Monday, September 06, 2010

The Week That Was (To September 4, 2010)

By Ken Haapala, Executive Vice President Science and Environmental Policy Project (SEPP)

The big news of the week is the report released by the InterAcademy Council investigating the IPCC. The Council reported severe failings in the procedures and mechanisms used by the IPCC including major errors in the Fourth Assessment Report (AR4, 2007), mismanagement and lack of supervision to correct errors, use of gray literature, and the lack of transparency. Among the more specific criticisms is that there is no scientific basis for the probability statements found in the AR4 Summary for Policymakers and many statements are scientifically meaningless.

As such, it had a little for everyone. IPCC Chairman Rajendra Pachauri claimed it was vindication of his work, and the advocacy group, Union of Concerned Scientists, claimed it would strengthen the science behind the claim of Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW). Other comments were less sanguine. A number of newspapers editorials, including the formerly supportive Economist, ranged from calling it a sharp critique to a condemnation of the IPCC. Long range weather forecaster Piers Corbyn called a whitewash and climate change researcher Roy Spencer suggests dumping the entire IPCC process.

One of the more prudent remarks came from Craig Idso of CO2 Science and NIPCC who wrote to Harold Shapiro, chairman of the committee, pointing out that the IPCC systematically ignores a vast body of scientific research that contradicts its findings. As long as this research is ignored, IPCC reports are not scientific.

Given that the InterAcademy Council is an international organization with many members coming from the National Academies of various countries, the report may strike some as surprisingly tough. Many national academies have not only have embraced the findings of the IPCC but some, such as the US National Academy of Sciences, have actively promoted the findings as scientifically unquestionable. With their outright advocacy of scientifically questionable procedures, these organizations may be losing their prestige with developing nations. This report will not help reestablish that prestige.

The report did not go into the how the IPCC procedures violate principles of science including the principle of continuity. The Summary for Policymakers of AR4 covers warming for only the past 50 years as if the physical laws changed 50 years ago (the globe cooled from about 1940 to 1975). Also, AR4 twists the principles of hypothesis testing, as explained in the book review below.

Given the western political mania surrounding the global warming issue, perhaps the InterAcademy report is the best from an international organization one can expect at this time. At least the report substantiates a claim that the US EPA finding that human emissions of carbon dioxide endanger human health and welfare is premature and, perhaps, totally false.


In a new book, Bjorn Lomborg issued a call for the developed world to spend $100 Billion a year to combat global warming with most of the money being spent on clean energy and geo-engineering schemes. This has incurred the wrath of some skeptics of AGW as well as many environmentalists. The environmental industry wants the $100 Billion to be spent, but not for geo-engineering. Previously, Lomborg issued reports stating that addressing AGW was far down on the list of world needs. Apparently the latest announcement represents a shift in his thinking on priorities.

Before becoming too riled at this shift, one should remember that Lomborg always supported the concept of AGW and his forte is descriptive statistics, not scientific methodology. Descriptive statistics formed the basis of his trenchant work The Skeptical Environmentalist (1998 & 2001) in which he demonstrated that the environment, particularly in the developed world, is improving; not disintegrating. He exposed as false many of the environmental industry's claims of massive environmental destruction. Some of these false claims still appear in IPCC reports today.

For this, Lomborg endured a virulent campaign of personal attacks not only from recognized environmental groups, but also from scientific organizations and scientific journals such as Scientific American. One may not agree with his views on AGW, but Lomborg should be respected for expressing views contrary to the "environmental consensus."


Roy Spencer reports the global average temperature of the lower troposphere in August was 0.51° C above the norm for the 32 years of satellite temperature measurements. This continues to make 2010 slightly cooler, but not statistically so, than 1998, the warmest year measured by satellites. He also reports that sea surface temperatures continue to show a cooling and measurements of the lower troposphere are now beginning to show a cooling as well.


The Number of the Week is 800.

John Brignell has been compiling a list of things caused by global warming which passed 800 on August 19, 2010. "The honour of being number 800 goes to the story that truffles are increasing. You can find it just after truffle shortage and truffles down; which just about says it all."


Book of the Week:

Climate: The Counter Consensus, by Professor Robert M. Carter.

In his book, Professor Carter demonstrates a rare combination of talents - an accomplished researcher who writes lucidly. He fluidly takes the reader through the entire sordid mess of what has become generally accepted climate science and he does it in a clever way.

In the introduction Carter establishes the difference between physical reality and the virtual reality that is much of climate science. In the virtual reality of IPCC science, as remarked by Richard Lindzen, 'the consensus was reached before even the research had begun.' Man is the cause of global warming and his actions (carbon dioxide emissions) must be stopped. Great deterministic computer models were created to confirm the consensus.

