Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Nutty assumptions produce nutty conclusions

Alarmists of all kinds almost always use straight-line projections from some current trend. But most natural phenomena are not ordered in that way. Below is an example of how a straight-line projection of mortality from radioactivity gives absurd conclusions -- yet it precisely that sort of projection that is generally used by regulators.

The truth is that low to medium doses of ionizing radiation are harmless or even beneficial. It is only high doses that lead to adverse health effects. Google "radiation hormesis" for the relevant facts

Once again reality is not as simple as the theorists imagine

The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) All Things Nuclear blog has an analysis of how many deaths occurred at Chernobyl based on linear no threshold view of radiation. So 0.01 milliSieverts (1 milliRem) for each of 6 billion people in the world is calculated to add 4000 deaths from cancer. 0.3 milliSieverts (30 milliRem) for 500 million people in europe is calculated to add 9000 more deaths from cancer.

Using the same analysis (NEI Nuclear Notes) found that, 79,000 and 40,000 would be reasonable estimates of the number of excess cancers and cancer deaths attributable to the flying in the past decade. The numbers increase even more over the 25 years since Chernobyl and would be 200,000 excess cancers and 100,000 excess deaths from commercial aviation over the last 25 years.

As the US EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) explains, exposure to cosmic radiation depends on altitude, latitude, and solar activity, but the EPA estimates that "a typical cross-country flight in a commercial airplane" results in "2 to 5 millirem (mrem)" of dose from radiation.

The statistics from the US Bureau of Transportation Statistics indicate that over 7 billion airline passengers (international and domestic) flew in the US between January 2001 and January 2011. Thus, if we assume a fairly low average value of 3 millirem per passenger, then aviation has resulted in a collective dose of 210,000 passenger-Sv over the past decade.

This is quite a large number already, but Dr. Gronlund did not consider the radiation exposure within just one country. She provided an estimate for the entire world. So we should follow suit.

The US aviation market comprises somewhere between 25 to 30 percent of the entire world's airline passengers (e.g., in 2009, passengers in the US comprised roughly 28% of the airline passengers worldwide, according to IATA statistics). Thus, if we conservatively assume that US passengers comprised 30% of the passengers worldwide during the past decade, then worldwide, the collective dose due to commercial aviation is 700,000 passenger-Sv.

Using Dr. Gronlund's methodology (which was taken from the BEIR VII report), we should assume that "the expected incidence and mortality of solid cancers and leukemia are 0.1135 cancer cases and 0.057 cancer deaths per Sv." Thus, because of radiation exposure due to the airline industry, the expected number of cancer cases is 79,000, of which some 40,000 should result in death.

Note however that, because exposure only increases the probability of developing cancer, we should keep in mind that no given cancer can be attributed to flying. Moreover, because these additional cancers will be distributed among hundreds of millions of people, it is practically impossible to discern them among all the other cancer cases. (About 42% of the general population have cancer at some point in their lives, and about 20% of the population die because of cancer or complications that result from cancer.)

It is somewhat illustrative to compare these numbers to the numbers presented by Dr. Gronlund for the Chernobyl accident: 68,000 cancer cases with 34,000 deaths. Given these numbers, one can scientifically conclude that the airline industry is far more dangerous -- in terms of deaths due to low-dose exposure to radiation -- than old, Soviet-era nuclear reactors.

In light of these numbers, I expect that the UCS will be setting itself up as an "aviation watchdog" any day now.


Time magazine's Bryan Walsh: Fossil fuels cause global terrorism

I prophesied on 2nd. that Osama bin Laden's death would be seen by some as proof of global warming. We're not quite there yet but the report below comes close

We know that `global warming' causes everything. We know that `fossil fuel funding' causes skepticism. Did you know that fossil fuel funding 'causes' Osama bin Laden? Journalist Bryan Walsh thinks so:
Born and raised in the petroleum cradle of Saudi Arabia, bin Laden was able to finance a global terrorist network thanks to the wealth crude oil had brought his homeland-and to America's addiction to the stuff.

From `fossil-fuel funded disinformation campaign' to `fossil-fuel funded terrorism', everything is caused by fossil fuels. The implication is clear enough:

Why this tortured, circuitous logic from a Time magazine journalist, we might wonder. Mr Walsh answers that question himself:
It can happen to any journalist-major news happens, but not on your beat. What do you do? You look for any entry point you can. But we don't have to stretch too far to examine the implications that al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden's death might have on global energy markets-and especially oil

Indeed, Mr Walsh, indeed - no stretching is required. `Global warming' and climate change is indeed connected to everything - from tornadoes to Osama bin Laden.


