Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Don Quixote coming

Physicists have taken the climatologists' ball away from them

Question: What could a climate scientist bring to the debate among physicists over the interaction of cosmic rays with the Earth’s atmosphere?

Answer: the coffee.

Physicists have long maintained that the question of climate change was properly within the realm of physics rather than that of those glorified weathermen who call themselves “climatologists.” Last week we got confirmation of that. It came in the form of a study by physicists in Switzerland.

The study, which was published in the prestigious peer-reviewed science publication Nature, gave support to an alternative theory of climate change first proposed in the late 1990s by a Danish physicist named Henrik Svensmark.

Svensmark proposed that the wild swings in climate over the eons could not be attributed to a cause as minor as slight increases in gases such as carbon dioxide. Instead, he theorized, those swings could be caused by solar activity. Cosmic rays from the sun might play a key role in cloud formation in the Earth’s atmosphere. Clouds can trap heat.

That was the theory. But like all theories, it had to be tested in the lab. The lab in question was the CERN particle accelerator in Geneva. And sure enough, the study showed that ionization increases the nucleation rate of condensation nuclei.

In other words, cosmic rays can have an effect on climate. Meanwhile, atmospheric gases don’t seem to play that big a role in cloud formation, the study concluded.

Physicists have suspected this is the case ever since Svensmark advanced the theory. One such physicist with whom I’ve discussed it at length is William Happer, who runs a physics lab that is named after him at Princeton University. The primary source of confusion for the layman, said Happer, is the supposed consensus among scientists that greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide raise the temperature of the planet.

There is indeed such a consensus, he said, but it goes only as far as the effect of the CO2 itself. And the recent rise in CO2 could account for an increase of, at most, a 10th of degree, he believes.

To get to the massive temperature spikes predicted by Al Gore et al., you need what’s known as “forcing.” That’s the theory that a relatively small increase in man-made greenhouse gases, such as CO2, will have a large effect on water vapor, which is by far the most prevalent greenhouse gas.

When I e-mailed Happer asking if we could chat about this, he informed me he was about to take a trip on the Trans-Siberian Railway and would be out of touch for a week. That’s why physicists are fun to talk to, by the way. They do lots of cool stuff. If you doubt that, read “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynmann,” in which the late Richard Feynmann describes applying his talents to safe-cracking and gambling.

Anyway, I called another scientist skeptical of the climatology crowd, Don Easterbrook. Easterbrook is a professor of geology at Western Washington University who is an expert on the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, a wind-flow system over the Pacific Ocean that has a huge influence on the Earth’s climate.

It’s back to the drawing board for the climatologists, he told me. Their models need to change to incorporate the new data.

“They couldn’t even predict 10 years ahead,” said Easterbrook. “The bottom line is their modeling results have been a dismal failure.”

The reason is not far to seek, he said. When it comes to the sun, those models took into account only the amount of heat being directed toward the Earth. They didn’t take into account the effect solar activity has on cloud formation. That’s where the physics comes in.

“Unfortunately, you do have to be a rocket scientist to understand this,” said Easterbrook. “But those climate scientists are virtually all computer modelers.”

They’ve now got something new to put into their models, he said. The CERN study doesn’t necessarily show, as some have claimed, that we’ll soon be entering an ice age or that greenhouse gases have no influence whatsoever. But it does show that computer models are only as good as the data they’re based on.

And when it comes to what could be the key piece of data needed to model the climate, the climatologists are now at the mercy of the physicists. That area of research is far above the climatologists’ heads — literally and figuratively.

ALSO: Who's in denial now? In this piece, Svensmark makes a compelling argument that climate scientists need to rework their models to include the effect of solar activity:
Ever since we put forward our theory in 1996, it has been subjected to very sharp criticism, which is normal in science.

First it was said that a link between clouds and solar activity could not be correct, because no physical mechanism was known. But in 2006, after many years of work, we completed experiments at DTU Space that demonstrated the existence of a physical mechanism. The cosmic rays help to form aerosols, which are the seeds for cloud formation.

Then came the criticism that the mechanism we found in the laboratory could not work in the real atmosphere, and therefore had no practical significance. We have just rejected that criticism emphatically.