This virtual reality has been successfully substituted for physical reality in the minds of many journalists, scientists, government officials, and, to a large part, the public. The question "Do you believe in global warming?" is actually a code for "do you believe in dangerous global warming caused by human carbon dioxide emissions?" Carter's response: "It depends." "For there are many different realities of climate change."

Carter then takes the reader through a brief summary of the earth's climate history, emphasizing that, although ice ages were the dominant climate, over the past 400,000 years and the past 10,000 years there have been periods warmer than today. Thus, climate change and global warming are entirely natural and normal and today's temperatures are not particularly high and the change is not particularly rapid. Carter establishes that the practice of using very brief meteorological periods to assert that there is something unusual about the recent temperature changes is logically and scientifically absurd. Throughout the discussion he presents natural influences on climate and temperatures that are ignored by the IPCC.

He then points out that the uncertainties of knowledge of the carbon dioxide cycle are far larger than known human emissions. Thus, attempts to correlate human emissions with temperature change in order to establish causation are statistically meaningless; the error ranges are too huge. In an effort to establish causation, the model builders use aerosols - virtually unknown variables the "effects" of which are determined by the models - a circular argument. [Some may call these variables "pixie dust."]

Carter sums the US Supreme Court's finding that carbon dioxide is a pollutant as "an abuse of language, an abuse of logic, and an abuse of science."

He rejects the claims of dramatic changes in the oceans as "hobgoblins of alarm" and demonstrates them to be such, including the notion of ocean acidification. He then demonstrates why the deterministic computer models used by the IPCC are not predictive tools and suggests simplistic models may be better, including statistical climate models that are ignored by the IPCC.

It is in the several chapters starting with "Circumstantial evidence and the null hypothesis" that Carter's excellent approach comes to the fore. By using circumstantial evidence, and by using an extensive marketing effort designed by international advertising agencies to support their claims, the IPCC and its environmental industry allies have disguised the need, at least thus far, to conduct proper hypothesis testing. They falsely assert that recent global warming is unprecedented and human caused.

Since climate change is natural and normal in the earth's history, natural and normal climate change is the proper null hypothesis. Thus, it is incumbent on the IPCC to test its hypothesis that human emissions of carbon dioxide are causing global warming. The IPCC does not do so because, if tested, such a hypothesis would quickly be rejected. Carter presents at least eight scientific reasons why. There is no physical evidence that human carbon dioxide emissions will cause little more than minor warming that probably cannot be measured from the background noise. [SEPP Comment: of course, humans cause climate change and urbanization is a classic example. However, an increase in thermometer readings in cities around the globe as the cities grow is not global warming; it is localized warming in many places.]

Carter offers a plan B that he thinks is necessary. Climate will continue to change and humans must be prepared. Carter presents the Köppen-Geiger classification in which the earth has 28 climatological zones with larger nations having several. In plan B, Carter suggests it is important to be prepared to prepare for climate change according to climatic region, rather than globally. [SEPP Comment: the 30 + year satellite record shows that temperature change is largely regional, not global.] This requires something akin to New Zealand's emergency civil defense organization GeoNet, rather than grand international schemes.

Carter concludes by stating the politicians, scientific organizations, and science journals advocating "global warming" are in self-denial after the failure to establish emissions controls in Copenhagen. Unfortunately, their advocacy will make the public suspicious of a realistic Plan B.

It is difficult to briefly summarize this well researched, well written, dispassionate analysis except to state that the public may have been better served if the members of the InterAcademy Council investigating the IPCC read Climate: The Counter Consensus before issuing their report.


Big backdown from NOAA: Weather cycle explains warmer ocean

They are still making entirely speculative links to global warming but note the long overdue doubt expressed in the final paragraph. For several years independent scientists have demonstrated that more frequent El Niños may be a cause of warming, which has been ignored by the Orthodoxy up until now

A relatively new type of El Niño, which has its warmest waters in the central-equatorial Pacific Ocean, rather than in the eastern-equatorial Pacific, is becoming more common and progressively stronger, according to a new study by NASA and NOAA. The research may improve our understanding of the relationship between El Niños and climate change, and has potential significant implications for long-term weather forecasting.

Lead author Tong Lee of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., and Michael McPhaden of NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in Seattle measured changes in El Niño intensity since 1982. They analyzed NOAA satellite observations of sea surface temperature, checked against and blended with directly-measured ocean temperature data. The strength of each El Niño was gauged by how much its sea surface temperatures deviated from the average. They found the intensity of El Niños in the central Pacific has nearly doubled over the study period, with the most intense event occurring in 2009-10.

The scientists say the stronger El Niños help explain a steady rise in central Pacific sea surface temperatures observed over the past few decades in previous studies — a trend attributed by some to the effects of global warming. While Lee and McPhaden observed a rise in sea surface temperatures during El Niño years, no significant temperature increases were seen in years when ocean conditions were neutral, or when El Niño’s cool water counterpart, La Niña, was present.

