Friday, June 18, 2010

A reply to some Warmist rubbish

The George C. Marshall Institute has published a reply to the book, "Merchants of Doubt", which is just another vehicle for the usual "ad hominem" accusations from Warmists. Such accusations are of no scholarly or scientific worth but non-scholars sometimes are influenced by them so some reply is needed. Below is a summary of the full reply which the Institute has circulated by email. The full reply is available here.

If anybody is vulnerable to "ad hominem" accusations, Naomi Oreskes, one of the authors of "Merchants of Doubt" is. She is a history professor in her early '50s who got an absurd paper published in a major journal which reported UNANIMOUS support for man-made global warming among scientists. See here for one commentary on the dishonest way she arrived at that finding. So let me pay Naomi in her own coin: She is a dishonest political hack -- and ugly too

Replete with half-truths and mischaracterizations, Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway's book besmirches the reputations of three great American scientists to silence dissent within the ranks of scientists and stifle debate among policy makers about how to respond to global warming. Their message is both anti-science and anti-democratic. Whether the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions is desirable or not is irrelevant, the merits of their scholarship and its implications are clear.

Predictably, they create a tobacco strawman and knock it down to set the tone of a grand conspiracy to harm the public. Specifically, the work overstates the linkage between Dr. Seitz, a past president of the National Academy of Science - the nation's most senior scientific establishment, and a past president of a leading biomedical institution, the Rockefeller University in New York City, and R.J. Reynolds. Yes, Seitz helped establish an advisory committee to direct a research and development program upon his retirement as president of Rockefeller. Why? Because Reynolds and Rockefeller University (as well as the Rockefeller family) had a long-standing relationship and it was an opportunity to provide input into a multi-million dollar program in basic medical and human health research. Seitz assembled a team of eminent health scientists to provide insight and advice. What did the research contribute? A Nobel Prize, for one, while others included studies of the effect of renin on blood pressure, factors affecting cell development, and contributors to arterial sclerosis.

The very documents Oreskes and Conway cite to build the tobacco strawman reveal that Seitz and his colleagues did nothing more than direct an advanced research program. The underlying citations state the Seitz-led research program was independent of Reynolds and conducted by scientists and scientific institutions of the highest regard. Other than asserting guilt by association, Oreskes and Conway present no evidence that Seitz and his many colleagues were participants in some grand conspiracy. That conspiracy exists only in their minds.

Next Oreskes and Conway claim Seitz and the George C. Marshall Institute wrongly defended the creation of a ballistic missile defense. Yes, Seitz and his colleagues, Dr. Robert Jastrow and Dr. William Nierenberg, believed it was morally repugnant to allow citizens to stand defenseless before the prospect of nuclear annihilation as an intentional U.S. government policy. Construction of a defense was technically possible and would enhance the security of the United States, they believed. Others didn't and the debates across the foreign policy and scientific establishments were as charged and vociferous as any seen before or since. The facts are: the Soviet Union fell, President Reagan's advocacy of missile defense was part of the equation contributing to their fall, the emerging missile defense offers the prospect of security against rogue states and terrorists for whom traditional deterrence likely fails, and a world where nuclear weapons were rendered obsolete (Dr. Jastrow's 1983 book outlines steps toward this end) remains a goal of presidents of both political parties.

Next comes the charge that Seitz et al engaged in personal attacks on prominent climate scientists in hopes of fostering doubt about whether humans were causing global warming. If Oreskes or Conway had bothered to speak with anyone who actually knew or worked with these men, they would have quickly learned that they were men of principle, motivated by concerns about the erosion of scientific literacy and dangers of manipulation of science for political ends arising from that erosion. What caused them to look at climate change science? Curiosity about the scientific basis of claims of apocalyptic global warming and worry about the implications that political leaders would draw from potentially inflated claims. Each had decorated scientific careers and each had been leaders of world-class scientific institutions and participants on government-sponsored scientific panels. Jastrow was a professor of Earth Sciences at Dartmouth and founder of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies and Nierenberg was the head of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Each had considerable experience working at the nexus of science and public policy and understood the role that scientific information played in shaping policy and political outcomes.

