Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Another skeptical Greenie

By Peter Taylor, author of "CHILL"

Let me first defend my qualifications. I am a professional ecologist with published peer-reviewed papers on pollution issues, atmospheric dispersion, oceanic models and environmental impact assessment. I have critiqued computer models of both atmospheric and oceanic dispersion of pollutants (as well as running such models myself) and I have published a major review of the UN’s previous system of ‘dilute and disperse’ regulatory mechanisms based on computer models and environmental prediction – work that paved the way to legal reform at the UN and the introduction of the Precautionary Principle and Clean Production Strategies.

I detail this history in a chapter in my book and outline why I think it places me in a unique position to comment on the UN’s summary of the science. I cite 20 of my own papers and consultants reports, half of which are in peer-reviewed journals.

In all of that work I managed a multi-disciplinary team of natural scientists, engineers and sociologists. I have extensive experience of how panels, committees and institutions deal with complex science and most especially where large investments are made by the science community and major policy decisions by government and industry follow the scientific recommendations. In all of this time – over 30 years, I have come to know all the tricks, and for a great deal of that time, my research group in Oxford was funded largely by Greenpeace to expose those tricks and defend ‘the environment’. My group was also (eventually) taken on by our own government, the EU and the UN to advise on how to put things right...

As you know from my work on integrating renewable energy into the landscape, I accepted the standard model of CO2 impact up until about 2003. I had no reason to doubt it – presuming as everyone does that the greenhouse effect was ‘basic physics’.

I always regarded the modelling of impacts – especially regionally, as problematic, but assumed the atmospheric physics was simple science (it isn’t).

One of my former colleagues – Jackson Davis, professor of marine biology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, with whom I worked on marine pollution policy at the UN, went on to work with the Framework Climate Convention and the IPCC, and drafted the Kyoto Protocol.

Naturally, when I first reviewed the science and the IPCC reports, I sent him a draft of my work – and as you know, he endorsed the book.

I have not claimed to be a ‘climate scientist’ – the press do that, of course. But what constitutes a ‘climate scientist’ anyway? The chair of the IPCC is a railway engineer by profession! I have met computer specialists who qualify as climate scientists but who are little more than mathematicians with very limited knowledge or understanding of ecosystems. Likewise, there are atmospheric physicists who know nothing of the oceans, and oceanographers who know nothing of solar cycles (despite a wealth of oceanographic literature linking solar cycles to ocean temperatures), and vice versa.

The world of science is full of specialists and there are very few generalists. Almost nobody has the time to do what I did and spend three years reading the peer-reviewed literature across all the disciplines. Not even the Chair of IPCC.

So – in my defence, I have no qualms about wading in – indeed, I think I am well qualified to do so. Since writing the book I have visited climate labs in the USA and talked with people here – I have been received with respect and discussions have gone into great depth. Also, the first review of Chill has appeared in a climate journal, the Holocene – reviewed alongside Sir John Houghton’s updated classic on the issue (he is former chair and founder of IPCC) – and the reviewer concludes both books should be essential reading for any student of the topic. I actually have four outstanding requests to publish in peer-reviewed science journals on the climate issue – few people appreciate how much time it takes to prepare a paper to that standard of scholarship, and that it is a cost that has to be borne by the writer (academics do not have this problem!).

That said – I also need to point out that contrary to perceptions, I am not in major disagreement with the IPCC’s findings. You have to distinguish between the summary and press comment, and the actual working groups and the careful language they used.

We can all agree that the world has warmed during the 20th century. The question is whether that would have happened as part of a natural cycle, or whether it is mainly driven by carbon emissions. Contrary to perceptions, the IPCC infers that it is mainly due to carbon because the Panel’s understanding of natural cycles is very low and because the models do predict the warming that has been observed. In their key statement they say: the observed warming is unlikely to be due to known natural causes acting alone (my emphasis). They are well aware that other factors may be at play – in particular the relation of the solar magnetic cycle and the flux of radiation to the oceans. In my analysis of their work I conclude that the Panel is heavily weighted toward computer modellers and physicists and under-represented by palaeoecologists with a deeper understanding of cycles.

This argument forms the basis of my book – which is a summary of the arguments based upon the peer-reviewed literature (something I feel well-qualified to do) and where I conclude that recent evidence shows that the IPCC has erred and is reluctant to admit its error. I will go into more detail in the next posting on why I think this is the case and why recent changes in the climate and new publications confirm my view that the majority of the warming is natural and that we may be heading for significant cooling (as noted in last week’s New Scientist – ‘What’s wrong with the Sun’).

This conclusion has huge implications for policy. It means that if we achieve 50% emissions reduction (globally a very big ask) we will be dealing with such a small proportion of the driving force that it will have no significant effect on what the climate does. We should therefore focus on a policy of adaptation not mitigation. And yes, there are other reasons to wean ourselves off fossil fuels – but we can do that with greater regard for other objectives in sustainability, such as community, biodiversity and landscape.


Sun spot numbers running backward

Just when it looked like Cycle 24 was going to take off the sunspot numbers turned around and started declining. As some scientist have finally concluded we really do not know what is happening on the sun.

In the past, disappearing sun spots has been a precursor to long term periods of colder winters and summers. The Dalton Minimum was the most recent period from 1790 to 1830, weather stations experienced an average drop of 2.0C for 20 years. The Maunder Minimum was also a prolonged period of minimum sunspots from about 1645 to 1715, a period know as the Little Ice Age, during which Europe and North America were subjected to bitterly cold winters. Some years, rivers remained frozen well into summer.

The exact mechanism for the cooling is not know, but the historical records show that fewer spots leads to a colder climate. The current sunspots trends could indicate some long term cooling is on the horizon if history is a valid indicator.

There is some irony here, Mother Nature is turning down the earths thermostat and our government is setting in motion programs and legislation that will take control of our thermostats, all to stop the earth from warming from CO2 emissions. Either way, there are long term economic impacts. Stay tuned.


Some more of that pesky history

No wonder the Green/Left hate history and do their best to ignore it

This is the second sentence taken from the position statement at the Schools' Low Carbon Day site, part of their justification for wanting to worry schoolchildren about the climate: "Without very significant action, temperature changes of at least 2°C, and possibly 3°C or 4°C are expected to happen by the end of this century."

Why would anyone believe this? The first, and most superficial, reason is that most of us rely on newspapers, magazines, and TV for information on climate. We have recently been faced with scary stories about global warming, later modified to the general-purpose, timeless, and incontrovertible 'climate change'. This sleight of hand allowed whatever natural disasters took place (floods, blizzards, hurricanes, etc) to be blamed on fossil fuels, while still retaining the same underlying threat of scary hotness to come.

This is not new. It is merely the media exercising its preference for bad news over good. Here are some media nuggets from the past, alongside the temperature trends for the time:

1) Cooling: approx. 1885 - 1915.

'Prof. Schmidt Warns Us of an Encroaching Ice Age.' New York Times, October, 1912.

2) Warming: approx. 1915 - 1945.

'Next Great Deluge Forecast by Science: Melting Polar Ice Caps to Raise the Level of the Seas and Flood the Continents.' New York Times, 15 May, 1932.

3) Cooling: approx. 1945 - 1975.

'The threat of a new ice age must now stand alongside nuclear war as a likely source of wholesale death and misery for mankind.' Nigel Calder, International Wildlife Magazine, 1975.

4) Warming: approx. 1975 - 2005.

'Scientists no longer doubt that global warming is happening, and almost nobody questions the fact that humans are at least partly responsible.' Time Magazine, 09 April, 2001.

5) Cooling next? The headlines have already started:

'The Mini Ice Age Starts Here: The bitter winter afflicting much of the Northern Hemisphere is only the start of a global trend towards cooler weather that is likely to last for 20 or 30 years, say some of the world’s most eminent climate scientists.' Daily Mail, 10 Jan, 2010.

How can we get these short-term trends into perspective?
At any time at any location on the planet, it will either be warming on average or cooling on average, depending on the period of time and/or the spatial area the averaging is taken over. Average your temperatures over a few years, and you have one trend, average over a few hundred years, you have another, over a few thousand, another still. So it is a messy business.

And to make matters worse, we have no temperature records at all except for the most recent centuries. A lack of thermometers, and earlier still, a lack of humans, over most of the life of the planet means that we guess at past temperatures using proxies, such as tree-rings (since one of many things influencing tree growth is temperature), isotope ratios in ice cores (since this ratio depends on the air temperature at the time of capture), and numerous other items such as fossils or pollen found in earth cores (since it may be possible to tie some of them to temperature bounds). Ancient documents and carvings permit speculation about harvest times, and major weather-related events such as floods and droughts. Archeological digs reveal details about diets and buildings, and geological explorations reveal previous sea levels, and the movements of continents.

On the really big picture, covering millions of years, we know (or think we do) that the planet was mostly ice-free at the poles. The relatively short periods when there are 'permanent' icecaps are known as Ice Ages. We are in one right now.

During Ice Ages, which can last many hundreds of thousands of years, there are warm spells known as Interglacial Periods, or just Interglacials.

During these interglacials, the ice cover disappears every summer in the temperature zones, such as most of North America, and Northern Europe. We humans thrive in such areas during interglacials, since we can grow crops, and not be displaced by inconvenient ice sheets. There is some evidence that the previous interglacial was warmer than our one (7).

Let us now home-in on the last 5,000 years:

We can see that on this big picture, we are in a cooling trend in what may well be near the end of our interglacial period. Superimposed on this trend, are many appreciable excursions, many of which are associated with clear effects on human settlements and civilisations.

Now let us home in on the past 1000 years or so. The global Medieval Warm Period and the Little Ice Age are shown clearly on the temperature reconstruction used by the IPCC in 1990-2001.

