Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Another skeptical Greenie

By Peter Taylor, author of "CHILL"

Let me first defend my qualifications. I am a professional ecologist with published peer-reviewed papers on pollution issues, atmospheric dispersion, oceanic models and environmental impact assessment. I have critiqued computer models of both atmospheric and oceanic dispersion of pollutants (as well as running such models myself) and I have published a major review of the UN’s previous system of ‘dilute and disperse’ regulatory mechanisms based on computer models and environmental prediction – work that paved the way to legal reform at the UN and the introduction of the Precautionary Principle and Clean Production Strategies.

I detail this history in a chapter in my book and outline why I think it places me in a unique position to comment on the UN’s summary of the science. I cite 20 of my own papers and consultants reports, half of which are in peer-reviewed journals.

In all of that work I managed a multi-disciplinary team of natural scientists, engineers and sociologists. I have extensive experience of how panels, committees and institutions deal with complex science and most especially where large investments are made by the science community and major policy decisions by government and industry follow the scientific recommendations. In all of this time – over 30 years, I have come to know all the tricks, and for a great deal of that time, my research group in Oxford was funded largely by Greenpeace to expose those tricks and defend ‘the environment’. My group was also (eventually) taken on by our own government, the EU and the UN to advise on how to put things right...

As you know from my work on integrating renewable energy into the landscape, I accepted the standard model of CO2 impact up until about 2003. I had no reason to doubt it – presuming as everyone does that the greenhouse effect was ‘basic physics’.

I always regarded the modelling of impacts – especially regionally, as problematic, but assumed the atmospheric physics was simple science (it isn’t).

One of my former colleagues – Jackson Davis, professor of marine biology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, with whom I worked on marine pollution policy at the UN, went on to work with the Framework Climate Convention and the IPCC, and drafted the Kyoto Protocol.

Naturally, when I first reviewed the science and the IPCC reports, I sent him a draft of my work – and as you know, he endorsed the book.

I have not claimed to be a ‘climate scientist’ – the press do that, of course. But what constitutes a ‘climate scientist’ anyway? The chair of the IPCC is a railway engineer by profession! I have met computer specialists who qualify as climate scientists but who are little more than mathematicians with very limited knowledge or understanding of ecosystems. Likewise, there are atmospheric physicists who know nothing of the oceans, and oceanographers who know nothing of solar cycles (despite a wealth of oceanographic literature linking solar cycles to ocean temperatures), and vice versa.

The world of science is full of specialists and there are very few generalists. Almost nobody has the time to do what I did and spend three years reading the peer-reviewed literature across all the disciplines. Not even the Chair of IPCC.

So – in my defence, I have no qualms about wading in – indeed, I think I am well qualified to do so. Since writing the book I have visited climate labs in the USA and talked with people here – I have been received with respect and discussions have gone into great depth. Also, the first review of Chill has appeared in a climate journal, the Holocene – reviewed alongside Sir John Houghton’s updated classic on the issue (he is former chair and founder of IPCC) – and the reviewer concludes both books should be essential reading for any student of the topic. I actually have four outstanding requests to publish in peer-reviewed science journals on the climate issue – few people appreciate how much time it takes to prepare a paper to that standard of scholarship, and that it is a cost that has to be borne by the writer (academics do not have this problem!).

That said – I also need to point out that contrary to perceptions, I am not in major disagreement with the IPCC’s findings. You have to distinguish between the summary and press comment, and the actual working groups and the careful language they used.

We can all agree that the world has warmed during the 20th century. The question is whether that would have happened as part of a natural cycle, or whether it is mainly driven by carbon emissions. Contrary to perceptions, the IPCC infers that it is mainly due to carbon because the Panel’s understanding of natural cycles is very low and because the models do predict the warming that has been observed. In their key statement they say: the observed warming is unlikely to be due to known natural causes acting alone (my emphasis). They are well aware that other factors may be at play – in particular the relation of the solar magnetic cycle and the flux of radiation to the oceans. In my analysis of their work I conclude that the Panel is heavily weighted toward computer modellers and physicists and under-represented by palaeoecologists with a deeper understanding of cycles.