Oreskes and Conway claim an opposition to government regulation motivated the Institute's founders' positions on climate change. Speculating about what Drs. Jastrow, Seitz, and Nierenberg felt about global warming is unnecessary as they clearly described their concerns, "If the changes in our atmosphere are likely to cause consequences, we must understand the problems and promote sensible policies to remedy them. What would be unwise is to lapse into apocalyptic thinking or ostrichlike denial. We believe ourselves far more sophisticated, more enlightened, than preceding generations. Until we can calmly and objectively approach our environmental challenges without promoting public hysteria and exciting short-sighted, self-interested reaction, we cannot claim that we are." (Scientific Perspectives on the Greenhouse Problem, Jameson Books, 1990: 92-93).

In fact, their work is remarkably prescient. Writing 20 years ago, Seitz, Jastrow and Nierenberg identified the critical variables affecting estimates of temperature and man's impact of climate that remain the central focus of the scientific debate today. They were: adjustments for uncertainty in the temperature observations (the quality of the surface temperature record has been shown to be in question); the effect of the ocean thermal lag (the role of the oceans and the movement of heat and carbon dioxide in the oceans remains an area of active study); adjustments for natural variability (our understanding of the natural patterns of Earth's climate is still under development); and procedures for estimating 21st century warming (a process based entirely on computer models and forecasts which have known limitations).

For its part, the Marshall Institute is not a "merchant of doubt." Our long-held position is simple - take action on climate change commensurate with the state of knowledge and have that action be flexible so it can adjust as our understanding of man's impact on the climate changes. Do we oppose cap-and-trade or Kyoto Protocol like policies? Yes. They are expensive and will yield little environmental return. Do we propose actions to take? Yes. Did Oreskes and Conway bother to inquire about them? No.

Oreskes and Conway's work is the latest in a long line of one-sided, fear mongering pseudo-exposes whose purpose is to incite and intimidate. Readers are left with a clear message --Doubt and dissent are dangerous and scientists that question the conventional view of climate change are corrupt charlatans in the pocket of industry. Doubt and dissent are cornerstones of the advancement of knowledge and the scientific process.

Greenie attempts to brainwash young minds

The post below is by physicist and statistician John Shade. His whole blog is devoted to coverage of the way kids are being propagandized

The remarkable spread of alarm about climate is worthy of much study. How did it take place? What led so many people to get so exercised when the case for alarm is so thin, being based as it is on the output of computer models preset to produce dramatic results linked to CO2 but requiring the insertion of a positive feedback mechanism never observed in practice, nor even likely to exist since it would presuppose a climate more unstable than is credible given the historical reconstructions we have.

These reconstructions include periods of far higher CO2 levels, major variations in solar input, dramatic transformations of the earth's surface, and extended periods of substantial volcanic activity. Over more recent periods, we have evidence that the Roman and Medieval Warm Periods were at least as warm, and possibly warmer, than the late 20th century climate, and that rates of temperature rise in the Central England Temperatures (the longest instrument record we have) have been higher than anything we have seen recently, and that the slow rises of global mean temperatures in the 19th and 20th centuries were both at about the same rates (0.6 to 0.7C per century) despite substantial differences in ambient CO2 levels. In summary, nothing particularly unusual has been observed in our climate in recent times.

We have a variable climate system, on a very large range of space and time scales, and we would be wise to resist over-reacting to the various cooling and warming cycles we have seen over the past few hundred years. (Especially if that over-reaction leads to reducing our energy supplies and our wealth, both of which increase our ability to cope with these inescapable cycles.)

The specious analogy with greenhouses being driven by differential radiative effects falls at the first hurdle, since that is not how they work. They work by suppressing convective and wind-driven mixing with the outside air, and these two processes of convection and wind, coupled with the transport and phase changes of water, are also the dominant movers of heat within the lower atmosphere in which we live.

