Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Teflon Doomsayers

In The Rational Optimist, Matt Ridley offers example after spectacular example of a phenomenon that has baffled me ever since I began covering environmental issues in my first job in journalism thirty years ago: to wit, that while the entire presumable goal, purpose, and raison d'ˆtre of applied environmental science is to solve environmental problems, any environmental scientist who dares to suggest that problems are being solved is asking for trouble. As Ridley observes, we have arrived at a state where even the most wildly irrational pessimism is treated with reverence, while the most cautiously sober optimism is ridiculed.

Some of this is human nature and was ever thus; intellectuals, as The Rational Optimistreminds us, have been decrying modernism ever since modernism began. Actually, I wouldn't stop there: the belief in a lost golden age is as old as civilization, as is the intellectual vanity of casting oneself as the lone uncorrupted voice in the wilderness. A few thousand years before Dostoevsky, Malthus, George Orwell, and Paul Ehrlich, the Hebrew prophets were pouring out gloom and dismay with the best of them, dismissing the superficial comforts of the civilized world and its material rewards as a fool's paradise. Pessimism is what people with deep minds and deep souls have; optimism is what idiots with vacant grins on their faces have.

Pessimism is of course a proven fund-raising tool; "save the whales!" is always going to bring in more cash than "the whales are being saved!" But much more than that, we have today the amusingly ironic spectacle of tenured professors with salaries, health insurance, lifetime job security, and excellent retirement plans courtesy of TIAA-CREF being showered with worldly rewards (bestselling books, "genius" awards) for telling us that progress is an illusion and the end is near . . . while still preening themselves as daring outsiders courageously taking on the mighty and powerful. The fact that it takes no daring at all to adopt such an intellectual posture these days does not stop any of the practitioners of this business model from invariably announcing themselves to be the bearers of "dangerous" or "heretical" ideas and congratulating themselves for "speaking truth to power."

So there are understandable reasons why it pays to say that things have gone to hell and will continue to go to hell.

What I find almost inexplicable in all of this, however, is how the scientific doomsayers get away over and over again with making predictions that are fabulously, ridiculously - and demonstrably - incorrect, without the slightest repercussions upon their credibility or careers. Predictions of impending doom are published based on absurd methodologies and threadbare evidence of a kind that in the normal course of scientific affairs would be sufficient to ruin careers ten times over, and the authors walk away from them without a scratch.


Evidence of Solar Scientists Raise Fears of Imminent Ice Age

By John O'Sullivan

New study by American solar experts identifies a sharp fall in sunspot activity since 2007 that fits the hallmarks of a soon arriving ice age.

Solar scientists, not to be confused with climate scientists, study the most important heat engine driving our planet's temperatures-the sun.

Matthew Penn and William Livingston, solar astronomers with the National Solar Observatory (NSO) in Tucson, Arizona, have been following a marked decrease in sunspot activity recently. Reputable studies link a prolonged drop in sunspot activity to a cooling epoch or even a potential new ice age as more sunspots correlate with more global warming, while fewer sunspots are proven to match episodes of long-term cooling.

Since the formation of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 1988 the talk has been about global warming. But 22 years on the evidence has grown to raise fears of a catastrophic climate switch in the opposite direction. We look at the evidence that is raising some very serious questions in the scientific community.

Zeeman Splitting Technique Raises Solar Alarm

Penn and Livingston used a measuring technique known as Zeeman splitting to study the magnetic strength of sunspots. The technique measures the distance between a pair of infrared spectral lines in a spectrograph from the light emitted by iron atoms in the atmosphere of the sun.

After examining 1500 sunspots they found that the average strength of the magnetic field of the sunspots has dropped by almost 40 percent in recent years. The reasons for the decline are unknown, but Penn and Livingston predict only half of the normal sunspots may appear on the surface of the Sun by 2021. Below that strength the formation of sunspots becomes almost impossible.

Other Experts Confirm Fears

Backing up the claims is Australian Geophysicist, Phil Chapman, a former NASA astronaut. Chapman confirms the historic correlation of sunspots to global temperatures and points to the dearth of sunspots since 2007 as the reason why the world has since cooled by about 0.7C.

