Monday, July 26, 2010

Interesting climate implications from a new theory of human survival

This is a bit too speculative to hang your hat on but the evidence that early humans survived an ice age only in Southern South Africa is at least interesting.

Southern South Africa is quite close to the Antarctic so should, on simplistic assumptions, have been at least as deadly an environment as icecapped Europe and North Africa.

On the other hand, the Warmists have never been able to show warming in the Southern hemisphere of our day so it is not entirely surprising that climate change was not symmetrical between the hemispheres in the past: Maybe it has never been "global".

The Southern hemisphere has a lot more ocean so that could be a moderating influence. Go South, young man!

A STRIP of land on Africa's southern coast became a last refuge for the band of early humans who survived an ice age that wiped out the species elsewhere, scientists maintain.

The land, referred to by researchers as "the garden of Eden," may have been the only part of Africa to remain continuously habitable during the ice age that began about 195,000 years ago.

Scientists' excavations showed how a combination of rich vegetation on land and nutrient-laden currents in the sea created a source of food that could sustain early humans through devastating climate changes.

"Shortly after Homo sapiens first evolved, the harsh climate conditions nearly extinguished our species," said Professor Curtis Marean, of the Institute of Human Origins at Arizona State University.

"Recent finds suggest the small population that gave rise to all humans alive today survived by exploiting a unique combination of resources along the southern coast of Africa."

The idea that early humans were once reduced to a tiny remnant population arose from research showing that modern humans have far less genetic diversity than most other species. Some scientists suggested the human population could have fallen to as low as a few hundred individuals during this period, while others insisted the evidence to support this theory remains weak.

During his study, Prof Marean discovered that the isolated caves around an area known as Pinnacle Point, South Africa, 386 kilometres east of Cape Town, were rich in ancient human artifacts.

In a soon to be published paper, Prof Marean and his colleagues argued the caves contain archaeological remains going back at least 164,000 years - and possibly even further back. The remains also showed that, despite the hardships suffered by early humans in other places, the inhabitants of Pinnacle Point were living in a land of plenty.


Another amusing and fact-free post from the eccentric Jo Abbess

It's pure "ad hominem" propaganda with not even a mention of any of the factual issues involved. It's all about "trust" according to her. Slightly pathetic, actually. Maybe she needs a father figure.

Her invocation of "The Science" (without saying what it is) is standard fare from politicians and thus tends to show what Jo Abbess is.

Skeptics do things like pointing out the lack of correspondence between tree-ring "measures" of temperature and what actual thermometers say. THAT is science -- but you get none of that from Ms Abbess below.

And her claim that what Phil Jones does is "rigorous" is the funniest bit of all.

She has however so far allowed comments on her blog that contradict her.

Glad to see Professor Phil Jones is back at work and enrolling students for the autumn on the Climate Change MSc postgraduate degree programme at the University of East Anglia (UEA) Climatic Research Unit (CRU) :-

This course would probably be useful for a number of mainstream media journalists to follow. Even if they don’t have an appropriate background in Physics, Chemistry, Geography, Environmental studies or similar, it could be of benefit to ameliorate their world view.

They could learn something from the lectures and coursework – that the Science of Climate Change is a serious and rigorous endeavour – unlike the apparently lax behaviour of their own profession over the last year or so.

Investigative journalism without the “investigation” part appears to be a mishmash of unverifiable facts and unfounded opinions. You need to know who is credible at the very least, and you can’t get that from following the vindictive views of public contrarians.

If you want to understand Climate Change, you need to study the Science, not just read denier-sceptic web logs or talk to Steve McIntyre, Benny Peiser, Marc Morano, Anthony Watts, Doug Keenan, Nigel Lawson or Christopher Monckton, and think that you have thereby become sufficiently informed.

“Climategate”-style attacks on Climate Change Scientists by negatively-motivated commentators are completely unacceptable. Media workers need to learn to identify those whose opinions they cannot trust.


An Australian professor of political science says the Warmists were proven right by the various sham "Inquiries" so far launched into their notorious actions

The pathetic peroration below was published in a Left-leaning Australian daily. Note that, as usual, it is all "ad hominem", which again shows what pathetic souls Warmists are: just clinging to one-another for support.

No interest in "The science" is apparent below, of course -- such as the fact that the "decline" (in 20th century temperatures as measured by tree rings) hidden by Phil Jones & Co. completely invalidates the measures of past temperatures that Warmists have always relied upon.

