Saturday, September 11, 2010

EEEK! New paper shows that some pollutants have a major COOLING effect

Particularly pollutants emitted by ships, trains and power stations. Quote: "For rail travel however, the warming due to carbon emissions, ozone, and aerosols is more than offset by cooling from sulfate aerosols on short-time horizons. High SO2 emissions notably from the electricity produced in coal fired power plants lead to a strong cooling from sulfate aerosols"

Of the various forms of transport examined by the researchers, shipping is the other one most markedly affected by short-term climate impacts. Here, however, everything is in reverse because the major short-term effect of shipping is sulfate aerosol pollution. While they remain in the air, these aerosol particles bounce sunlight away from the earth and therefore cause cooling rather than warming. The extent of this effect is amazing: if I'm understanding the numbers correctly, over a five-year time frame the world's ships cause enough cooling to offset the total warming caused by every car, plane and bus combined.

Even over a 20-year time frame, shipping pollution still contributes an overall cooling effect – as do electric trains, due to the aerosol pollution kicked out from coal-fired power stations. This throws up a tricky issue for policy makers and industry. If we clean up some kinds of air pollution for the benefit of environmental and human health, then we stand to significantly accelerate global warming in the near-term.

However the world deals with that particular conundrum, the new paper is a useful reminder that carbon footprints are more multi-dimensional than is usually understood.

This issue isn't limited to transport, of course. Any activity that generates lots of methane, nitrous oxide or other non-CO2 greenhouse gases will have a much faster warming effect than its carbon footprint, as traditionally expressed, might suggest. That would include meat and rice farming, landfill sites and fridge production, for example.


Warmist lies never stop

Arctic Ocean sea ice has experienced another severe meltdown this year, with the approaching end-of-summer minimum representing the third-biggest thaw since satellite monitoring began about 30 years ago.

This year's retreat from a winter maximum of about 15 million square kilometres to a September coverage area of just five million square kilometres also means that the four greatest melts since satellite measurements began in the late 1970s have occurred in the past four years.

In a report released Tuesday, the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center described the opening of the Northwest Passage through Canada's Arctic islands and the "unusually fast" melting of ice in the Beaufort Sea as highlights of another extensive circumpolar thaw that has all northern nations — including Canada — scrambling to cope with increased Arctic ship traffic and to plan for potential oil and gas development.

"There are claims coming from some communities that the Arctic sea ice is recovering, is getting thicker again," Mark Serreze, director of the Colorado-based centre, told Postmedia News on Wednesday. "That's simply not the case. It's continuing down in a death spiral."


A strange death spiral. According to The National Snow and Ice Data Center of Sept. 7: "Average ice extent for August was 5.98 million square kilometers (2.31 million square miles), 1.69 million square kilometers (653,000 square miles) below the 1979 to 2000 average, but 620,000 square kilometers (240,000 square miles) above the average for August 2007"


The QUAD Cinema, one of New York City's leading art houses, presents the New York premiere of the provocative new documentary, 3 BILLION AND COUNTING (102 minutes), directed and produced by Dr. D. Rutledge Taylor.

Sure to spark outrage, Dr. Rutledge, a California physician specializing in preventative medicine, chronicles the effects of the world-wide ban on the pesticide DDT in 1972, a ban inspired by the first enviro-bestseller, Rachel Carson's Silent Spring (1962). Rutledge's five-year-long effort is driven by his revulsion at millions of deaths, mostly of women and young children, in Africa and South East Asia, by the mosquito-borne disease, Malaria. According to a recent World Health Organization report, Malaria kills one million people annually, a disease, Rutledge confirms, that is wholly and immediately preventable.

A naturalist and a die-hard advocate of preventative medicine, Dr. Rutledge, in the long tradition of American debunkers, wanted to see first hand the extent of Malaria's worldwide impact, and to discover why policies are still in place that exacerbate the epidemic.

Dr. Rutledge and his Frog Bite Productions team, Co-Producer, Helen Udy, Cinematographer Aaron Krummel, and Project Coordinator, Russell Boast, take us on a 40-day investigative journey to South Africa, Mozambique, Kenya, Tanzania, Northern and Southern India, Bali, Indonesia, and Malaysia where they interview African and Indian Government officials, NGO's, charitable organizations, scientists, politicians, doctors, victims, and survivors. What they discover is a tangle of red tape, misguided prevention policies, and treatment that is ineffective in the face of continual re-infection. Above all they find willful deafness to the pleas of local populations to help them eradicate the mosquitoes that deliver the deadly cargo.

