Saturday, September 25, 2010

Republicans Promise Climategate Investigation If They Win U.S. Elections

The House's top Republican watchdog is planning to launch an investigation into international climate data if he takes the helm of the chamber's oversight panel next year.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the ranking member of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said a probe of the "Climategate" scandal will top his environmental agenda if the Republicans take over the House next year and he gets the chairmanship.

"I do have a backburner investigation that I'm going to want to have completed, and that is, we paid a lot of money to have international evaluation, most of it done in Britain, that turns out to have been less than truthful in some of the figures," he said. "We're going to want to not investigate to get our money back, but we're going to want to have a do-over of good numbers so that everyone can have confidence."

The disputed climate data became the subject of heated controversy last year when hackers released e-mails from the Climatic Research Unit of the University of East Anglia in England. Climate skeptics pointed to the e-mails as evidence that prominent scientists tried to inappropriately manipulate and suppress raw climate data and silence their critics.

Investigative panels in Britain and the United States have since cleared researchers of any wrongdoing, but some Republican lawmakers remain unconvinced.

"For me, settled science starts out with settled raw data, then people negotiate and discuss and hypothecate from that data," Issa said. "If the raw data's in doubt, then the idea that we have settled science doesn't exist. I want settled science."

Should Republicans win control of the House next year -- which many political analysts see as likely -- Issa and other top Republicans are expected to ramp up their oversight of federal agencies, including U.S. EPA.

Asked whether this Congress has been lax in its EPA oversight, Issa quipped, "You think?"

"We've seen no oversight, or virtually no oversight," he said.

"The amount of letters sent out to the administration by chairmen and so on speaks legions about it," Issa said. Former Oversight Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), who now leads the Energy and Commerce Committee, "is sending out less than a quarter of what he was sending out when there was a different president and he was still chairman. And that's a shame, because he said that Republicans had not held President Bush to a high enough oversight standard."


A dodgy "melting icecap" paper in more ways than one

The methodology used is still experimental and gives some clearly wrong results; Its authors have tried (would you believe it?) to keep details of their work secret; and (not mentioned below): the time period covered is ludicrously short for any kind of generalization to be extracted.

There has recently been some discussion, already mentioned in ‘The Observatory,’ about a finding that the Greenland Ice Cap and part of the Antarctic Ice Cap are not melting as fast as once suggested. The conclusion was based on a new method of analysing data from the pair of GRACE gravity measuring satellites. However, it is a good example of how a simple conclusion can enter the climate change debate and be accepted as a fact when a closer look at the data shows much uncertainty. It illustrates that standing back and looking at the bigger picture, often reveals something quite different.

According to the new paper by Wu et al (2010) published in Nature Geoscience the Greenland and West Antarctic ice caps are melting at half the rate previously measured.

The melting of the Greenland and Antarctic ice caps has been monitored since 2002 by the two GRACE satellites that detect small changes in the Earth's gravitational field that are related to the distribution of mass on Earth, including ice and water. When ice melts, or moves it has a small but measurable effect on the gravitational field that shows itself as minor perturbations in the orbits of the two GRACE satellites. The problem with the GRACE data is that it is extraordinarily difficult to calibrate requiring very sophisticated mathematics and tiny measurements in a sea of noise and undoubtedly many unknown effects.

Data has been extracted from GRACE and most scientists understand that they are feeling their way towards a better understanding of the satellites and their data. One study of the polar ice caps published in 2009 that has received much comment calculated that for Greenland the ice was melting at an accelerating rate. In 2002 – 2003 it was 137 Gigatons per year, whereas by 2007-2009 it had increased to 286 Gigatons a year.

For West Antarctica, the estimate was 104 Gigatons per year in 2002 – 2006 and in 2006 -2009 it had increased to 246 Gigatons per year.