Warmists ignore variations in the amount of sunlight that is reflected rather than absorbed as heat

Moonlight is not light generated by the moon, but reflected sunlight. First astronauts on the moon were amazed by the brightness of Earth when it appeared over the lunar horizon. What they saw was Earthlight, which is also reflected sunlight. It's sunlight that does little to heat the Earth because it goes directly back out to space. The amount reflected varies with changes to the surface and atmosphere. These changes are significant, yet poorly measured or understood and pushed aside by the fanatic focus on CO2. Global warming due to humans is based on the hypothesis that our addition of CO2 has changed the balance of energy entering and leaving the Earth's atmosphere. There are a multitude of factors that can change this balance, many ignored or underplayed by climate science. They get away with this because the public is unaware.....

IPCC are projecting climate change for the next 50 years or more. So we have problems with the amount of incoming energy, but there are more problems with what happens to the energy once it enters the atmosphere.

One of these is change in albedo. Some believe it's more important than CO2 in affecting balance. The most interesting thing here is that the albedo forcings, in watts/sq meter seem to be fairly large. Larger than that of all manmade greenhouse gases combined.

Albedo is the amount of sunlight reflected from a surface. The lighter surface reflects more than the dark surface. When sunlight strikes a surface the color, texture and angle of the light (known as the angle of incidence) determines how much is reflected or absorbed. The difference between them, as a percentage, is called the albedo (from the root Latin word albus for white). With a pure white shiny surface, 100 percent of the light is reflected, so the albedo is 100. On a matte black surface, 100 percent is absorbed, and the albedo is zero (Figure 2). A solar collector needs to absorb as much solar energy as possible so is matte black and set at right angles to the solar rays.

The moon's albedo is 7, which means 93 units of 100 are absorbed and 7 units reflected. On average, Earth's albedo is 30 for the entire globe. The amount varies from a high of 75-95 percent for fresh snow down to 8-9 percent for coniferous forest. Seasonal variation in snow and ice cover is important as it affects global energy and therefore the weather from year to year.

However, the major factor is variability in the type and amount of cloud cover. Thick cloud varies from 60-90 and thin cloud from 30-50. This variability explains most of the change in albedo shown in Figure 3. The right side scale shows changes in energy with a range of about 9 watts per square meter. Compare this with the 2.5 watts per square meter change estimated to be due to human activities.

Earth's average albedo is not constant from one year to the next; it also changes over decadal timescales. The computer models currently used to study the climate system do not show such large decadal-scale variability of the albedo.

Sadly, there are many factors affecting climate change that the IPCC ignore or underplay to achieve the political result that human CO2 is the sole cause. They only acknowledge "cloud albedo effect", but correctly admit their level of scientific understanding (LOSU) is low.

So they ignore many variables and admit they know little about the ones they study. It is a total abrogation of scientific and social responsibility to let these results form the basis for draconian and destructive energy and environmental policies. They shouldn't have won a Nobel Peace Prize. They couldn't have won a Science Prize.

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

Greenie propaganda site for children tells blatant lies

They claim that a CO2 level of 500ppm would make the planet uninhabitable for most species -- ignoring that life flourished in the past when levels were higher than that -- and also ignoring that rising CO2 levels do NOT lead to warming, as we have seen in the last 12 years

It's not much of a secret that our planet is messed up. We're facing a long list of problems, and most of them are caused by by one simple thing: the burning of fossil fuels.

The most urgent problem is climate change, caused by our out of control addiction to fossil fuels. When we burn fossil fuels like oil, coal and gas, we emit all this extra carbon dioxide, CO2, into the atmosphere, which messes up the balance of the atmosphere.

Scientists that dedicate their entire lives to studying this, have made it clear: to avert the worst effects of climate change, the levels of CO2 in the atmosphere need to be at 350 parts per million (ppm). Right now we are at 391ppm. If we keep burning at the rate we are now, we will be at 500ppm by 2050. This would make earth a completely different planet, uninhabitable for most species. We can't let that happen.


An Alarming Shade of Green at Dartmouth College

"Fire and brimstone," "real collapse" and "biblical concern" are the kinds of phrases many of us have come to associate with global warming. Economist Eban Goodstein did not disappoint in his lecture at Dartmouth this April, using these terms and many others as he called on his audience to save the planet by redesigning "every city on Earth" and becoming superheroes like characters from "The Lord of the Rings." Before trying to build a new world order, however, it's worth taking all the hysteria about climate change with a grain of salt.

There's certainly been a lot of unfounded alarmism in recent decades. In 1970, ecologist Kenneth Watt said, "If present trends continue, the world will be . 11 degrees colder by the year 2000. This is about twice what it would take to put us in an ice age." In 2000, University of East Anglia senior research scientist David Viner predicted that within a few years, "Children just aren't going to know what snow is." It's time to stop taking people with academic credentials so seriously when they engage in such nonsensical speculation.

