Saturday, September 10, 2011

Is Gov. Perry ‘Anti-Science’?

During this week’s GOP presidential candidates debate in California, Texas Gov. Rick Perry made a statement about global warming that Mother Jones, the Huffington Post, the UK Guardian, and others condemn as “anti-science.” Asked by moderator John Harris of Politico “which scientists” are “most credible” in questioning “the idea that human activity is behind climate change,” Perry replied:
Well, I do agree that there is – the science is – is not settled on this. The idea that we would put Americans’ economy at – at- at jeopardy based on scientific theory that’s not settled yet, to me, is just – is nonsense. I mean, it – I mean – and I tell somebody, I said, just because you have a group of scientists that have stood up and said here is the fact, Galileo got outvoted for a spell. But the fact is, to put America’s economic future in jeopardy, asking us to cut back in areas that would have monstrous economic impact on this country is not good economics and I will suggest to you is not necessarily good science. Find out what the science truly is before you start putting the American economy in jeopardy.

The UK Guardian was quick to denigrate Perry’s answer:
It’s one thing to question the economic impact and legacy of current climate policy proposals – you would expect and wish for politicians to debate this – but for a politician to question the science in this way is striking. . . .Note how he studiously ignored the moderator’s well-crafted question: who exactly are these “Galileos” that you believe have so comprehensively cast doubt on the canon of climate science? Perry couldn’t – or wouldn’t – name them.

The Guardian makes a mountain out of a molehill. If Harris was so keen to know which climate scientists Perry finds most credible, he could have just restated the question. Perry was apparently more interested in making two basic points: (1) he does not view global warming as a warrant for imposing massive new regulatory burdens on the U.S. economy; (2) he is not impressed by appeals to an alleged “scientific consensus” because, after all, scientific issues not settled by counting heads.

The question Harris asked is bound to come up again and again in candidate forums, and it’s a bit of a loaded question at that. Alarmists would like us to believe that any human contribution to climate change constitutes a “planetary emergency” (Al Gore’s phrase) and, as such, justifies the imposition of cap-and-trade and other assaults on affordable energy. Hence, they would like nothing better than to trick opponents into arguing as if the case against cap-and-trade, or against EPA’s hijacking of climate policy, hinges on the implausible thesis that greenhouse gases do not have a greenhouse (warming) effect.

How then should presidential contenders respond to such questions? Here’s how I would answer Harris’s question:
The premise of your question, If I’m not mistaken, is the notion, popularized by Al Gore, that any human contribution to climate change by definition constitutes a “planetary emergency” demanding urgent regulatory action. This is ideology, not science. The key scientific issue is not whether greenhouse gas emissions have a greenhouse effect but how sensitive Earth’s climate is to the ongoing rise in greenhouse gas concentrations. The sensitivity issue is far from being “settled.” You asked for names of credible scientists. Three who raise fundamental questions about the sensitivity assumptions driving the big, scary global warming forecasts are Richard Lindzen, Patrick Michaels, and Roy Spencer. The debate on climate sensitivity will likely be with us for some time. At this point, all I can say is that those who assume a highly sensitive climate have a hard time explaining why there’s been no net global warming over the past 14 years.

Much of what we hear about global warming is hype and scaremongering. If climate change is the dire peril some people claim it is, then why has there been no acceleration in sea-level rise over the past five decades? Why did heat-related mortality in the USA decline, decade-by-decade, from the mid-1960s to the late 1990s? Why has there been no long-term increase in hurricane-related economic damages once you adjust for increases in wealth, the consumer price index, and population? Why have total deaths and death rates related to extreme weather events declined by 93% and 98%, respectively, since the 1920s? Why has U.S. farm output increased dramatically over the past half century?

For more than two decades, the environmental movement has been pushing an ideology that might be called Kyotoism or, alternatively, Gorethodoxy. This is the view that global warming is a catastrophe in the making from which we can save ourselves only by waging the moral equivalent of war on affordable energy. The real catastrophe would be in enacting their agenda of cap-and-trade, energy taxes, and more subsidies for companies like Solyndra. Not even a prosperous America could afford to replace coal, oil, and natural gas with wind turbines, solar panels, and biofuel. We certainly cannot afford to do so in the current economic crisis.


A PERSPECTIVE ON CLIMATE CHANGE, a primer for politicians

Climate change is a major issue of our times. Concern is affecting environmental, energy, and economic policy decisions. Many politicians are under the mistaken belief that legislation and regulation can significantly mold our climate to forestall any deviation from “normal” and save us from a perceived crisis. This post is intended as a primer for politicians so they can cut through the hype and compare real observational data against the flawed model prognostications.

