Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Arab named as chief scientist at NASA

Online biographies of him studiously avoid any mention of his early background but Waleed is an Arab name so he is almost certainly a Muslim -- though at the outside he could be a Lebanese Christian.

As Muslims often have loyalties that transcend loyalty to the country in which they live, this appointment does not inspire much confidence in his future words and deeds.

But if such doubts are justified he would in any case be in comparably unreliable company among NASA environmental officials. One thinks, of course, of Jim Hansen and his ever-changing temperature histories.

I note that Abdalati's first degrees were in engineering so his environmental expertise would seem slight. But IPCC head Pachauri is an engineer too so scientific expertise would seem to be no precondition for environmental appointments anyway

University of Colorado-Boulder faculty member Waleed Abdalati has been selected as NASA's chief scientist.

The 46-year-old associate geography professor will start the two-year term in January.

Abdalati directs the Earth Science Observation Center at the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Studies, a venture of the university and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. His research focuses on understanding changes in Earth's ice cover.

Abdalati will be chief adviser to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden on the agency's science programs, planning and science investments. He'll work with the White House, Office of Management and Budget, and Congress.


Greenland ice sheet flow driven by short-term weather extremes, not gradual warming: research

Sudden changes in the volume of meltwater contribute more to the acceleration – and eventual loss – of the Greenland ice sheet than the gradual increase of temperature, according to a University of British Columbia study.

The ice sheet consists of layers of compressed snow and covers roughly 80 per cent of the surface of Greenland. Since the 1990s, it has been documented to be losing approximately 100 billion tonnes of ice per year – a process that most scientists agree is accelerating, but has been poorly understood.

Some of the loss has been attributed to accelerated glacier flow towards ocean outlets. Now a new study, to be published tomorrow in the journal Nature, shows that a steady meltwater supply from gradual warming may in fact slow down glacier flow, while sudden water input could cause glaciers to speed up and spread, resulting in increased melt.

"The conventional view has been that meltwater permeates the ice from the surface and pools under the base of the ice sheet," says Christian Schoof, an assistant professor at UBC's Department of Earth and Ocean Sciences and the study's author. "This water then serves as a lubricant between the glacier and the earth underneath it, allowing the glacier to shift to lower, warmer altitudes where more melt would occur."

Noting observations that during heavy rainfall, higher water pressure is required to force drainage along the base of the ice, Schoof created computer models that account for the complex fluid dynamics occurring at the interface of glacier and bedrock. He found that a steady supply of meltwater is well accommodated and drained through water channels that form under the glacier.

"Sudden water input caused by short term extremes – such as massive rain storms or the draining of a surface lake – however, cannot easily be accommodated by existing channels. This allows it to pool and lubricate the bottom of the glaciers and accelerate ice loss," says Schoof, who holds a Canada Research Chair in Global Process Modeling.

"This certainly doesn't mitigate the issue of global warming, but it does mean that we need to expand our understanding of what's behind the massive ice loss we're worried about," says Schoof. A steady increase of temperature and short-term extreme weather conditions have both been attributed to global climate change.

According to the European Environment Agency, ice loss from the Greenland ice sheet has contributed to global sea-level rise at 0.14 to 0.28 millimetres per year between 1993 and 2003. [Wow! A quarter of a millimetre. Do you know how small a millimetre is?]

"This study provides an elegant solution to one of the two key ice sheet instability problems identified by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in their 2007 assessment report," says Prof. Andrew Shepherd, an expert on using satellites to study physical processes of Earth's climate, based at the University of Leeds, the U.K.

"It turns out that, contrary to popular belief, Greenland ice sheet flow might not be accelerated by increased melting after all," says Shepherd, who was not involved in the research or peer review of the paper.