“Our study concludes the long-term warming trend seen in the central Pacific is primarily due to more intense El Niños, rather than a general rise of background temperatures,” said Lee.

“These results suggest climate change may already be affecting El Niño by shifting the center of action from the eastern to the central Pacific,” said McPhaden. “El Niño’s impact on global weather patterns is different if ocean warming occurs primarily in the central Pacific, instead of the eastern Pacific.”

“If the trend we observe continues,” McPhaden continued, “it could throw a monkey wrench into long-range weather forecasting, which is largely based on our understanding of El Niños from the latter half of the 20th century.”

El Niño (Spanish for “the little boy”) is the oceanic component of a climate pattern called the El Niño-Southern Oscillation, which appears in the tropical Pacific Ocean on average every three to five years. The most dominant year-to-year fluctuating pattern in Earth’s climate system, El Niños have a powerful impact on the ocean and atmosphere, as well as important socioeconomic consequences. They can influence global weather patterns and the occurrence and frequency of hurricanes, droughts and floods; and can even raise or lower global temperatures by as much as 0.2 degrees Celsius (0.4 degrees Fahrenheit).

During a “classic” El Niño episode, the normally strong easterly trade winds in the tropical eastern Pacific weaken. That weakening suppresses the normal upward movement of cold subsurface waters and allows warm surface water from the central Pacific to shift toward the Americas. In these situations, unusually warm surface water occupies much of the tropical Pacific, with the maximum ocean warming remaining in the eastern-equatorial Pacific.

Since the early 1990s, however, scientists have noted a new type of El Niño that has been occurring with greater frequency. Known variously as “central-Pacific El Niño,” “warm-pool El Niño,” “dateline El Niño” or “El Niño Modoki” (Japanese for “similar but different”), the maximum ocean warming from such El Niños is found in the central-equatorial, rather than eastern, Pacific. Such central Pacific El Niño events were observed in 1991-92, 1994-95, 2002-03, 2004-05 and 2009-10. Studies have hypothesized that global warming due to human-produced greenhouse gases could shift the warming center of El Niños from the eastern to the central Pacific, further increasing the frequency of such events in the future.

Lee said further research is needed to evaluate the impacts of these increasingly intense El Niños and determine why these changes are occurring. “It is important to know if the increasing intensity and frequency of these central Pacific El Niños are due to natural variations in climate or to climate change caused by human-produced greenhouse gas emissions,” he said.

Results of the study were published recently in Geophysical Research Letters.


Old ice core proxies seriously flawed. New and better ones show strong Medieval warm period

Discussing: Kobashi, T., Severinghaus, J.P., Barnola, J.-M., Kawamura, K., Carter, T. and Nakaegawa, T. 2010. "Persistent multi-decadal Greenland temperature fluctuation through the last millennium". Climatic Change 100: 733-756.

According to Kobashi et al. (2010) "in Greenland, oxygen isotopes of ice (Stuiver et al., 1995) have been extensively used as a temperature proxy, but the data are noisy and do not clearly show multi-centennial trends for the last 1,000 years in contrast to borehole temperature records that show a clear 'Little Ice Age' and 'Medieval Warm Period' (Dahl-Jensen et al., 1998)." However, they note that nitrogen (N) and argon (Ar) isotopic ratios -- 15N/14N and 40Ar/36Ar, respectively -- can be used to construct a temperature record that "is not seasonally biased, and does not require any calibration to instrumental records, and resolves decadal to centennial temperature fluctuations." Kobashi et al. further describe the development of such an approach, after which they use it to construct a history of the last thousand years of central Greenland surface air temperature, based on values of isotopic ratios of nitrogen and argon previously derived by Kobashi et al. (2008) from air bubbles trapped in the GISP2 ice core that had been extracted from central Greenland (72°36'N, 38°30'W).

The figure below depicts the central Greenland surface temperature reconstruction produced by the six scientists; and as best as can be determined from this representation, the peak temperature of the latter part of the Medieval Warm Period -- which actually began some time prior to the start of their record, as demonstrated by the work of Dansgaard et al. (1975), Jennings and Weiner (1996), Johnsen et al. (2001) and Vinther et al. (2010) -- was approximately 0.33°C greater than the peak temperature of the Current Warm Period, and about 1.67°C greater than the temperature of the last decades of the 20th century. In addition, it is worthy to note that between about 1400 and 1460 there was also a period of notable warmth in Kobashi et al.'s temperature reconstruction, which aligns well with the "Little" Medieval Warm Period, the peak temperature of which was about 0.9°C greater than the temperature of the last decades of the 20th century and the first decade of the 21st century.

