cowgate”.

The cow-burp hysteria reached a crescendo in 2006 when a United Nations report ominously entitled “Livestock’s Long Shadow” claimed: “The livestock sector is a major player, responsible for 18 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions measured in CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalents). This is a higher share than transport.” This led to demands in America for a “cow tax” and a campaign in Europe at the time of the Copenhagen car crash last December called Less Meat=Less Heat.

Now a report to the American Chemical Society by Frank Mitloehner, an air quality expert at the University of California at Davis, has denounced such scare-mongering as “scientifically inaccurate”. He reveals that the UN report lumped together digestive emissions from livestock, gases produced by growing animal feed and meat and milk processing, to get the highest possible result, whereas the traffic comparison only covered fossil fuel emissions from cars. The true ratio, he concludes, is just 3 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions in America are attributable to rearing of cattle and pigs, compared with 26 per cent from transport.

Mitloehner also makes the deadly serious point: “Producing less meat and milk will only mean more hunger in poor countries.” Precisely. The demonising of cows and pigs is just another example of global warmists’ callous indifference to starvation in the developing world, as in the case of the unbelievably immoral and reckless drive for biofuels – pouring Third World resources for subsistence into Western liberals’ fuel tanks – and, notoriously, carbon trading.

Week by week the AGW collapse intensifies. Himalayan glaciers, polar bears, Arctic ice, Amazon rainforests, all discredited. Now it turns out the great cow-burp scare is bovine excrement too. The global warming scam is, to the majority of people, an object of derision. The scientific community has also at last wakened up. They are smelling the coffee in more and more institutions these days.

This week the Science Museum in London announced it is revising its stance so that its Climate Change Gallery will now be renamed the Climate Science Gallery, to reflect its new position of neutrality in the climate debate. Chris Rapley, the director, said the museum was taking a different approach after observing how the debate had been affected by leaked e-mails and overstatements of the dangers of global warming. He said: “We have come to realise, given the way this subject has become so polarised over the past three to four months, that we need to be respectful and welcoming of all views on it.”

When did you ever hear that sort of thing before? But that is fair enough: neutrality, a level playing field and an equal voice is all global warming sceptics have ever asked for. Given those reasonable conditions, the truth will out and we will win. The signs are that a lot of scientists have been moved to assert their integrity, encouraged by the increasingly huge breaches sceptics have made in the defences of the AGW camp. Others may simply have calculated they may have backed a loser and it is time to take out some insurance.

Whatever the case, it is a different world now in the war against the AGW scam. Zac Goldsmith, warmist fanatic and Tory candidate, is telling environmentalists that green issues are vote losers. He should tell Dave that and stop him making an even bigger fool of himself. We are experiencing a tipping point in the climate war and the advantage is slowly but irresistibly moving towards the sceptics.


A New Revelation: Wind Energy Needs Wind to Work

One of the common arguments made against wind power is that without government subsidies, mandates or tax credits, wind turbines would not be built. But even when companies do receive preferential treatment to build windmills, just because they’re built doesn’t mean they’re going to work. For that, there needs to be (drum roll, please)…wind! A report from Britain says:

“The analysis of power output found that more than 20 wind farms are operating at less than one-fifth of their full capacity. Experts say many turbines are going up on sites that are simply not breezy enough. They also accuse developers of ‘grossly exaggerating’ the amount of energy they will generate in order to get their hands on subsidies designed to boost the production of green power.

While it is possible some of the results were skewed by breakdowns, the revelation that so many are under-performing will be of great interest to those who argue that wind farms are little more than expensive eyesores. The analysis was carried out by Michael Jefferson, an environmental consultant and a professor of international business and sustainability. He believes that financial incentives designed to help Britain meet is green energy targets are encouraging firms to site their wind farms badly.”

In other wind farm news, although the event was called “exceptionally rare and highly unusual”, Europe’s largest wind farm had to be shut down because a 14-ton turbine snapped. It’s not the first time a windmill broke and fortunately no one was hurt. A turbine snapping is no reason to stop building windmills just as coal mining accidents are not reason to completely cut off our coal supply. Accidents happen in any industry and it’s a company’s job to learn from them and improve both quality and safety.

If businesses find it profitable to build supply energy in a variety of ways without government handouts, increased competition will only benefit the consumer. Yet, we’re being told we need to transition to a clean energy economy and that the United States needs to be the leader in building these technologies because, “the nation that leads the clean energy economy will be the nation that leads the global economy. And America must be that nation,” said President Obama in his State of the Union address. If renewable energy eventually competes in the marketplace, economist Don Boudreaux says, “So what if the Chinese are world-leading producers of such equipment? Specializing in the production of other goods and services – things that we produce more efficiently than the Chinese – we Americans can then buy solar panels and wind turbines from the Chinese for use in our homes and offices. The latitudinal and longitudinal coordinates of the factories where the final assembly of such equipment occurs are irrelevant.” That’s not to say U.S. can’t be a leader in wind mill production, but market-based policies are the best way to ensure that America’s renewable energy production is as competitive as possible.

In addition, the cleanliness in the President’s mission to green our economy may be a bit over hyped. We not only use fossil fuels to make turbines but also provide back up power when the windmills don’t spin. Since it’s too costly to stop and start a power plant, wind simply creates more emissions. Or, as Todd Wynn of the Cascade Policy Institute points out, in some instances wind replaces CO2-free sources of energy, like hydroelectricity: “So when the wind blows, the dams stop generating electricity, and when the wind stops, the dams continue to generate electricity. So, in fact, wind power is just offsetting another renewable energy source. It’s not necessarily offsetting any fossil fuel generation.”

Wind may be economically viable in some parts of the United States, but we should let businesses and electricity consumers, not the government, decide that.



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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