Yet read the following extract (I have put it italics) from the website promoting Low Carbon Day for schools in the United Kingdom, and try to imagine what you would feel if you believed these words:

'Few scientists now doubt that due to human activity – burning fossil fuels and deforestation - the climate is changing. 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. Hundreds of millions of people may not have enough water. Floods, heat waves and droughts may affect millions more. The ensuing migration could make the world a very unstable place. And that's not to mention the 30% of species at risk of extinction. The effects of climate change are already being felt in Asia and Africa.

The truth is the worst will probably not happen in our lifetime. But it will happen in our children's lifetime. And it will happen big time during their children's lifetimes. Children born today will not be in a position of influence for 40 years, and by then it will be too late. The inertia in the climate system means that without action from us, by the time they can change the world, catastrophic warming will almost certainly be factored into the system.

And so we believe as adults we have a duty to change the world for them.’


If you were as convinced as them, perhaps you would be stirred to political action, or even lifestyle changes. But would you want to push the same message into schools? Is this not a totalitarian impulse you might wish to resist? Even as a believer, would you not want your children to have a more carefree time, allowing them to concentrate on their basic education rather than imposing adult anxieties and responsibilites on them? I guess some of us would, and some of us wouldn't. But right now, I am concerned that we are not being given the choice.

A great many people, the UK political class included, seem intent on capturing the hearts and minds of the young, and turning them into eco-worriers (what have I done wrong, what am I doing wrong?) and eco-agitators (I must make sure my parents and others do the right things). This seems to be the intention of this 'group of concerned mothers':

'Schools Low Carbon Day 24.06.10 is being organised by a registered charity set up by a group of mothers concerned about climate change. Schools Low Carbon Day is about educating children about climate change and inspiring children and their families to change their behaviour to reduce carbon emissions.'


I have concerns over every single sentence in those two paragraphs shown in italics. I will post more comments on them tomorrow.


New measures of Arctic ice thickness disappointing for Warmists

An electromagnetic "bird" dispatched to the Arctic for the most detailed look yet at the thickness of the ice has turned up a reassuring picture.

The meltdown has not been as dire as some would suggest, said geophysicist Christian Haas of the University of Alberta. His international team flew across the top of the planet last year for the 2,412-kilometre survey. They found large expanses of ice four to five metres thick, despite the record retreat in 2007.

"This is a nice demonstration that there is still hope for the ice," said Haas.

The survey, which demonstrated that the "bird" probe tethered to a plane can measure ice thickness over large areas, uncovered plenty of resilient "old" ice from Norway to the North Pole to Alaska in April 2009.

The thickness had "changed little since 2007, and remained within the expected range of natural variability," the team reports in the Geophysical Research Letters.

There is already speculation about how the ice will fare this summer, with some scientists predicting a record melt. Haas said he doesn't buy it. He said the ice is in some ways in better shape going into the melt season than it has been for a couple of years. "We have more thick ice going into the summer than we did in 2009 and 2008," he said.

Much will depend on the intensity of the winds, and how the ice fractures and is blown around, he said. "But any talk about tipping points, a sudden drop and no recovery ... I don't think it is going to happen."

The more likely scenario is that the ice will continue a decline that has been under way for at least 30 years, he said. There is likely to be plenty of variability in that decline, he added, with "extreme" melts in some years, followed by "significant recoveries like we saw last year."

Part of the problem with ice forecasting is that it is based largely on data from satellites. They are good at measuring the size of an area that is covered by ice, but tell little about the thickness of the ice -- which can measure in mere centimetres in the case of new ice, or metres in the case of ice that is several years old. "That makes a big difference in terms of how well it will survive the summer," said Haas.

His international team, supported largely by the German government, is adding a much-needed "third dimension" to the picture, by measuring ice thickness over large swaths of the Arctic. Instead of manually drilling cores into ice, they've taken to the air with a probe that dangles beneath a plane and can make thousands of measurements a day.

Last year's survey was the most extensive yet, and entailed towing the scanner beneath a DC-3 aircraft refitted as a flying laboratory. The Germans picked up the $300,000 cost of flying the plane across the Arctic.

The 100-kilogram instrument, a 3.5-metre-long white cylinder with a yellow tip, was cradled under the plane for takeoff and landing. Then it was lowered with a winch until it was just 20 metres above the surface, as the plane cruised along 100 metres above the ice at 240 kilometres an hour.