But I suppose it is a big ask to expect an expert in in political science to know any real science

The author below is Rodney Tiffen. Tiffin is a light meal. A very light meal in this case, I would suggest

Chances are, you have not heard much about Climategate lately, but last November it dominated the media. Three weeks before the Copenhagen summit, thousands of emails from the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia were published on a Russian website.

The research institute was a leading contributor to the fourth Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, and some of the leaked emails showed the scientists in a poor light.

The scandal was one of the pivotal moments in changing the politics of climate change. What seemed close to a bipartisan agreement on an environmental trading scheme collapsed with Tony Abbott's defeat of Malcolm Turnbull. Within months the Rudd government lost its nerve on what the former prime minister called "the greatest moral and economic challenge of our time".

By casting doubt on the integrity of the scientists, Climategate helped puncture public faith in the science, and probably contributed to Labor's political panic. The echo chamber of columnists reverberated with angry and accusatory claims. In Australia, Piers Akerman said: "The tsunami of leaked emails . . . reveal a culture of fraud, manipulation, deceit and personal vindictiveness to rival anything in a John le Carre or John Grisham thriller." Later he wrote: "The crowd that gathered in Copenhagen were there pushing a fraud."

Andrew Bolt thought that "what they reveal is perhaps the greatest scientific scandal" of our time. "Emails leaked on the weekend show there is indeed a conspiracy to deceive the world - and Mr Rudd has fallen for it."

Miranda Devine wrote: "We see clearly the rotten heart of the propaganda machine that has driven the world to the brink of insanity."

The ramifications of Climategate were immediate. The climate unit's head, Professor Phil Jones, was forced to stand down. Three inquiries were set up to examine the scientists' conduct.

The first, a British House of Commons select committee, reported in March that the scientific reputation of Professor Jones and the CRU remained intact. The second, a science assessment panel, set up with the Royal Society and consisting of eminent British researchers, reported in April.

Its chairman, Lord Oxburgh, said his team found "absolutely no evidence of any impropriety whatsoever" and that "whatever was said in the emails, the basic science seems to have been done fairly and properly".

The third, set up by the university itself, published its 160-page report two weeks ago. On the specific allegations made against the behaviour of the CRU scientists, "we find that the rigour and honesty [of the scientists] as scientists are not in doubt". Importantly, it concluded: "We did not find any evidence of behaviour that might undermine the conclusions of the IPCC assessments."

In other words, nothing in the emails undermined the research of the climate scientists. Like the other two, the inquiry found aspects of the scientists' behaviour that fell short of professional standards - "failing to display the proper degree of openness".

What might seem the most damning was the way Jones dealt with freedom of information requests, but context makes his behaviour more understandable. In July last year alone, the CRU received 60 FoI requests. Answering them would have been too much for even all the unit's staff time. In a matter of days, it received 40 similar FoI requests, each wanting data from five different countries - 200 requests in all. Jones concluded the unit was subject to a vexatious campaign.

While not fully excusing their behaviour, one has to appreciate the embattled position of scientists who received a steady stream of obscene and abusive emails and constant public attacks on their integrity.

After the leaks, Jones, now reinstated, received death threats and said he had contemplated suicide.

You might imagine the media would be keen to report on authoritative conclusions about allegations it had found so newsworthy in December. But coverage of each of the reports has been non-existent in many news organisations and in others brief or without prominence.

At best, the coverage of the inquiries' conclusions added up to a 20th of the coverage the original allegations received, which leaves us to ponder the curiosities of a news media that gets so over-excited by dramatic allegations and then remains so incurably uninterested in their resolution.

The newspapers that gave greatest play to the allegations tended to give less attention to the findings. The columnists who gave greatest vent to their indignation have not made any revisions or corrections, let alone apologised to the scientists whose integrity they so sweepingly impugned.

Even at the time, it was clear much of the coverage was more attuned to maximising sensation rather than to reporting with precision. The sheer number of leaked emails, for instance, was sometimes taken as proof of the scale of the scandal, as if they were all disreputable. In fact, only from a handful could anything sinister be conjured.

It is a common criticism of the media that it prominently publishes allegations, but gives less coverage to the prosaic facts that later refute them. But rarely is the disproportion so stark. Rarely has such an edifice of sweeping accusation and extravagant invective been constructed on such a slender factual basis. Rarely does it do such damage.


Penn. State's absurd grounds for exonerating Michael Mann

Pennsylvania State University recently released a report summarizing its final “investigation” into whether one of its employees had committed scientific misconduct. The report exonerated Dr. Michael Mann of all charges, although he did receive a tap on the wrist – for sharing unpublished manuscripts with third parties without first getting the authors’ permission!

