Monday, May 31, 2010

No global warming processes in Antarctic, says Russian expedition head

(Russia maintains several scientific bases in the Antarctic)

Allegations about global warming processes in the Antarctic have nothing to do with real facts, a Russian polar explorer has said. "They are of opportunistic and time-serving character, and have nothing to do with the real weather and climate on the southern continent," Head of Russia's 54th Antarctic expedition Viktor Venderovich told Itar-Tass.

"The past summer on the south pole was cold and windy, and ice floes in the offshore water failed to melt over the entire season.

"The atmospheric air temperature near the Vostok station deep on the continent reached the customary minus 70 degrees Centigrade in the summer, and near the Novolazarevskaya station it never exceeded minus 6-8 degrees," he said after staying at the Novolazarevskaya station for a year.

The previous winter in the Antarctic, he said, "was remarkable for its unusual severity, with blizzards and snowstorms."

The average air temperature was 0.5 degrees lower than usual, and there were too much snow, he said, adding that a "slight warming was registered only on the Antarctic peninsula, while the rest of the continent has not been affected by the global warning and is not going to be."


Background to the Royal Society climbdown

The UK's Royal Society is reviewing its public statements on climate change after 43 Fellows complained that it had oversimplified its messages. They said the communications did not properly distinguish between what was widely agreed on climate science and what is not fully understood.

The society's ruling council has responded by setting up a panel to produce a consensus document. The panel should report in July and the report is to be published in September. It is chaired by physicist John Pethica, vice-president of the Royal Society. Its deliberations are reviewed by two critical sub-groups, each believed to comprise seven members. Each of these groups contains a number of society Fellows who are doubtful in some way about the received view of the risks of rising CO2 levels.

One panel member told me: "The timetable is very tough - one draft has already been rejected as completely inadequate." The review member said it might not be possible for the document to be agreed at all. "This is a very serious challenge to the way the society operates," I was told.

"In the past we have been able to give advice to governments as a society without having to seek consensus of all the members. "There is very clear evidence that governments are right to be very worried about climate change. But in any society like this there will inevitably be people who disagree about anything - and my fear is that the society may become paralysed on this issue."

Another review member told me: "The sceptics have been very strident and well-organised. It's not clear to me how we are going to get precise agreement on the wording - we are scientists and we're being asked to do a job of public communication that is more like journalism."

But both members said they agreed that some of the previous communications of the organisation in the past were poorly judged.

A Royal Society pamphlet Climate Change Controversies is the main focus of the criticism. A version of it is on the organisation's website. It was written in response to attacks on mainstream science which the Royal Society considered scurrilous.

It reads: "This is not intended to provide exhaustive answers to every contentious argument that has been put forward by those who seek to distort and undermine the science of climate change…"

One Fellow who said he was not absolutely convinced of the dangers of CO2 told me: "This appears to suggest that anyone who questions climate science is malicious. But in science everything is there to be questioned - that should be the very essence of the Royal Society. Some of us were very upset about that.

"I can understand why this has happened - there is so much politically and economically riding on climate science that the society would find it very hard to say 'well, we are still fairly sure that greenhouse gases are changing the climate' but the politicians simply wouldn't accept that level of honest doubt."

Another society protester said he wanted to be called a climate agnostic rather than a sceptic. He said he wanted the society's website to "do more to question the accuracy of the science on climate feedbacks" (in which a warming world is believed to make itself warmer still through natural processes).

"We sent an e-mail round our friends, mainly in physical sciences," he said. "Then when we had got 43 names we approached the council in January asking for the website entry on climate to be re-written. I don't think they were very pleased. I don't think this sort of thing has been done before in the history of the society. "But we won the day, and the work is underway to re-write it. I am very hopeful that we will find a form of words on which we can agree. "I know it looks like a tiny fraction of the total membership (1,314) but remember we only emailed our friends - we didn't raise a general petition."

He said the agnostics were also demanding a "more even-handed" bibliography.

The first "climate agnostic" also said he was angry at previous comments from the previous president Lord May who declared: "The debate on climate change is over." Lord May was once quoted as saying: "'On one hand, you have the entire scientific community and on the other you have a handful of people, half of them crackpots." One source strongly criticised the remarks.

