Saturday, October 30, 2010

Reply to Bjorn Lomborg

This is a response to "Why Can't We Innovate Our Way To A Carbon-Free Energy Future?", a "Perspective" by Bjorn Lomborg that ran in this space a week ago.

Bjorn Lomborg, author of "The Skeptical Environmentalist" and "Cool It," is right about the need to focus on critical health and economic priorities. But he is wrong about human carbon dioxide emissions causing what is now being called "global climate disruption."

By demonizing the gas of life, in league with Al Gore and Bill Gates, Lomborg commits several serious scientific errors. As independent scientists, with broad training in mathematics, physics, chemistry, geology and geography, we know CO2 is not a pollutant, and the notion of "carbon-free" or "zero-carbon" energy is inherently harmful and anti-scientific.

If nitrogen, oxygen, hydrogen, helium or any other nontoxic gas is pumped into a chamber containing air and a growing plant, the response is barely measurable. By contrast, if more CO2 is added, the plant and its root system benefit enormously, displaying enhanced growth and more efficient use of available water and nutrients.

Far from having detrimental effects, carbon dioxide has decidedly beneficial impacts on plants, aquatic and terrestrial alike, and a new study connects enhanced plant productivity to greater bird species diversity in China. How, therefore, can anyone conclude that human carbon dioxide is a pollutant that must be eradicated?

These facts erect a formidable barrier for "zero-carbon" advocates. By insisting that no human CO2 should be emitted, they are promoting continued suboptimal growth of food plant species in the face of impending global food shortages — and poorer functioning and less diversity in the global ecosystem.

Zero-carbon activists respond to these facts by asserting that human CO2 emissions cause "dangerous global warming." They are wrong about this, too.

If rising atmospheric CO2 levels drive global temperatures upward, as they insist, why is Earth not suffering from the dangerous "fever" that Al Gore predicted? Instead, after mild warming at the end of the twentieth century, global temperatures have leveled off for the past decade, amid steadily rising carbon dioxide levels.

Lomborg's claim that we need to "cure" so-called "unchecked climate change" is thus fallacious and contradicted by reality. Reducing human CO2 emissions will likely have no measurable cooling effect on planetary temperatures.

His insistence that we prioritize expenditures is spot-on when applied to genuine environmental and societal problems. However, it is irrelevant when the problems are mythical — or devised to advance ideological agendas. Moreover, even if human impacts on the global climate can actually be measured at some future date, humans currently lack the scientific and engineering understanding and capability to deliberately "manage" Earth's constantly changing climate for the better.

Most certain of all, atmospheric carbon dioxide is not the "climate control knob" that anti-hydrocarbon alarmists assert, and it is irresponsible for Lomborg to claim his socio-political agenda will provide a low-cost solution for the global warming "problem."

The scientific reality is that even the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has been unable to demonstrate a cause-and-effect scientific connection between rising human CO2 emissions and dangerous warming. To support global limits on CO2 emissions, in the absence of real-world data showing clear cause and effect, is scientific and policy incompetence on the highest order.

Imagine a drug company seeking FDA approval for a new drug, based on an analysis that says simply: "Our supercomputers say the drug is safe and effective. We have no clinical data to support this, but can think of no reason actual results would contradict what our computers predict. Moreover, failure to license the drug will be disastrous for patients suffering from the targeted disease." Failing to demand actual dose-and-response studies, before licensing the drug, would be gross negligence on FDA's part.

Between 2007 and 2009, U.S. carbon dioxide emissions dropped approximately 10%, to their lowest level since 1995, largely because of reduced energy consumption during the recession. Similar CO2 emission reductions occurred in Britain, Germany, France and Japan.

Have their climates gotten better or less dangerous? Are they now a better place, for having a lower intensity carbon energy diet? Have global temperatures been statistically unchanged since 1995 because, or in spite of, Chinese and Indian carbon dioxide emissions increasing far more than the aforementioned countries reduced theirs?