But the new results by Wu at al (2010) change those figures drastically. According to Wu et al it appears that the previous results were not properly corrected for glacial isostatic adjustment, which is the rebound of the Earth’s crust as a result of the melting of the massive ice caps from the last major Ice Age about 20,000 years ago. These crustal movements have to be included in the calculations, since they alter the Earth’s mass distribution and affect the gravitational field. Wu’s figures are Greenland (2002 – 2008) 104 +/- 23 Gigatons a year and 64 +/- 32 Gigatons a year for West Antarctica. Wu’s figures are approximately half of those previously published. How can they be reconciled with the other observations?

Compare Wu’s figures to another recent study published in Nature Geoscience by researchers at the University of Texas at Austin in Austin, Texas. They conclude that the mass loss for Antarctica - 190 +/- 77 Gigatons a year averaged over 2002 - 2009. This shows the spread of ice loss measurements for Greenland and Antarctica and is much larger than previous estimates (although consistent with the most recent Synthetic Aperture Radar estimates of 196 +/- 92 Gigatons a year.)

Researchers have told me that the new analysis technique being developed by Wu et al is promising, and will no doubt be very useful in the future, but at present it is throwing up contradictions.

It produces a figure for Greenland’s Glacial Isostatic Adjustment (GIA) that is 12 times larger than that predicted by the models that have observational support from geological changes in sea levels.

The large present day GIA required by Wu et al would have to have a large ice mass loss occurring in the Holocene period. There is no evidence for this in geological ice-core data.

Wu et al predicts vigorous thickening of the central region of the Greenland Ice Cap, major ice losses in the southwest and thinning in the north. None of these things are seen.

Clearly, the GRACE approach to evaluating ocean mass and sea level trends still has a long way to go, and must develop a longer period of data acquisition, before it can ever be considered a reliable means of providing assessments of ocean mass and sea level change that are accurate enough to detect an anthropogenic signal that could be confidently distinguished from natural variability.

Consequently, is would be unwise to make too much of the new figures. Such caveats are not present in the associated NASA press release detailing this research.

Finally, the ice mass loss rates must be put into context. Clearly their rate of change is all-important, as is region from which the loss is occurring and its contribution to sea level change. However, a loss of 200 Gigatons per year from Antarctica seems a great deal. In absolute terms however it is tiny. The mass of the Antarctic ice sheet is estimated at 33 million Gigatons.

I am grateful to several glaciologists and climatologists for discussions about this work. It was however initially not possible to obtain a copy of the Wu et al (2010) Nature Geoscience paper for detailed scrutiny as the lead author refused to send a copy to me, and was only willing to share it with “colleagues.”


It's The End Of Britain's Green World As We Know It

More than 30 ‘green’ quangos are facing the axe and the budget for communities will be slashed by a third after George Osborne signed off massive cuts to two departments.

Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman and Communities and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles yesterday agreed with the Treasury on how to slash spending in their departments.

The two ministers, dubbed the ‘King and Queen of quango cuts’ in Whitehall, impressed the Chancellor with their willingness to axe expensive bodies.

Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles and Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman have been dubbed the ‘King and Queen of quango cuts'

David Cameron has now agreed that they can join Mr Osborne’s ‘Star Chamber’, where senior ministers can pass judgment on the cuts plans of their colleagues...

Mrs Spelman has identified 30 quangos for the axe, including the Sustainable Development Commission and the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution.


French Academy of Science Allows Science Debate

Jean-Michel Bélouve

Two days ago, the French Académie des sciences organised a closed-door meeting on climate change: only scientists were invited. Le Monde had announced the secretive event two days earlier. The list of participants was published only after the meeting. The secrecy of the meeting has been criticized by media outlets given that the Academy’s main goal is to convey accurate knowledge and scientific understanding among the public. It seems that this choice was due to conditions of privacy requested bysome attendees to allow a genuine debate between proponents and critics of the conventional global warming theory.

On September 21, the Academie des sciences has published a short one page press release, the programme, and the list of participants. It seems that the panel was more or less balanced between advocates of the conventional view and climate sceptics. Among the critical speakers, among others, were Professor Richard Lindzen and Professor Vincent Courtillot. They were able to exchange their views with fellow climate researchers such as Jean Jouzel, Hervé Le Treut, Sandrine Bony (IPSL modeling specialist), Edouard Bard and others.