Lord May's comments were made at a time when world scientists were reaching a consensus (not unanimity) that CO2 had warmed the planet and would probably warm it more - maybe dangerously so.

Lobbyists funded by the fossil fuel industry were fighting to undermine that consensus and science academies were concerned that public doubt might deter governments from taking precautionary action to reduce emissions of CO2.

Climate change doubters among the society's Fellows say that in their anxiety to support government action, the academies failed to distinguish between "hired guns" and genuine scientific agnostics wanting to explore other potential causes of climate change.

The remit of the society panel is to produce a new public-facing document on what scientists know, what they think they know and which aspects they do not fully understand. The task is to make the document strong and robust.

It should answer the complaint that previous communications have failed to properly explain uncertainties in climate science.

At the Heartland Institute climate sceptics conference in Chicago, Richard Lindzen, professor of meteorology at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), criticised the current society president Lord Rees for what he described as exaggerating the certainty in a joint public letter with Ralph Cicerone, president of the US National Academy of Sciences.

The letter, published by the Financial Times newspaper, states: "Something unprecedented is now happening. The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is rising and climate change is occurring, both due to human actions…. Uncertainties in the future rate of (temperature) rise, stemming largely from the 'feedback' effects on water vapour and clouds, are topics of current research."

Professor Lindzen says the "unprecedented" statement is misleading because neither the current warming nor the CO2 level are unprecedented. He complains that the statement on uncertainties is also misleading because it does not reveal that uncertainties about future climate projections are, in his view, immense.

A spokesman for the society defended the letter, saying that the rise in man-made CO2 was indeed unprecedented. But Professor Lindzen told me: "This is part of an inflation of a scientific position which has sadly become rather routine for spokesmen for scientific bodies."

The forthcoming Royal Society publication - if it can be agreed by the review panel - will be scrutinised closely because the society carries huge weight in global science. Under Lord May it was prime mover of a joint letter of international academies stating that climate change was a major concern.

The comments from the current president Lord Rees in his first Reith lecture next week are rather carefully measured and couched in the language of risk rather than certainty - but even in this speech, critics are likely to say that in some particulars he does not sufficiently distinguish between what is certain and what is very widely believed.


Australian academy members rejecting global warming too

Australia's former chief scientist, Professor Robin Batterham, is embroiled in a bitter dispute over climate change within one of the nation's elite science academies. As president of the peer-elected Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering, Professor Batterham faces demands by members to drop plans for the academy to issue a policy statement supporting climate sceptics.

Documents obtained by The Canberra Times show Professor Batterham has indicated support for a statement clarifying the academy's position on climate change.

Professor Batterham is overseas, and could not be contacted. The academy's deputy chief executive Bill Mackey refused to comment on the growing rift within the academy over the contentious wording of the statement. "When we have something to say on this matter, we will say it," he said.

A two-page draft, posted on a password-protected section of the academy's website, said the academy "does not believe the science is settled" regarding climate change. It said many scientists believed "climate changes are nothing unusual, based on past geological records".

An exchange of emails shows the statement has sparked anger and alarm among members. More than 50 of Australia's top agricultural and environmental scientists are among those objecting to the statement. A letter signed by 12 climate scientists has also been circulated to members.

An alternative policy statement, drafted by academy member and Melbourne World Climate Research program director Professor Ann Henderson-Sellers, has been emailed to members. It says the academy will "continue to foster open and reasoned debate on all aspects of climate change" but sees "little point in promoting debate based on belief rather than evidence".

In a recent lecture to the University of Western Australia as academy president, Professor Batterham warned of the dangers of a political over-reaction to climate change. He said there was "still much of the science that is uncertain" and used data in an academy-badged slide presentation that claimed investment to create green jobs in Spain had resulted in the destruction of nearly 110,500 jobs, or 2.2 jobs for every "green job" created.

According to a report of the lecture published in a mining newsletter, Professor Batterham said despite scientific uncertainty, "we need to drastically reduce CO2 or face runaway temperature rise".


Warmists desperate for one of their crooked heroes not to be investigated

“Scientific debates should be played out in the academic arena,” insists University of Virginia environmental sciences professor David Carr. “If Michael Mann’s conclusions are unsupported by his data, his scientific critics will eventually demonstrate this.”