Corporate ­crooks at Deutsche Bank

Deutsche Bank is putting its interest in making money off climate change ahead of the facts

The corporate climate-change bandwagon, an unprecedented global scramble of money-grubbing and subsidy-seeking opportunists, shows no signs of ending. Whatever the failures and limitations of last week’s United Nations’ conference in Cancun, the prospect of cashing in on the idea of carbon-free energy has galvanized corporate players all over the world, generating a momentum that seems to have left the UN effort in the dust. The carbon targets proposed in the Kyoto Protocol may be too crazy for governments to adopt, but they’re just fine with all the banks, solar power firms, turbine makers, consultants, real estate speculators, regulatory manipulators, scammers and spinners who aim to make a killing off climate change.

An example of such a pro-climate change campaign is the work of Deutsche Bank, the giant German financial institution that has imbedded itself in the renewable energy field. Deutsche Bank claims to have funded more than $5-billion in renewable projects, the result of its aggressive marketing of Feed-in Tariffs (FIT) as government policy. It promotes FIT pricing of electricity all over the world, from Ontario to developing nations. Investors are urged to sink money into renewable energy, on the claim that the returns will beat the market.

Earlier this month, the bank announced a $70-million funding of two solar power parks in Ontario to be installed by SkyPower Ltd., a company that has a turned the province’s rich solar-power pricing schemes into a corporate bonanza. Similar announcements pop out of Deutsche regularly, along with weighty reports from a section of the bank called DB Climate Change Advisors.

DB Climate Change Advisors is a part of the bank’s asset management group, whose leader, Kevin Parker, likes to point out in the reports that it is the bank’s belief “that Feed-in Tariffs create a lower risk environment for investors.” No kidding. That’s because the risk is being picked up by ratepayers and taxpayers. In the bank’s view, Germany and Ontario set global standards in policies that subsidize solar and wind power.

To support its corporate strategy, Deutsche Bank recently went after climate change critics who might upset the gravy train of subsidies, regulation and FIT programs. David Henderson reports in Tuesday’s FP Comment on the bank’s efforts to discredit skeptics.

In a report in September, titled “Climate Change: Addressing the Major Skeptic Arguments,” DB Climate Change Advisors commissioned scientists at the Columbia Climate Center at the Earth Institute of Columbia University to take down the work of such skeptics as Ross McKitrick of Guelph University. They picked the wrong skeptic to go after.

Prof. McKitrick focused on two central topics treated in the Deutsche Bank report. The main emphasis is on the so-called “hockey stick” controversy. The other issue is an infamous quote from a Climategate email in which Phil Jones, head of the Climatic Research Unit at University of East Anglia in the U.K. refers to a “trick” to “hide the decline” in a graphic presentation of temperatures.

Prof. McKitrick identifies and spells out an extended list of errors, misrepresentations and falsehoods in the Deutsche Bank report. As is typical of climate science conflict, the subject quickly gets complicated and arcane.

The opening segment in the Deutsche Bank report attempted to demolish the “hockey stick” portion of the skeptics’ arguments. The famous hockey-stick graph, created in 1997 by U.S. climatologist Michael Mann, appeared to show that recent temperatures were the highest in 1,000 years. Beginning in 2003, Mr. McKitrick (along with Toronto consultant Steve McIntyre) demonstrated conclusively that the 1,000-year claim was unsupportable.

According to the Deutsche report, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences had investigated the hockey stick issue and “rejected the claims of McIntyre and McKitrick and endorsed, with a few reservations, Mann et al.’s work.” The Deutsche report also claimed that another investigation into the hockey stick conducted by a team of statisticians headed by Edward Wegman, “also concluded that the methodological errors in the original Mann et al. papers had no impact on the scientific conclusion.” According to Deutsche Bank, the NAS and Wegman reports “confirmed the soundness of the [Mann] research and concluded the primary conclusions were unaffected by any methodological problems.”

All of this was too much for Prof. McKitrick. In his formal response to the Deutsche report, he wrote: “In addition to misrepresenting the NAS findings, this is a wholly false misrepresentations of the findings of the Wegman report.” Not only did the Deutsche document distort the process, it got the Wegman conclusions wrong. The Wegman committee actually said that “the assessments that the decade of the 1990s was the hottest decade in a millennium and that 1998 was the hottest year in a millennium cannot be supported by the [Mann et al.] analysis.”

In a second set of comments, “Response to Revised Report from Deutsche Bank,” Prof. McKitrick takes another critical whack at the Deutsche report. Among other things, Prof. McKitrick turns his attention to a direct attack on work. “Attempts to reproduce the work of McIntyre and McKitrick,” said the Deutsche paper, “have shown their original claims to be largely spurious.”

This is untrue, and Prof. McKitrick cites the Wegman review, which said: “In general, we find the criticisms by [McKitrick and McIntyre] to be valid and their arguments to be compelling. We were able to reproduce their results and offer both theoretical explanations and simulations to verify that their observations were correct.”

The Deutsche Bank treatment of the Climategate email about “hiding the decline” is particularly wrongheaded. In the email, Mr. Jones, the East Anglia chief, refers to the official graph of northern hemisphere temperatures that blended actual temperature records with tree ring measurements of temperature records without acknowledging the switch. This “trick” gave the impression of a continuous record of rising temperatures in the late 20th century, when no such record existed.

The authors of the Deutsche report glossed over this misleading use of data, calling it “inappropriate.” But Prof. McKitrick said the hiding-the-decline trick is more than a case of bad graphic presentation. It was misleading — or worse. “Data manipulation … is not ‘poor presentation.’ ” He added: “The WMO chart did not suffer poor presentation; it was, in fact, quite an attractive graph. The problem was that it was misleading, and in that sense the care that went into making it look compelling only compounds the problem.”

To date, the Deutsche Bank organization has not responded to Prof. McKitrick’s second round of criticisms. The original report still stands in the web-site. The few corrections admitted to so far remain buried in the back in a barely readable form.

Prof. McKitrick makes another striking observation: “At a certain point it becomes disconcerting that Deutsche Bank, which is among other things one of the few international banks qualified to act as a primary dealer for the New York Federal Reserve, and is thereby subject to particularly stringent requirements about accuracy of commentary it publishes on economic and policy issues, is going to such efforts to excuse publication of misleading information.”

As Mr. Henderson puts it, the Deutsche report on climate skeptics has been rendered worthless as a guide to the science and for investors. It also betrays a larger issue, which is a corporate role on the part of Deutsche Bank that makes Exxon look like a Boy Scout.


Where are all those green jobs?

The Obama Administration channeled $90 billion of the $870 billion dollar stimulus package towards the new green economy. The hope was that a national move from fossil energy to green energy would not only be good, long term, for the environment, but that the transition could also be a jobs' driver, which would help resuscitate the overall economy.

But two years into Obama's administration, the White House has reported it's helped create 224,500 green jobs, far short of the 5 million it had openly predicted.

At the Ocala green job training school, the reality for students is that only about 25 percent of the green graduates have found green employment.

Analysts say the reason for green jobs not growing as fast as hoped include several reasons:

--Government subsidies to give industries incentive to go green tend to be short term. Industries want long term commitments to permanently invest in green technologies.

--There are not government regulations forcing industry to meet certain green thresholds.

--Perhaps most relevant in this still-tight economy where what costs less often prevails: fossil fuels remain cheaper than going green.

"The reason for the slow growth in green jobs in the U.S. economy over the past two years is that the industry was very small to begin with, so it was very hard to leverage that industry up to make it create jobs," says Samuel Sherraden of the New America Policy Foundation.

As for progressive expectations that jobs in recycling, solar and wind energy, sustainable landscape design, battery redesign and green demolition would lower the national unemployment rate noticeably, those were ambitious, to say the least.


Michigan buried by global warming

Has there ever been a better illustration of the gulf between America's political elites and Middle America?

This weekend, a delegation to the United Nation's Climate Summit in the resort city of Cancun, Mexico that included Washington negotiators, Michigan faculty, and Ann Arbor students returned to declare that they had come to an agreement to transfer $100 billion — that's BILLION — to Third World countries to combat catastrophic global warming. The announcement came as a brutal winter snowstorm buried the Midwest in record snowdrifts that collapsed the Minneapolis Metrodome, drove temperatures to record lows in the south, and killed five people in the Metro Detroit area.

How many people has global warming killed?

Despite last year's Climategate scandal that have gutted climate science credibility, the United States increased funding three-fold in 2010 to a staggering $1.7 billion-a-year to fight the phantom global warming scare at a time when the country's federal and state budgets are hobbled by a loss of revenue from the Great Recession.

Is global warming a greater threat than state bankruptcy?

While the Cancun delegation studied the diversion of another $100 billion in tax dollars to the help Third World governments build windmills, local Michigan governments like Oakland County cut its snow and salt crews by a third to meet budget — crews that were sorely missing Monday morning as semi-trucks jackknifed on slick roads, clotting roadways and forcing backup for miles.

Is global warming a greater threat than road safety?

In Atlanta last week, hundreds of poor residents shivered in line for home-heating assistance as the mercury in southern Georgia plunged into the '20s. Indeed, Cancun itself greeted its warming saviors with record low temperatures while climate delegates met amidst hotels full of resort vacationers honked off by 50-degree temperatures. This is madness.

The University of Michigan sent 30 professors, students, and alumni to the Cancun Summit. "Rather than only learning in the classroom about the most complex and contentious environmental negotiations that we have ever faced, the students will get a first-hand look at how such an international treaty is worked out," said Andrew Hoffman, a professor in the School of Natural Resources and the Environment. Freezing, overtaxed Michigan voters may wonder whether if this is the best use of their U-M subsidy dollars.

"Last year, the masses in Copenhagen were alive with the idealistic belief that a solution to climate change was at hand. This year, the masses in Cancun are alert to the nearest bar with a deal on margaritas," sniffed one U-M student in Cancun about the vacationers around him. "Now don't get me wrong, I have nothing against tanned bikini clad bodies or margaritas. At the same time, it does give one pause when the vast majority of people just outside the conference walls are oblivious to the debate which could have a drastic impact not only on their own lives but the lives of future generations."

Maybe these students would have learned more helping "the masses" in a Detroit warming center where large numbers of homeless are expected this year in the midst of a down Detroit economy.

While The Detroit News reports that "extreme temperatures" this winter will see an overflow of families to Detroit warming centers, Gov. Jennifer Granholm is celebrating the forced purchase of wind power — to fight global warming — by DTE in order to meet state alternative energy mandates. The expensive mandates will suck more money from Michigan ratepayers. The governor applauded the deal as Lansing has experienced record snowfall and record low temperatures this decade.

It is hard to square the rhetoric of Cancun with the reality of Detroit's streets. U-M might expose its students to climatologist Pat Michaels who explains that even Cancun's goal of an 80 percent carbon reduction by 2050 would have minimal effect on global temperatures. Or that diverting $100 million from the economic engines like the U.S. to create green utopias will increase poverty.

Instead, students get green mythology. "We hope to participate actively while in Cancun, as well as share our experiences with our community upon return," said one Mexico-bound U-M student. More likely, she'll be sharing experiences of slip-sliding across an iced-over campus in 10-degree temperatures.


Is the ‘Columbo of climate change’ someone who would rather avoid Columbo-like questions?

Russell Cook

When a member of the baby boomer generation like myself sees someone describe environmentalist author Ross Gelbspan as the “Columbo of climate change,” it’s a bit sad that the description is basically lost on the younger generations who probably have no idea who Lieutenant Columbo was. I loved that old ’70s-’80s television series, where viewers routinely saw the guest star’s character commit the “perfect crime,” only to be caught in the sights of homicide detective Columbo, played by Peter Falk. He would always begin asking ordinary questions as a matter of standard police inquiry, but ultimately pestered the criminal with unrelenting sporadic follow-up questions until the crime was exposed. It was priceless to see the pained look on the criminal’s face every time Columbo’s unexpected appearance was followed by his trademark “I don’t mean to bother you, but there’s just one more thing…”

I’m also a bit troubled by the uncontested claim that Gelbspan is any kind of Lt. Columbo. Yes, the book accompanying Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” movie said Gelbspan was “a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who discovered a 1991 coal industry internal memo” with a phrase sounding like a top-down directive for skeptic scientists to deliberately portray global warming as unsettled science. Gelbspan is highly praised in viral form across the internet for his 1997 The Heat is On book, in which this “discovery” supposedly frames skeptic scientists as hopelessly corrupt.