The information below is gleaned from the scientific literature. The data show that the current warming is not unusual, but part of a natural cycle; that greenhouse gases, other than water vapor, are not significant drivers of climate; that human emissions of carbon dioxide are insignificant when compared to natural emissions of greenhouse gases; and that many predictions by climate modelers and hyped by the media are simply wrong. There is no physical evidence showing that human carbon dioxide emissions have a significant effect on global temperature. Carbon dioxide is vital to life on earth and current atmospheric levels are dangerously low. Political schemes to cut greenhouse gases will have no measurable effect on temperature but will greatly harm the economy by impeding energy production and use.


The graph below, based on reconstruction from the geologic and historical records, shows that there have been several warm/cold cycles since the end of the last glacial epoch. The temperature during the Holocene Climate Optimum was 3ºF to 10ºF warmer than today in many areas. This is warmer than the extreme scenarios of the IPCC. Clearly, current temperatures are neither unprecedented nor unusually warm.

Looking at the broader geologic record, we see that there is little correlation between temperature and carbon dioxide.

Note that there was an ice age at the end of the Ordovician Period when atmospheric CO2 was approximately 4,500 ppm or more than 11 times the current level. Notice also that the “normal” temperature of this planet is 22 C, or about 18 F warmer than it is now.

For more details and references see: Natural Climate Cycles

But what about the ice core graphs?

These show a correlation between temperature and carbon dioxide. But what isn’t usually mentioned is that temperature changes PRECEDED changes in CO2 concentration by about 800 years. That’s because temperature controls carbon dioxide solubility in the oceans. Notice that the temperature cycles occur in approximately 100,000-year intervals. This coincides with the precession of the Earth’s elliptical orbit around the Sun. (Can you think of anything that would make CO2 cycle this way if it were the driver rather than temperature?)

For more information and references see: Al Gore’s Favorite Graph

Carbon Dioxide and the Greenhouse Effect

The “greenhouse effect,” very simplified, is this: solar radiation penetrates the atmosphere and warms the surface of the earth. The earth’s surface radiates thermal energy (infrared radiation) back into space. Some of this radiation is absorbed and re-radiated back to the surface and into space by clouds, water vapor, methane, carbon dioxide, and other gases. Water vapor is the principle greenhouse gas; the others are minor players. Without the greenhouse effect the planet would be an iceball, about 34 C colder than it is. The term “greenhouse effect” with respect to the atmosphere is an unfortunate usage because it is misleading. The interior of a real greenhouse (or your automobile parked with windows closed and left in the sun) heats up because there is a physical barrier to convective heat loss. There is no such physical barrier in the atmosphere.

Carbon dioxide is a “greenhouse” gas, but its theoretical ability to warm the atmosphere (as shown on the graph) diminishes with increasing concentration. For instance, if a certain amount of carbon dioxide can cause a 1 degree temperature rise, it will take twice that amount to warm the next degree.

The reason it works this way is because carbon dioxide can absorb only a few specific wavelengths of thermal radiation. The current concentration of carbon dioxide has absorbed almost all available radiation in those wavelengths so there is little left for additional carbon dioxide to absorb. Water vapor absorbs many of the same wavelengths of thermal radiation decreasing the effect of carbon dioxide even more. That is why our proposed attempts to decrease atmospheric carbon dioxide will have almost no effect on temperature.

For more details see: Carbon Dioxide and the Greenhouse Effect and Humans and the Carbon Cycle


The IPCC says that warming will produce more water vapor which will enhance greenhouse warming, a positive feedback. All their climate models are based on this assumption. Sounds reasonable, except in the real world it doesn’t happen. Increased water vapor produces more clouds which block the sun thereby inducing cooling, a negative feedback.

According to climate models, the rate of warming should increase by 200-300% with altitude in the tropics, peaking at around 10 kilometers – a characteristic “fingerprint” for greenhouse warming. However, measurements by weather balloons and satellites show the opposite result: no increasing temperature trend with altitude. In other words, the model-predicted “fingerprint” of anthropogenic, greenhouse warming is absent in nature. The computer-predicted signature of greenhouse warming trends should look like the graph on the left below, but according to measurements from satellites and radiosondes, the actual temperature trend is as depicted in the graph on the right

The atmosphere is not static; we have weather which tends to dissipate heat into space. According to real world measurements, the negative feedbacks overwhelm the theoretical positive feedback posed by the IPCC.