Writer, Alan Caruba (September 21, 2010) probes the story further after a June 14 article published in the New Scientist by Stuart Clark.

Caruba reports that Clark, "raised the question of why and where the sunspots have gone. Noting that they ebb and flow in cycles lasting about eleven years, Stuart said, "But for the last two years, the sunspots have mostly been missing. Their absence, the most prolonged in nearly 100 years, has taken even seasoned sun watchers by surprise."

Return to another Little Ice Age or Worse?

The last time sunspots disappeared altogether, during the Maunder Minimum (about 1645 to 1715), our planet descended into a lengthy period of cooling known as the Little Ice Age.

The last major ice age, known as the Younger Dryas happened 12,000 years ago. That sudden event plunged temperatures in the North Atlantic region to about 5øC colder with a 1000-year duration.

Global Cooling Impacts Being Felt Now

Today Californians just had the coldest summer in decades. Last year in the northern hemisphere, Britain suffered one of the worst winters in 100 years. While in the U.S. the National Weather Service (NWS) reported that the bitterly cold winter broke numerous temperature and snow extent records with the 4th coldest February on record. New York and much of the U.S. Northeast was pumelled by record snow falls that deposited about 60cm (2 feet) of snow in NYC alone. While in New Zealand tens of thousands of lambs have perished in bitter winter snows.

Worst Snow Falls Since 1970's

Rutgers University Global Snow Lab also confirms that the 2010 Northern Hemisphere winter snow extent was the second highest on record, at 52,166,840 km2 and second only to February, 1978 which was slightly higher at 53,647,305 km2.

Are we now seeing the specter of a return to the fears of the 1970s, when climatologists warned of `The Cooling World' (Newsweek, April 28, 1975)? Anna Petherick reporting for ( August 27, 2010) recently reported on the brutal northern winter that was quickly followed in the southern hemisphere by a viciously cold winter and Antarctic chills killing millions of aquatic animals in the Amazon.

So will these latest changes in the sun's behavior be a harbinger of more cold to come?

SOURCE (See the original for links and references)

Blog Warfare - Warmists attacks their own

Richard Black of the BBC finds out how ugly it can be when you make the mistake (the travesty!) of missing a chance to tell everyone that the Earth's falling apart due to Man-made Global Warming.

It's the first time Richard Black has been on the receiving end. He's a bit put out.
It seems that something new, and not altogether welcome, may be happening in the politicking over climate change.

I have written before of the orchestrated villification that comes the way of climate scientists from some people and organisations who are unconvinced of the case for human-induced climate change - "sceptics", "deniers", as you wish.

This week, for the first time, I am seeing the same pattern from their opponents.

Joe Romm, the physicist-cum-government-advisor-cum-polemicist, posted a blog entry highly critical of the Arctic ice article I wrote last week.

Joe Romm took him to task for doing a story on the hottest year without "mentioning the primary cause of global warming" (according to climate models which are known to be wrong). Romm set lots of emailers onto Black. The original "dreadful" story is just reporting how arctic ice melted fast, but didn't shrink as much as 2007.

Then you can see the cogs turning in Black's mind with the implications:
What about scientists? If researchers publish papers on climate change that do not include cataclysmic warnings of where the world is heading, will they receive the same treatment?

Hello, Richard, yes, exactly, and you are catching up fast on the world in 1990. Around then, an intolerant culture was established that scorned anyone who so much as asked difficult questions. Some eminent scientists were sacked. Al Gores staffers attacked Fred Singer so viperously, that he took them to court and won. But what message did that send to the world's scientists? You can speak your doubts on the hypothesis of man-made-catastrophe, but be prepared to spend thousands on lawyers, risk your job, and lose your friends. Singer won the battle, but Al won that war.

If Richard Black would like the debate to be less polarized and more scientific he could start by getting over his own noxious use of the derogatory term "denier".

This is good news for skeptics. Why, because when bullies do what bullies do, they bite back at their own. For people like Judith Curry and Richard Black, suddenly the depth of the vicious campaign becomes clear, and unless they have a religious belief in man-made global warming, this is the point when they start to wonder just how strong the scientific case is. I've written before about how the bullying creates only brittle support, working only until the tactic is exposed for all to see, and how it helps convert passive borderline skeptics into active trumpeting dissenters.