Carr and 809 other Virginia scientists and academics signed a petition launched by the activist Union of Concerned Scientists, protesting Commonwealth Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s investigation of former University of Virginia professor Michael Mann. The American Association of University Professors likewise opposes Cuccinelli, who is seeking documents from UVA, to determine whether there are grounds to prosecute Mann for violating the Fraud Against Taxpayers Act, by presenting false or misleading information in support of applications for state-funded research.

Carr claims Cuccinelli is attempting to “drown out” scientific debate.” Others have accused the AG of conducting a “witch hunt,” engaging in “McCarthyite” tactics, and “restricting academic freedom.”

It’s time to clear a few things up. Mann is the former UVA professor, whose “hockey stick” temperature chart was used to promote claims that “sudden” and “unprecedented” manmade global warming “threatens” human civilization and Earth itself. The hockey stick was first broken by climatologists Willie Soon and Sallie Baliunas, who demonstrated that a Medieval Warm Period and Little Ice Age were clearly reflected in historic data across the globe, but redacted by Mann. Analysts Steve McIntyre and Ross McKitrick later showed that Mann’s computer program generated hockey-stick patterns regardless of what numbers were fed into it – even random telephone numbers; that explained why the global warming and cooling of the last millennium magically disappeared in Mann’s “temperature reconstruction.”

The Climategate emails revealed another deliberate “trick” that Mann used to generate a late twentieth-century temperature jump: he replaced tree ring data with thermometer measurements at the point in his timeline when the tree data no longer fit his climate disaster thesis. During his UVA tenure, he employed other sly statistical tricks to generate a purported, and truly unprecedented, CO2-driven warming of 2-4.5 degrees F per decade (1-2.5 degrees C). That extrapolates to as much as 45 degrees F per century!

Not surprisingly, he refused to share his data, computer codes and methodologies with skeptical scientists. Perhaps worse, Climategate emails indicate that Mann and others conspired to co-opt and corrupt the very scientific process that Carr asserts will ultimately condemn or vindicate them.

This behavior certainly gives Cuccinelli “probable cause” for launching an investigation. As the AG notes, “The same legal standards for fraud apply to the academic setting that apply elsewhere. The same rule of law, the same objective fact-finding process, will take place.” Some witch hunt.

There is simply no room in science, academia or public policy for manipulation, falsification or fraud. Academic freedom does not confer a right to engage in such practices, and both attorneys general and research institutions have a duty to root them out, especially in the case of climate change research.

Work by Mann and other alarmist scientists is not merely some theoretical exercise that can be permitted to “play itself out” over many years, if and when the “academic arena” gets around to it. These assertions of climate crisis are being used right now by Congress, states, courts and the Environmental Protection Agency to justify draconian restrictions on energy use and greenhouse emissions. They would shackle our freedoms and civil rights and hammer our jobs, economy, health, welfare and living standards.

If the science is wrong – or far worse, if it is manipulated, fabricated, fraudulent and covered up – then grave damage will be done to our nation, liberties and families, before the truth gets its boots on.

As to “scientific debate” over global warming, there has been virtually none in the academic arena. The science is viewed as “settled,” debate has been squelched, and those who seek to initiate debate are attacked, vilified, harassed and shipped off to academic Siberia.

Dr. Patrick Michaels, another former UVA climate researcher, was fired as Virginia State Climatologist by then-Governor Tim Kaine for raising inconvenient questions and facts on climate science. When Greenpeace demanded access to Michaels’ emails, UVA promptly acceded – before contesting AG Cuccinelli’s request for Mann’s.

The 810 protesters and their UCS and AAUP consorts were silent. Their principles and objections do not seem to apply to shrill activist groups infringing on the academic and scientific freedom of “politically incorrect” researchers, even when there is no suggestion of dishonesty. Other “skeptical” climate researchers have met with similar fates. The pungent scent of hypocrisy fills the air.

No surprise there. The massive US government climate change research gravy train alone totaled some $9 billion in grants during 2009, courtesy of hardworking taxpayers. IPCC, EU & Company climate grants – plus billions more for renewable energy research – fatten the larder still further. Now that money, prestige and power are threatened.