This argument forms the basis of my book – which is a summary of the arguments based upon the peer-reviewed literature (something I feel well-qualified to do) and where I conclude that recent evidence shows that the IPCC has erred and is reluctant to admit its error. I will go into more detail in the next posting on why I think this is the case and why recent changes in the climate and new publications confirm my view that the majority of the warming is natural and that we may be heading for significant cooling (as noted in last week’s New Scientist – ‘What’s wrong with the Sun’).

This conclusion has huge implications for policy. It means that if we achieve 50% emissions reduction (globally a very big ask) we will be dealing with such a small proportion of the driving force that it will have no significant effect on what the climate does. We should therefore focus on a policy of adaptation not mitigation. And yes, there are other reasons to wean ourselves off fossil fuels – but we can do that with greater regard for other objectives in sustainability, such as community, biodiversity and landscape.


Sun spot numbers running backward

Just when it looked like Cycle 24 was going to take off the sunspot numbers turned around and started declining. As some scientist have finally concluded we really do not know what is happening on the sun.

In the past, disappearing sun spots has been a precursor to long term periods of colder winters and summers. The Dalton Minimum was the most recent period from 1790 to 1830, weather stations experienced an average drop of 2.0C for 20 years. The Maunder Minimum was also a prolonged period of minimum sunspots from about 1645 to 1715, a period know as the Little Ice Age, during which Europe and North America were subjected to bitterly cold winters. Some years, rivers remained frozen well into summer.

The exact mechanism for the cooling is not know, but the historical records show that fewer spots leads to a colder climate. The current sunspots trends could indicate some long term cooling is on the horizon if history is a valid indicator.

There is some irony here, Mother Nature is turning down the earths thermostat and our government is setting in motion programs and legislation that will take control of our thermostats, all to stop the earth from warming from CO2 emissions. Either way, there are long term economic impacts. Stay tuned.


Some more of that pesky history

No wonder the Green/Left hate history and do their best to ignore it

This is the second sentence taken from the position statement at the Schools' Low Carbon Day site, part of their justification for wanting to worry schoolchildren about the climate: "Without very significant action, temperature changes of at least 2°C, and possibly 3°C or 4°C are expected to happen by the end of this century."

Why would anyone believe this? The first, and most superficial, reason is that most of us rely on newspapers, magazines, and TV for information on climate. We have recently been faced with scary stories about global warming, later modified to the general-purpose, timeless, and incontrovertible 'climate change'. This sleight of hand allowed whatever natural disasters took place (floods, blizzards, hurricanes, etc) to be blamed on fossil fuels, while still retaining the same underlying threat of scary hotness to come.

This is not new. It is merely the media exercising its preference for bad news over good. Here are some media nuggets from the past, alongside the temperature trends for the time:

1) Cooling: approx. 1885 - 1915.

'Prof. Schmidt Warns Us of an Encroaching Ice Age.' New York Times, October, 1912.

2) Warming: approx. 1915 - 1945.

'Next Great Deluge Forecast by Science: Melting Polar Ice Caps to Raise the Level of the Seas and Flood the Continents.' New York Times, 15 May, 1932.

3) Cooling: approx. 1945 - 1975.

'The threat of a new ice age must now stand alongside nuclear war as a likely source of wholesale death and misery for mankind.' Nigel Calder, International Wildlife Magazine, 1975.

4) Warming: approx. 1975 - 2005.

'Scientists no longer doubt that global warming is happening, and almost nobody questions the fact that humans are at least partly responsible.' Time Magazine, 09 April, 2001.

5) Cooling next? The headlines have already started:

'The Mini Ice Age Starts Here: The bitter winter afflicting much of the Northern Hemisphere is only the start of a global trend towards cooler weather that is likely to last for 20 or 30 years, say some of the world’s most eminent climate scientists.' Daily Mail, 10 Jan, 2010.