The result was hardly unexpected. Most experts who question climate disaster claims had assumed Penn State would produce a whitewash. PSU stood to lose significantly in reputation and dollars if it found that Dr. Mann had cheated on research and engaged in other conduct unbecoming of a university professor. What was surprising is the reason it gave for its “not guilty” finding.

Dr. Mann could not possibly be guilty, the report averred, because his “level of success in proposing research and obtaining funding” was possible only because he had “met or exceeded the highest standards of his profession.” Indeed, his research was consistently “judged to be outstanding by his peers.”

Mann’s innocence was further proven, said Penn State, by the awards and recognition he has received. For example, his “hockey stick” temperature graph for the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change played a significant role in the IPCC receiving the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. Had his “conduct been outside the range of accepted practices, it would have been impossible for him to receive so many awards and recognitions,” the report argued.

Such a circular tautology would earn an “F” in introductory college reasoning courses. It is eerily similar to views taken by starry-eyed investors and SEC officials before they realized Bernie had Madoff with billions in client money. The Penn State report is akin to what Mrs. Madoff might issue following her “investigation” of his conduct, “investment” strategies, “standards,” accolades and awards.

Dr. Mann and many of his “peers” were implicated in the Climategate scandals, obstruction of legitimate FOIA requests via deletion of emails, manipulation of global warming temperature data and research, and the politicized funding system that kept them and their institutions awash in government/taxpayer dollars. They conferred awards and recognition on each other, excluded skeptical scientists from “peer reviews” of one another’s papers, and conspired to blackball editors who permitted the publication of professional papers by Sallie Baliunas, Willie Soon, Patrick Michaels, Richard Lindzen, Roy Spencer and other climate experts whose work challenged the Mann-made global warming disaster thesis.

In so doing, Mann and his colleagues promoted laws, treaties and regulatory schemes that imposed higher prices and greater government/activist control over energy use, economic growth, and virtually everything modern societies eat, drive, make, ship and do. They, their institutions, and a host of politicians, bureaucrats, bankers and corporate executives thus had a direct stake in the science, politics and “renewable energy future” supported by billions of dollars in annual research grants – and in ensuring that no investigation upset this convenient golden apple cart.

It is these “accepted practices” and “highest standards of the profession” that are being protected here. It is for this reason that the “investigation” was conducted solely by Penn State – which permitted no contradictory evidence, no adverse witnesses, and no cross-examination of Dr. Mann or anyone else knowledgeable about his research, funding and alleged misconduct.

Penn State’s Tom Sawyeresque report says far more than the university could possibly have intended about the “highest standards” prevailing today in climate research, and the way universities circle the wagons and protect their “rainmakers,” while throwing “manmade climate disaster” skeptics under the bus or shipping them off to academic Siberia.

One could accurately (and sadly) say there is nothing new under the sun. A 1988 NOVA program on PBS investigated the causes and extent of cheating in academia. “Do Scientists Cheat?” interviewed several scientists who discussed how easy and tempting it was to lie and falsify research. Indeed, observed JAMA senior Editor Bruce Dan, while peer review “is a wonderful process for throwing out garbage, I can’t see that [it] can detect fraud, except in a few lucky chances.”

The show focused on two high-profile cases – John Darcy and Robert A. Slutsky, convicted perpetrators of scientific misconduct. Both researchers were well-funded, had numerous publications, won prestigious awards, and were on the fast-track to academic stardom. Both were brought down when other scientists suspected fraud in their work. Investigators concluded that most of their papers were either questionable or demonstrably fraudulent. Many of their co-authors were implicated and their reputations tarnished.

Ironically, one of the NOVA interviewees was Professor Rustum Roy, head of the Materials Research Lab at – Penn State University. He said cheating often occurs because researchers are under intense pressure to publish, win awards, and raise more money each year just to keep their labs going, employ research assistants and provide their academic institutions with 40-50% of each grant for “overhead.” Hard cheating, Roy explained, occurred when a scientist concludes he can get away with compromising or cutting corners a little bit, so why not take it a step further?

Thus, those who have big research fiefdoms, are prolific publishers and win many awards have the most to gain by misconduct. They are also most likely to get away with it, partly because of their reputation –and partly because academia has too many incentives to look the other way and avoid taking actions that could bring disrepute on the university and cut off the financial gravy train.