There is a serious slogging going on in the comments, and it's interesting to watch.

The once cohesive block of the believers in the Big Scare Campaign fragments a bit further. Piece by piece proponents will distance themselves from the unscientific advocacy until all that are left are the religious believers who won't be swayed by any amount of reason.

Bishop Hill points out that there's a BBC science review running at the moment, and wonders if that has had any effect on Richard Black's reporting. The BBC review is starting from a point 10-steps-to-the-left of impartial: Both quacks and climate deniers rarely have anything to say that is real science. That's right, even if you have a Nobel Physics Prize, a BBC editor can group you with "quacks" and ignore everything you say.


British councillors shelve planned housing estate... in case cats eat the local dormice

A site for a new housing estate was rejected after planning chiefs said residents' cats might eat dormice in a nearby wood. Councillors in Paddock Wood, near Tunbridge Wells in Kent, voted down a proposed site for 600 homes after deciding it was `too dangerous' for the tiny creatures.

The native Hazel dormouse, which can hibernate for up to six months, is an endangered species in the UK and councillors were worried that the estate would mean scores of hungry cats arriving in the area. They said the cats would hunt in the 40-acre Foal Hurst Wood and devastate the dormouse population.

Labour councillor Ray Moon said the council had a `responsibility to maintain the wood for future generations' and that `having domestic cats living nearby would be disastrous for small mammals'. He said: `The Foal Hurst Wood is an ancient woodland, it has dormice, it offers so many different things to that area.

`I'm willing to stand up and defend the dormice of Foal Hurst Wood on the basis that our schoolchildren want to see our wildlife thriving. `I don't want my grandchildren to grow up and say: "I've never seen a dormouse, what's a dormouse?"'

But independent councillor Ron Goodman was angered by the ruling. He said: `You're trying to make a decision based on what's good for dormice. It's all nonsense. It's crazy.' Mr Goodman begged fellow councillors: `Don't make your mind up just because of some dormice.'

The site was rejected after seven councillors voted it the `least favoured option' of three proposed sites, with one vote against and two abstentions.

Resident Amy Little, 32, said: `How they can get in such a tizzy about dormice is ridiculous.'

Earlier this year, a council in South Wales spent œ190,000 on three 20ft-high road bridges for dormice to stop them being flattened by cars.


Attack on America's motor vehicles being stepped up

Environmental groups have launched a new effort, the Safe Climate Campaign, to radically transform the American automobile and fight climate change. Nathan Wilcox, global warming director at Environment America, states: “Americans want cars that go farther on a gallon of gas. They want our country to use less oil. They want our politicians doing more to address the problem of global warming, not less.” But the proposals are so extreme that the mini-van so loved by Soccer Moms may become an endangered species.

To kick off the campaign, nineteen environmental organizations, including Greenpeace, the National Wildlife Federation, the Sierra Club, and the Union of Concerned Scientists, sent a letter on September 9 to President Obama calling for a Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standard of 60 miles-per-gallon (mpg). The memo also advocates a global warming tailpipe pollution standard of 143 grams-per-mile, both to be implemented by model year 2025. The memo states: “Setting strong global warming pollution and fuel efficiency standards for new cars and trucks is a key opportunity to put America on the right path.”

If adopted, these proposals will require that the average vehicle sold meet the standards or manufacturers pay a per-vehicle fine. Consumers will be forced to buy small high-mileage cars, primarily electric and hybrid, and forgo large vehicles based on the internal combustion engine, such as today’s mini-vans. Such emissions standards could significantly raise the price of our cars. Europe recently enacted similar emissions standards that are projected to boost prices by more than $8,000 per vehicle.