The greenhouse model is a simplified story that helps explain how our atmosphere works. However, the real world is very complicated and still not fully understood. Even global warming alarmist James Hansen of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, had this to say: “The forcings that drive long-term climate change are not known with an accuracy sufficient to define future climate change.” — James Hansen, “Climate forcings in the Industrial era”, PNAS, Vol. 95, Issue 22, 12753-12758, October 27, 1998.

And even the IPCC once admitted, “In climate research and modeling, we should recognize that we are dealing with a coupled non-linear chaotic system, and therefore that the prediction of a specific future climate state is not possible.” — Final chapter, Draft TAR 2000 (Third Assessment Report), IPCC.

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

US Summers Warmed Faster In The Early 20th Century

From 1900 to 1940, US summers warmed at a rate of 5F per century. Then they cooled until 1960. Since 1960, they have been warming at a rate of 3F per century.

1936 is still officially the hottest summer, even though USHCN adds 0.6F on to all recent US temperatures.


So-Called “Climate-Sensitivity” – A Dance On The Head Of A Pin

The highly critical weblog and media posts on the Spencer and Braswell (2011) and Dessler (2011) papers reminds me of the medieval question “how many angels can dance on the head of a pin“.

The question the scientists, bloggers and media are asking is what is the magnitude of a so-called “climate sensitivity” to the human input of CO2 and a few other greenhouse gases? The more appropriate question, is why do we care?

What they are calling “climate sensitivity” is in fact the resultant change in the global average surface temperature anomaly to a change in the global average radiative forcing (e.g. see). Climate is so much more than this, as is documented in the figure below from NRC (2005) which I have presented on my weblog numerous times before.

The problem with focusing on the use of a so-called “climate sensitivity” as the holy grail of climate to communicate to policymakers is that it has essentially frozen the adoption of effective adaptation and mitigation responses to the real climate issues.

The real climate issues should be on how climate variability and longer term climate change (from both human and natural forcings) affect risks to our key resources of water, food, energy, human health and ecosystem function. The narrow definition of the so-called ”climate sensitivity”, while of interest as a science question, is essentially worthless as a metric to use in order to reduce the threats faced by these key resources.

Instead of the vitriolic debates on weblogs and media on the Spencer and Braswell (2011) and Dessler (2011) papers, lets move towards a bottom-up, resource-based perspective such as we have proposed in our paper

Pielke Sr., R.A., R. Wilby, D. Niyogi, F. Hossain, K. Dairuku, J. Adegoke, G. Kallos, T. Seastedt, and K. Suding, 2011: "Dealing with complexity and extreme events using a bottom-up, resource-based vulnerability perspective". AGU Monograph on Complexity and Extreme Events in Geosciences, in press.

The bottom line conclusion is that the assessment of risks to key resources, including threats from climate variability and climate change, based on the magnitude of a so-called “climate sensitivity“, is a fatally flawed framework for developing effective adaptation and mitigation policies to reduce those risks.

The reduction of risks using the bottom-up, resource-based framework, in contrast, is a much more valuable and inclusive approach. With this perspective policymakers can adopt effective mitigation and adaptation methodologies to deal with the diversity of complex threats to society and the environment that will occur in the coming decades, regardless of the extent that humans are altering the global average surface temperature.

SOURCE (See the original for links and graphics)

More settled science: Earth's climate has been abruptly changing over past 800,000 years with 'safe' levels of CO2

An international team of scientists, led by Dr Stephen Barker of Cardiff University, has produced a prediction of what climate records from Greenland might look like over the last 800,000 years.

Drill cores taken from Greenland's vast ice sheets provided the first clue that Earth's climate is capable of very rapid transitions and have led to vigorous scientific investigation into the possible causes of abrupt climate change.

Such evidence comes from the accumulation of layers of ancient snow, which compact to form the ice-sheets we see today. Each layer of ice can reveal past temperatures and even evidence for the timing and magnitude of distant storms or volcanic eruptions. By drilling cores in the ice scientists have reconstructed an incredible record of past climates. Until now such temperature records from Greenland have covered only the last 100,000 years or so.

The team's reconstruction is based on the much longer ice core temperature record retrieved from Antarctica and uses a mathematical formulation to extend the Greenland record beyond its current limit.

Dr Barker, Cardiff School of Earth and Ocean Sciences said: "Our approach is based on an earlier suggestion that the record of Antarctic temperature variability could be derived from the Greenland record. "However, we turned this idea on its head to derive a much longer record for Greenland using the available records from Antarctica."

The research published in the journal Science (Sept. 8) demonstrates that abrupt climate change has been a systemic feature of Earth's climate for hundreds of thousands of years and may play an active role in longer term climate variability through its influence on ice age terminations.