This translates into a high degree of moral apathy toward scientific misconduct, the PBS program argued. Academics are much less outraged than one might expect, even when confronted by obvious fraud. This, of course, undermines the integrity of science, and the ethics of its practitioners.

Perhaps more importantly, the program demonstrated that whistle-blowers who exposed fraud were more likely to be the target of investigations than the alleged perpetrators. This sends a chilling message to anyone who might raise academic misconduct questions, and further insulates guilty parties.

The NOVA program also included excerpts from a House Committee on Oversight and Investigations hearing on academic misconduct. “Unfortunately, few universities, when confronted with the task of investigating misconduct, have conducted as thorough or candid a self-appraisal” as they should have, Rep. John D. Dingell (D-MI) noted.

In fact, universities that conduct investigations of their own scientists were like the “fox actively investigating the chicken coop. The university gets first crack at the data and witnesses, and gets to frame the issues…. There is a natural tendency to limit the damage.”

The program ends with the question: “Does the scientific community really want to expose misconduct?”

Unfortunately, the answer seems to be, No. Worse, over the last 20 years, the problem has only gotten worse, while the stakes have become infinitely higher.

Vastly larger sums of money are involved: $9 billion in 2009 for climate change and renewable energy research alone. Phony studies of melting Himalayan glaciers, disappearing Amazon rainforests, etc etc etc continue to garner attention and praise in IPCC reports, news stories and congressional statements.

The bogus science is used to justify energy and environmental policies, laws, treaties, court decisions and subsidies that will enrich some, bankrupt others, control our lives, and send millions of jobs overseas. Meanwhile, the investigation by Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is heatedly denounced by the very academics and institutions that refuse to conduct honest investigations of their own.

And you thought Mark Twain, Lewis Carroll and Jonathon Swift had good material to work with!?!


Now even "Gaia" Lovelock thinks windfarms are absurd

A recent bit of news from Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) suggests that James Lovelock, the scientist behind the Gaia theory of Earth and its life systems, might have a point when he criticises most renewable energy sources as inefficient at best and foolish at worst.

In its latest interim management statement, issued this week, SSE reported that “weather conditions” during April, May and June contributed to a full 30 per cent drop in electricity output from its wind farms, hydroelectric facilities and Slough biomass heat and power plant. Output from those sources fell to 700 gigawatt-hours during that period, compared to the 1,000 gigawatt-hours generated during the last quarter of 2009.

While SSE didn’t elaborate on those “weather conditions,” one factor certainly had to be the fact that the first half of 2010 saw the “driest first six months of the year for 100 years,” according to the UK’s Met Office. And, as the climate continues changing, Britain can expect that type of situation to become more common, the agency warns.

If hydroelectric power sources are threatened by climate change, wind energy’s greatest shortcoming is its great variability, Lovelock warns in his latest book, The Vanishing Face of Gaia:

“Used sensibly, in locations where the fickle nature of wind is no drawback, it is a valuable local resource, but Europe’s massive use of wind as a supplement to baseload electricity will probably be remembered as one of the great follies of the twenty-first century … ,” he writes.

Lovelock argues the only clean energy sources that make sense for society are nuclear and solar thermal energy. All the rest aren’t viable without heavy injections of government subsidies and green cheerleading, he says.

Lovelock acknowledges he sometimes takes a bit of hyperbolic licence to make his points — as when he warned that global warming will lead to a die-off of billions of humans this century, resulting in only a “few breeding pairs of people” left in the Arctic. But does he have a point here? Is the bit of news from SSE a warning sign that we’d be better off by aggressively developing nuclear and concentrating solar power (such as that proposed in the Desertec project), and forgetting more intermittent clean-energy sources?


Sea Level Shenanigans

The Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) projected that global sea level will rise by up to 60 cm by 2100 due to global warming. The cause of this rise is twofold: expansion of ocean waters as they warm and additional water from glaciers melting. Despite nearly stable sea levels over the past 3,000 years, a number of low-lying and island nations have seized on the imminent flood as a reason to demand reparations from developed nations. In reality, most of the areas in the world that are suffering from inundation are threatened because of human actions, but not global warming. Damming and rerouting of rivers combined with over-pumping of ground water has led to subsidence in many areas—in other words, the seas are not rising, the land is sinking.