Dr. Rutledge and crew head for Washington, D.C. to document how the ban came about and to shed light on the politics of domestic and international environmentalism and its role in the death and suffering of billions. Dr. Rutledge confirms evidence that the research leading to the world-wide ban on DDT was precipitous, uninformed and fraudulent. America's decision makers -- political leaders and environmentalists -- buried evidence that contradicted their decisions. Dr. Rutledge builds a solid case that indicts our policies, regulatory agencies and uncovers deceit at the highest levels.

But when the EPA, Greenpeace, The Audubon Society, The World Wildlife Fund, and The Sierra Fund refuse interviews, Dr. Rutledge knows he has touched a nerve. Those most responsible for preserving and promoting the ban on DDT not only evade interviews but demand to know who's funding Dr. Rutledge, screening potential adversaries and in effect dropping an iron curtain around their work for all but those who agree with them -- this nearly 40 years after the initial ban and in the face of mountains of evidence against them.

Further, the film adds clarity to the record by showing that the effects of DDT were confused in the public's mind with the undeniably devastating effects on the environment and water ways of PCBs. Because both chemicals were in the news at the same time, the effects of DDT became linked with the harmful effects of PCBs. Environmental activists, medical experts, and advocates of its ban did nothing to eliminate this confusion.

In his dissection of the rise of the environmental movement and the fall of science, he drops one bomb after another -- a reputable scientist is caught manipulating test outcomes to prove the adverse effects of DDT; the man who started it all, William Ruckelshaus, the Administrator of the EPA in Richard Nixon's presidency, reverses his position on the harmlessness of DDT to appease the membership of The Environmental Defense Fund.

The documentary raises fundamental questions: whom can we trust; what do we have to know in order to trust them; and finally, will we make the effort to know it? The film begs us to educate ourselves. 3 BILLION AND COUNTING is instructive well beyond the outrage it inspires.


Members of British parliament mull 'climate enquiries' that failed to enquire

Might the University of East Anglia now rue its handling of the Climategate affair? An MP tells us that the University has ignored instructions given to it by the House of Commons Science Committee earlier this year, and MPs were given misleading impressions.

"Everybody on the Committee last time asked that there be no gaps between our report, and the Muir Russell report and the Oxburgh Report - but there are huge gaps. The Muir Russell people and the Oxburgh people didn't talk to each other, so there were bound to be gaps," says Committee veteran Graham Stringer MP. "We are left with the science left unlooked at."

The allegations of misconduct and intellectual corruption raised by the release of the emails, data and source code last November are amongst the most serious British academia has ever heard. UEA responded with two internal enquiries, but MPs won't let it lie. Members on the Commons Science Select Committee have summoned the two chairmen of the UEA enquiries back for further interrogation. At the first of these yesterday, the chairman of the Science Assessment Panel, Lord Ron Oxburgh, puzzled Committee MPs with his answers.

How the Panel was formed

When the University announced the composition and role of the Science Assessment Panel, it billed it as an "independent internal reappraisal of the science". In March the University's Vice Chancellor Lord Acton confirmed the impression, telling the select committee that Oxburgh's enquiry would "reassess the science and make sure there is nothing wrong".

That was misleading, Oxburgh told MPs yesterday. "I think that was inaccurate ... You have to bear in mind the Vice Chancellor had been in the post for a month or so. It came as rather a deluge."

Oxburgh pleaded time pressure. "They wanted something within a month. There was no way our panel could in that time validate the science. If you wanted the science validated, you'd appoint another panel. "We were meeting a deadline to help the University with a particular problem. Given our particular remit I don't think we needed any more time."

Oxburgh was proud that he'd used a non-confrontational approach. The CRU academics were interviewed just once, collectively, in private, and he'd rejected calls for televised proceedings. As Oxburgh described it, the enquiry sounded more like a health spa program for stressed executives.

"People wanted to bring television cameras in. Given the nature of the individuals concerned, we felt that we would get much more out of them, and get them to unwind and relax, and if indeed if they had chinks in their armour, to expose them, that if we did this in a much more relaxed way.