Climategate and other revelations about the lack of evidence for the “manmade climate disaster” thesis have sent belief in AlGorean gloom and doom plummeting. Global warming consistently comes in dead last on any list of environmental concerns. Three-fourths of Americans are unwilling to spend more than $100 a year to prevent climate change. China, India and other developing nations properly refuse to sign a carbon-cutting economic suicide pact.

The public is rightly concerned that in-house investigations by Penn State University (Mann’s current institution), East Anglia University (home of Phil Jones and the Climategate emails) and the IPCC have the patina of a Tom Sawyer whitewash. Independent investigations like Cuccinelli’s are absolutely essential, to ferret out fraud and misconduct – which may be rare but must be dealt with when it happens.

Dr. Andrew Wakefield falsified studies to create a connection between autism and trace mercury in vaccines against measles, mumps and rubella. Britain stripped him of his right to practice medicine. But meanwhile, a lingering stench remains over double standards; World Wildlife Fund press releases and rank speculation masquerading as peer-reviewed science; computer models enshrined as “proof” of looming climate disasters; and billions being squandered on research purporting to link global warming to nearly every malady and phenomenon known to man.

We the taxpayers are paying for this work. We the people will pay the price – in soaring energy bills, fewer jobs, lower living standards and lost freedoms – for draconian energy and emission laws enacted in the name of saving the planet.

We have a right to insist that the research be honest and aboveboard. That the work products stay in the public domain, available for scrutiny. That researchers share their data, computer codes and analytical methodologies, and engage in robust debate with skeptics and critics. That those who violate these fundamental precepts forfeit their access to future grants. And that our tax dollars no longer fund bogus acne-and-climate-change studies and alarmist propaganda. (Talk about budget cutting opportunities!)

It’s certainly understandable that scientists, academics, eco-activists and the AAUP and UVA would line up behind Mann and against Cuccinelli. There’s a lot of power, prestige and cash on the line. But it is essential that the attorney general and law-abiding citizens insist on transparency, integrity, credibility and accountability in the climate change arena.

We should support what Ken Cuccinelli is doing – and demand that Eric Holder and other state AGs take similar action.


Unhealthy cycling

CYCLING to work may seem the healthy option, but a study has shown that people riding in cities inhale tens of millions of toxic nanoparticles with every breath, at least five times more than drivers or pedestrians.

The research involved fitting cyclists with devices that could count the particles, mostly emitted by car exhausts, in the air they were breathing. It showed that urban concentrations of nanoparticles, which measure just a few millionths of a millimetre, could reach several hundred thousand in a cubic centimetre of air. The particles, when inhaled, have been linked to heart disease and respiratory problems.

Because they are exerting themselves, cyclists breathe harder and faster than other road users. The study found that they suck in about 1,000 cubic cm with each breath, meaning they may inhale tens of millions of the particles each time they fill their lungs, and billions during a whole journey.

“This is the first time anyone has counted the particles while also measuring people’s breathing during city commuting. It showed that cyclists can inhale an astonishing number of pollutant particles in one journey,” said Luc Int Panis of the transport research institute at Hasselt University in Belgium, who led the study.

For the research, just published in the journal Atmospheric Environment, Int Panis and his colleagues asked cyclists to pedal while wearing a mask fitted with instruments that could measure and count the particulates, as such particles are known. All are invisible even in severely polluted air. The researchers found that in Brussels the cyclists inhaled 5.58m nanoparticles for every metre cycled, dropping to about 1.1m when they tried the experiment in Mol, a much smaller town in Belgium.

They also found the cyclists inhaled four to five times more particles than a car passenger driven along the same route.

Int Panis said: “The air pollution figures in a big city like London or Birmingham are the same as or greater than in Brussels so British city cyclists will experience similar effects.”

For cyclists and other road users, the key question is what the health impact might be of inhaling so many particles. This has been one of the hardest questions to answer because the time lag between exposure to pollutants and developing an illness is usually long.

Earlier researchers had the same difficulty when studying whether smoking was linked to lung cancer, and it took decades to confirm the connection.

New techniques for gathering and analysing data mean, however, that the health problems caused by particulates are emerging much more quickly. A study carried out in London, to be published soon in the journal Epidemiology, is expected to show that exposures to high concentrations of nanoparticles are associated with a higher risk of heart disease. It will also show an association between larger particulates and respiratory health.