These are practical, not rhetorical questions. As far as we can see, the only direct effect of decreasing CO2 levels via expensive renewable energy programs has been to cost more American and European jobs than would otherwise have been the case during the global economic recession.

The central issue is not whether rising CO2 levels will cause a warmer planet. The fundamental concern is whether globally warmer temperatures are factually worse (or better) for human societies — and more (or less) damaging to the environment — than colder temperatures (like those experienced during the ice ages and Little Ice Age).

Bjorn Lomborg, Al Gore and Bill Gates need to consider the likelihood that, driven by changes in solar activity and ocean circulation, Earth will cool significantly over coming decades. Damaging the global economy with ineffectual carbon dioxide controls, in a futile quest to "stop global warming," looks stupid now. Viewed later, with hindsight, it will be judged outrageously irresponsible.


James Cameron and Google CEO: Questioning Global Warming is “Criminal”

Google CEO Eric Schmidt and film director James Cameron recently concurred that people who question the science of anthropogenic global warming are, in their opinions, “criminal”. The two made the comments during a recent on stage conversation at a private event in Silicon Valley.

“If that continues, business as usual as our leaders in Washington say is OK for us to do, we will have extincted 70% of the species on the planet by the end of the century.” Cameron responded to Schmidt’s line of discussion on global warming.

During the same conversation Schmidt stated, “There are people who in my view criminally doubt some of the science.” “I agree, criminally, I agree with that.” Cameron interjected.

“People, we need to evolve mentally and philosophically to something that has never existed before.” the Avatar director continued. “We need to become techno-indigenous people of an entire Earth, not of a nation, not of a state, but of a planet.”

So, according to these two high priests of the scientific community, if you point out that the warming trend observed predominantly throughout the 1980s and 90s stopped over a decade ago, as admitted recently by both Professor Phil Jones, the figure at the head of the Climategate scandal, as well as one of the most prominent AGW advocate groups in existence, The Royal Society, you should be locked up.

Presumably the two would want to see thousands and thousands of scientists have their rights taken away and their freedoms eliminated, for merely expressing disagreement or dissent with the much lauded, rarely present “consensus”.

After all, questioning hypotheses and presenting counter-evidence and alternative theories has nothing at all to do with science – no no no, that’s the behaviour of morally corrupt criminals.

Cameron is of course, another green celebrity hypocrite. The man owns three large houses in Malibu, totaling 24,000 square feet – ten times the average US home. He also owns a 100 acre ranch in Santa Barbara and numerous private luxuries such as helicopters, Harley motorbikes, super cars, a yacht, and even a fleet of submarines. Nevertheless he demands that we all “live with less” because it is us that are responsible for killing the planet.

Earlier this year, Cameron said he wanted to debate the “deniers”, but then pulled out at the last minute even after the “criminals” agreed to endless dubious stipulations he kept demanding, such as no recording of the debate and no media coverage.

Cameron has also just given $1m to help defeat California’s Prop23 which will overturn the Global Warming Bill, legislation that critics have argued would cause unemployment to sky rocket, effectively killing dead the already crippled economy.

One wonders what punishments Cameron and Schmidt have in mind for global warming denying criminals? Perhaps execution, in line with the recent 10/10 propaganda campaign.


UK Carbon Tax May Force High Tech Companies Abroad

The Green/Left are intent on destroying Britain -- and the advent of a centrist government is doing little to slow that down

It is less public-facing than the hospital and public sectors, and uses less energy than the exempt transport sector – at 6,000MWh/yr -- but when it comes to business and carbon emissions, the data centre industry has received little mention, despite being one of the most affected by recent changes to the UK’s Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC).

The announcement by the UK government last week that rebates would be turned into a fee could put the UK data centre industry at risk, according to some data centre specialists who spoke with our DatacenterDynamics London conference organisers.

The industry has since warned rising energy prices without incentives could send data centre business offshore, where nuclear and renewable power is readily available, and change the face of the industry as we know it.

The UK Government said it was scrapping plans to offer rebates to companies found to hit the top of a league list created under its original plans to highlight businesses that had made large moves towards efficiency.