It turns out that the Sun itself performs what might be called natural experiments. Giant solar eruptions can cause the cosmic ray intensity on earth to dive suddenly over a few days. In the days following an eruption, cloud cover can fall by about 4 per cent. And the amount of liquid water in cloud droplets is reduced by almost 7 per cent. Here is a very large effect – indeed so great that in popular terms the Earth’s clouds originate in space.


Spencer Cloud Research Uses IPCC Gold-Standard HadCRUT Data, But New Dessler Study Avoids Gold-Standard Benchmark

New research published today by Andy Dessler, an IPCC Climategate scientist, appears to have major shortcomings. His new study was greased, like goose leavings, through the peer reviewed process in just a few weeks, which may have contributed to the work's shoddiness.

Supposedly, Dessler's new research was to be a refutation of the Spencer and Braswell 2011 study that revealed clouds were likely to be a negative climate feedback. Instead of doing an apple-to-apple comparison though, Dessler chose a different temperature dataset (a non-consensus dataset avoided by the IPCC) than the Spencer research.

Unfortunately, the choice of non-HadCRUT, non-IPCC dataset, reflects the unbridled cherry-picking temptation that the Dessler research fell victim to. If the HadCRUT dataset is the IPCC benchmark that Spencer research followed, then Dessler should have met the scientific challenge by using the same best-of-breed data that the IPCC demands.

It now seems obvious that Dessler knew his research would falter if based on the gold-standard of the IPCC. If this wasn't the case, why not use the gold-standard?

Even with his cherry-picking of the dataset, Dessler research does not hold up to the statistical scrutiny that Steve McIntyre brings to the table. It didn't take long for Steve to ascertain that the positive cloud feedback that Dessler claims might not be so "positive."

"Doing the same regression with 4-month lagged relationships (which both Dessler and SB agree to be more significant than the instantaneous relationship), the sign of the slope is reversed. Whereas Dessler 2010 had reported a slope of 0.54 +- 0.72 (2σ) W/m2/K, the regression with lagged variables is -0.90 +- 0.95 w/m2/K and has better diagnostics...Given that the even the lagged relationship is weak, I’m reluctant to say that analysis using the methods of Dessler 2010 established a negative feedback, but it does seem to me that they cannot be said to have established the claimed positive feedback...Perhaps the editor of Science will send a written apology to Kevin Trenberth."

Objectively, if the Dessler rushed peer reviewed research is the best that mainstream climate scientists can deliver against the Spencer and Braswell study, then it's a case closed. Clouds do appear to be a negative feedback mechanism within the climate system as the Spencer 2011 work suggests.


Models only touch on the complexity of the climate -- so inevitably get it wrong

The claims of those who worry about human damage to the climate become ever more strident despite, or perhaps because of, the real world data rapidly diverging from that which they anticipated.

It is now 13 years since the 1998 culmination of a period of thirty years of unusual ocean surface warmth that resulted in the atmospheric temperature peak of that year. Additionally during that period the sun was more active than ever previously recorded.

AGW proponents accept that the virtual cessation of warming over the past 13 years is a result of cooler ocean surfaces but refuse to accept the corollary that the primary cause of the warmer period was warmer ocean surfaces. Warmer oceans also expand. and release natural CO2. The apparent levelling off in the sea level rise is coincident with recent cooler ocean surfaces.

It is a recent discovery that the oceans can act for decades at a time as net absorbers OR net emitters of previously accumulated solar energy on a vast and highly variable scale yet AGW proponents still ignore the overwhelming evidence because to acknowledge it would destroy years of fond memories of a publicly funded gold rush encouraged by their fanciful claims to understand climate and be in a position to influence it.

They ask us to believe many impossible things:

a) That despite a historically very active sun there was no solar warming in the latter half of the 20th Century.

b) That despite 30 years of anomalous ocean surface warmth the oceans were not the cause (but it is accepted that recent ocean cooling is the cause of recent atmospheric cooling).

c) That the Arctic has only warmed because of AGW and not as a side effect of warmer ocean water flowing into the Arctic Circle.

d) That although warmer ocean surfaces absorb less CO2 the observed increase in CO2 in the air is all or mostly our fault.

e) That a warmer ocean surface increases the surface/space temperature differential yet does not give rise to a significant increase in loss of energy to space.

f) That models which are abject failures in predicting changes in global temperature trend should be used to inform policy decisions up to 100 years hence.

g) That the current cooling is weather but the earlier warming was climate.