More HERE (See the original for graphics & references)

The Left's war on the gasoline-powered car

Move over smog ratings, smug factor is here

Professor Obama is looking to grade you on your car-buying preferences. Beginning with the 2012 model year, new vehicles will carry revised window stickers bearing ratings from "A+" to "D," with the highest marks reserved for choices the administration endorses and the lowest for those it frowns upon. This is just the latest example of the nanny state mentality that has taken hold inside the Beltway.

The schoolmarms at the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Transportation jointly proposed the new labels Monday. The idea is to give government-subsidized electric vehicles - the only ones eligible for the A+ grade - a competitive advantage. Each vehicle will be judged by a combination of factors, including measurements of fuel economy and contributions to "smog" and purported "global warming." Modern technology already has reduced actual pollutants in vehicles to minuscule levels. That means the measure of carbon-dioxide (CO2) output, a so-called "greenhouse gas," takes prime importance. CO2 is essential to life on this planet; it allows plants to grow and thrive. Yet with eco-extremists at the government's helm, the gas you are emitting as you read this editorial is labeled a pollutant to further the left's real goal: the elimination of the internal-combustion engine.

After more than a century of refinement, the gasoline-powered automobile represents an unbeatable choice. It provides economical freedom of travel to more people than has been possible at any other time in the world's history. This galls the social planners who prefer to restrict movement and foster dependency. That's why electric cars are a favorite. Since they were first developed in the 1880s, they have been hobbled by range and carrying capacity limitations. The left has extracted tens of billions of dollars from the pockets of taxpayers and transferred this wealth to the companies that produce these vehicles that make leftists feel good about themselves. Despite subsidies and incentives like free solo use of high-occupancy-vehicle lanes, most families still see electric vehicles and hybrids as unrealistic options.

That's why government bureaucrats must treat consumers as schoolchildren who need Uncle Sam to tell them what to buy. The new proposed window stickers will include a measure of estimated "fuel-cost savings" based on the operating costs of electrics and hybrids, compared to gasoline-powered vehicles. It would be far more honest for the government to report the per-vehicle federal and state subsidies that go into each car. That way, the public would see that all such "savings" are illusory.


A satirical comment by Peter Wells

Now that we are no longer experiencing global warming, but "climate change" instead (a.k.a. global cooling), I see that carbon dioxide emissions are still the culprit. However, no one seems to know how it could be that carbon dioxide has caused first warming and then cooling.

I have applied my scientific background to the problem, and come up with the answer. While it took some time for the plants to adapt, they are now doing so and the result is a big spurt in their growth rate. All of this additional plant growth means more shade, and as we all know, it is cooler in the shade than in the sun.

The obvious concern is that this plant growth will become excessive. Plants will end up growing one and two feet a day and completely take over the green areas of earth, forcing humans to wander in the deserts for years.

Greenpeace and the Carbon Coalition are going to jointly finance a new movie about this menace. It will, of course, be narrated by Al "Chicken Little" Gore. The Obama administration will make it required showing in all schools on a weekly basis along with instructions on how to minimize breathing, since our breathing puts more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

The movie will incorporate terrifying scenes of super trees toppled by hurricane force winds and able to demolish tall buildings with a single crash. The proposed title for the movie is Little Planet of Horrors. Perhaps this will qualify as the next disaster of the decade.

Received by email direct from the author:


Australian public broadcaster backs down over Warming claims

ABC Audience and consumer affairs provide the following reply in regard to a complaint about its report "Melting ice making Everest climbs dangerous".
As previously advised, the ABC sourced the report it published as 'Melting ice making Everest climbs dangerous' from the BBC as part of an established agency arrangement. When your complaint was received, Audience and Consumer Affairs considered whether a significant error had been made which warranted correction. We noted that table 10.2 of the Contribution of Working Group II to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2007 did appear to show temperatures rising faster at Mount Everest than in the rest of South Asia. We do not claim that this was the source relied upon by the BBC in their original story.

We have noted the material you have provided questioning the veracity of a statement in the report. Since we have not been able to verify a source for the references to climate, and in view of the brevity and overall focus of the item, we have removed these references from the story and added an Editor's Note to this effect.

The editorial note reads "Editor's note (September 1, 2010): "A reference to studies of climate in the Himalayas has been removed from this story because the ABC was not able to verify its source."

Without a credible, verifiable source this story amounted to unsubstantiated rumour, and now without the climate aspect it is hardly newsworthy and probably should have been left in the editor's bin.

If only ABC News had spent a small amount of time checking its sources before getting carried away with unsubstantiated claims of climate alarm, ABC's audience would not have been mislead.

We have yet to receive a response from the BBC.

More HERE (See the original for links)


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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