"Certainly one of the key people there is someone who is pretty highly-strung - and I think we were able to get him to relax and explain things." MPs were stone-faced at this. Oxburgh developed a nasty cough. So what had been the purpose of his enquiry?

Oxburgh at work

"I would chair a brief study, really, into the honesty of the people - not all the aspects of the science, we were not expected to go into the email saga. But they wanted evidence if people had been behaving dishonestly."

MPs wondered how he could measure honesty. "I think that we or the University would have been content had we said the researchers there were incompetent-but-honest, or misled-but-honest. We were looking for deliberate manipulation of data that led in a different direction to meet some pre-determined aspect of an agenda. We found none."

This failed to impress Committee member Stringer, the MP told us today. "One of the biggest attacks on Jones was by Professor [Doug] Keenan, it directly accused him of fraud. One would expect Jones' use of Chinese data to come up. They had been very selective with what they'd put in and left out of their graphs, even if they hadn't fiddled the figures," said Stringer.

Stringer says the practices exposed at CRU undermine the scientific value of paleoclimatology, in which CRU is a world leader. "When I asked Oxburgh if [Keith] Briffa [CRU academic] could reproduce his own results, he said in lots of cases he couldn't. "That just isn't science. It's literature. If somebody can't reproduce their own results, and nobody else can, then what is that work doing in the scientific journals?"

The depth and rigour of Oxburgh's panel also raised eyebrows. Oxburgh said the intensive interrogation (described above) had taken several days, but FOIA requests show his team of seven spent just two days on the job, clocking up "45 man hours" including lunches and coffee breaks. The final report amounted to five pages of assessment.

Although the Science Assessment Panel didn't publish notes, MPs have seen a highly critical assessment of CRU's work by Cambridge physics Professor Michael Kelly. [PDF, 540kb], who has acted as a scientific advisor to government. Kelly quoted Ernest Rutherford, who once said that "if your experiment needs statistics, you ought to have done a better experiment". Complex simulations that can't be exhaustively tested against 'real' data have limited value.

"I take real exception to having simulation runs described as experiments (without at least the qualification of 'computer' experiments). It does a disservice to centuries of real experimentation and allows simulations output to be considered as a real data. This last is a very serious matter, as it can lead to the idea that real 'real data' might be wrong simply because it disagrees with the models." ....

Where next?

The issue of publication and peer review is a troubling one. MPs didn't raise it yesterday, but may well follow-up with Muir Russell who is scheduled to appear before the Select Committee next month.

The emails show the academics rubber-stamping each other's work, pressuring publications to suppress critical academics, and in promising to subvert academic conventions to exclude papers from the IPCC. "I can't see either of these papers being in the next IPCC report. Kevin and I will keep them out somehow - even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is!" wrote Jones in 2004. Another practice cited by critics is "check-kiting", where a climate paper cites a work that is never published.

Muir Russell will appear before the select committee next month, and Anglia's Vice Chancellor Acton has agreed to make a further appearance.

The composition of the Science Select Committee can hardly be described as skeptical. Its concern rather seems to be that of the reputation of British academia. A university - ultimately funded largely by the public - has had serious allegations levelled against it, while its own enquiries have failed accept that structural reform of scientific may be needed.


Western governments not about to put their money where their mouth is

Comment from India

Hope of progress on a global climate deal at the year-end Cancun summit is rapidly dimming with rich countries backtracking on their commitment to provide climate funds. Finance is a key issue for rebuilding trust among developing and developed countries.

The two-day informal Geneva Dialogue on Climate Finance held late last week focused on sources of long-term climate finance, particularly the role of public and private funds. The developing world is concerned about the increased emphasis by industrialised countries on private sources and markets for climate funds.

There is hesitation on the part of the rich countries to commit public funds on account of global financial crisis and the ensuing austerity cuts.

Environment minister Jairam Ramesh, who attended the meeting, cautioned industrialised countries not to walk away from their commitment because of the current financial crisis. According to Mr Ramesh, the Geneva meeting was “not a productive event” as there was “a conscious effort by developed countries to underplay finance and overplay the role of markets in climate finance.”

Industrialised countries are going back on their funding commitments made in Copenhagen. The developed countries had pledged to provide $30 billion as fast-track finance between 2010 and 2012 for poor developing countries. This was supposed to be new and additional funds.

In the Copenhagen Accord, the industrialised countries had pledged to mobilise $100 billion every year by 2020 to help fund climate change action in developing countries. This money was to be raised from a “wide variety of sources, public and private, bilateral and multilateral, including alternative sources of funding.”

Since the December 2009 climate summit there has been a concerted push to look to markets to raise climate funds. The industrialised countries have consistently pushed for a greater role of markets in climate finance. The European Union has been a prime mover for increased role of markets.

The pitch has become louder in view of the global crisis. This is not a viable option for the developing world, particularly the most vulnerable and the least developed.

“The whole financing game, with the financial squeeze in the developed countries, there is an attempt to redefine their obligations as part of paragraph 5 in the Copenhagen Accord,” Mr Ramesh stressed.

This attempt to redefine obligations is bound to have repercussions on the global climate talks, which has been dogged by an absence of trust between the developed and developing world. UNFCCC executive secretary Christiana Figueres acknowledges that finance is of critical importance for rebuilding trust between the rich developed and poor developing countries.

“If there is anybody who is backtracking on the Copenhagen agreement it is the Americans and the Europeans because they are reinterpreting the $100 billion by 2020.

By and large financing for adaptation has necessarily to be public financing, while mitigation will involve a mix of public and private funds.

Now they are trying to redefine the $100 billion by saying that if we come with ten billion and leverage the remaining $90 billion, we have met our target of $100 billion,” Mr Ramesh said.

Industrialised countries have argued that new "innovative" sources were always part of the long-term financing promise. The rich industrialised countries have suggested that “emerging” countries contribute to providing resources for climate financing. This is not acceptable to India and China, two key advanced developing countries.

The financial crisis has also cast doubt on how much of the $30 billion fast track finance is actually new and additional. "With the growing financial crisis in the developed countries, there is a visible backtracking on the public component of $ 100 billion and they are also redefining 'new and additional funds,” Mr Ramesh said.

There is growing apprehension that developed countries are re-routing existing developmental aid as climate fund. Ms Figueres, who also attended the Geneva meet said that the developing countries expectation that the fast track finance would “completely new and additional” was “very justifiable”.

Global climate talks have been hamstrung due to the slow progress and lack of clarity on funding for developing countries. Finance is one of the building blocks of the Bali Action Plan. Headway on funding of climate action is crucial for a global deal.

The Geneva dialogue was one of the informal ministerial being organised by Mexico, which holds the presidency of the 16th Conference of parties under the UNFCCC. These meetings are not part of the UNFCCC negotiations process but efforts to provide a constructive atmosphere for discussions and regaining trust in order to breathe life into the stalled process.


Germany’s energy problem solved “just like that”

Following prolonged meetings last week-end, Germany’s Coalition Government has decided to grant its 17 nuclear power stations operating-life extensions averaging 12 years. This decision reverses the controversial nuclear phase-out policy that was adopted in 2001, whereby all Germany’s nuclear plants would be closed by c2018.

The impact of this policy U-turn is wide-ranging. In effect, it should solve Germany’s energy supply problem at a stroke – or in the catchphrase of the late Tommy Cooper, ‘just like that’.

Of course, the new policy could fall apart either because it does not secure the necessary parliamentary and legal approvals or if the existing Coalition Government falls – given recent electoral setbacks, this is far from improbable. Assuming it does proceed, Germany’s leading energy companies, including E.On and RWE, will pay far more tax, notably through a c£2 billion per year nuclear fuel-rod levy. Part of this tax will be re-cycled into the renewable energy sector.

Do these developments have any lessons for the UK - apart from the possibility of imposing a nuclear fuel-rod tax on EdF’s UK nuclear assets? The uncomfortable reality for the UK – and for DECC – is that a viable solution to the UK’s lack of base-load generating capacity cannot be found so readily.

Of course, the life-spans of several UK nuclear plants could be extended, along with the deferral of the planned closure dates of the older coal-fired plants. But there is no easy answer - nor is there any way of conjuring up the size of surplus cash flow that will accrue to Germany’s nuclear generators.

Instead, the drive for UK new nuclear-build must continue, with every effort being made to propel EdF and the German Horizon consortium towards the first ‘concrete pour’. Germany may have found a neat solution but is time running out for the UK?



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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