As reported in a review article in Science, authored by Robert J. Nicholls and Anny Cazenav, global sea levels have risen throughout the 20th century but key uncertainties remain. Mean sea level has remained nearly stable since the end of the last deglaciation. The rate of sea level rise over much of the last 6,000 years has been an almost-imperceptible 1.4 millimeters per year (about 6 inches per century). Based on tide gauge measurements, sea level has risen by an average of 1.7 ± 0.3 mm/year since 1950. Since the early 1990s, sea level rise (SLR) has been measured by high-precision altimeter satellites. Between 1993 and 2009, the mean rate of SLR was reported as 3.3 ± 0.4 mm/year. Naturally, to climate change alarmists, this suggests that SLR is accelerating because of warming climatic conditions.

With ~10% of the world population living in low-elevation coastal zones, figuring out what is truly causing the seas to rise in some areas is an area worthy of study. In “Sea-Level Rise and Its Impact on Coastal Zones,” Nicholls and Cazenay sum up the present state of scientific understanding:
Satellite altimetry shows that sea level is not rising uniformly. In some regions (e.g., western Pacific), sea level has risen up to three times faster than the global mean since 1993. Spatial patterns in sea-level trends mainly result from nonuniform ocean warming and salinity variations, although other factors also contribute, including the solid Earth response to the last deglaciation and gravitational effects and changes in ocean circulation due to ongoing land ice melting and freshwater input. Spatial patterns in ocean thermal expansion are not permanent features: They fluctuate in space and time in response to natural perturbations of the climate system; as a result, we expect that the sea-level change patterns will oscillate on multidecadal time scales. IPCC AR4 projections suggest appreciable regional variability around the future global mean rise by 2100 in response to nonuniform future ocean warming, but agreement between the models is poor.

More plainly said, there are a few wrinkles in the IPCC scenario. First, sea level is not rising at the same rate everywhere. In fact, in some places it appears to be falling. This is partly because of the normal action of plate tectonics, the movement of Earth's crustal plates. This results in some areas being uplifted, and others forced downward. And, as glacial ice melts, a great burden is removed from the continental land mass supporting it. This can cause significant change in relative sea levels.

“For example, relative sea level is presently falling where land is uplifting considerably, such as the northern Baltic and Hudson Bay—the sites of large (kilometer-thick) glaciers during the last glacial maximum,” state the authors. “In contrast, relative sea level is rising more rapidly than climate-induced trends on subsiding coasts.” Fluctuation is also caused by the interaction of wind and ocean, and changes in the ocean gyres. The nonuniformity of change can be seen in the map below.

Regional sea-level trends from satellite altimetry.

Other factors not mentioned when the threat of climate change induced sea level rise is discussed are non–climate-related anthropogenic processes. Ground subsidence due to oil and groundwater extraction, or reduced sediment supply to river deltas caused by dam building, are more frequently to blame. As stated in the Science review:
In many regions, human activities are exacerbating subsidence on susceptible coasts, including most river deltas [e.g., the Ganges-Brahmaputra, Mekong, and Changjiang deltas]. The most dramatic subsidence effects have been caused by drainage and groundwater fluid withdrawal; over the 20th century, coasts have subsided by up to 5 m in Tokyo, 3 m in Shanghai, and 2 m in Bangkok. To avoid submergence and/or frequent flooding, these cities now all depend on a substantial flood defense and water management infrastructure. South of Bangkok, subsidence has led to substantial shoreline retreat of more than 1 km, leaving telegraph poles standing in the sea.

Sadly, even after presenting the facts given above, the authors just can't resist reaching into the scaremonger's bag for some old and discredited examples of supposed AGW induced sea rise. “Low islands such as the Maldives or Tuvalu face the real prospect of submergence and complete abandonment during the 21st century,” the authors fatuously report. This flies in the face of evidence from sea level expert N. A. Morner, who has worked extensively in the Maldives and has repeatedly stated that the local sea level has not changed significantly in decades (see “New perspectives for the future of the Maldives”). According to Morner et al.:
Novel prospects for the Maldives do not include a condemnation to future flooding. The people of the Maldives have, in the past, survived a higher sea level of about 50–60 cm. The present trend lack signs of a sea level rise. On the contrary, there is firm morphological evidence of a significant sea level fall in the last 30 years. This sea level fall is likely to be the effect of increased evaporation and an intensification of the NE-monsoon over the central Indian Ocean.

Furthermore, a recent study by Auckland University geographer Paul Kench has shown that many low-lying Pacific islands are growing, not sinking. Kench measured 27 islands, where local sea levels have risen at an average rate of 2mm a year over the past 60 years, and found that just four had diminished in size. The islands of Tuvalu, Kiribati and the Federated States of Micronesia are among those which have grown, because of coral debris and sediment.

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


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