Congress is now an advocate of electric cars. The Promoting Electric Vehicles Act of 2010 (S. 3495), was introduced in the Senate in June. If passed, the act will direct state regulatory agencies and electric utilities to plan for electric vehicles and to deploy electric vehicle charging stations. The bill includes a “Targeted Plug-in Electric Drive Vehicle Deployment Communities Program,” authorizing the Secretary of Energy to grant $500 million in taxpayer money to each of up to 15 cities to “fund projects in the deployment community.” The goal is to achieve deployment of 700,000 plug-in vehicles at an estimated cost of $4 billion. A large share of these funds will be funneled to General Motors, majority-owned by the U.S. government. These subsidies will add to the $2.7 billion in electric car grants already provided by the 2009 Recovery Act.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is aggressively moving to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. On April 1, the EPA established a new 35.5 mpg CAFE standard and a vehicle emissions standard of 250 grams per mile, effective for automobile model year 2016. The EPA has also proposed new “window stickers” with an “A+” through “D” grade based on fuel economy and emissions. Consumers may soon be told that plug-in electric vehicles rate an “A,” while SUVs get a “B” or lower. In the eyes of the EPA and climate alarmists, safety, roominess, driving range, acceleration, carrying capacity, and price/performance rate a lower grade than solving the climate crisis.

The danger is not that the government provides incentives to develop an electric vehicle industry, but that these policies become a coercive effort to force consumer purchases. Hybrid vehicles now account for only about 3% of U.S. annual vehicle sales and plug-in electric car sales are negligible. According to a 2010 National Academy of Sciences report, a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) with a 40-mile battery range will cost $14,000-18,000 more than a conventional car. Even with battery improvements, the PHEV will still cost $10,000 more by 2030. As an example, the recently announced sub-compact Chevrolet Volt has a 40-mile battery range and is priced at an expensive $41,000. Charging times are eight hours from a 120-volt electrical outlet, or a still-inconvenient three hours if a buyer purchases a 240-volt charging station for $2,000-$5,000. Coercive standards proposed by the Safe Climate Campaign will impose life-style changes and high costs on American citizens.

During the June Senate hearings on S.3495, “energy independence” or “reducing our dependence on foreign oil” were the often-stated reasons why we must adopt electric cars. Vehicles account for more than 70% of the seven billion barrels of annual U.S. oil consumption, 57% of which was imported in 2008. Advocates urge adoption of electric cars to reduce imports from nations such as Saudi Arabia, Libya, and Venezuela.

But we have a more practical solution available than forcing electric cars on Americans. By expanding imports from friendly nations, such as Canada (currently our largest oil partner), Mexico, and Brazil, and boosting domestic oil production, we can reduce our dependency on rogue nations. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates 10.4 billion barrels of oil are available from our Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), enough to replace imports from Saudi Arabia for 20 years. The continental U.S. also has 163 billion barrels of unproven reserves, but 85% of this total is currently in areas where exploration and drilling are banned. Yes, the recent BP oil blowout in the Gulf of Mexico was a tragedy. But the BP oil blowout in 2010, the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989, and the Santa Barbara blow-out in 1969 add up to only three major spills in the last 50 years. Improved safeguards should be able to lower the chance of such spills.

The letter to President Obama closes with the phrase: “With these standards you can ensure we take this opportunity on the path to ending our dependence on oil.” Note that it says “dependence on oil,” not “foreign oil.” A visit to the websites of environmental groups finds opposition to any efforts to grow U.S. oil production. They favor a ban on offshore drilling, and oppose drilling in ANWR, expansion of drilling in the continental United States, imports from Canadian oil sands, and construction of new oil pipelines and refineries. Indeed, these organizations also oppose the use of coal- and gas-fired electrical power plants. Energy independence is the often-stated reason for the electric car push, but the real reason is that our gasoline-burning cars are blamed for global warming.

Climatism, the belief that man-made greenhouse gases are destroying Earth’s climate, is the ideology behind the attack on our cars. Earth’s surface temperature has warmed only about one degree in the last 100 years, but climate alarmists tell us that this warming is “unprecedented.” They demand that we switch to fluorescent lights, wind- and solar-generated electricity, vegetarian diets, and now electric cars.

Yet, geologists tell us that Chicago and New York City were covered by an ice sheet only 15,000 years ago. The Earth’s surface temperature warmed 10 to 20 degrees as the ice melted, providing the warm interglacial period we now enjoy. None of the post-ice age warm-up was due to emissions from SUVs, but alarmists are certain that the much smaller warming of the last 30 years is man-made. As a result, the American automobile is the target of Climatism.


Green/Left government committee ignores third way in tackling climate change, say Australia's conservatives

"Belief test" shows that it is religion, not science that is involved

THE Coalition has sharpened its attack on Labor's climate change committee, saying it's too secretive and based on accepting a pre-ordained outcome.