There are hundreds of studies of the Medieval Warm Period showing up in many places across the globe - see Jo Nova's report here (9). However, it was not politically convenient for the IPCC to have such a period warmer than our own. In 2001-2003, they replaced it with the infamous 'hockey-stick' plot also shown in the diagram below, in blue. The dismal story of how this artefact was created and jealously guarded for years, is vividly told in Montford's book, The Hockey Stick Illusion (10). It is not an edifying tale, but it is well worth reading for insight into the unscientific attitudes and methods of the small core of alarmists whose temperature reconstructions were so gratefully adopted by the IPCC.

We have been on a gentle warming trend pulling out of the Little Ice Age in the 19th and 20th centuries at overall rates of around 0.6 to 0.7C per century in estimated global average temperature, with shorter-term periods of more rapid warming, or of cooling, superimposed in approximately 30-year long spells. These can be seen on the next graphic, constructed using Hadley Centre data (12) to demonstrate the striking similarity in warming/cooling cycles in the 19th and 20th centuries, despite, of course, the large differences in ambient CO2 levels between them.

But what of real temperatures, as opposed to reconstructions or constructed 'global averages'? The longest temperature record using thermometers is the Central England Temperature (CET) set, which extends back to the 17th century. The Czech physicist Lubos Motl has stepped through this set year by year, calculating the overall temperature trend for the previous 30 years at each step (13). He found nothing unusual about these trends in the 20th century:

'In the late 17th and early 18th century, there was clearly a much longer period when the 30-year trends were higher than the recent ones. There is nothing exceptional about the recent era.

You see, the early 18th century actually wins: even when you calculate the trends over the "sufficient" 30 years, the trend was faster than it is in the most recent 30 years. By the way, the most recent 1980-2009 tri-decade didn't get to the top 10 results at all; if you care, it was at the 13th place. You can also see that the local trends are substantially faster than the global trends: that's because the global variations are reduced by the averaging over the globe.

This helps confirm that nothing at all unusual has been observed in temperatures in modern times. Nothing unusual. Nothing untoward. Nothing to get alarmed about. The same is true of other climate measures such as rainfall, storm intensities and frequencies, sea surface temperatures, and polar ice fluctuations. The alarms of the alarmists are going off only in their computers, and not in the world outside.

So what can we say about the future? If we naively project the cooling/warming cycles alone, we can expect a cooling phase for the next 20 to 30 years or so, superimposed on a continuing slow warming.

More HERE (See the original for links, graphics etc.)

Obama's "Green" policies killing American jobs already

Up to 1,000 jobs at Bucyrus International Inc. and its suppliers could be in jeopardy as the result of a decision by the U.S. Export-Import Bank, funded by Congress, to deny several hundred million dollars in loan guarantees to a coal-fired power plant and mine in India.

About 300 of those jobs are at the Bucyrus plant in South Milwaukee, where the company has 1,410 employees and its headquarters. The remaining jobs are spread across 13 states, including Illinois, Minnesota and Indiana.

On Thursday, the Export-Import Bank denied financing for Reliance Power Ltd., an Indian power plant company, effectively wiping out about $600 million in coal mining equipment sales for Bucyrus, chief executive Tim Sullivan said.

The fossil fuel project was the first to come before the government-run bank since it adopted a climate-change policy to settle a lawsuit and to meet Obama administration directives.

"President Obama has made clear his administration's commitment to transition away from high-carbon investments and toward a cleaner-energy future," Export-Import Bank Chairman Fred Hochberg said in a statement. "After careful deliberation, the Export-Import Bank board voted not to proceed with this project because of the projected adverse environmental impact."

The bank's decision is puzzling, Sullivan said, because the power plant will meet international standards and the bank's environmental criteria.

The plant is under construction in Sasan, central India, and is scheduled to be up and running in 2012. Coal mining will take place for the plant whether it's done with Bucyrus machines or equipment from China and Belarus, Sullivan said.

"Unless the Obama administration jumps all over this and corrects a wrong fairly quickly, I am confident this business is going elsewhere," Sullivan told the Journal Sentinel on Saturday. "The bank's decision has had no impact on global carbon emissions but has cost the U.S. nearly 1,000 jobs," he added.

The Export-Import Bank would not elaborate on the board's 2-1 vote - including Hochberg's - to deny the loan guarantees.

The U.S. State and Treasury departments recommended against making the loan guarantees. Neither agency could be reached for comment Saturday.

Political backlash

Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle and Sen. Herb Kohl, Republican Rep. Paul Ryan and Mayor Tom Barrett, the Democratic candidate for governor, voiced their objections to the Export-Import Bank decision, which may be irreversible since there isn't an appeals process.

Doyle said he met with Hochberg to stress the importance of the mining equipment sale, which was contingent on the loan guarantees, for sustaining jobs here.

"I was absolutely stunned by their decision. It was the most shortsighted, unconscionable decision you could imagine, and I can't see any justification for it," the governor said.

Doyle said he hopes the bank's decision can be reversed before India turns to China or Belarus for mining equipment.

The decision could set a precedent that would keep other nations from buying U.S. mining equipment, especially since China offers discount financing on machines built there, which puts the U.S. at a competitive disadvantage.

"My discussions with the bank chairman were hardly confidence-building," Doyle said. "They really could not justify their decision except somehow, somebody told them that if the word coal is anywhere in a plan, then they can't move forward with it."

Obama is scheduled to be in Racine on Wednesday. Doyle said he wants to meet with the president and urge him to ask the Export-Import Bank to reconsider its decision. "I am a green-energy guy," Doyle said. "But I also understand that we need coal as a major source of energy. What that means is, we need to develop and support the technologies and businesses that are involved in the production of energy from clean coal. Bucyrus is one of those businesses."

Barrett, too, said he would press the issue with Obama.


Goose Eigg

Reality is a hard taskmaster

The Isle of Eigg off the west coast of Scotland was hailed as the green future, when islanders installed a solar, wind and hydroelectric power solution to power their homes. All renewables, all the time. The green energy wet dream in action. When Eigg won a share in a £1 million prize in January for its devotion to green, the judges declared:
Good Energy CEO Juliet is vice chair of the judging panel that decided that Eigg, which reduced its CO2 emissions by 32% in a year, deserved a share in the top prize money. Here’s why: The day-to-day life on a small Hebridean island lashed by the Atlantic Ocean may present its own challenges, but the extreme weather makes it an ideal place to harness the elements and generate renewable power.

So how’s that working out, exactly? Not so well: Power rationed on ‘green island’ Eigg:
Weeks of what passes for heatwave conditions in the Inner Hebrides have caused water levels on the island’s three main burns to drop uncharacteristically low, cutting off the island’s hydroelectricity supply. The normally powerful Atlantic gusts in the tiny island south of Skye have also reduced to a pleasant breeze leaving the island’s wind turbines idle for hours on end.

Green energy is great, as long as you don’t mind going without power when the weather doesn’t cooperate. If Eigg was touted as the ideal place for renewable power and it doesn’t work, what hope is there for the rest of the world’s renewables efforts?

UPDATE: The UK mainland has the same reality to deal with as energy from renewables dropped 7.5%. Try selling more bird shredder farms on the back of that performance.


Reality is a hard taskmaster for Britain as a whole too

A mournful report frpm The Guardian below

Britain's renewable energy revolution suffered an abrupt setback this winter when the power supplied from wind, hydro and other "clean" sources fell, despite years of promises and policies to end the nation's dependence on fossil fuels and slash global warming pollution, the Guardian can reveal.

The news comes as the government will tomorrow unveil a major report (pdf) into how it will pay for the hundreds of billions of new spending needed to meet the UK's targets for renewable energy and cutting climate change emissions by setting up a new Green Investment Bank (GIB).

Figures from the Department of Energy and Climate Change (pdf) show that the proportion of electricity supplied from renewable sources such as wind and hydro power fell 7.5% in the first three months of this year compared to 2009.

The drop was officially blamed mostly on a dry winter, which reduced power from water turbines, and low wind speeds, leading to the lowest absolute supply from those two sectors for four winters – as far back as the DECC figures recorded.

Experts also expressed concern that renewable energy could also have suffered from a hiatus in investment and from competition from cheap gas from overseas, as the government figures showed the UK became a net importer of gas for the first time in more than 40 years in January to March.

The latest renewable energy figures will be seized by critics and other experts who have long argued that the UK needs fewer reports and targets and more action to support and fund the long-promised low carbon transformation....

The Green Investment Bank Commission, set up by Chancellor George Osborne while the Conservative party was in opposition, is expected to recommend a bonfire of green business quangos, whose more than £2bn a year in grants could be used to fund the bank.

It also wants an estimated £40bn from sale of permits to pollute under the European trading scheme from 2012 to 2020 to be ringfenced to support the drive to decarbonise Britain's economy.

Pension funds, other institutional investors and even ordinary savers would also be offered a chance to contribute to the low-carbon revolution by buying green bonds and green individual savings accounts, under the plans.

The coalition government has said it will publish details of the new bank after the autumn spending review.

The DECC Energy Statistics for the first quarter of 2010 show renewable electricity fell from 6.7% to 6.2% of total supply. Supply from coal power also fell, while nuclear and gas generation increased, bringing the total electricity supply up slightly, by 1.1%, although consumption of electricity fell fractionally. Total energy consumption, including heating, fell by 1.1%.

RenewableUK, the industry lobby group, said the ongoing increase in wind power would reduce problems from relying on hydro schemes as climate change was expected to bring an era of less reliable rainfall.