Instead, the government said it will hold on to the £1bn worth of funds expected to be raised in 2014 and 2015 as part of what is now being called a ‘stealth tax’ by the industry.

Data centre operators will now face a direct tax on energy consumption at £10 to £15 per tonne of CO2 allowances and 1 tonne of CO2 equating to roughly 500kWh of grid electricity (which will raise the price of energy by about 10%), according to reports.

Britain’s data centres produce 2% of the total amount of greenhouse gas emitted in the UK each year – the UK Government’s Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) scheme affects those industries which make up 10% of overall emissions.

UK-based Romonet, which researches energy and cost points within the data centre, told DatacenterDynamics London, which will soon host its annual conference, that the changes could have wide implications for the data centre industry.

Romonet CTO Liam Newcombe said the large collocation and hosting data centre operators would be most affected, having to find a possible additional £500,000 in OPEX costs.“The change in the recycling payments will clearly have a substantial impact on the UK data centre sector,” Newcombe said.

“No longer is CRC simply a complex regulatory burden that will cost a lot of money in compliance and reporting. It is now and expensive tax as well. A medium-sized collocation data centre can expect to add £500,000 to its annual OPEX for the purchase of allowances in addition to the compliance costs.”

For some operators, this could be enough to halt new projects in the UK, and for some businesses, it could lead to a drop off in business, as clients investigate offshore options offering lower energy costs.

“This change to CRC will, in combination with the already high cost of electricity in the UK, cause some operators to build new facilities in other countries instead. This is likely to be particularly true for outsourcers and cloud (computing) providers who are able to deliver services from remote data centres with little overhead,” Newcombe said.

“Instead of leading the development and delivery of new technologies and services that generate service and IP exports, this displacement drives the UK towards being a consumer and importer of such new developments.”

Data centre development company Lockerbie Data Centres is currently working on a 272,000 sq m data centre north of Lockerbie, Scotland, which it says will follow world-class sustainable practices which will incorporate energy-efficient technologies.

Lockerbie Data Centre’s project director David King said he expects the data centre environment will be unsettled for some time following the UK Government’s announcement, but the changes to the CRC could actually be positive for collocation providers.

“It could take a year or more before the data centre industry really knows what it is dealing with in regards to the CRC. One thing we do know is that end users will not be investing in great numbers at this time. The CRC is a cost at the end of the day,” King said.

Further, King notes “I think that UK businesses may be driven now to outsource from the enterprise data centre into a collocation operation or into the wholesale market as they will be forced to go with larger data centres that can be twice as efficient due to scale. Some people, however, will be put off investing in the UK until they fully assess what the financial picture is."

The UK is not immune to criticism regarding energy policy and provision. Last year, representatives from Digital Britain told DatacenterDynamics that data centres in the country already struggled when it came to acquiring physical connections and installing cables, switches and transformers to the regional grid. A Digital Britain report also showed that data centres had issues accessing distribution and generation capacity across the grid. The report said that the South East of England and London – the UK’s financial hub which houses data centre reliant on low-latency connections for financial trading – pose particular challenges that jeopardize the UK’s standing against the world’s more accessible data centre markets.

According to Thomson Reuters Global Head of Energy & Sustainable Technology, Content, Technology & Operations Harkeeret Singh, who will be speaking at DatacenterDynamic’s London On November 9th, the uncertainty surrounding last week’s announcement could be enough to cause a blow for the industry.

“The initial cost and the uncertainty are not a good mix for those considering placing data centres in the UK, especially if another country is a bit more stable in its energy and tax options,” Singh said.


Don't Mention The La Nina

David Whitehouse

Regular observers of the climate scene will know it’s that time of year again. The end of the year is in sight and with it another annual global data point to add to the others to see if the world is warming, or if it is not.

It’s always unwise to speculate too much on data that hasn’t yet been measured, as unwise as it is to count chickens, but even though it’s been quite an interesting year temperature wise (heat waves in Eastern Europe, droughts and fires in Moscow), it does however not appear to be anything unusual. It will probably be like all the other years since 2001, no change and statistically identical to each other. But that’s only an impression; we still have two months to go.

But caution about data that hasn’t been collected yet is not shared by all, and those unwise enough to make predictions earlier this year are having to go back on them. Unless that is such predictions were statements of the obvious.

The dominant factor in this year’s annual temperature has been the strong warming El Nino event in the early part of the year and the transition to cooling La Nina event in the latter part of the year. Specifically the most recent El Nino began around June 2009, peaked in Jan/Feb 2010 and continued to about May/June 2010.

Since we live in the warmest decade of the past few hundred years, and the global average temperature hasn’t increased in a decade, then an El Nino event occurring in the past year is likely to elevate temperatures to almost record levels (depending on whether it exceeds the 1998 strong El Nino event.) So it is hardly surprising that statistics compiled by Nasa's Goddard Institute for Space Studies showed the period between October 2009 and September 2010 was the warmest ever, according to their GISS database at least.

This record temperature says nothing about anthropogenic global warming, but that hasn’t stopped some distorting the science and claiming, directly and indirectly, that it has.

Vicky Pope, head of climate science advice for the Met Office told the British media, “The high temperatures this year are a clear symptom of a long-term increase in global temperatures, probably caused by greenhouse gas emissions from human activities.”

2010 the hottest?

Despite fears (or hopes) to the contrary, according to James Hansen, the director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), 2010 may not wind up being the hottest year in the modern temperature record after all. Hansen has said recently that the onset and intensification of La Nina conditions in the Pacific Ocean have cooled global average surface temperatures, and despite the record heat in the first eight months of the year, 2010 may wind up either tied with or behind 2005, currently the warmest year in the GISS analysis.

Even that might not be clear-cut. Other climate research institutions that keep temperature records, such as the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) look as if they will see this year differently. For example, in the GISS analysis, June-July-August 2010 was the fourth warmest on record, but according to NOAA's methods it was the second warmest.

What this all boils down to is that 2010 is not going to be an exceptional year when compared to the past decade. Hansen: “It is likely that the 2005 and 2010 calendar year means will turn out to be sufficiently close that it will be difficult to say which year was warmer, and results of our analysis may differ from those of other groups.” (Later statements by Hansen suggested that 2010 might actually be cooler than 2009, although not statistically significantly so!)

This is perfectly reasonable, but then Hansen correctly states the obvious about the recent El Nino leaving the clear implication in the reader’s mind that mankind has something to do with the temperature record, “What is clear, though, is that the warmest 12-month period in the GISS analysis was reached in mid-2010.”

According to Hansen, the calendar year temperature ranking is not as relevant to monitoring long-term global climate change as the 12-month running mean -- which did hit a record high this year. This is an extreme example of cherry picking as choosing a running mean that covers an El Nino will give a false elevation in temperature. By contrast there is something to be said about calendar year averages if they (admittedly crudely) even out the El Ninos and the La Ninas.

Perhaps the long awaited record will come next year, or the year after that. The plain fact is that if the global warming theories are correct the world’s annual average temperature will have to start increasing soon. Because of the La Nina (which seems of moderate strength) we are experiencing, and which will stretch into next year; Hansen suggests that 2012 currently looks like a record year, err possibly. “It is likely that 2012 will reach a record high global temperature… the principal caveat is that the duration of the current La Nina could stretch an extra year, as some prior La Ninas have.” ...or maybe not

But what a difference a La Nina makes. Back in March it was a different story. Hansen said that his draft analysis predicted that 2010 will likely set a new global temperature record, as well as being “virtually certain” that a new 12-month running mean global temperature record would occur sometime in year. Making the record running mean prediction in March was, frankly, a no-brainer.

We will have to wait and see where 2010 comes in the ranking of recent warm years. But even if it is a record (doubtful) it will still not be evidence of warming as it is just one datapoint and one would expect, if the temperature was constant, a spread above and below the mean. So it will take several years of an upward trend to be sure the temperature is rising.