Squabbling over the committee intensified this morning before the official opening of the 43rd Australian parliament, the swearing-in of members and the election of the Speaker and Deputy Speaker. The government says members of the multi-party committee should be committed to establishing a price on carbon, and its deliberations will be in secret until an agreement is reached. The Coalition has refused the government's offer to sit on the committee.

Opposition spokesman for climate action Greg Hunt claimed today that a "belief test" had been imposed on the committee, saying the two options up for consideration were a carbon tax or an emissions trading scheme. "Our view is that there is a third way in terms of market mechanisms," he told ABC radio.

"And that's the water buyback equivalent - what we would call direct action for a carbon buyback. "That's off the table. And you are not even allowed to participate in the committee unless you accept that the third way is not on the table," he said.

"And I'm not aware respectfully of a belief test ever having been imposed. It's almost Orwellian to say we have a new openness but now in fact we have a) almost the most secret committee ever and b) certainly the only belief test committee in parliamentary history."

Liberal MP Dennis Jensen said the government was effectively ruling him out of the committee, adding: "I'm probably the most highly qualified scientist in this place." He said he was being ruled out because he didn't "believe in a carbon price". "It's as simple as that. I'm being ruled out on that basis," he said.

"It would make no difference if I thought that there were other mechanisms to tackle things. "And I think that there are things that you can do responsibly without needing to go to a carbon price regardless of what's your philosophical viewpoint on whether human beings are causing climate change or not."

Climate Change Minister Greg Combet dismissed the criticisms as "hyperbole". He said on Sky News it was "complete rubbish" that the committee required its members to have a pre-ordained position.

Mr Combet said membership of the committee membership was based on whether a political party respected the climate science, saying it would provide common ground to "move forward". However, he confirmed the purpose of the committee was to "discuss the options for introducing a carbon price".

Mr Combet also defended the confidentiality arrangements, arguing there would be some "very commercially sensitive" information being considered. However, he added that some of the information being considered could also be useful in stimulating debate, citing an updated version of Professor Ross Garnaut's climate change review.



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1 comment:

Francis Tucker Manns said...

Science is not a political game. Climate is neither Conservative Republican nor is it Liberal Democratic. Rhy do people watch FOX news for science? The answer bifurcates into - because FOX provides a squishy non-science alternative to the squishy non-science of the main stream fear media, and, moreover, an idle mind is drawn to the house on fire. Authentic science is too conservative for the media. However, David Suzuki and Al Gore, and a host of others of the same political cohort, not FOX News, created the political popular science game.

Let it be known once and for all that Climategate was evidence of non-science and ‘closed shop’ funding process of the ‘publish or perish’ cohort. The competition for government money by pandering to politically correct themes has outgrown the strongbox of science. The PC cohort is staffed by 100s of scientists erring into politics and politicians erring into science, but this is not the evidence based science that has led humankind out of the caves after the ice melted.

Science moves slowly most of the time and leaps ahead with peril. Steven J. Gould used the term punctuated equilibrium to describe animal evolution. Science itself mimics that analogy. Long spans of whirlpools and eddies, fruitless experiments or blind alley dead ends are interrupted by leverage discoveries like pasteurisation or penicillin. Imagine the contrast between big laboratories doing big science of HIV Aids or cancer, and compare that to the tiny space needed to think of the theory of relativity. Big science is very inefficient; yet the world is full of genius. Einstein’s brain was really statistically no bigger than anyone else’s.

If scientists do not understand that evidence and experiment are required, not computer models, they never should have been awarded their degrees. Real scientists know that the minute you begin to believe your own hypothesis, you are a dead duck as a scientist. Sadly, the number of careful scientists and their graduate students appears to be reaching de minimis in the modern university. Maybe intercollegiate sports are the only authentic path left.

What is driving this political polarisation of the media? Could it be that journalists simply are not skilled enough to sift wheat from chaff? Could it be the polarisation of the educational process that separates us into artists and engineers? Artists go into service and engineers go to work. Or, could it be that the minute subdivision, the fractionation of specialisation has resulted in the old gag coming true – we know more and more about less and less.