However Sir David King, the government's former chief scientist and director of the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment at Oxford University, said the figures highlighted the need for new nuclear generators to help cut emissions and keep power supplies reliable. "We can't rely too heavily on wind because it always requires a gas-fired turbine to be able to be switched on to provide alternative energy," he said. [With rare realism]



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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

American Physicist Joins Attack on Global Warming Theory

Another well-qualified voice is added to the growing dissent in debunking the discredited greenhouse gas theory

Dr. Charles R. Anderson makes his announcement on his website (June 28, 2010) in joining a growing band of professional scientists, international academics and climate experts prepared to put their reputations on the line and denounce the orthodox views held by an influential clique of discredited government climatologists.

The catalyst for the sudden willingness to speak out against the once widely accepted theory of global warming may be an impressive new online publication, ‘A Greenhouse Effect on the Moon?’ by Dr. Martin Hertzberg, Alan Siddons and Hans Schreuder.

The controversial paper refutes the greenhouse effect (GHG) by showing that by properly testing the theory it can just as easily be ‘proven’ that the Moon also exhibits a greenhouse effect: a nonsense proposition that discredits the entire hypothesis.

NASA Refuses to Reveal Secret Data

Anderson writes, “Despite the fact that NASA scientists are among the foremost promoters of catastrophic global warming due to man's use of fossil fuels and carbon dioxide emissions, NASA scientists have long known that the moon exhibits a warming effect which is similar to the effect which on Earth is said to be due to greenhouse gases.”

Like others who now dispute the GHG theory Anderson berates the secrecy that has kept so much of the data under wraps. NASA is currently facing court action for refusing to disclose its data to independent analysts seeking to check the validity of its global warming claims.

SOURCE (See the original for links)

Global Warming and Peer Review

A note from an unusual Leftist below

A continuing theme of this blog is going to be the nature of peer review and how it is not at all the reliable source of information on alleged global warming that leftists think it is. There are many avenues to explore in connection with this issue, but for now I simply want to quote a statement from the Chronicle of Higher Education for June 18th of this year (page A80). The quote is from a piece entitled, “We Must Stop the Avalanche of Low-Quality Research,” by Mark Bauerlein, Mohamed Gad-El-Hak, Wayne Grody, Bill McKelvey, and Stanley W. Trimble. Here is the quote:

“Experts asked to evaluate manuscripts, results, and promotion files give them less-careful scrutiny or pass the burden along to other, less-competent peers. We all know busy professors who ask Ph.D. students to do their reviewing for them. Questionable work finds its way more easily through the review process and enters into the domain of knowledge.... Aspiring researchers are turned into publish-or-perish entrepreneurs, often becoming more less cynical about the higher ideals of the pursuit of knowledge. They fashion pathways to speedier publication, cutting corners on methodology and turning to politicking and fawning strategies for acceptance.

“Such outcomes run squarely against the goals of scientific inquiry. The surest guarantee of integrity, peer review, falls under a debilitating crush of findings, for peer review can handle only so much material without breaking down. More isn’t better. At some point, quality gives way to quantity.

“Academic publication has passed that point in most, if not all disciplines – in some fields by a long shot.”

This is from an article that has nothing to do with global warming or climate science. It is simply talking about the state of academic publication these days, and it finds that state far from ideal. It nevertheless bears on global warming because everyone who believes in global warming talks about how reliable the science behind it is, and to prove it is reliable they point to peer review. But why believe that peer review is reliable? This quotation suggests it is not.


Acknowledging Recent Natural Cooling

In a paper entitled "A strong bout of natural cooling in 2008," which was published in Geophysical Research Letters, Perlwitz et al. (2009) recount some interesting facts about which many climate alarmists would rather the public remained unaware, including the fact that there was, in Perlwitz et al.'s words, "a precipitous drop in North American temperature in 2008, commingled with a decade-long fall in global mean temperatures."

Perlwitz et al. begin their narrative by noting that there has been "a decade-long decline (1998-2007) in globally averaged temperatures from the record heat of 1998," citing Easterling and Wehner (2009). And in further describing this phenomenon, they say that U.S. temperatures in 2008 "not only declined from near-record warmth of prior years, but were in fact colder than the official 30-year reference climatology (-0.2°C versus the 1971-2000 mean) and further were the coldest since at least 1996."

With respect to the geographical origin of this "natural cooling," as they describe it, the five researchers point to "a widespread coolness of the tropical-wide oceans and the northeastern Pacific," focusing on the Niño 4 region, where they report that "anomalies of about -1.1°C suggest a condition colder than any in the instrumental record since 1871."

So, pushing the cause of the global and U.S. coolings that sparked their original interest back another link in the chain which -- in their estimation -- connects them with other more primary phenomena, they ask themselves what caused these latter anomalous and significant oceanic coolings?

Perlwitz et al. first discount volcanic eruptions, because they say "there were no significant volcanic events in the last few years." Secondly, they write that solar forcing "is also unlikely," because its radiative magnitude is considered to be too weak to elicit such a response. And these two castaway causes thus leave them with "coupled ocean-atmosphere-land variability" as what they consider to be the "most likely" cause of the anomalous coolings.

In regard to these three points, we agree with the first. With respect to Perlwitz et al.'s dismissal of solar forcing, however, we note that the jury is still out with respect to the interaction of the solar wind with the influx of cosmic rays to earth's atmosphere and their subsequent impact on cloud formation, which may yet prove to be substantial. And with respect to their final point, we note that the suite of real-world ocean-atmosphere-land interactions is highly complex and also not fully understood. Indeed, there may even be important phenomena operating within this realm of which the entire scientific community is ignorant. And some of those phenomena may well be strong enough to totally compensate for anthropogenic-induced increases in greenhouse gas emissions, so that other natural phenomena end up dictating the ever-changing state of earth's climate, as could well be what has been happening over the last decade or more.

In light of these considerations, therefore, as well as the substantial strength and longevity of the planet's current cooling phase, the path of wisdom would seem to us to be to wait and see what happens next, in the unfolding biogeophysical drama of earth's ever-changing climatic path to the future, before we undertake to attempt to change what we clearly do not fully comprehend.


New Study: CO2 only rose after ice age ended, not before; global wind-shift to blame

A global shift in winds is what led to the end of Earth’s last ice age— an event that ushered in a warmer climate and the birth of human civilization. It is believed that, in the geological blink of an eye, ice sheets in the northern hemisphere began to collapse and warming spread quickly to the south.

Most scientists say that the trigger, at least initially, was an orbital shift that caused more sunlight to fall across Earth's northern half. But they could not explain how the south dealt with the shift so fast.

And now a team of researchers looked for an answer towards a global shift in winds and proposed a chain of events that began with the melting of the large northern hemisphere ice sheets about 20,000 years ago.

The melting ice sheets reconfigured the planet's wind belts, pushing warm air and seawater south, and pulling carbon dioxide from the deep ocean into the atmosphere, allowing the planet to heat even further.

Their hypothesis makes use of climate data preserved in cave formations, polar ice cores and deep-sea sediments to describe how Earth finally thawed out. "This paper pulls together several recent studies to explain how warming triggered in the north moves to the south, ending an ice age," said study co-author Bob Anderson, a geochemist at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

"Finally, we have a clear picture of the global teleconnections in Earth's climate system that are active across many time scales. These same linkages that brought the earth out of the last ice age are active today, and they will almost certainly play a role in future climate change as well,” he added.

"It's the great global warming of all time. We're trying to answer the puzzle: why does the Earth, when it appears so firmly in the grip of an ice age, start to warm?" said the study's lead author, George Denton, a glaciologist at the University of Maine.

Scientists have long suspected that carbon dioxide played a major role in the last ice age but have had trouble explaining the early warming in the southern hemisphere, where glaciers in Patagonia and New Zealand were melting before carbon dioxide levels rose significantly.

Some scientists suggest that a change in ocean currents, triggered by the freshening of the North Atlantic, caused this early warming.

But computer models using ocean circulation to explain the rapid warming in the south have been unable to recreate the large temperature jumps seen in the paleoclimate record.

Now, with the evidence for shifting southern hemisphere westerlies, the rapid warming is readily explained.

The study has been published in the journal Science.


BBC up to its old tricks

Let’s just remind ourselves, shall we, why the BBC is constitutionally incapable of reporting on global warming in a fair, balanced or indeed honest way. On 26 January 2006, the BBC’s not-notably-sceptical Environment Analyst Roger Harrabin organised a conference at BBC TV Centre called Climate Change – The Challenge To Broadcasting.

Perhaps it should really have been called The Challenge To Impartiality. It was co-hosted by the director of television Jana Bennett, the director of news Helen Boaden and held under the auspices of the BBC and two environmental lobby groups – The International Broadcasting Trust and the Cambridge Media and Environment Programme. The keynote speaker was the fanatically warmist ex-Royal Society President, Robert May, who proceded to assure the audience of around 30 key BBC staff and 30 invited guests, most of them environmental activists, that – as Bob Carter puts it in his superb Climate: The Counter Consensus – “the science supporting global warming was so certain that it was the BBC’s public duty to cease providing airtime to alternative viewpoints.” The BBC has been hideously biased in its coverage of AGW ever since.

Tonight’s Panorama is a case in point. Here is a blog by the programme’s producer Mike Rudin describing the piece of glib Warmist propaganda he is foisting on the licence-fee paying public this evening. See if you can spot the weaselry in this summing-up paragraph:
There is genuine uncertainty and disagreement about the exact scale and speed of human-induced global warming and crucially what we should do about it. But I was surprised to find how much agreement there is on the fundamental science.

Yep, what Rudin is trying to do is revive Al Gore’s discredited idea that there is a “Consensus” on global warming.