I could go one but readers will get the picture.

After ten years the assertions that everything since 1998 is ‘just weather’, ‘internal variability’ or ‘masking the underlying trend’, become ever more tiresome and unreasonable to expect us to believe.

The latest diversion is to announce that recent years are still in the top ten or top twenty warmest. Of course they will be until any new trend becomes longer established because all the warmest years will cluster around a peak both on the way up and on the way down. The same phenomenon would be observed at the bottom of a cooling trough.

How much longer do we have to wait to be given an honest admission that all is not well with the understanding of climate and an acknowledgement that by now there is legitimacy in calls for caution in the light of the potentially disastrous consequences of the ‘solutions’ that they have been proposing?

Solutions can be worse than problems but some seem oblivious to that. A fine and well informed judgement is required rather than emotional commitment to the cause.

For confirmation that current events are validating ideas which I presented earlier this year see here:

and for confirmation that the scientific establishment is now coming into line see the excellent recent paper from Don Easterbrook here:

The AGW proponents must now pause, take stock and immediately advise the policy makers that the levels of confidence expressed in the IPCC reports are grossly overstated and now under serious question.

The attempts to dismiss all the accumulating real world evidence are perverse. Any suggestion that recent and current events represent merely a temporary cessation of CO2 induced warming must now stop. From the speed of recent climate responses to the quiet sun and negative oceans (the observed cessation of warming) it must be apparent that the link is direct, rapid and potentially dangerous for global food production. On any view the human CO2 contribution must be powerless to drive anything on a time scale of less than a thousand years. If there is a long term problem we have plenty of time to deal with it and will probably destroy ourselves by some other means well beforehand.

AGW proponents have for long enough been demonising so called ‘deniers’ over climate issues yet we are now on the cusp of a complete reversal whereby AGW proponents should now be proclaimed as the deniers of reality.

Cold is so much more dangerous than warmth that they are now likely to become responsible for far more damage to humanity than would have been possible through the actions of AGW sceptics.

By all means do our best to minimise real pollution, reduce the speed of depletion of natural resources and whatever else can be done reasonably and economically to protect the environment but do not waste time, money and a vast number of lives in the poorer nations by starting an energy rationing and redistribution programme on the basis of a potentially false premise concerning CO2

Energy rationing is an express route to resource wars, poverty and deprivation and thus even greater damage to the planet than might otherwise occur. It is a way of bringing forward that which we fear and denies us the opportunity to take time to get the solutions to the real problems right.

The Critical Omission:

If global warming alarmists wish to persuade us and lead us they first have to convince us and furthermore earn their status by openness, clarity and honesty.

Behind their contentions they should have a clear unified idea as to how the overall global climate actually operates in the real world from start to finish. It is transparent that they have no such idea.

The Earth is just a short term way station receiving solar energy, processing it in various ways and then releasing it to space. There is currently no overarching conceptual picture of the entire process into which can be fitted all the myriad details which the ‘experts’ are arguing about.

Consequently there are no real climate experts. All we have is a wide variety of specialists in other fields that have a bearing on one aspect or another of climate related issues. The number of individuals who could be genuinely regarded as climate specialists is very limited and they are hampered by not being specialists in all the linked areas of science. Indeed the matter of climate is so all encompassing that it would be impossible anyway.

There are many sophisticated models that purport to mimic real world climate but to my mind they seem to be built upwards from innumerable details rather than downwards from a verifiable overarching concept.

No one knows how to attach due weight to each component so ‘progress’ is attempted by altering components by guesswork and then seeing whether the models will produce results something like the real world. That is referred to as ‘hind casting’ and it can be made to work but it is not possible to verify whether or not the hind cast represents truth unless the revised model can exhibit predictive skill.

In some limited respects models can be used to anticipate the future behaviour of individual components of the system for short periods. However the only thing that really matters as regards climate change is the ability to accurately predict changes in global temperature trend and to anticipate their speed and depth/height. It is not good enough to disingenuously assert, after a failure to predict a change in trend, that nevertheless they are right and it is just a temporary diversion to be expected from ‘natural variability’.