Other studies have shown that exposure to particulate pollution can have rapid short-term effects too — such as provoking asthma attacks. In a 2007 study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers at Imperial College London asked 60 people with mild or moderate asthma to walk along the western end of the busy Oxford Street in central London, where only diesel-powered taxis and buses, plus cyclists, are permitted. The volunteers suffered asthma symptoms such as reduced breathing capacity and lung inflammation. Diesel vehicles emit far higher levels of pollutant nanoparticles than petrol engines.

What alarms health researchers is that such particles are so small that they penetrate the lungs and circulate in the blood. They are then thought to accumulate in organs such as the heart and brain and cause inflammatory reactions. Wearing a mask offers little protection as the particles are so small that they pass straight through any shield.

Earlier this year, such fears prompted the House of Commons environmental audit select committee to publish a report warning that air pollution caused about 50,000 premature deaths a year in Britain.

Int Panis’s research has already annoyed cycling groups. He has decided not to attend Velo-city 2010, a conference on cycling to be held in Copenhagen next month, because of the hostility he faced when announcing preliminary results of his research.

Int Panis and his colleagues point out that cycling still brings many health benefits and hope that it may be healthier than driving a car. Int Panis said: “I am a cyclist and the idea that riding a bike might be less healthy than driving is not pleasant, but I am also a scientist, so I have to look at the data.”


"Clarification" from British energy minister over nukes

Chris Huhne said rising gas and oil prices would make nuclear power more attractive

CHRIS HUHNE, the Liberal Democrat energy secretary, last night signalled a softening of his opposition to nuclear power, insisting he was no “ideological ayatollah”. Huhne, who once described nuclear power as a “failed” technology, claimed that plants would be built despite the government’s refusal to subsidise the industry.

“It is very clear from the coalition agreement that there will be a new generation of nuclear power,” he said in an interview with The Sunday Times. Last year the government identified 10 sites where nuclear reactors could be built.

The arrival of Huhne, the most radical of the five Lib Dem cabinet ministers, at the Department of Energy and Climate Change had sparked concern that the entire civil nuclear programme might be put on hold. But he insisted that despite budgetary restrictions there was an appetite to build plants. “The investors who are most interested in this issue accept the situation where there will be no subsidy,” he said.

He said the likely rise in gas and oil prices over the next few years would make nuclear more attractive to private finance. “They are looking at the likely rise in the carbon price. That will provide an incentive to all low-carbon and zero-carbon forms of energy.”

Huhne, who worked in the City before entering politics, added: “I am not an ideological ayatollah against nuclear power per se. “I am simply a sceptical economist about the record of nuclear power on delivering on time and to budget in a way that can make returns for investors.” ...

While the coalition has been described as an “austerity” or “hairshirt” government, the climate change secretary insisted nobody needed to cancel their bank holiday mini-breaks.

He said that the planned shift in aviation taxation to a “greener” per plane levy would not prompt the demise of the budget airlines. “My guess is airlines like Flybe, Ryanair and easyJet will have relatively little to fear,” he said.

However, he warned that other airlines, such as British Airways, which fly emptier jets, would be hard hit. “The flights which are frankly going to be hit hardest are the ones on scheduled routes which have very low load factors,” he said.

Huhne, although a committed environmentalist, insisted that motorists should not be alarmed by the new government. “We are in a time of transition,” he said. “We will be moving to an economy where pretty much everything you and I enjoy doing — even everything that Jeremy Clarkson enjoys doing — will still be able to be done but can be done in a different way. “Look at the Tesla which is an electric car that does 0-60mph in four seconds.” [But needs a recharge shortly thereafter]

Chris Huhne revealed how his quest to cut his carbon footprint was frequently thwarted by his wife Vicky Pryce. The energy secretary said his Greek-born spouse resisted his attempts to turn down the central heating in their draughty five-storey Georgian house in south London. “Since my wife has Mediterranean blood, our tolerance for cold is slightly different,” he said. “Our London home is more difficult to heat than our Eastleigh home. It is problematic from the point of view of English Heritage, since it is a listed building.”

Huhne cycles into his Whitehall office some days, but he insisted: “I don’t have a car with a red box following me.”



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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