And here’s the cheaty way he goes about demonstrating it. He sends his reporter Tom Heap out to solicit the views of various “experts” with a chart called a Wall of Uncertainty.

(Top Gear may have its “Cool Wall”, but we have built a “Wall of Certainty” – Rudin confides to readers of his blog, showing this isn’t just a serious programme. It’s FUN too).

The expert panel is pretty evenly balanced. For the Warmists Professor Bob Watson, Bob Ward of the Grantham Institute. For the sceptics, Bjorn Lomborg and Professor John Christy at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. What Lomborg and Christy don’t appreciate until its far too late – ’twas ever thus with the BBC – is that the entire exercise is a total stitch up. They are there to give the illusion that all sides are being consulted. But note how loaded are the questions which they are asked:

“How certain are you that mankind is warming the climate?”

“How certain are you that C02 and the other things are greenhouse gases?”

“How certain are you that we are emitting more CO2 which is one of the greenhouse gases?”

Naturally the answer to all these questions, even from the most ardent sceptic Christy, is a “very.” That’s because there’s really no other honest answer to any of them.

But what does this prove? Absolutely nothing other than that on the subject of climate change, you’d be better off sticking your hand in a bag of amphetamine-injected rattlesnakes and hope not to be bitten than you would trusting the BBC.

This disgraceful programme – and you should be ashamed Jeremy Vine, for giving it your imprimatur by introducing such dross – quite deliberately misrepresents the sceptic position using a Straw Man argument, before drawing conclusions about the state of the AGW which are entirely dishonest. Here is what Rudin thinks the programme means:
Contrary to some of the newspaper headlines and blogs that suggest all global warming science is a con, they agreed that mankind is causing the planet to warm up.

Note that use of the straw man again. NOBODY believes that “all global warming science is a con.” NO ONE. Because if they did, when you think about it, that would mean discounting the expertise of climate scientists like Richard Lindzen and Fred Singer, which obviously no climate sceptic is ever likely to do being as they are trusted, revered gurus of the climate realist movement.


Hockey Stick Science

From economist Eric Falkenstein

A.W. Mortford has a book out titled The Hockey Stick Illusion. It highlights how modern science is done (I read its 400+ pages in two days because it was fascinating). The main issues are not abstruse statistics, but rather detailed, parochial empirical issues.

Recent warming only seems alarming if recent temperatures are outside of normal historical fluctuations. As the medieval warming period when Vikings settled Greenland was obviously very warm, at least in Greenland, one might think that current temps are not that alarming. Thus, in 1998, when Michael E. Mann, Bradley and Hughes published a paper documenting that current temperatures are many standard deviations of their average since at least 1000 AD, it became the signature graph for the Global Warming Community.

Tree rings, or isotopic composition of ice cores (the ratio of 18O to 16O) and other things are related to temperature, and these are the types of things used to estimate temperature prior to 1880. As the 20th century temperature increase that has everyone worried is only 0.6 degree centigrade, one needs some serious precision to claim that temperatures in the past 1000 years did not vary above this level. There's no fundamental law that related tree rings or oxygen isotopes to temperature, these things just have an imprecise theory and some empirical support, but it's not calibrated like some calorimeter. To think you can know the temperature in 1100 with the kind of accuracy that Mann et al present is really absurd.

The problem is there are many temperature proxies, various tree rings, ice cores, all with different results (over 400 of them). Mann et al eventually used 112 (or 159) of them for their paper, which allows for a lot of cherry picking. Further, some series are truncated, some extrapolated, using seemingly innocuous phrases like "if records terminate slightly before the 1980 training interval, they are extended by persistence". That's one bizarre way to treat missing data. They also extrapolated certain time series that did not start or end at convenient times, all with a bias towards their end ('We have to get rid of the Medieval Warm Period' said one infamous email).

There's lots of fun data issues and rhetorical strategy presented in this book that highlights how real science is done. You have two sides with pretty strong end-views--global warming is unprecedented, or not--and while both claim to simply be interested in the objective truth, after 10+ years invested in one conclusion it defies credulity to think a researcher can address this question objectively any more. Basically, we have two sets of partisan scientists presenting their case, like paid lawyers.

As David Goodstein notes in his recent book On Fact and Fraud: Cautionary Tales from the Front Lines of Science, a great quote from the great Richard Feynman: "The first principle is that you must not fool yourself —and you are the easiest person to fool.... After you’ve not fooled yourself, it’s easy not to fool other scientists. You just have to be honest in a conventional way after that.”

The winner of this debate will be those who fooled themselves the least. Like a financial economist rigging his backtest, this may generate a publication but in the long run the data are what they are, and its best to have the facts on your side because eventually the facts win. Very few are committing conscious fraud, but rather, fraud of the more common sort, that of where a seemingly innocuous inaccuracy saves tons of explanation in their mind.

As Oscar Wilde noted, education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught. Big debates are usually not centered on not singular facts or theories, but their many observations, knowing which are relevant, which are not. Knowing how to weight correctly is mainly an exercise in meticulous research and wisdom, and it especially helps to have correct or at least popular a priori prejudices.



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


Monday, June 28, 2010

Is there ANY Greenhouse effect at all?

The idea that CO2 has a "greenhouse" (temperature-raising) effect on the earth is increasingly being mocked as violating basic laws of physics. The latest mocker is Claes Johnson, a mathematics professor at the Kungliga Tekniska högskolan in Sweden. (Kungliga Tekniska högskolan translates as Royal Institute of Technology. KTH is one of Sweden's most distinguished universities). See below

AGW Myth of Back Radiation

AGW alarmism is based on an idea of "back radiation" or "re-radiation" from an atmosphere with greenhouse gases, but the physics of this phenomenon remains unclear.

To test if "back radiation" is a real phenomenon, we suggest the following experiment: On a night with moon-light so feeble that you can cannot read a newspaper, place yourself in front of a mirror letting the moonlight reflect from the newspaper to the mirror and back again, and check if you can now read. You will probably find that the paper is still unreadable, as if "back radiation" does not give more light.

To give this experiment theoretical support we consider the mathematics of wave propagation from a source at x=0 (Earth surface) to a receiver at x=1 (atmospheric layer) described by the wave equation (as a model of Maxwell's equations describing light as electromagnetic waves):

U_tt - U_xx = 0 for x in the interval (0,1)

with solution U(x,t) being a combination of waves traveling with velocity +1 and -1 along the x-axis, and with subindices indicating differentiation with respect to space x and time t. The boundary condition at the receiver may take the form

AU_t(1,t) + U_x(1,t) =0

with a positive coefficient A signifying:

* A = 0: soft reflection with U_x(1,t) = 0
* A large : hard reflection with U_t(1,t) = 0
* A = 1: no reflection: transparent absorption of all incoming waves at x = 1.

The basic energy balance is obtained by multiplying the wave equation by U_t and integrating
with respect to x to give:

E_t + AU_t(1,t)^2 = -U_x(0,t)U_t(0,t) = Input Energy.

where E(t) is the energy of the wave over the interval (0,1). Assuming that E(t) stays constant so that energy is no accumulating in the interval (0,1), we have that

Output Energy = A U_t(1,t)^2 = Input Energy.

In particular, with soft reflection with A = 0, the Input Energy is also zero. We learn that it is not possible to "pump the system" by reflection at x = 1: If you change from transparency with A = 1 to reflection with A = 0, the system reacts by refusing to accept Input Energy.

Ergo: Reflection/back radiation cannot increase the insolation to the Earth surface.

(Back radiation seeks support in a description of light as a stream of particles proposed by Newton, which was replaced by Maxwell's wave theory in the late 19th century).


What Does The U.S. National Climate Data Center (NCDC) Say About Global Temperatures & "Tipping" Points?

With all the recent talk about the warmest month, the warmest first 5-months of a calendar year, or the warmest calendar year-to-be (maybe), it's probably a good time to review past NCDC global temperature data in a context that goes beyond the extremely short-term periods of 1 month, 5 months or even a calendar year. As a reminder, it's fair to point out that alarmist-profiteers, such as politicians, global warming scientists, celebrities and reporters, want everyone to focus on short-term movements and the fear of "tipping points," and ignore the more critical, longer-term historical context. (click on any image to enlarge)

Global Temp Trends Panel1
Graphs 1A and 1B reveal that global temperatures have been experiencing a modest flat to cooling trend over recent years. Note that chart 1B actually includes the huge spike in temperatures due to nature's super El Niño - even with that impressive spike, global temperatures barely increased at a +0.60°C increase per century. Think about it - that's 13 years of essentially very tepid warming (darn close to being flat) despite all the wild, hotter-than-hell predictions of the likes of John Kerry, Obama, Al Gore and James Hansen. 

Global Temp Trends Panel2
Charts 2A and 2B represent longer-term periods of distinct non-warming and warming periods, per the NCDC data. The great "global-warming" scare is primarily based on the 25 year period ending in 2001 (graph 2B). The temperature increase of a +1.60°C per century trend for that recent period is not even close to being "unprecedented" warming, and is barely different than the warming that is shown in graph 3B. A +1.60°C per century trend is a temperature blip that will absolutely not cause any of the popular catastrophic claims as eagerly publicized by the vast majority of Democrats/leftists/liberals/progressives.

Global Temp Trends Panel3 Above graphs 3A and 3B show the NCDC instrumental temperature record dating back to the late 19th and early 20th century.  Beginning in 1880, there was an extended cooling period. Graph 3B represents the 33 year warming duration that got its start around 1912. In terms of length and overall warming, the 1912-1944 warming is almost identical to the "Great Warming" of 1977-2001. Taking the above temperature data and putting it in a longer NCDC temperature record view, the below graph provides the needed context. 

NCDC Global Temps Since 1880 When all the warming and cooling periods are combined, there has been overall warming of +0.6°C since 1880, which is entirely normal, considering the realism that world temperatures have been on a natural warming trend since the incredible coldness of the Little Ice Age. Even with the large increase of CO2 levels since 1880, the overall warming is nothing extraordinary or dangerous. And just to be clear, the natural cycles of warming and cooling will keep global temperatures from jumping to the ludicrous heights (as the red dots represent on the above chart) that warming alarmist scientists and eco-activists speculate about.
One last graph and note:

NCDC Fabricates Global Warming Did the "Great Warming" of 1977 to 2001 actually occur? All the previous charts are based on the NCDC "adjusted" global temperatures not the raw, original thermometer readings.

As the above chart reveals, the NCDC scientists have made every conceivable effort to adjust more recent temperatures to be warmer, and to make pre-1945 warming cooler. Although it's clear that global warming has taken place, there is a very high likelihood that a significant portion of recent global warming is of a human fabrication. Finally, have real-world temperatures reached a "tipping point"? The real-world facts don't support that hysterical speculation in the least - it's only in a eco-sexual fantasy dream of an Al Gore, and his ilk, where that climax occurs.


Amazongate: the missing evidence (Still missing)

The story of the IPCC’s claims about threats to the Amazon rainforest takes another bizarre turn

Last week the beleaguered global warming lobby was exulting over what it took to be the best news it has had in a long time. A serious allegation, which last January rocked the authority of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, was “corrected” as untrue by The Sunday Times, the newspaper which most prominently reported it. The reputation of the IPCC, it seemed, had been triumphantly vindicated. The growing tide of scepticism over climate change had at last been reversed. But this episode leaves many questions unanswered.

The “correction”, gleefully quoted by everyone from the WWF and The New York Times to The Guardian’s George Monbiot related to what was known as “Amazongate”. This was one of the series of controversies which exploded round the IPCC last winter, when it was shown that many of the high-profile claims made in its 2007 report had been based on material produced by environmental activists and campaigning groups rather than on proper, peer-reviewed scientific evidence.

One example, also reported in The Sunday Telegraph, was the IPCC’s much-publicised claim that climate change, leading to a reduction in rainfall, was threatening the survival of “up to 40 per cent” of the Amazon rainforest. The only source the IPCC could cite for this in its report was a document from the environmental advocacy group WWF. But last week The Sunday Times, in its prominent “correction” to its own story, conceded that the IPCC’s claim was “supported by peer-reviewed scientific evidence” after all. Not identified, however, was the nature of this peer-reviewed evidence. Where is it?

The story of “Amazon-gate” has unfolded through three stages. Step one was the passage in the IPCC report almost identical to one made in a non-peer-reviewed WWF paper of 2000 on forest fires in the Amazon. Specifically the IPCC stated that “up to 40 per cent of the Amazonian forests could react drastically to only a slight reduction in precipitation”. But the only source the WWF in turn had been able to cite to support this was a paper published in Nature in 1999, from a team led by Dr Daniel Nepstad, formerly employed by the WWF but now the “senior scientist” with another advocacy group closely linked to the WWF, the Woods Hole Research Center. Certainly Nepstad’s paper was peer-reviewed: however its subject was not climate change but the impact on the Amazon rainforest of “logging and fire”. It found that “logging companies in Amazonia kill or damage 10-40 per cent of the living biomass of forests”. This had nothing whatever to do with global warming but was cited as the origin of that “up to 40 per cent” figure later used by the WWF and the IPCC.

Step two, when all this was reported last January, was a disclaimer from the WWF, emphasising that its 2000 report did “not say that 40 per cent of the Amazon forest is at risk from climate change”. But it went on to say that the real source for its 2000 paper (which had been “mistakenly omitted”) was another paper, “Fire in the Amazon”. This was also written by Dr Nepstad, as head of yet another advocacy group linked to Woods Hole, the Amazon Environmental Research Institute. Although it was now being suggested that this paper should have been cited as the original source for the IPCC’s claim, it too was not peer-reviewed. Thus, twice over, the IPCC’s claim appears to rest both on non-peer-reviewed science and on studies not related to global warming at all.

So great was the IPCC’s embarrassment over these revelations that the story moved to a third stage. Various scientists, led by Dr Nepstad, suggested further studies which might justify the claim. But an exhaustive trawl through all the scientific literature on this subject by my colleague Dr Richard North (who was responsible for uncovering “Amazongate” in the first place), has been unable to find a single study which confirms the specific claim made by the IPCC’s 2007 report. If one exists we would very much like to see it.

There are several studies based on computer models which attempt to estimate the possible impact of climate change on the Amazon rainforest, but none of these have so far supported that 40 per cent figure. Other researchers in turn have been highly critical of these models, suggesting that they are too crude to replicate the complex workings of the Amazonian climate system and that all observed evidence indicates that the forest is much more resilient to climate fluctuations than the alarmists would have us believe.

Nothing did more to excite attention over the effect of climate change on the rainforest than the exceptional drought of 2005, just when the IPCC’s 2007 report was being compiled. Since then, however, abnormally heavy rainfall in the region has brought disastrous floods to Brazil, both last year and again last week.

In other words there is a real mystery here. Nothing so far made public seems to justify an assertion that the IPCC’s specific claim is “supported by peer-reviewed scientific evidence”. In view of all the controversy this issue has aroused over several months, it might seem odd that, if such evidence exists, it hasn’t been produced before. Is it not now a matter of considerable public interest that we should be told what it is?

AS A PERSONAL footnote to this sorry tale, no one crowed more hysterically over this story last week (or got it more wrong) than The Guardian’s George Monbiot. Inter alia, he accused me and Dr North of having been “responsible for more misinformation than any other living journalists. You could write a book on all the stories they have concocted, almost all of which fall apart on the briefest examination.”

I would remind him that, on the only occasion he tried to do this, boasting that it had taken him just “26 seconds” to catch me out, he was soon forced to apologise to his readers that he had got his point hopelessly wrong, and that I was right. Silly old Moonbat should learn when it is wiser to hold his peace.


The FACTS about the Amazon rainforest

Excerpt from Willis Eschenbach

However, all of this, all of the claims and counterclaims, and the models, and Dr. Lewis’s letter, and the cited scientific documents, all run aground on one ugly fact:

The data shows no change in Amazon rainfall in a century of measurements

Figure 3 shows three different ground-based observational datasets, along with the recent Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) satellite data.

Figure 3. Four Amazon rainfall datasets, covering the rectangular area shown in violet in Fig. 2 (2.5°N–12.5°S, 72.5°W–50°W). Note the generally good agreement between the four datasets (including the TRMM satellite data)

The main feature of this dataset is its stability. Note the lack of any trend over the last century, and the lack of any large excursions in the rainfall. It stays between two and two and a half metres per year. There are no really wet years, and no really dry years. 95% of the years are within ± 10% of the average rainfall. There are individual dry years, but no prolonged periods of drought.

So while Dr. Lewis says (correctly) that rainforest can change to savannah, he is not correct that 40% of the Amazon is at risk from a “slight reduction” in rainfall. More to the point, there is no evidence to indicate that we are headed for a reduction in Amazon rainfall, “slight” or otherwise. That is a fantasy based on climate models.

The reality is that despite the globe warming by half a degree or so over the last century, there has been no change in the Amazon rainfall. As usual, the IPCC is taking the most alarmist position possible … and Dr. Lewis is doing all he can to claim that the IPCC alarmism is actually good science.

Unfortunately for both the IPCC and Dr. Lewis, here at the end of a long, twisted, and rainy jungle trail, we find that the facts inconveniently disagree with their claims.


The modellers have learnt nothing

They are still doing what was recognized as bogus at least 30 years ago

If you gave me the following paper after replacing the author’s examples of econometric and energy models with climate models, I could not have told it had been written in 1981.

Ascher, W. (1981). The forecasting potential of complex models. Policy Sciences, 13(3), 247-267. doi:10.1007/BF00138485

Here are some extracts.

On the contrast between bad performance record and large volume of research:
Unless forecasters are completely ignorant of the performance record, or are attracted solely by the promotional advantages of the scientific aura of modeling, they can only be attracted to its potential benefits not yet realized.

On the difficulty of retrospective evaluation of model performance when there are competing scenarios:
When no scenario is designated as most likely, the scenarios must be regarded as exogenous factors, whose likelihoods are not at issue in the modeling exercise. The model produces a set of projections, each posited as correct if the corresponding condition or scenario were to hold, but without implying that any particular one will hold or that some are more likely than others. In this case, the retrospective evaluation of forecast accuracy must proceed by first establishing which condition actually prevailed, and then measure the discrepancy between the projection tied to that condition and the actual level of the predicted trend. If it is still too early to evaluate a set of conditional forecasts retrospectively, the spread of conditional forecasts of the same trend for the same year can be used as one indication of uncertainty or minimum error, but only if the conditional is the same for every forecast of the set.

On using model consensus to judge model validity:
[E]ven the agreement across models need not be an indication of validity; they could all be wrong. For example, all energy models predicting the 1975 levels of U.S. electricity, petroleum, and total energy consumption projected these levels higher than they actually turned out to be. This confident consensus was no guarantee that the models were correct then; any consensus among models’ predictions in the future may be equally misleading.

… [S]imilar models undergoing similar judgmental censorship by modelers holding similar outlooks on the future can so easily reassure all parties that the future is seen with certainty.

On using the fact that models are physically based as an argument for model correctness:
Complex models are formulated by specifying assumptions and hypothesized relationships as explicit, usually mathematical propositions. While this procedure is often very helpful in uncovering inconsistency and vagueness in the initial ideas or verbal formulations, it cannot establish the correctness of the model’s propositions. Models express assumptions, but do not validate them. If the modeler tries to ensure the validity of the model’s propositions by focusing on disaggregated behavior of presumably greater regularity, the problem of reaggregating these behaviors to model overall patterns becomes another potential source of error. If the modeler only includes relationships proven by past experience, there is no guarantee they will hold in the future. There is no procedure or format of model specification that guarantees the validity of this specification.

On the effort required:
Since rigorous, elaborate analysis [of models and their outputs]is time consuming and expensive, there has been a natural tendency for forecasters to pour their efforts into grand, once-and-for-all projects, carried out only infrequently and yet used long after they are produced because the immense effort makes them seem definitive.

On the likelihood of modelers to reconsider:
[A]fter the modeler has spent years developing optimization routines, apparent violations of … assumptions are more likely to be accommodated by patchwork modifications, or disregarded altogether as short-term aberrations, than they are to trigger the abandonment of the model altogether.

… [M]odel revision, which seems to the cynic to be an ad hoc effort to keep a fundamentally misspecified model more-or-less in line with reality, is often regarded by the model builder as the normal routine of science.


New Australian PM won't act on climate without consensus

Which she knows she won't get. Clever: Makes her sound good to the ratbags but costs nothing

Labor failed to convince the public a carbon tax was necessary, Prime Minister Julia Gillard says. Ms Gillard said she was concerned about the government's proposed emissions trading scheme because community consensus had not been achieved.

Asked if she was behind the delay of the ETS because it was hurting Labor, Ms Gillard said she had concerns. "I was concerned that if you were going to do something as big to your economy as put a price on carbon, with the economic transfer that implies... you need a lasting and deep community consensus to do it," Ms Gillard told the Nine Network. "I don't believe we had that last and deep community consensus."

The prime minister said she believed Australia should have a price on carbon. "I will be prepared to argue for a price on carbon... so that we get that lasting and deep community consensus," she said. "But we are not there yet."

Ms Gillard said the government could take practical measures. "I believe in climate change. I believe it's caused by human activity and I believe we have an obligation to act," she said. "And I will be making some statements about some further things we can do to address the challenge of climate change as we work to that lasting and deep community consensus."



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


Sunday, June 27, 2010

Al Gore forgot about gravity (If he ever knew about it)

Some rather obvious but amusing stuff below. A melting Greenland would NOT raise North Atlantic sea levels. I gather that the post is based on a paper by Mitrovica et al. in Nature 409, 1026 (2001). Whether one icecap would melt and not the other seems improbable a priori but in fact temperature movements are far from uniform across the globe. And a scenario whereby Greenland would melt but not Antarctica could be envisaged. I gather that Antarctica is colder on average than Greenland.

I have tidied up the English below a bit. The German name of the site translates as "Climate Onion", which captures rather well the multi-layered effects at work on the climate

Global sea-level rise is caused by several factors, among which the most important the expansion of the water column due to rising ocean water temperatures and the melting of the polar ice-sheets. Both effects are obvious and do not require further explanation.

However, the shrinking of the polar land-ice masses does not lead to a sea-level rise uniformly distributed over the globe. Quite to the contrary, its fingerprint is substantially heterogeneous. If the Greenland ice sheet melts, most of the sea-level rise would occur in the southern Hemisphere. If, on the other hand, it is the West-Antarctic Ice sheet that collapses, Nature's wisdom would produce a targeted maximum of sea-level rise right in front of the White House. This surprising effect is caused by very well-known physics - gravitational attraction - but it is seldom found in the public discussion of global sea-level rise.

The mechanisms by which this spatial distribution of sea-level response to the collapse of polar ice sheets is not difficult to understand either, albeit its magnitude may be surprising for many of us.

Basically, sea-levels in the Arctic, North Atlantic and North Pacific are affected by the additional gravitational pull of the large ice mass locked on top of Greenland. So Northern levels are a bit higher than they 'should be'. If this ice mass melts, the volume of the global ocean will increase accordingly and thus sea-level would tend to rise on average. But at the same time the gravitational pull that maintained the sea-leve in the Nordic seas will also disappear, and sea-level will tend to drop in those areas close to the present position of the ice-sheets.

The calculation of the final spatial distribution of this gravitational effect is somewhat complex, but can be done. Other effects come into play as well, but their magnitude is just able to slightly modulate the overall fingerprint of the gravitational pull. For instance, melting of the polar ice sheets and the subsequent distribution of water masses over the the whole ocean changes the rotational speed of the Earth - in a similar way as an ice skater turns more slowly when he extends his arms away from his body. This in turn slightly affects sea-level as well

It turns out that for the Arctic Ocean, the gravitational effect overwhelms the increase in ocean volume; so that melting of Greenland ice causes a drop of sea-level in this ocean (see Figure). For Northern Europe, both effects roughly cancel (see the zero isoline separating the dark blue and light blue colors). Sea-level rises unabated in the Southern Hemisphere. In the case of Antarctic ice melting, we roughly find a mirror image, with sea-level dropping in the Southern Ocean and rising in the Northern Hemisphere. For the case of melting of ice sitting on the West-Antarctic peninsula, the maximum sea-level rise occurs in the Western North Atlantic.

Greenland glaciers and glaciers on the Antarctica Peninsula- the area in the Antarctic continent at greatest risk of melting, may react in different ways to overall warming. West Antarctic glaciers terminate below sea-level and thus are exposed to a much greater degree to ocean heat flux and warmer water temperatures. It is therefore possible that the West Antarctic Ice sheet may turn to be less stable to higher temperatures than Greenland. On the other hand, temperatures are projected to rise more in the Arctic region than over Antarctica, so that in this end it is not quite certain which one of the polar ice sheets will be the major contributor to the ocean mass. This introduces further uncertainties to sea-level projections at regional scales.

SOURCE (See the original for graphics)

This cooling seems pretty global

Heavy snow for Europe's glaciers plus more Southern Hemisphere resorts open. Not mentioned below is recent unusually cold weather in Western Australia

# Up to 30cm (a foot) of new snow so far today around Queenstown's ski areas.

# Up to 50cm (20 inches) of fresh snow in the Alps.

# Second Californian ski area to open in July.

# Cairngorm in Scotland wraps up seven month season.

# Argentina's resort start to open and more snow in Chile and South Africa. reports that more of Europe's glacier ski areas are opening and that they, along with the centres already open, are benefitting from heavy snowfalls in recent days.

More ski areas have also been opening in the southern hemisphere, where resorts in New Zealand are reporting up to 25cm of new snow so far today. In addition a third US area has announced plans to open its slopes in July.

There have been low temperatures and heavy snow on glaciers in the Alps in the past few days. With all three summer ski areas now open in France, this means 10 areas are offering powder snow conditions on their slopes at the moment!

In Austria the Hintertux glacier has reported 45cm (18 inches) of new snow it has a 590m vertical with 20km of pistes open, and a (6.5 foot) base. The Dachstein glacier has a210cm (7 foot) base and is reporting powder conditions. It's beginner park and super park are both open.

The Kitzsteinhorn glacier above Kaprun has also reopened, reporting another 5cm (two inches) of fresh snow on Tuesday, on top of weekend falls and a full 750 metres of skiable vertical.

The Mölltal glacier will re-open this Sunday, 27 June at 8am with about 9 km of groomed slopes open daily to 4pm through to the end of August. The centre currently reports up to 3.6m (12 foot) snow depths on the glacier.

Italy will also be up to four summer ski areas open by the weekend when Cervinia re-opens with fresh snow. It will join the still-open Presena glacier above Passo Tonale where just two advanced to expert runs are open, as well as Passo Stelvio and Val Senales, which has reported 20cm of new snow in two falls over the past few days.

In Switzerland it's still only Zermatt, Europe's highest ski area, which has 8km of runs open.

In France the ski lifts began running again at the weekend at Tignes on the Grande Motte glacier and in neighbouring Val d'Isere which joined Les 2 Alpes which re-opened a week ago.

In Tignes there's 20km of piste and a giant terrain park open, the snow base is 120cm (four feet) and there's been another 5cm of fresh snow. The slopes are open from 7:15am to 1pm, and located at an altitude ranging from 3,000 to 3,456 metres. The glacier features 12 ski lifts and can be accessed in seven minutes by the underground funicular.

Les 2 Alpes has 80cm (2.6 feet) of snow at 2600m and 2.8m (over 9 feet) up at 3200m with 12 slopes and the terrain park open at one of Europe's largest summer ski areas.

The only other places to ski in Europe are in Norway, where three glacier ski areas are open at Folgefonn with up to four metres of snow lying, Galdhoppigen with up to five metres of snow lying and Stryn with up to 4.5 metres of snow lying.

In Scotland more than 60 skiers took to the slopes at CairnGorm Mountain on the summer solstice on Monday 21st June 2010 to enjoy some midsummer skiing on the snow still lying there in the Ptarmigan bowl.

They were able to take advantage of the two rope tows which had been set up there by the resort's operators CairnGorm Mountain Ltd. Skiers had travelled from as far away as the Isle of Mull in order to be able to say that they had skied at midsummer at CairnGorm.

The 21st was the 147th day of skiing at CairnGorm since the season started on 28 November 2009 and brings to 145,007 the total number of skier days at the resort in what by any account has been an extraordinary season. There were 23 days when skiing was not possible due to high winds or access blocked by snow.

Last year 65,000 skiers visited the resort and only three years ago they had their worst season ever with only 38,000 skiers.

In North America the ski season ended a weekend later than expected in Utah when Snowbird decided to open last weekend after all, extending their 2009/10 season to 189 total days....

Conditions at most ski areas in Chile are looking good after the centres there reported receiving up to two feet (60cm) of snow in the past week, most of it just before the weekend. Chapa Verde has a 60cm (two foot) base and Chapelco 50cm (20 inches).

However Valle Nevado and the South American ' three Valleys' that surround it have some of the best conditions on the continent with more than 1.6m (over five feet) of accumulated snowfall to date. Portillo, which delayed its opening by a week, is now on schedule to open this weekend.

In southern Africa there's snow sports as well as World Cup football. Africa's Tiffindell is open for skiing and Afriski in Lesotho has had more new snow taking its base depth to 65cm (2.2 feet) with a 400m long slope open.

In Australia there's been no new natural snowfall for over a week now but temperatures are continuing to stay quite low so most resorts with snowmaking are making more, and resorts like Falls Creek, Mt Hotham and Perisher have 40 or 50cm (16-20 inches) of snow on snowmaking areas, Thredbo has a little less.

More ski areas have been opening in New Zealand. Treble Cone, which has received excellent pre-season snow, will open tomorrow (Thursday 24 June) with the first lift running at 8.30am. There'll be Amisfield bubbles for the first 150 skiers on the lifts. Whakapapa is scheduled to open on Saturday 26th June.


Ozone, Ice Caps and Unintended Consequences

by Doug L. Hoffman

Hoffman makes a good point below about how CFC restrictions were mandated without a full understanding of the effects, but I hope he is accepting the shrinkage in the ozone hole "for the sake of the argument" only. As far as I can see, the fluctuations in the ozone hole in the 20 years since restrictions were in force are at best a random walk -- with the hole biggest quite recently: in 2006!

One of the central points presented in The Resilient Earth is the fundamental immaturity of climate science and how unreasonable it is to ask for accurate predictions working from the current state of both climate theory and available data. We used the formulation of the three pillars of science—theory, experiment and computation—as the framework of our argument. As an example why we take this stand consider a recent article in the journal Science.

A new study, appearing in the June 13th issue of Science, has found that the healing of the ozone layer, which is projected to occur sometime in the second half of the 21st century, may significantly affect the climate in Antarctica, and therefore, the global climate.

The Montreal Protocol, signed by 191 countries, helped phase out CFC production worldwide by 1996. Observations over the past few years indicate that ozone depletion has largely halted and is now expected to fully reverse. The ozone hole over Antarctica is closing and the climate of the Southern Hemisphere may change as a consequence, reversing the cooling trend seen there over the last 20-30 years. How does this help prove our case that climate science is immature and not able to provide the confident predictions of impending global warming and climatic disaster put forth by the IPCC and other pundits?

CFCs are powerful greenhouse gases, having an effect on the atmosphere similar to CO2 or methane. Basically, CFCs should cause the atmosphere to warm but, by destroying part of the ozone layer, they have had the opposite effect on Antarctica, causing that continent to cool instead. And now, because reducing CFC emissions is allowing the ozone layer to reform, removing CFCs is projected to cause more warming—exactly the opposite effect that was expected. So here is a linkage between chemical compounds in the atmosphere that had not been previously understood. In other words, the theory was incomplete. But that is not all.

The projections from the measured data, the experiment pillar, does not provide a clear picture of how fast the changes will take place or how significant they will be. In their prediction of future climate, many IPCC models did not consider the expected ozone recovery and its potential impacts on climate change. Other models that try to model the ozone changes predict that the Antarctic ozone hole will achieve full recovery in the second half of this century, which may have profound impacts on the surface winds and on other aspects of the Earth's climate, including surface temperatures, locations of storm tracks, extent of dry zones, amount of sea ice, and ocean circulation. The data are inconclusive and the models disagree.

“Our results suggest that stratospheric ozone is important for the Southern Hemisphere climate change, and ought to be more carefully considered in the next set of IPCC model integrations,” said Seok-Woo Son, lead-author of the study and a postdoctoral research scientist at Columbia's Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS). Meaning that the current IPCC models, the ones that all the global warming predictions are based on, are not correct. You can read more about this from the Science Daily website here.

As a result of this paper's findings we can say that climate theory was found to be incomplete, the data were inconclusive, and the various climate models don't agree but need to be updated to reflect the new findings. And as often happens when dealing the the complex system that regulates Earth's climate, the result of one human action seems to be having an effect opposite from the predicted. This points out a final point about predictions made by scientists—no computer model can predict the unforeseen, unintended consequences of future human actions. Many times an action is taken (eliminate CFC emissions) in order to achieve a result (save the ozone layer) and ends up having an unexpected side effect (warming Antarctica). Now consider that there are thousands of papers published in scores of journals every week—what new gaps in our understanding will be uncovered next? Do you still think that the IPCC can accurately predict what Earth's climate will do over the next 100 years?


Global Tropical Storm Days

Discussing: Wang, B., Yang, Y., Ding, Q.-H., Murakami, H. and Huang, F. 2010. Climate control of the global tropical storm days (1965-2008). Geophysical Research Letters 37: 10.1029/2010GL042487.


The authors write that "the impact of the rising sea surface temperature (SST) on tropical cyclone (TC) activity is one of the great societal and scientific concerns," and that "with the observed warming of the tropics of around 0.5°C over the past four to five decades, detecting the observed change in the TC activity may shed light on the impact of the global warming on TC activity."

What was done

In pursuit of their ultimate objective, Wang et al. examined cross-basin spatial-temporal variations of TC storm days for the Western North Pacific (WNP), the Eastern North Pacific (ENP), the North Atlantic (NAT), the North Indian Ocean (NIO), and the Southern Hemisphere Ocean (SHO) over the period 1965-2008, for which time interval pertinent satellite data were obtained from the U.S. Navy's Joint Typhoon Warning Center for the WNP, NIO and SHO, and from the U.S. NASA's National Hurricane Center for the NAT and ENP.

What was learned

The five researchers report that "over the period of 1965-2008, the global TC activity, as measured by storm days, shows a large amplitude fluctuation regulated by the El Niño-Southern Oscillation and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, but has no trend, suggesting that the rising temperature so far has not yet [had] an impact on the global total number of storm days," implying that "the spatial variation of SST, rather than the global mean temperature, may be more relevant to understanding the change of the global storm days."

What it means

Contrary to the climate-alarmist claim that global warming increases tropical storm activity on a global basis, the results of this study reveal that long-held contention to still be without merit, even with more than four decades of pertinent data in hand.


Climate science after the ‘hockey stick’ affair

The use and abuse of a single graph to justify action on climate change shows the need for healthy scepticism

By AW Montford ("Bishop Hill")

From the moment it appeared in 1999, it was clear the ‘hockey stick’ graph was going to be very, very important. The graph, which appeared in a paper by US climatologist Michael Mann and others published in 1999, is a reconstruction of global temperatures over the past thousand years. Since for most of that period there were no weather stations monitoring temperature, a variety of proxy temperature measures, like tree rings, needed to be used.

Two things are striking about the graph. Firstly, the period from the year 1000 right through to the mid-nineteenth century shows relatively steady temperatures, despite the widespread belief that there was a ‘medieval warm period’ from around about 950 to 1250 AD. Secondly, the temperatures in Mann’s graph lurch sharply upwards - hence the ‘hockey stick’ nickname - particularly during the twentieth century, suggesting that the world had been getting sharply warmer and would continue to do so.

Within a week of the graph’s publication there was an article about it in the New York Times. This was pretty amazing considering Michael Mann, the lead author of the paper, had only received his PhD a few months before. A couple of years later, it turned up in the Third Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), appearing five or six times, full size, full colour. It was fairly clear that the hockey-stick graph was important.

There was a BBC report some years later in which the reporter explained that it was really quite hard to overestimate how important the graph has been. In Canada, for example, the government even sent a leaflet out to every home in the country showing the conclusions of the graph: that current warming temperatures were historically unprecedented. That indicates how important, how influential this piece of research was. Indeed, it has been cited more than possibly any other paper in the field.

But then, in 2002/2003, a Canadian geologist called Stephen McIntyre came on to the scene. Having been a recipient of one of the Canadian government’s leaflets, he just thought the graph looked a bit, well, odd. So he went through the original research, and because of its rather dramatic shape showing steady temperatures for centuries and centuries and then a sudden lurch upwards in the twentieth century, McIntyre thought this just all seemed a bit dodgy.

This was partly due to McIntyre’s professional background in mining: in mining, the hockey-stick graph is a familiar phenomenon. It is a way for mining companies to encourage people to invest in them, so it probably set his alarm bells ringing.

Now McIntyre was to find two things wrong with Mann’s hockey-stick graph. The first was that the data behind the graph was inappropriate. Most temperature reconstructions use a very small number of tree-ring series. Mann’s hockey stick was rather different in that he used a much larger number, but the important tree-ring series within it were from one particular kind of tree called a bristlecone pine which grows for hundreds, possibly thousands of years and can be found in western America.

The problem, however, was that it was known that this kind of tree showed a growth spurt in the twentieth century, which meant that the pattern of the tree rings effectively had a hockey-stick shape. This was awkward since it was widely acknowledged that this spurt was not being driven by climate. Remarkably, one of Mann’s co-authors had even admitted this in a later paper, stating that the twentieth-century growth spurt was a mystery, but it was not climatic. So these tree rings were known to be problematic.

Following further research in 2004, McIntyre discovered a fragment of code from Mann’s statistical method – principal components analysis – on one of Mann’s own websites. There was an error in it, the effect of which was to overemphasise the bristlecone pines. So, while you had hundreds of tree-ring series, the only ones that mattered were the ones that were hockey-stick shaped.

This meant that it didn’t matter what data you put into Mann’s algorithm, if there was one series within it that had a hockey-stick shape there is a strong chance that, depending on the number of other series, a hockey-stick graph would emerge as the result. The algorithm was heavily weighted in favour of hockey sticks. It effectively disregarded any data that conflicted with, or contradicted, the hockey-stick finding.

It is now agreed – and expert panels have since looked at this – that the bristlecone pines are inappropriate as a proxy measure of temperature and that the statistical methodology used was biased.

Still, the argument that is now given as to why the hockey-stick graph was okay is that the other temperature reconstructions that have been created give broadly the same shape. It is debatable just how similar that shape is – many of them aren’t hockey-stick shaped at all, showing very high temperatures in the medieval period. They are more U-shaped, if you like. But the other factor here is that all these other temperature reconstructions use the bristlecone pines as well. Now, if you’ve got bristlecones in amongst a small number of tree-sing series, then you will invariably get a hockey-stick result.

So, to summarise: Mann’s method used a very large number of tree-ring series, but his statistical method ignored anything that was not hockey-stick shaped. In other reconstructions, fewer sets of data are used, but as a result the dubious bristlecone pine data has a greater impact on the final result.

McIntyre put his case against the hockey-stick graph down on paper in 2005, leading to quite a furore. The argument continues to this day. The IPCC is still trying to stand by Mann’s work, probably because it oversold the hockey-stick graph in the past and now finds it quite difficult to step back from it. It is even included in the Fourth Assessment Report of 2007. The IPCC is maintaining this argument that yes, there may have been problems with the statistics and with the data, but it gives broadly the same answer as the other temperature reconstructions. My impression is that the IPCC would like to drop it gently now without ever admitting what it got wrong.

After Climategate

In the wake of Climategate in late 2009, when a large number of emails and data from the Climate Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia found their way into the public domain - leading to some fairly embarrassing revelations about the working methods and attitudes of both CRU researchers and their collaborators elsewhere - the climatology community is in a bit of a state of flux. There are people within that community who are maybe just shifting position a little and trying to put a bit of distance between themselves and the more advocacy-based scientists. Whether that leads to an eventual disowning of the hockey-stick graph itself remains to be seen.

I think from this point on we will hear far less about scientific consensus from the climatology community and far more about uncertainty and dissenting views. This is not to say we have heard the end of global warming – there’s too much money floating around for people just to drop it. Climatology has had huge amounts of money flung at it while the big energy companies have investments in renewable technology based on farming enormous subsidies.

These financial pressures are key to distorting the debate about climate. The problem for many climatologists is that they cannot come out and say that global warming isn’t a problem anymore because so much of their funding depends upon it. This is also one of the problems that the IPCC has: the very people who can answer the question on the future direction of climate also depend on the answer to that being that ‘yes, it’s a problem’ to continue receiving funding. It is a difficult problem, and it is one that you get when you have government-funded science.

As for McIntyre, although he is demonised as a Big Oil-funded troublemaker by green activists and advocacy-based scientists, he’s proven very difficult to attack because of his position: he does believe global warming is real, and he does think it is a problem. At the same time, he’s just the type of guy that is going to go out and find the truth no matter where it lies. There is a story that upon hearing the argument that if the hockey-stick graph is wrong, then the planet could be much more sensitive to rises in CO2 levels than previously thought, and therefore global warming could be even worse, McIntyre just shrugged his shoulders and said: ‘If that’s the answer, then that’s the answer and we’ll just have to find it out.’ His integrity as someone who will pursue the truth wherever it may lie is very hard to question.

In the aftermath of McIntyre’s work and Climategate, there is a growing middle ground where people have decided that everyone bashing one another just isn’t helping to clarify matters. What we have to do is follow the science. And that means that we have to be open, we have to be questioning, and scientists have to engage with people outside their own fields.


Addicted to oil? What a dumb idea

The oil-addiction theorists are really disgusted by the desires of stupid, greedy, uppity consumers

We’re addicted to oil. It’s official. The Western world is hooked on the black stuff and Americans are the biggest energy junkies of them all.

This oft-quoted, little-criticised idea has been around for years, but there has been a veritable addiction-to-oil blowout since the BP-hired drilling platform, Deepwater Horizon, sank in the Gulf of Mexico on 20 April, killing 11 rig workers and depositing tens of thousands of barrels of oil into the sea on a daily basis.

The most high-profile airing of the oil-addiction idea came in President Barack Obama’s televised Oval Office address to the nation last week. ‘For decades, we have known the days of cheap and easily accessible oil were numbered’, he told viewers. ‘For decades, we’ve talked and talked about the need to end America’s century-long addiction to fossil fuels. And for decades, we have failed to act with the sense of urgency that this challenge requires. Time and again, the path forward has been blocked - not only by oil industry lobbyists, but also by a lack of political courage and candor.’

The addicted-to-oil thesis is not a dry discussion of energy policy - rather it is a pointed attack on consumers. Underpinning this idea is a sense that relatively well-off Westerners are too stupid and too greedy to realise that their use of oil is a bad thing.

So Gregor Peter Schmitz, writing in Spiegel International last week, tried to give some context to the risky business of deepwater oil production. ‘[T]here is also a simple reason that BP and other oil companies are drilling at depths of up to 1,500 metres (4,900 feet), far from the coast. They are servicing a greed for cheap energy and resources that fuels 250million automobiles on America’s roads, keeps the country’s countless air-conditioners running and provides water for fantasy cities in the middle of deserts. There are 300million Americans - around five per cent of the global population - but they consume around 25 per cent of the world’s oil.’

Schmitz clearly regards Americans as petulant children, unwilling to accept the painful medicine of reducing oil consumption. He also criticises the fact that Obama himself is pretty vague about actually introducing incentives and taxes to move away from oil. Schmitz puts this down to the electoral disaster that befell former president Jimmy Carter when he told the US electorate that they had to reduce their energy usage: ‘That’s not the kind of thing Americans want to hear. In 1980, voters drove Carter out of office. In his speech, Carter called for 20 per cent of the United States’ energy to come from solar power by 2000 and for an end to dependence on foreign oil. Today, only one per cent of the energy America consumes comes from solar power, and two-thirds of its oil is imported from abroad.’

Yet Schmitz was left standing like a novice driving some solar-powered electric trike next to that Michael Schumacher of Grand Prix-level tree-hugging, anti-consumer bullshit, Naomi Klein. In an article published in the Guardian last weekend, Klein declared that the Gulf oil spill is nature’s slap in the face to us uppity humans who had the conceit to believe we could shape the world to meet our needs. ‘This Gulf coast crisis is about many things – corruption, deregulation, the addiction to fossil fuels. But underneath it all, it’s about this: our culture’s excruciatingly dangerous claim to have such complete understanding and command over nature that we can radically manipulate and re-engineer it with minimal risk to the natural systems that sustain us.’

Klein argues that until the year 1600, or thereabouts, people saw the planet as a living organism, as Mother Earth, which provided for us but could also punish us, too. Then along came the idea that we could control nature, summed up by England’s quintessential Renaissance Man, Francis Bacon. Nature, he said, could be ‘put in constraint, moulded, and made as it were new by art and the hand of man’.

Against Bacon’s rational, human-centred worldview, Klein offers us mysticism. She praises those ‘standing not in wonder at humanity’s power to reshape nature, but at our powerlessness to cope with the fierce natural forces we unleash. There is something else too. It is the feeling that the hole at the bottom of the ocean is more than an engineering accident or a broken machine. It is a violent wound in a living organism; that it is part of us. And thanks to BP’s live camera feed, we can all watch the Earth’s guts gush forth, in real time, 24 hours a day.’

Klein’s view is part of a veritable carnival of irrationality surrounding the Gulf oil spill. But while only the most foolish petrolhead would argue that there are no downsides to using oil - it does cause pollution, getting hold of it is sometimes tricky and dangerous, and it will probably become increasingly scarce in decades to come - there is a serious need for a sense of perspective. America uses so much oil because it is the wealthiest, most developed nation on Earth. Americans live in a remarkable variety of conditions from the freezing winters of Alaska to the baking heat of the Arizona desert. Yet they are able to survive with high living standards thanks to heating, transport, refrigeration, agriculture and water supplies made possible by human ingenuity - and fossil fuels.

When we find a viable alternative means of powering all these things, fossil fuels will become a minority interest. The reason that we have not done so already is because the alternatives - like solar, wind and wave power - have proven to be technically difficult to implement and considerably more expensive than fossil fuels. Realistically, we are a long way from being able to stop using oil, coal and gas.

In this light, it should be clear that our use of oil is not an ‘addiction’; we are simply making the most of a fantastic natural resource. We might as well say that we are addicted to food because we eat every day. Perhaps as a writer, Klein is ‘addicted’ to her computer keyboard because she uses it so frequently. A more sensible way of looking at the situation is that she uses the computer keyboard because it is a useful tool to enable her to share her thoughts with the world. Then again, perhaps Klein submits her articles to the Guardian by smearing tree sap on to some homemade papyrus and then gets the finished scroll delivered to London by a team of friendly dolphins.

The use of the term ‘addiction’ is no accident. It is an attempt to psychologise and pathologise what is in fact the attempt to satisfy perfectly rational human desires using the tools and resources available to us. The spill in the Gulf of Mexico is a significant problem which will take a lot of human energy - and a plenty of fossil-fuel energy - to sort out. Both the companies involved and the US government must take responsibility for doing that. But the most dangerous pollution of all is the hypocrisy of the relatively wealthy, who damn the very things that enable them to live so comfortably and who would happily condemn the rest of us to a life of shivering immobility.



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