Models have no policy making value unless they correctly anticipate the scale and timing of the effect from ‘natural’ climate drivers as against ‘human’ influences Currently the models are incapable of being objectively verified as to the balance which they allocate between the two. When it was found that the models were failing to reflect reality all the difference was attributed to CO2 and the appropriate weighting inserted to ‘remove’ the problem.

The current and continuing divergence from reality is proof that the weighting for CO2 was wrong.

Every prediction or projection made so far has immediately begun to diverge from reality and the expectations of thirteen years ago now lie in tatters. Truly the blind are leading the blind.

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

The new Salem trials

Before the Salem witchcraft skeptic persecutions, the supernatural junk science was part of everyday life, for there was a strong belief that Satan title="See also Global Warming Researchers Looking To Sacrifice Animals In Order To Obtain Funding" href="">global warming was present and active on earth.

Joseph Glanvill Joe Romm claimed that he could prove the existence of witches and ghosts greenhouse gases of the supernatural superpowerful realm. Glanvill Romm wrote about the “denial of the bodily resurrection global warming. In his treatise, he claimed that ingenious men should believe in witches and apparitions runaway greenhouse gases; if they doubted the reality of spirits global warming, they not only denied demons CO2, but also the almighty God. Glanvill Romm wanted to prove that the supernatural climate change could not be denied; those who did deny apparitions CO2 were considered heretics for it also disproved their beliefs in angels government funding for junk science.



Report finds that taxpayer dollars support the ‘Big Green’ agenda

Lawsuits against a power-hungry government agency like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are inevitable.

The lawsuits come from all sides and all entities. For example, citizens and states might sue the EPA for overregulation of an industry that could lead to lost jobs and revenues. Green groups might sue the EPA because they feel it hasn’t done enough to over-regulate businesses or to expand enforcement of current environmental laws.

But it is important to note that in many cases the EPA and Treasury Department are required to award attorney’s fees to those plaintiffs that successfully dispute the EPA. And because the Justice Department is what defends the EPA in court cases, your tax dollars are what are used to pay the opposing sides’ attorneys.

It just so happens that with some thorough research by Senators Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., and David Vitter, R-La., and a report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), some light was shed on just how much taxpayer money is spent on these environmental court cases and who benefits.

What was discovered is jaw-dropping. The GAO report found that in addition to attorney’s fees awarded, the Justice Department spent at least $43 million in taxpayer dollars defending EPA in court from 1998 to 2010. That doesn’t include the fact that Treasury paid about $14.2 million from fiscal year 2003 through 2010 and the EPA paid approximately $1.4 million from fiscal year 2006 through 2010.

Because most people don’t have millions of dollars on hand to sue the EPA if need be, these statutes were put into place so citizens and industries could afford to bring charges against the federal government. However, less than 20 percent of awarded money has been given to private industries, citizens, state agencies and associations combined. This begs the question, what were the largest beneficiaries of these payouts?

The three primary beneficiaries from 1998 to 2010 were: Sierra Club, Earthjustice and Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). Total amounts these organizations received from all attorney fees paid to EPA litigants combined was at least 41 percent of the total payouts. Earthjustice alone received 32 percent, as indicated by this report.

Go figure that the primary beneficiaries of statutes set to protect citizens and private industries would instead be awarded to environmental groups that want nothing more than to extend the power and grasp of the federal government’s EPA.

Even more striking was the payout to all environmental groups (ENGOs), which in total was 82 percent.

“This fund has turned into nothing more than a taxpayer slush fund designed to pay environmental attorneys whose sole function is to further the scope and power of environmental laws, which kill industries and those jobs vital to America,” says Bill Wilson, president of Americans for Limited Government (ALG).

Further proving Wilson’s point is a press release from Sen. Vitter’s office. It claims that in 2008 alone, the NRDC received $3.5 million in taxpayer money “as it pursued litigation that would imperil the jobs of tens of thousands of energy industry employees in Louisiana alone.”

What may be worse is there is almost no accountability or transparency in how the judgment funds are dispersed. For example, the GAO could only provide the Senators with data from recent years, rather than the past 15 years, as they requested.