Every five metres along the 2,412-kilometre survey route, it emitted low-frequency electromagnetic signals. The signals penetrate the ice and propagate another signal when they hit liquid water, reflecting the thickness of the ice.

The survey showed the technique works on the large scale, the scientists report. And it gave an unprecedented view of the resilient metres-thick ice between Ellesmere Island and the North Pole, northeast of Greenland and into the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas in the Western Arctic.

The team is planning more surveys for 2011 and 2012 as part of a program to check observations made with Europe's new "CyrosSat" satellite, launched this spring to study the world's ice.


Modern Farming has reduced CO2 emissions

Nasty news for inefficient "organic" farmers. This would make them villains if Warmists were rational -- but they're not so all is well for faddy farmers

Modern high-yield farming lowered the amount of greenhouse gases pumped into the Earth's atmosphere toward the end of the 20th Century by a massive amount, according to a surprising study from researchers at Stanford University.

Technological advances in agriculture helped reduce greenhouse gas output by reducing the need to convert forests to farmland, the study said. Such conversion involves burning of trees and other naturally occurring carbon repositories, which increases emissions of carbon, methane and nitrous oxide.

If not for yield improvement techniques, which have dramatically helped corporate farms produce more crops with less land, authors of the study said an additional 13 billion tons of CO2 would have been loosed into the atmosphere per year.

"Our results dispel the notion that modern intensive agriculture is inherently worse for the environment than a more 'old-fashioned' way of doing things," said Jennifer Burney, lead author of a paper on high-yield farming to be published online by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Overall, the study estimated that new farming methods averted emitting as much as the equivalent of 590 billion metric tons of CO2. That translates into as much as a third of the world's total greenhouse gas output since 1850, a date often cited as the start of the Industrial Revolution in the West.

The production and use of fertilizer has led to significant greenhouse gas emissions, Burney said, but that increase pales in comparison with what might have been had more forests and grasslands been shifted to agricultural uses.

"Every time forest or shrub land is cleared for farming, the carbon that was tied up in the biomass is released and rapidly makes its way into the atmosphere," said Burney, who is a postdoctoral researcher at Stanford.

A co-author of the paper at Stanford, Steven Davis, added that the evidence points to spending on agricultural research as one of the best and cheapest ways to prevent new emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases.

To conduct the study, the academics looked at agricultural production between 1961 and 2005 and compared it to hypothetical models that estimated the amount of land that might have been converted if not for the so-called "green revolution" in modern farming. They found that improvements kept at least 317 billion tons of CO2 out of the atmosphere and possibly as much as 590 billion tons.

The researchers conclude by arguing for improvement of crop yields as part of any policy meant to reduce greenhouse gases.


The Great Wind Farm Disaster

Heard a great story the other day from Matt Ridley, author of the absolutely essential The Rational Optimist.

He bumped into an engineer who was hoping to land one of the lucrative contracts for the massive, insanely expensive offshore wind farm programme which Dave’s new “Greener Than Anyone” administration hopes will reduce Britain’s carbon footprint while simultaneously creating that the philosopher’s-stone-type marvel that some men do call Green Jobs.

“What’s the chance of them being built on time?” Ridley asked.

“Zero,” said the engineer.

“And once you’ve stuck these things in the sea-bed, how long do you think they’ll last?” Ridley asked.

“Oh, virtually no time at all.”

“So if these offshore wind farms are going to be impossible to put up and are going to fall down as soon as you do, why are you vying for this multi-billion pound government contract?” asked Ridley.

“Duh,” said the engineer.

When Mary Tudor died, she predicted, they would find Calais engraved on her heart. My prediction when my old mucker Dave Cameron pops off, they will find “wind farms” engraved on his. Of all the damage his lousy administration will do to this country of ours, none will be so mighty, permanent or thoroughly inexcusable as his wind farm programme.