The problem is, literally anyone who undertakes a search at the Pulitzer organization’s web site will soon discover Gelbspan is not listed as a Pulitzer winner.

Kind of makes you want to knock on Gelbspan’s door and say, “Excuse me, sir, sorry to bother you, but about Gore’s claim that you are a Pulitzer winner. It does say that right here in the sleeve of your 1997 book’s dust jacket, and here on the front of your 2004 hardcover book. Were those printing errors?”

The 1991 “reposition global warming as theory rather than fact” memo phrase, shown in red letters full screen in Gore’s movie, got one of the two biggest applause responses when the audience saw the next screen comparing it to prior tobacco industry campaigns’ attempts to say the science was unclear about the harmful effects of smoking. A very convincing one-two punch.

However, a problem arises when anyone does a reasonably good internet search of that phrase. We see in short order (ignoring results from my own recent articles and blogs) that Gelbspan is widely credited with making the phrase famous in his 1997 book, but it is also plain to see he did this after the phrase was published in a 1994 book by Curtis Moore and Alan Miller, and after several newspaper and magazine articles authored by others in 1991, most notably the NY Times.

“Oh, Mr. Gelbspan, I’m glad I found you here today. Forgive me for the intrusion, I know you are a busy man. Just a couple more things are bothering me. I’m trying to make sense of this idea that so many people say you discovered this memo.”

What we also see in various searches of the phrase is a complete lack of any web links to the entire page where the “reposition global warming” phrase can be seen in its complete context, except in my own articles. In fact, of all the web pages proclaiming this phrase to be the smoking gun indictment of skeptic scientists, it’s impossible to even find a single page that makes the effort to show it as a scanned image.

“Good evening, Mr. Gelbspan, I hope I’m not disturbing your dinner, sir, but forgive me, this one question will only take a minute. This 1991 memo that so many talk about…you’d think we’d see it everywhere, where you could read the whole thing top to bottom. You know, sir, it turns out to be so hard to find, and I’ve been wondering why…”

This 1991 memo is even referred to — but not shown — in two of the three major global warming nuisance lawsuits, and a lawyer in one of these two is also a primary one in the Supreme Court case that will decide whether it should move forward.

Then there’s this other problem.

“Mr. Gelbspan! I’m glad I could catch up with you. I’m trying to get a handle on all this, sir, and there’s just one more thing that’s bothering me. Your two books here, it’s fascinating stuff, really scary weather that will happen if we don’t stop global warming. But you’re saying skeptic scientists who claim man is not causing it are paid by coal and oil companies to say that. Well, you do have proof their claims are pure fabrications, where you can trace exact money figures to a specific science conclusions that other scientists can easily disprove… correct? You see, I can’t seem to find any evidence of that in your books…or your lectures…or in any of your articles. You do see the problem here, sir?”

I’m not a police detective, nor do I play one on TV. All I am is a semi-retired idiot graphic artist. And I’m not suggesting I’m any kind of Lt. Columbo. What I am suggesting is that the mainstream media has not done enough to question Gelbspan’s accusations.

The theory of man-caused global warming is supported by only two legs, one saying the consensus of scientific opinion is unimpeachable, and the other proclaiming skeptic scientists should be ignored because they’re corrupt. The skeptic scientists are continually asking tough questions about the first leg. It’s time for professional journalists to start asking pesky questions about the second one, to see whether Ross Gelbspan is the “Columbo” he’s said to be, or is someone who would rather avoid Columbo-like questions.



For more postings from me, see DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, 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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