In its statement, the Académie points out that there are differences of opinions regarding the extend of solar influences. It also states that while there is general agreement about the fact that greenhouse gases have an impact on the climate, their indirect effects is controversial. In addition, the impact of clouds on the climate remains poorly understood and further research is required to improveunderstanding. A full report about the meeting will be published before the end of October.

Since no journalists were allowed to attend, the media could just report comments and assertions by some of the participants who generally chose to remain anonymous (which shows the climate of fear and suspicion among French climate researchers). This allowed the media to select statements which emphasised the conventional views and messages.

Le Monde, which is one of the most biased newspapers on global warming, writes that it was a serious and fair debate. However, it also choses to quote some participants who claim that the meeting was a “trap” against climate scientists, a “malicious venture… aimed at a part of the French scientific research”.

Many French papers just published the AFP wire story or the article in Le Monde. Some interesting comments were posted on websites. An anonymous scientist is quoted as saying that he regrets that the issue of oceans was not discussed at the meeting. This seems to be a relevant criticism since oceans play such an important role in a climate system that remains insufficiently understood.

Overall, I think that approach by the Academie des sciences is a positive development, even if it appears to be somewhat timid and lacks transparency. For a start, this is a serious attempt to foster a genuine scientific debate between opposing scientists - and that is really new in France. What is more, the Academy is trying to stand clear of supporting the claims and accusations that numerous climate scientists have made against climate sceptics. We have to wait for the full report to be issued in October to know whether or not it will commission a review of the state of science for the French public who have become less certain and more doubtful over the last couple of years. I am not convinced it will go that far. Nevertheless, I hope that it won't shut down what looks to me like the beginnings of a real scientific debate.

SOURCE (See the original for links)

Koch Brothers, Private Industry Vilified by NYT for Advancing Calif. Initiative Aimed Against Global Warming Act

They cover a lot of bases here but omit any discussion of the environmental movement’s international dimensions. Polls shows that the public is evenly divided over a ballot initiative that would suspend California’s global warming law until after unemployment falls. Here, the NYT seeks to swing public sentiment by questioning the motives of private donors who are linked in with the Tea Party

A California ballot initiative that could potentially unravel the anti energy policies Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law four years ago is the subject of a report aimed against free market groups. Charles and David Koch described here as the “billionaires from Kansas who have played a prominent role in financing the Tea Party movement” are the primary targets. But out of state business interests also come in for criticism.

Both sides acknowledge that initiative could have national ramifications for the environmental movement and its pursuit of “cap and trade” policies. State-level regulatory efforts that mimic the Kyoto Protocol rippled out of California’s Global Warming Solutions Act and could recede if pro-energy activists prevail in November. The initiative, known formally as Proposition 23, calls for a suspension of anti-emissions restrictions until after unemployment falls to 5.5 percent or lower for at least four consecutive quarters.

Over the past year, the environmental movement has been beset with setbacks that undermine long-standing scientific and economic arguments activists and government officials have invoked to advance regulatory directives. It is evident from this report that the NYT and other left leaning media outlets are panicked by recent developments. The idea here is to discredit the opposition and explain away public opposition as an understandable, albeit misguided byproduct of the recession.

“Traditionally, public support for environmental measures suffers during tough economic times,” the report says. “Here in California, backers of the initiative have seized on that anxiety — which is particularly acute in this state, with its 12.3 percent unemployment rate — in search of a victory.”

The stipulations included in Proposition 23 “could have the practical effect of killing the law,” the NYT correctly notes. Over the past several decades, the unemployment rate as rarely fallen to such relatively low rate for an extended period of time. AB 32, the Global Warming statute, calls for carbon dioxide and other greenhouse emissions to be reduced back to 1990 levels by 2020. Private industry officials say they that the high cost of compliance would result in job losses and rising gas prices.