Dr Barker added: "It is intriguing to get an insight into what abrupt climate variability may have looked like before the Greenland records begin. We now have to wait until longer Greenland records are produced so that we can see how successful our prediction is."

The new predictions provide an extended testing bed for the climate models that are used to predict future climate variability.


Obama Proclaims: Stimulus Forever

Bet you didn’t know that cement was really, really bad for you. It’s not actually bad for you, but that isn’t stopping the EPA from imposing more ridiculous rules, known as MACT, that will require the cement industry to invest billions in new technology over the next two years in order to improve air quality.

Hey: We may not have jobs, but take a deep breath. Can't you breath easier knowing that you'll breath easier in the unemployment line now that Obama's extending the dole?

All this as Obama calls on Congress to give him more money to create more unionized government workers, more buildings to house them, more unionized workers to build bridges to ANYWHERE.

I don't know about you, but the streets in my town don't need another layer of asphalt. It didn't work out so great the last time we tried this.

What we need is for government to stop genuflecting to enviros and unions while kneeling on the backs of Main Street and industry.

The cement industry is just another victim in Obama’s serial job-killing spree that includes banking, investment, construction, home building, energy, defense and autos. At least we still have a thriving green job industry that requires billions in federal subsidies.

Ok. Maybe not thriving, by they do require the subsidies. Hence Obama's brave call for more spending to support failing industries and government in the guise of job creation.

Obama’s top job-assassins at the EPA plan on killing another 25,000 current jobs in the cement industry- you know, jobs employing real people who have kids and up-to-date mortgages and don’t need food stamps or unemployment or subsidies- even while Obama is calling for $450 billion in new federal spending to create new government jobs to replace the old private sector jobs he killed.

With plans like this, we could be spending federal stimulus money f-o-r-e-v-e-r.

Get it? Or do I have to spell it out for you again?

Estimates for complying with the new cement mandates, according to the EPA and the House Energy Committee, are between $2.5 and $3.5 billion 2013 for an industry that generates $6.5 billion in sales annually.

Remember the last trillion dollar stimulus bill that failed?

It didn’t work because the government really sucks at making investment choices for the rest of us- see Security, Social for an example. All governments suck at it- see Greece, France, Italy, Portugal, etc. Asking the government to make investment decisions for the economy is like asking an alcoholic to make up a wine menu at a rehab facility.

It’s just something that common sense tells you shouldn’t be done. Of course that presupposes one possesses common sense in the first place.

Maybe that’s why Obama’s so bad at investment choices. Obama’s spending money on investments in more stuff that doesn’t work with one hand- see energy, solar- while he’s killing jobs with regulations that don’t work in the other- see cement.

He should really just try stopping both. Or alternately someone could stop him.

In one of the signs that Obama may have more trouble inside his own party than with the loyal opposition heading in to the 'Ought-Twelve election cycle, Democrats and Republicans are teaming up for an 11th hour effort to stop the EPA from putting the sea-ment shoes on the cement industry.

The House Energy Panel is currently holding hearings on a bill designed to preserve jobs and manufacturing capacity for cement manufacturers impacted by new regulatory clutter imposed by Obama’s EPA.

Known as the Sullivan bill after prime sponsor Rep John Sullivan (R-OK), the bill seeks to prevent more jobs from fleeing overseas. It's designed to reign-in the regulatory and financial burdens that Obama has put on private industry as the economy teeters on the brink of a double-secret depression.

“The President is talking about jobs tonight and I want to be clear - this bill is jobs,” said Sullivan yesterday in hearings on the bill. “If the EPA rules go into effect – nearly 20,000 jobs will be lost due to plant closures and inflated construction costs.”

Sullivan says that the EPA’s current rules threaten to shut down 20 percent of the nation’s cement manufacturing plants in the next two years, sending thousands of jobs permanently overseas and driving up cement and construction costs across the country.

The bill is sponsored jointly by both Republicans and Democrats including Reps. John Sullivan(R-OK) and Mike Ross (D-AR), together with Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), Bob Latta (R-Ohio), Greg Walden (R-OR), Joe Barton (R-TX), John Carter (R-TX), Charles Dent (R-PA), Dan Boren (D-OK), and Jason Altmire (D-PA).

After the president's speech last night Sullivan said "I am glad the President is bringing his ideas to the table, but American people are tired of speeches and costly stimulus bills that fail to create jobs...It is my hope the President will take a long hard look at our efforts to reign in job crushing federal regulations, maximize American energy production and to pay down our massive debt – if passed by the Senate and signed by the President, these simple actions will grow our economy and create American jobs right now.”

But don't breathe easier quite yet.



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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