How can we get these short-term trends into perspective?
At any time at any location on the planet, it will either be warming on average or cooling on average, depending on the period of time and/or the spatial area the averaging is taken over. Average your temperatures over a few years, and you have one trend, average over a few hundred years, you have another, over a few thousand, another still. So it is a messy business.

And to make matters worse, we have no temperature records at all except for the most recent centuries. A lack of thermometers, and earlier still, a lack of humans, over most of the life of the planet means that we guess at past temperatures using proxies, such as tree-rings (since one of many things influencing tree growth is temperature), isotope ratios in ice cores (since this ratio depends on the air temperature at the time of capture), and numerous other items such as fossils or pollen found in earth cores (since it may be possible to tie some of them to temperature bounds). Ancient documents and carvings permit speculation about harvest times, and major weather-related events such as floods and droughts. Archeological digs reveal details about diets and buildings, and geological explorations reveal previous sea levels, and the movements of continents.

On the really big picture, covering millions of years, we know (or think we do) that the planet was mostly ice-free at the poles. The relatively short periods when there are 'permanent' icecaps are known as Ice Ages. We are in one right now.

During Ice Ages, which can last many hundreds of thousands of years, there are warm spells known as Interglacial Periods, or just Interglacials.

During these interglacials, the ice cover disappears every summer in the temperature zones, such as most of North America, and Northern Europe. We humans thrive in such areas during interglacials, since we can grow crops, and not be displaced by inconvenient ice sheets. There is some evidence that the previous interglacial was warmer than our one (7).

Let us now home-in on the last 5,000 years:

We can see that on this big picture, we are in a cooling trend in what may well be near the end of our interglacial period. Superimposed on this trend, are many appreciable excursions, many of which are associated with clear effects on human settlements and civilisations.

Now let us home in on the past 1000 years or so. The global Medieval Warm Period and the Little Ice Age are shown clearly on the temperature reconstruction used by the IPCC in 1990-2001.

There are hundreds of studies of the Medieval Warm Period showing up in many places across the globe - see Jo Nova's report here (9). However, it was not politically convenient for the IPCC to have such a period warmer than our own. In 2001-2003, they replaced it with the infamous 'hockey-stick' plot also shown in the diagram below, in blue. The dismal story of how this artefact was created and jealously guarded for years, is vividly told in Montford's book, The Hockey Stick Illusion (10). It is not an edifying tale, but it is well worth reading for insight into the unscientific attitudes and methods of the small core of alarmists whose temperature reconstructions were so gratefully adopted by the IPCC.

We have been on a gentle warming trend pulling out of the Little Ice Age in the 19th and 20th centuries at overall rates of around 0.6 to 0.7C per century in estimated global average temperature, with shorter-term periods of more rapid warming, or of cooling, superimposed in approximately 30-year long spells. These can be seen on the next graphic, constructed using Hadley Centre data (12) to demonstrate the striking similarity in warming/cooling cycles in the 19th and 20th centuries, despite, of course, the large differences in ambient CO2 levels between them.

But what of real temperatures, as opposed to reconstructions or constructed 'global averages'? The longest temperature record using thermometers is the Central England Temperature (CET) set, which extends back to the 17th century. The Czech physicist Lubos Motl has stepped through this set year by year, calculating the overall temperature trend for the previous 30 years at each step (13). He found nothing unusual about these trends in the 20th century:

'In the late 17th and early 18th century, there was clearly a much longer period when the 30-year trends were higher than the recent ones. There is nothing exceptional about the recent era.

You see, the early 18th century actually wins: even when you calculate the trends over the "sufficient" 30 years, the trend was faster than it is in the most recent 30 years. By the way, the most recent 1980-2009 tri-decade didn't get to the top 10 results at all; if you care, it was at the 13th place. You can also see that the local trends are substantially faster than the global trends: that's because the global variations are reduced by the averaging over the globe.