Goodstein predicted in his lecture that "Impacts from the arctic ice melting could cost . somewhere between $2.4 trillion and $24 trillion in cumulative damages by 2050." The absurdly unhelpful breadth of this range reflects how hopeless it is to try to predict temperature changes over four decades and then reduce to dollars and cents an infinite number of effects on issues such as animal welfare, forestry, human health, agriculture and energy use. These impacts aren't even necessarily negative ones - indeed, a model by the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that a slight rise in temperature would cause modest growth in total world agricultural output.

It's far from clear that the past century's mild warming of about 0.6 degrees Celsius is really the result of increased human emissions. Carleton University paleoclimatologist Professor Tim Patterson points out, "When CO2 levels were over 10 times higher than they are now, about 450 million years ago, the planet was in the depths of the absolute coldest period in the last half billion years." Given the National Center for Policy Analysis estimate that humans are responsible for just 0.28 percent of the greenhouse effect, we shouldn't be too ready to assume responsibility for climate change. Indeed, temperatures actually fell from 1940 to 1970 at the same time that carbon dioxide emissions increased.

Considering the guesswork and subjective judgment involved in predicting the effects of climate change, it's no wonder that damage estimates for a metric ton of carbon dioxide emissions range from the $2 suggested by Dutch economist Richard Tol to the $85 proposed by British economist Nicholas Stern. It is disturbing that environmental groups believe the government should mandate massive and extraordinarily expensive infrastructure changes based on an almost arbitrary figure that could easily be off by a factor of 10.

Any government response to climate change will inevitably be more about politics than science. By exaggerating global warming threats, government officials can justify higher taxes and push a variety of preexisting agendas as they regulate the various human activities that contribute to emissions. Former Canadian Environment Minister Christine Stewart put it best when she said in 1998, "No matter if the science is all phony, there are collateral environmental benefits ... climate change [provides] the greatest chance to bring about justice and equality in the world." This sentiment is perhaps shared by many members of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which Vincent Gray, an expert reviewer on every IPCC report since 1990, insists "is not a scientific body. It is a political organization that puts out propaganda as naturally as Green Peace."

While environmental awareness is generally a good thing, we must be on guard against "experts" spouting sensational, politically-motivated scaremongering to make headlines and attract funding. Unfortunately, the College's decision to invite someone like Goodstein without bringing in opposing perspectives reflects the extent to which many members of the Dartmouth community have bought into the overblown hype surrounding climate change.


An even deeper shade of Green coming at CBS

By now, I'm sure you all know that Katie Couric, who must by law be described with the adjective "perky", has stepped down as anchor of the CBS Evening News after several years of doing to her ratings what hiring an elderly mule as a CEO would do to the stock of Apple. Her replacement is likely to be veteran 60 Minutes reporter Scott Pelley. Pelley, as CBS was proud to note, is an actual journalist who is responsible for half the awards won by his former show over the past several years.

Of course, you know that if someone is getting accolades by the MSM, they can't be good for anyone with a conservative view of the world, and Pelley certainly isn't. He made a bit of a name for himself in 2006 when he equated those who don't worship at the altar of Global Warming with Holocaust deniers:
Pelley's most recent report, like his first, did not pause to acknowledge global warming skeptics, instead treating the existence of global warming as an established fact. I again asked him why. "If I do an interview with Elie Wiesel," he asks, "am I required as a journalist to find a Holocaust denier?" He says his team tried hard to find a respected scientist who contradicted the prevailing opinion in the scientific community, but there was no one out there who fit that description. "This isn't about politics or pseudo-science or conspiracy theory blogs," he says. "This is about sound science."

But doesn't the fact that there are a lot of Americans who are skeptical of global warming - not well respected scientists, perhaps, but ordinary people watching the segment - warrant at least some recognition of the other side? "There becomes a point in journalism where striving for balance becomes irresponsible," says Pelley.

So, not only is he an insulting journalist but one who has taken it solely upon himself to decide what is and isn't responsible journalism. This includes, you'll notice, deciding who is "respectable" based on criteria to which only he holds the magic key.

Pelley's global warming reporting since than has been both alarmist and oddly conspiratorial. In fact, in one report in 2008 he accused the Bush White House of tampering with the science in order to downplay what he considered the certain threat of global warming. In 2009, Pelley filed a report so full of distortions about The Eeeeevil Oil Companies (the global warming cult's favorite villain not named George Bush or Dick Cheney) that even the Columbia Journalism Review felt the need to write a detailed criticism. He's also swung his bias stick hard at coal companies and, in a non-global warming turn, gave the would-be builder of the Ground Zero Mosque a completely free field to hawk his project.

I could go on - believe me, there are plenty of examples of Pelley's unchecked bias to fill a small book - but you get the point. CBS executives could have replaced the perky Katie Couric with a serious journalist who would be honest about his biases and work hard to overcome them. Instead, they opted for just another narrative-pusher, a carbon-copy talking head with an inflated sense of self-worth whose only real effect on the network's news coverage will be to drive it even further into irrelevance.



For more postings from me, see DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here


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