There are a number of detailed, scholarly studies that bolster and substantiate the concerns of private industry. The Institute for Energy Research (IER), for instance, has published a report that goes into great detail about the higher costs attached to renewable standards and emissions restrictions. But these hard facts have no place in an agenda laced report that works over time to sully the reputation of business groups, Tea Party activists and individual donors who are committed to private enterprise.

“The campaign against California’s greenhouse gas law comes as business groups have invested heavily across the country in trying to defeat members of Congress who voted for a cap-and-trade bill that also mandated emission reductions; the bill passed the House but failed in the Senate in the face of strong opposition from lawmakers in industrial states,” the report says.

Looking ahead to November, current polls show that the competing sides are evenly matched.

“Yet supporters said they were concerned that the proposition could slip through at a time when Democratic spirits are low,” the NYT points out. “More significant is the question of how much more supporters of Prop 23 can raise to finance their campaign. Of the $8.2 million raised so far, $1 million came from the Koch firm, $4 million from the Valero Energy Corporation and $1.5 million from the Tesoro Corporation; both corporations are based in San Antonio.”

The article concludes with a spokesman from the NRDC quoted at length expressing concern over the influence and financial backing of anti-regulatory organizations. That’s the pot calling the kettle black.

“We have every reason to believe that they are going to put the money in to run a big television campaign in the most expensive media market in the country,” said Annie Notthoff, the California advocacy director for the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group. “We certainly are expecting to have a fight on our hands.”

As of 2006, the NRDC has net assets in excess of $125 million and enjoys consistent, steady substantial support from well-endowed left-leaning foundations, according to The Capital Research Center.

NRDC is part of large, expansive network of left-wing organizations operating under the guise of environmentalism that have worked on national and international level to restrict and restrain America’s economic development.

These outside groups that operate in concert with the European Union and the United Nations at the expense of U.S. taxpayers and consumers deserve greater exposure and attention.

Former Secretary of State George Schultz, who supports Calif.’s global warming law, should be asked about the international backing of environmental groups like the NRDC receive since he’s so concerned about the activities of American citizens who favor affordable energy.


Incredible Greenie nonsense in Australia

Homeowners who sandbag coastal areas to protect their properties during storms could face fines up to $247,000 under tough new coastal protection laws. Councils will also be given the power to impose levies on coastal property owners to build sea walls.

Environment Minister Frank Sartor is in negotiations with the Greens to get his Coastal Protection Bill through Parliament, with the Opposition opposing it and organisations such as the Property Council lobbying to have it defeated.

The Bill includes provisions for $495,000 fines for corporations and $247,000 fines for residents who install illegal measures to protect their homes from sea level rises. Residents who do not gain approval for sandbagging would also pay up to $22,000 a day in fines if they continue.

Mr Sartor's laws - which he introduced into Parliament this week - have raised the ire of NSW coastal residents. The laws apply to properties within 1km of coastal rivers and estuaries as well as seafront properties.

Pat Aiken of Saratoga on the Central Coast has set up a community organisation to oppose the Bill. "Gosford Council has identified 9000 properties as potentially affected by sea level rise," he said. He said it was not just rich residents of Byron Bay who were affected but "people with the arse hanging out of their pants" in suburbs such as Woy Woy and Booker Bay.

"The estuary, river, bay and lagoon people probably have no idea what is about to come down on them - another big government tax on the back of climate change," he said.

Collaroy property owner Robert Wiggins said the Bill was about removing liability from government for not building sea walls.

Property Council of Australia acting executive director Edward Palmisano was "concerned that property owners who purchased or developed land in good faith will lose the capacity to take reasonable measures to protect their property from sea level rise".

"The Bill creates potential limitations on the opportunities available to homeowners to protect their property. Such restrictions do not apply to properties under threat from bushfires or floods, so why should sea level rise be treated any differently?" he asked.

Mr Palmisano said the Bill had the potential to impose "huge burdens on property owners" including "onerous new levies".



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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