There will no doubt be some comment between now and when the temperature figures for 2010 are released, particularly from those awaiting the further warming of the world among them those who will strain the significance of an additional datapoint if it does. But already some scientists have mislead the public about the interaction between an El Nino and a running mean.


Deleted emails? Contradictory statements from the UEA

Did Jones Delete Emails? It turns out that Muir Russell didn’t bother asking, since that would have exposed Jones to potential liability.

But in a surprising new turn of events, it seems that VC Acton sort-of did what Muir Russell was supposed to do – ask Jones whether he had deleted emails. The Guardian reportsActon’s testimony as follows:

Prof Phil Jones told the University of East Anglia’s boss that he did not delete any of the emails that were released from the university last November, despite apparently saying he would in one of those emails.

In the narrowest sense, the very existence of the Climategate emails seems to show that, whatever Jones may or may not have attempted to do, he had not deleted the emails that survived on the back up server.

But, needless to say, you have to watch the pea under the thimble as there is more to the story than this, as I found out last spring.

Jones’ delete-all-emails request was directed particularly at the Wahl-Briffa exchange about IPCC in summer 2006. (In a related emails, Jones said that Briffa should deny the existence of such correspondence to the UEA administration – something that was never investigated as misconduct.)

Wahl’s insertions in the IPCC report – the unilateral changes in assessment that do not appear to have had any third party oversight other than Briffa’s – were made in attachments to his emails to Briffa.

Last spring, I sent an FOI request to the University of East Anglia for the attachments to the Wahl emails that would show precisely what Wahl had inserted. These, of course, are precisely the sort of thing that Muir Russell panel was obligated to examine but didn’t bother.

Contrary to claims by Jones and Acton that nothing had been deleted, the University refused the FOI request on the basis that the attachments had been deleted, that they no longer possessed the attachments to the emails

Acton tells the Sci Tech Committee that nothing has been deleted, but when asked for the documents that Jones specifically asked to be deleted, the university refuses the FOI request on the basis that they no longer have the documents.

Needless to say, Muir Russell didn’t bother trying to figure out what was going on.


Heresy And The Creation Of Monsters

Judith Curry

I’m having another “Alice down the rabbit hole” moment, in response to the Scientific American article, the explication of the article by its author Michael Lemonick, Scientific American’s survey on whether I am a dupe or a peacemaker, and the numerous discussions in blogosphere. My first such moment was in 2005 in response to the media attention associated with the hurricane wars, which was described in a Q&A with Keith Kloor at collide-a-scape. While I really want to make this blog about the science and not about personalities (and especially not about me), this article deserves a response.

The title of the article itself is rather astonishing. The Wikipedia defines heresy as: “Heresy is a controversial or novel change to a system of beliefs, especially a religion, that conflicts with established dogma.” The definition of dogma is “Dogma is the established belief or doctrine held by a religion, ideology or any kind of organization: it is authoritative and not to be disputed, doubted, or diverged from.” Use of the word “heretic” by Lemonick implies general acceptance by the “insiders” of the IPCC as dogma. If the IPCC is dogma, then count me in as a heretic. The story should not be about me, but about how and why the IPCC became dogma.

And what exactly is the nature of my challenges to the dogma? Lemonick made the following statement: “What I found out is that when [Curry] does raise valid points, they’re often points the climate-science community already agrees with — and many climate scientists are scratching their heads at the implication that she’s uncovered some dark secret.”

This statement implies that I am saying nothing new, nothing that climate scientists don’t already know. Well that is mostly true (an exception being my recent blog series on uncertainty); I am mostly saying things that are blindingly obvious to everyone. Sort of like in the story “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” A colleague of mine at Georgia Tech, a Chair from a different department, said something like this: “I’ve been reading the media stories on the Georgia Tech Daily News Buzz that mention your statements. Your statements seem really sensible. But what I don’t understand is why such statements are regarded as news?”

Well that is a question that deserves an answer. I lack the hubris to think that my statements should have any public importance. The fact that they seem to be of some importance says a lot more about the culture of climate science and its perception by the public, than it says about me.



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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