Also, the GAO report stated that the government may also incur other costs associated with litigation, including the costs of revising regulations in response to lawsuits, EPA overhead costs, and costs associated with delays in EPA permitting, but did not have reliable data to quantify these costs.

Sen. Vitter responded to the report in his press release stating, “The GAO report shows that taxpayers have been on the hook for years while ‘Big Green’ trial lawyers have raked in millions of dollars suing the government. Even worse, because of sloppy record keeping by the EPA and other agencies and a lack of cooperation by the Justice Department, we’re not even sure how bad the problem really is.”

Taxpayer money has no business going towards furthering the goals of environmental groups, and unfortunately, even in light of this report, Justice Department officials have no plans to make the payout process more transparent or responsible.

If organizations like NRDC, which had a reported $181,427,464 in net assets in 2009, want to sue the EPA, it should do so with its own funds, not those of the taxpayer. It makes little sense to reward environmental groups with taxpayer money to file lawsuits directed at putting taxpayers out of work.

Besides, in this administration these environmental groups and the EPA have too much power as it is.


President Obama's Green Jobs Pretense Is An Unmitigated Fiasco

The Obama green jobs stimulus program has proved to be such an unmitigated fiasco that even the administration’s mainstream loyalist New York Times has given notice. A recent article, “Number of Green Jobs Fails to Live Up to Promises,” characterized the administration’s goal of creating 5 million new green jobs in 10 years as a “pipe dream.” The article notes, for example, that a much- heralded weatherization program “never caught on.”

About half of the $186 million of federal weatherization funds California has spent so far produced a total of 538 full-time jobs during the last quarter. Another $59 million in state, federal and private money spent there for green job training resulted in only 710 placements, equivalent to an $82,000 subsidy for each.

Just before Earth Day last year, Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn went to the White House to announce a $20 million grant that would create 2,000 home insulation weatherization industry jobs and reduce the city’s climate-threatening carbon footprint. It later became apparent that that the primary footprint would be left in the mayor’s mouth.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported in August that “As of last week, only three homes have been retrofitted and just 14 jobs have emerged from the program. Many of the jobs are administrative, and not the entry-level pathways once dreamed of for low-income workers.” Michael Woo, director of Got Green, a Seattle community organizing group focused on environmental and social justice commented: “It’s been a very slow and tedious process. It’s almost painful, the number of meetings people have gone to. Those are the people who got jobs. There’s been no investment for the broader public.”

A report issued by the Government Accountability Office, the investigatory arm of Congress, raised concerns last year about favoritism in awarding some stimulus loan guarantees. The Energy Department’s inspector general admitted to Congress that there might be reasons for such suspicion — that some contracts may have been steered to “friends and family.”

Some scrutiny is being directed to Solyndra, the administration’s chosen recipient of a much ballyhooed $535 million loan guarantee in 2009 to finance the first phase of an expansion plan to create a new photovoltaic solar panel manufacturing facility. An Energy Department press release estimated that the guarantee would create 3,000 construction jobs to build the plant, and 1,000 more after it opened.

President Obama repeated the projected 1,000 job creation benefit in a May 2009 speech at the plant. On the occasion of the groundbreaking event with Secretary of Energy Steven Chu and former California Governor Arnold Schwartzenegger in attendance, Vice President Biden lauded the venture as one which would “serve as a foundation for a stronger American economy.” He went on to say: “These jobs are the ones that are going to define the 21st century that will allow America to compete and lead like we did in the 20th century.”

Unfortunately, it hasn’t worked out quite that way. About six months later, Solyndra announced plans to postpone the expansion, putting taxpayers on the hook to the tune of $390.5 million, 75% of the loan guarantee. And instead of hiring 1,000 workers, they intended to close one of its older facilities and lay-off 135 temporary or contract workers along with 40 full-time employees. As for any hope for taxpayer reimbursement, forget about it. The company has filed for bankruptcy.

Was this an unpredictable business reversal? Not really. According to Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filings, the company had never turned a profit since the time it was founded in 2005. Solyndra’s auditor declared in a March 2010 amendment to its SEC registration statement: “…the company has suffered recurring losses, negative cash flows since inception and has a net stockholder’s deficit, among other factors, [that] raise substantial doubt about its ability to continue as a growing concern.”



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


No comments: