Saturday, February 19, 2011

Coral Reefs EXPAND as the Oceans Warm

Is Hoagy ready to recant yet?

Hold onto your hats, this will come as quite a shock. Well, not really—unless you count yourself among that pessimistic bunch who sport blinders that only allow you to see bad things from global warming. And if you are one of those poor souls, you better stop reading now, because we wouldn’t want reality to impinge on your guarded (and distorted) view of the world.

But for the rest of us, the following news will fit nicely into the world view that the earth’s ecosystems are robust, adaptable and opportunistic, as opposed to being fragile, readily broken, and soon to face extinction at the hand of anthropogenic climate change.

A hot-off-the-presses paper in the peer-reviewed journal Geophysical Research Letters by a team of Japanese scientists finds that warming oceans expand the range of tropical corals northward along the coast of Japan. At the same time, the corals are remaining stable at the southern end of their ranges.

That’s right. Corals are adapting to climate change and expanding, not contracting.

But, you don’t have to take our word for it. Here is the news, straight from the authors:
We show the first large-scale evidence of the poleward range expansion of modern corals, based on 80 years of national records from the temperate areas of Japan, where century-long measurements of in situ sea-surface temperatures have shown statistically significant rises. Four major coral species categories, including two key species for reef formation in tropical areas, showed poleward range expansions since the 1930s, whereas no species demonstrated southward range shrinkage or local extinction. The speed of these expansions reached up to 14 km/year, which is far greater than that for other species. Our results, in combination with recent findings suggesting range expansions of tropical coral-reef associated organisms, strongly suggest that rapid, fundamental modifications of temperate coastal ecosystems could be in progress.

This certainly throws buckets of cold water on all the overly heated talk about how the decline in coral reefs as a result of anthropogenic global warming is going to decimate fisheries and tourism the world over. Perhaps it actually will have a negative impact in some locales, but in others, it seems that it could have quite the opposite effect.

And it is this opposite effect—a positive impact of coral reef communities and their dependents—that is routinely left out of climate change impact assessments.

For instance, when the infamous first draft of the still infamous Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States report from the U.S. Global Change Research Program was released for public comments, it included this bit of text from the “Society” chapter (page 47 of the report):
“A changing climate will mean reduced opportunities for many of the activities that Americans hold dear. For example, coldwater fish species such as salmon and trout that are popular with fishermen will have reduced habitat in a warmer world, and coral reefs are already severely compromised. Hunting opportunities will change as animals’ habitats shift and as relationships among species in natural communities are disrupted by their different responses to rapid climate change.”

We submitted the following two comments (from among our 75+ pages of comments that we submitted) in regards to that rather bit of gloomy text:
Specific comment 78. Chapter Society, page 47, Second paragraph, first sentence

Comment: Enough with the pessimism.

Recommendation: Change the sentence to read “A changing climate may mean reduced opportunities for some activities and increased opportunities for many other of the activities that Americans hold dear.”

Specific comment 79. Chapter Society, page 47, Second paragraph, second sentence, “…coral reefs are already severely compromised.”

Comment: Warming SSTs along the U.S. Gulf and Atlantic shores should encourage coral reefs to expand northward. In fact, evidence of northerly range expansion of elkhorn and staghorn has recently been reported (Precht, W.F., and R.B. Aronson, 2004. "Climate flickers and range shifts of reef corals". Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 2, 307-314). Currently, the southern portions of Florida define climatologically the northernmost portion of the coral habitat in the western Atlantic, a warming climate presents the opportunity for a habitat expansion that could bring corals further northward and closer to the U.S. mainland. Since coral reefs represent a major tourist destination, not only would a northward range expansion be a benefit to the corals themselves, but may well also represent enhanced economic opportunities along the southeastern U.S. coast.

Recommendation: Update the paragraph on the changing patterns of recreational activities to include the likelihood that coral reefs will expand northward into U.S. coastal waters and increase recreational opportunities associated with them. As it now stands, the statement fails to meet the authors’ claim of providing the “best available science” and of conveying “the most relevant and up-to-date information possible” and otherwise violates applicable objectivity requirements.

Apparently our comments had some impact, but not to the full extent that we intended.

Indeed, in the final version of the USGCRP report, the first sentence of the quoted passage above was changed to “A changing climate will mean reduced opportunities for some activities and locations and expanded opportunities for others.” So far so good.

The next sentence in the final report is “Hunting and fishing will change as animals’ habitats shift and as relationships among species in natural communities are disrupted by their different responses to rapid climate change.”

In other words, the powers that be at the USGCRP decided to drop the whole part about coral reefs, rather than having to include a discussion about the potential benefits of climate change (but don’t be so naive to think that they dropped the potential negative impacts on coral reefs from the entire report—oh no, they have a section dedicated to those in the “Coral reefs” portion of the “Ecosystems” chapter—with nary a mention of possible (probable) range expansion and concomitant expanded economic possibilities).

Such is the nature of the vast majority of climate change assessment reports —emphasize the negatives and downplay or completely ignore the positives. But this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to the dedicated readers of World Climate Report.

Nor should the realization that the expansion of coral reefs in Japan is but a single example of organisms responding positively to the benefits and opportunities presented by a changing climate. We have covered many other examples in the past, and we promise even more examples in the days, months, years to come.


Leading Warmist rejects the current "extreme events" mantra

There has been a lot of havoc in the media world about two recent papers in Nature whose authors argued that bad rainstorms are caused by humans (Min et al.) and that the British 2000 floods were caused by humans (Pall et al.). The idea that climate extremes are supposed to get larger is one of the most omni-present manifestations of the climate doomsday religion.

This thesis contradicts pretty much all empirical data as well as theoretical analyses of the climate. The global temperature has probably increased in the last 100 years but the extremes have not. However, many AGW believers, including many of those you could otherwise count as doubters (e.g. the former Czech representative in the IPCC) love to parrot this complete pseudoscientific nonsense.

If you graph the intensity or number of hurricanes; the temperature fluctuations; the total number of extreme temperature events; or many other things that depend on "non-uniformity" and "non-constancy" of the quantities describing the atmosphere, you will see that there's been no significant global trend in either of them during the last 100 years or so.

All those graphs are noisy - unlike the temperature (following a pink noise curve), all these graphs resemble white noise (because there's no reason to think that e.g. the annual or monthly amount of precipitation should be a continuous function). But the "signal" never exceeds the "noise" in a statistically significant way.

I have created many such graphs using the WeatherData function in Mathematica. I wonder - if those people really believe that the measures of extremeness are going up, why do they do so? Haven't they managed to draw a single graph of this type which is almost enough to see that this whole thesis is just plain rubbish?

It seems to me that the honest believers build their opinions on the climate models that suffer from some kind of numerical instability - and they're not capable to distinguish the climate models from the reality or to see that these effects obviously can't be happening in the real world. And by the way, they have probably never played with the same model without the CO2 increase to see that the instability is still there.

The idea that all extremes are getting stronger - a basic pillar of the climate doomsday beliefs - is actually so silly that even one of the most famous climate cranks, Gavin Schmidt, has been able to figure our and admit that it's wrong. In his Real Climate text "Going to extremes":

Schmidt tries to clarify some misconceptions believed by some of his even more hopeless fellow climate cranks. He starts with some "very basic but oft-confused points":

* Not all extremes are the same.

* There is no theory or result that indicates that climate change increases extremes in general.

* Some extremes will become more common in future (and some less so).

* Attribution of extremes is hard.

I claim that many - if not a majority of - climate worriers deny some or most of these "basic points" by Schmidt. Concerning the last point, one that the "attribution is hard", it's not hard to see why it's true. It's because the systemic, trend-like changes have obviously been so tiny that they can't be identified as statistically significant changes by any method.

The idea that a rising CO2 changes the extremeness of some events by a nonzero amount is almost certainly true, pretty much tautologically true, but the effect is so small that this insight has no empirical consequences.

Even if you were able to see the effect of the rising CO2 on the extremeness of some weather events, it would be damn clear that for some of them, the effect would be larger than for others; and for some of them, it would be negative, as Schmidt correctly says.


Put Beddington to bed

Sir John Beddington is the British government’s chief scientific adviser. A recent pearl of wisdom below:
We are grossly intolerant, and properly so, of racism. We are grossly intolerant, and properly so, of people who [are] anti-homosexuality... We are not—and I genuinely think we should think about how we do this—grossly intolerant of pseudo-science, the building up of what purports to be science by the cherry-picking of the facts and the failure to use scientific evidence and the failure to use scientific method."

"One way is to be completely intolerant of this nonsense," he said. "That we don't kind of shrug it off. We don't say: ‘oh, it's the media’ or ‘oh they would say that wouldn’t they?’ I think we really need, as a scientific community—and this is a very important scientific community—to think about how we do it."

Even one of his Leftist allies is critical. See the excerpt below

This is what is offered by John Beddington's recent animated call to a conference of UK government scientists, for "gross intolerance" of what he holds to be "pernicious", "fatuous", "pseudoscience".

What is this 'pseudoscience'? For Beddington, this seems to include any kind of criticism from non-scientists of new technologies like genetically modified organisms, much advocacy of the 'precautionary principle' in environmental protection, or suggestions that science itself might also legitimately be subjected to moral considerations.

Who does Beddington hold to blame for this "politically or morally or religiously motivated nonsense"? For anyone who really values the central principles of science itself, the answer is quite shocking. He is targeting effectively anyone expressing "scepticism" over what he holds to be 'scientific' pronouncements—whether on GM, climate change or any other issue. Note, it is not irrational "denial" on which Beddington is calling for 'gross intolerance', but the eminently reasonable quality of "scepticism"!

The alarming contradiction here is that organised, reasoned, scepticism—accepting rational argument from any quarter without favour for social status, cultural affiliations or institutional prestige—is arguably the most precious and fundamental quality that science itself has (imperfectly) to offer. Without this enlightening aspiration, history shows how society is otherwise all-too-easily shackled by the doctrinal intolerance, intellectual blinkers and authoritarian suppression of criticism so familiar in religious, political, cultural and media institutions.

The point is not that science or scientists —themselves (thankfully!) human— are mystically immune to these tendencies. When the single largest area of global research expenditure is military and the principal driving forces behind science lie in narrow disciplinary agendas, rich world markets and intellectual property—there can be no denying that science is itself as political and power-laden as other social institutions.

The fact that science is, as Beddington concedes, also always uncertain, profoundly compounds the legitimate scope that typically remains for openly subjective value judgement and interpretation. These are precisely the realities that Beddington's unmeasured language is in danger of suppressing.

The point is that the basic aspirational principles of science offer the best means to challenge the ubiquitously human distorting pressures of self-serving privilege, hubris, prejudice and power. Among these principles are exactly the scepticism and tolerance against which Beddington is railing (ironically) so emotionally!

Of course, scientific practices like peer review, open publication and acknowledgement of uncertainty all help reinforce the positive impacts of these underlying qualities. But, in the real world, any rational observer has to note that these practices are themselves imperfect. Although rarely achieved, it is inspirational ideals of universal, communitarian scepticism—guided by progressive principles of reasoned argument, integrity, pluralism, openness and, of course, empirical experiment—that best embody the great civilising potential of science itself.

As the motto of none other than the Royal Society loosely enjoins (also sometimes somewhat ironically) "take nothing on authority". In this colourful instance of straight talking then, John Beddington is himself coming uncomfortably close to a particularly unsettling form of unscientific—even (in a deep sense) anti-scientific—'double speak'.

Anyone who really values the progressive civilising potential of science should argue (in a qualified way as here) against Beddington's intemperate call for "complete intolerance" of scepticism. It is the social and human realities shared by politicians, non-government organisations, journalists and scientists themselves, that make tolerance of scepticism so important.

The priorities pursued in scientific research and the directions taken by technology are all as fundamentally political as other areas of policy. No matter how uncomfortable and messy the resulting debates may sometimes become, we should never be cowed by any special interest—including that of scientific institutions—away from debating these issues in open, rational, democratic ways. To allow this to happen would be to undermine science itself in the most profound sense.

It is the upholding of an often imperfect pursuit of scepticism and tolerance that offer the best way to respect and promote science. Such a position is, indeed, much more in keeping with the otherwise-exemplary work of John Beddington himself.


Beddington is not alone: Australian Warmist "scientist" has a tanty

Warmism is speculation, not science. Science has no way of predicting the future of the world. And the tantrum shows that it is emotion, not dispassionate enquiry, that is driving her

The government's leading scientific adviser said she was standing down for personal and professional reasons, but declined to comment further. "This is not a decision that I have taken lightly or quickly," said Professor Sackett, in a statement released on her website yesterday afternoon. "Institutions, as well as individuals, grow and evolve and the time is now right for me to seek other ways to contribute," said the world-renowned astronomer.

Many in Australia's scientific community were surprised by Professor Sackett's sudden resignation. In the past she has been critical of the government's lack of action on climate change.

The Minister for Innovation, Kim Carr, thanked her for her contribution to the promotion of science and scientific research during her tenure as Australia's first full-time chief scientist.

Sources said she had a tense working relationship with Senator Carr, who came to regret appointing her to the role and over time increasingly looked to the CSIRO chief executive, Megan Clark, for science advice.

Sources said Senator Carr found Professor Sackett too outspoken and opinionated, and felt she did not give sufficient regard to Labor's agenda and the processes of government. A spokeswoman for Senator Carr denied those suggestions yesterday.

Professor Sackett was also understood to be frustrated about a lack of progress in government efforts to address climate change. She told the Herald last May she was concerned by the government's decision to delay its emissions trading legislation. "Any action that is delayed puts us at higher risk of dangerous climate change," she said.

The government has begun searching for a replacement. Professor Sackett finishes her appointment on March 4.


Climate zealots made my life hell for being a sceptic says British TV presenter

As a climate change sceptic, Johnny Ball doesn’t mince his words. He once declared spider flatulence to be more damaging to the environment than fossil fuels.

But the veteran children’s TV presenter is paying the price for his outspoken remarks. Yesterday he revealed he has become the victim of a vicious hate campaign by environmentalist ‘zealots’.

Mr Ball – father of Radio Two DJ Zoe Ball – popularised maths and science for millions of youngsters in the 1970s and 1980s with his eccentric TV shows. More recently he has carved out a career giving talks in schools and at science festivals and teachers’ conferences.

But he says zealots are trying to sabotage his career because he has described climate change as ‘alarmist nonsense’. He claims the internet has been used to try to discredit his opinions. Bloggers have run campaigns stating Mr Ball ‘should not be allowed near children’. And an imposter has even tried to cancel his booking at a training day for maths teachers in Northampton.

In a sinister twist, websites have also been set up in his name which contain pornographic images.

Mr Ball, a 72-year-old grandfather, believes his career has been destroyed and says his bookings have fallen by 90 per cent since the smear campaign began four years ago. Police are investigating his claims.

The former presenter of Think of a Number and Think Again first spoke out against ‘alarmist’ climate change scientists at the Manchester Science Festival in 2007. He criticised those who terrify children by telling them that they ‘are all going to hell in a handcart in 39 years’ because of climate change. And in 2009 he was booed off stage for making his spider remark.

Yesterday he said the campaign against him amounted to a ‘witch-hunt’. He said: ‘This was clearly a criminal act to damage me and my career business. People have every right to make up their own minds on my stance. But to deliberately smear my name in ways that are clearly criminal is so very disappointing. ‘I would hope it is not the way fair and sensible debate is going in this far more open, modern society.’

Mr Ball is a prolific author of maths books who has also produced five educational stage musicals. He said he has been sceptical of climate change arguments since the 1960s when scientists warned of an impending ice age.

And he said that anyone who seeks to make a common sense, measured comment about climate change is branded a ‘heretic’.

Yesterday, he called for the views from both sides of the climate change camp to be heard. He highlighted a recent Independent Panel on Climate Change ruling that stated that there must be no more exaggeration about the issue.

Explaining his views on climate change, he told the Times Education Supplement: ‘The reason I take this stance is because several films have been introduced into schools which imply that the earth may not be able to sustain human life as we know it, in around 39 years’ time, which is unscientific, alarmist nonsense.

‘Of course mankind is a great burden on the earth, but at every turn we are learning to manage and better control our impact and the damage we do.

‘However, my main concern is that the alarmism is actually frightening schoolchildren to an alarming degree. ‘It is suggesting to them that the previous generation have all but ruined the planet, and unless they switch stand-by lights off, for instance, we could all be going to hell in a handcart. ‘This does nothing to promote confidence in our young. It sends the message that all technology is harmful. Yet, in truth, great strides are being made.

'Gas-fired power stations now produce twice as much power for the same fossil fuel as they did 15 years ago. Cars have far cleaner exhausts and have doubled their mileage and tyre wear, and they are all recyclable or reclaimable. 'These are success stories.’


The hysterical Hertsgaard: A lying Warmist

Not that there's anything new about lying Warmists or anything new about Hertsgaard misrepresentations. He is just a publicity hound and will do and say whatever it takes

The best way to get the attention of a lawmaker: Say you’re from a legitimate news outlet and proceed with your questioning. A great way to discredit yourself: Lie about your affiliation with a news outlet and proceed with your questioning.

Climate activist Mark Hertsgaard, it appears, failed to get a memo containing the second piece of wisdom. In recently released footage of Hertsgaard’s ambush of Oklahoma Republican Sen. James Inhofe this week, the activist gets Inhofe’s attention by claiming to be with Politico.

The problem? Hertsgaard is not with the D.C. insider publication at all. Dan Berman, energy editor at Politico, told The Daily Caller that while Hertsgaard has written one opinion article for them, he was not and is not affiliated with Politico. “Mr. Hertsgaard is not a POLITICO reporter or employee and we have asked him not to portray himself as one,” Berman wrote in an email to TheDC.

Hertsgaard’s own website describes him as an independent journalist and author. “For 20 years, Mark Hertsgaard has investigated global warming for outlets including the New Yorker, NPR, Time, Vanity Fair and the Nation,” the “about” section of his website reads. No mention of Politico.



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