This helps confirm that nothing at all unusual has been observed in temperatures in modern times. Nothing unusual. Nothing untoward. Nothing to get alarmed about. The same is true of other climate measures such as rainfall, storm intensities and frequencies, sea surface temperatures, and polar ice fluctuations. The alarms of the alarmists are going off only in their computers, and not in the world outside.

So what can we say about the future? If we naively project the cooling/warming cycles alone, we can expect a cooling phase for the next 20 to 30 years or so, superimposed on a continuing slow warming.

More HERE (See the original for links, graphics etc.)

Obama's "Green" policies killing American jobs already

Up to 1,000 jobs at Bucyrus International Inc. and its suppliers could be in jeopardy as the result of a decision by the U.S. Export-Import Bank, funded by Congress, to deny several hundred million dollars in loan guarantees to a coal-fired power plant and mine in India.

About 300 of those jobs are at the Bucyrus plant in South Milwaukee, where the company has 1,410 employees and its headquarters. The remaining jobs are spread across 13 states, including Illinois, Minnesota and Indiana.

On Thursday, the Export-Import Bank denied financing for Reliance Power Ltd., an Indian power plant company, effectively wiping out about $600 million in coal mining equipment sales for Bucyrus, chief executive Tim Sullivan said.

The fossil fuel project was the first to come before the government-run bank since it adopted a climate-change policy to settle a lawsuit and to meet Obama administration directives.

"President Obama has made clear his administration's commitment to transition away from high-carbon investments and toward a cleaner-energy future," Export-Import Bank Chairman Fred Hochberg said in a statement. "After careful deliberation, the Export-Import Bank board voted not to proceed with this project because of the projected adverse environmental impact."

The bank's decision is puzzling, Sullivan said, because the power plant will meet international standards and the bank's environmental criteria.

The plant is under construction in Sasan, central India, and is scheduled to be up and running in 2012. Coal mining will take place for the plant whether it's done with Bucyrus machines or equipment from China and Belarus, Sullivan said.

"Unless the Obama administration jumps all over this and corrects a wrong fairly quickly, I am confident this business is going elsewhere," Sullivan told the Journal Sentinel on Saturday. "The bank's decision has had no impact on global carbon emissions but has cost the U.S. nearly 1,000 jobs," he added.

The Export-Import Bank would not elaborate on the board's 2-1 vote - including Hochberg's - to deny the loan guarantees.

The U.S. State and Treasury departments recommended against making the loan guarantees. Neither agency could be reached for comment Saturday.

Political backlash

Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle and Sen. Herb Kohl, Republican Rep. Paul Ryan and Mayor Tom Barrett, the Democratic candidate for governor, voiced their objections to the Export-Import Bank decision, which may be irreversible since there isn't an appeals process.

Doyle said he met with Hochberg to stress the importance of the mining equipment sale, which was contingent on the loan guarantees, for sustaining jobs here.

"I was absolutely stunned by their decision. It was the most shortsighted, unconscionable decision you could imagine, and I can't see any justification for it," the governor said.

Doyle said he hopes the bank's decision can be reversed before India turns to China or Belarus for mining equipment.

The decision could set a precedent that would keep other nations from buying U.S. mining equipment, especially since China offers discount financing on machines built there, which puts the U.S. at a competitive disadvantage.

"My discussions with the bank chairman were hardly confidence-building," Doyle said. "They really could not justify their decision except somehow, somebody told them that if the word coal is anywhere in a plan, then they can't move forward with it."

Obama is scheduled to be in Racine on Wednesday. Doyle said he wants to meet with the president and urge him to ask the Export-Import Bank to reconsider its decision. "I am a green-energy guy," Doyle said. "But I also understand that we need coal as a major source of energy. What that means is, we need to develop and support the technologies and businesses that are involved in the production of energy from clean coal. Bucyrus is one of those businesses."

Barrett, too, said he would press the issue with Obama.


Goose Eigg

Reality is a hard taskmaster

The Isle of Eigg off the west coast of Scotland was hailed as the green future, when islanders installed a solar, wind and hydroelectric power solution to power their homes. All renewables, all the time. The green energy wet dream in action. When Eigg won a share in a £1 million prize in January for its devotion to green, the judges declared:
Good Energy CEO Juliet is vice chair of the judging panel that decided that Eigg, which reduced its CO2 emissions by 32% in a year, deserved a share in the top prize money. Here’s why: The day-to-day life on a small Hebridean island lashed by the Atlantic Ocean may present its own challenges, but the extreme weather makes it an ideal place to harness the elements and generate renewable power.

So how’s that working out, exactly? Not so well: Power rationed on ‘green island’ Eigg:
Weeks of what passes for heatwave conditions in the Inner Hebrides have caused water levels on the island’s three main burns to drop uncharacteristically low, cutting off the island’s hydroelectricity supply. The normally powerful Atlantic gusts in the tiny island south of Skye have also reduced to a pleasant breeze leaving the island’s wind turbines idle for hours on end.

Green energy is great, as long as you don’t mind going without power when the weather doesn’t cooperate. If Eigg was touted as the ideal place for renewable power and it doesn’t work, what hope is there for the rest of the world’s renewables efforts?

UPDATE: The UK mainland has the same reality to deal with as energy from renewables dropped 7.5%. Try selling more bird shredder farms on the back of that performance.


Reality is a hard taskmaster for Britain as a whole too

A mournful report frpm The Guardian below

Britain's renewable energy revolution suffered an abrupt setback this winter when the power supplied from wind, hydro and other "clean" sources fell, despite years of promises and policies to end the nation's dependence on fossil fuels and slash global warming pollution, the Guardian can reveal.

The news comes as the government will tomorrow unveil a major report (pdf) into how it will pay for the hundreds of billions of new spending needed to meet the UK's targets for renewable energy and cutting climate change emissions by setting up a new Green Investment Bank (GIB).

Figures from the Department of Energy and Climate Change (pdf) show that the proportion of electricity supplied from renewable sources such as wind and hydro power fell 7.5% in the first three months of this year compared to 2009.

The drop was officially blamed mostly on a dry winter, which reduced power from water turbines, and low wind speeds, leading to the lowest absolute supply from those two sectors for four winters – as far back as the DECC figures recorded.

Experts also expressed concern that renewable energy could also have suffered from a hiatus in investment and from competition from cheap gas from overseas, as the government figures showed the UK became a net importer of gas for the first time in more than 40 years in January to March.

The latest renewable energy figures will be seized by critics and other experts who have long argued that the UK needs fewer reports and targets and more action to support and fund the long-promised low carbon transformation....

The Green Investment Bank Commission, set up by Chancellor George Osborne while the Conservative party was in opposition, is expected to recommend a bonfire of green business quangos, whose more than £2bn a year in grants could be used to fund the bank.

It also wants an estimated £40bn from sale of permits to pollute under the European trading scheme from 2012 to 2020 to be ringfenced to support the drive to decarbonise Britain's economy.

Pension funds, other institutional investors and even ordinary savers would also be offered a chance to contribute to the low-carbon revolution by buying green bonds and green individual savings accounts, under the plans.

The coalition government has said it will publish details of the new bank after the autumn spending review.

The DECC Energy Statistics for the first quarter of 2010 show renewable electricity fell from 6.7% to 6.2% of total supply. Supply from coal power also fell, while nuclear and gas generation increased, bringing the total electricity supply up slightly, by 1.1%, although consumption of electricity fell fractionally. Total energy consumption, including heating, fell by 1.1%.

RenewableUK, the industry lobby group, said the ongoing increase in wind power would reduce problems from relying on hydro schemes as climate change was expected to bring an era of less reliable rainfall.

However Sir David King, the government's former chief scientist and director of the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment at Oxford University, said the figures highlighted the need for new nuclear generators to help cut emissions and keep power supplies reliable. "We can't rely too heavily on wind because it always requires a gas-fired turbine to be able to be switched on to provide alternative energy," he said. [With rare realism]



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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