Here’s further cause for gloom from the excellent German blogger P Gosselin, whose reports on what’s happening in Germany gives us an idea of the disasters coming our way soon.
Originally estimated to cost €189 million, the Alpha Ventus park has been plagued by cost overruns and delays. In late summer and autumn of 2008, bad weather made installation of the first 6 turbines impossible. Then the equipment to install the monster turbines was not available. Next there were major problems with the transformer facilities.

A few weeks ago the temperature of the bearings in the turbine made by Areva Multibrid was too high and thus they had to be taken out of operation. Now the turbines have to be removed from their 500+ ft. high towers and the bearings have to be replaced. Repair works will take weeks and extend into late summer. It’s still unclear if the other four of the Multibrid turbines have a problem. The remaining 6 turbines are made by Repower and are reported to be running smoothly. There are no reports on how high the costs for the troublesome dismantling and repair works will run.

And if that weren’t bad enough, the construction works on the massive Bard Offshore 1 commercial windparks have been delayed as a 300-foot foundation column crashed onto the construction ship Wind Lift 1 three weeks ago. Now other turbines have to be thoroughly inspected. The Bard project foresees the installation of 320 five-megawatt class turbines over the coming years. The cost for the first 80 Bard turbines alone is climbing far beyond original estimates. First they were estimated to cost over €500 million. Now it’s estimated costs will exceed a billion euros. German online newspaper projects the costs will even reach €1.2 billion.

The promoters of the offshore projects cannot say they weren’t warned of the risks of installing windparks in the North Sea’s harsh conditions. The Nysted offshore windpark and Horns Rev park in Denmark are examples, and have struggled with big problems. For example in 2007 a transformer malfunction occurred at Nysted just 4 years after being commissioned, causing a months-long shutdown. At the Horns Rev windpark there were problems with the turbines only 2 years after they had gone into operation. World leading turbine manufacturer Vestas had to remove all 80 turbines, haul them onshore and perform extensive repairs. Luckily these turbines were only of the smaller 2 to 2.3-MW class, and so much easier to do repair works. Repairs and maintenance on the 5-MW monsters will be much tougher and expensive.

But as long as windpark companies continue to have the full backing of wasteful governments, costs won’t matter.

Amen, brother.


Australia: Behind Closed Doors, Warmist Scientists Ponder Credibility Crisis, New PR Strategy

The only strategy they have is to say "trust us", which is a bit of a laugh in view of their compulsive secrecy about their data and the "adjustments" they make to it

Scientists and academics from some of Australia's top national institutions met in Sydney today to discuss how to improve public awareness of the science behind climate change. [Way to go! If they manage that NOBODY will believe in global warming! What will people say when they find that it is all based on very shaky guesswork?]

Representatives of the Federation of Australian Scientific and Technological Societies, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and the Bureau of Meteorology want to develop a "national communication charter" to win back public support for action on climate change.

The Australian government postponed its carbon trading scheme earlier this year until 2013 citing a lack of public and political support for reducing carbon emissions.

A number of recent polls have suggested that controversy over the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change data on Himalayan glaciers and the University of East Anglia leaked emails debacle have damaged public perception of climate science.

One poll by the Lowy Institute for International Policy showed that the number of Australians who wanted action on climate change immediately had dropped from 68 per cent in 2006 to 46 per cent this year.

Australia's chief scientist Penny Sackett addressed the conference, which was closed to the public.

Cathy Foley, president of the Federation of Australian Scientific and Technological Societies, told the Melbourne Age that scientists wanted Australians to have better access to the latest climate change evidence.

"We want... the public and parliamentarians who are making decisions on what we have to do to manage or deal with climate change actually understand what the science is and are able to cut through the noise that's been coming about," she said.

Foley said a well organised and well funded movement of climate sceptics had increasingly captured the public's attention. "We are concerned the debate around climate change has become a left-wing versus right-wing debate, or a kind of religious argument, when it should really be about the strength of the scientific evidence," she added.

In March, the CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology published a snap shot report on climate change showing Australia had warmed significantly in the past 50 years and warning that "climate change is real".

The government committed AU$30m (US$25.6m) for a national campaign to educate the public on climate change in the budget last month, and one of the aims of today's meeting was to develop a strategy to advise officials on how best to spend the money.



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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