Sunday, March 18, 2012

A very small manifesto

I put up on this blog writings by both mainstream skeptics (who believe that a greenhouse effect exists but is trivial) and ultra skeptics who think that no such effect exists at all.

And one of the reasons for that is that the greenhouse effect is a complete red herring. It does not matter whether it is true or not. The real issue is the "amplifications" that Warmists add into their predictions.

What matters above all is of course the facts and the BIG fact in climate is that warming has happened over the last 150 years but at a very slow rate. So the cause of that warming is unimportant. It is clearly so slight (less than one degree Celsius) that it is obviously no problem as it stands. A projection of the known trend into the future is no cause for alarm in any way. Another fraction of a degree of warming by the year 2100 would hardly be noticed.

But the Warmists are unlike other scientists in that they refuse to project from the known to produce the most likely prediction. They postulate that there are "amplifying" factors which will cause the trend suddenly to change and temperature will shoot upwards -- and that claim is sheer guesswork and speculation.

A crucial element in their amplification theory (such as it is) is the effect of clouds. Clouds are the main amplifier that they rely on. With absolutely no proof other than correlations that can be interpreted in completely opposite ways, they say that warming will cause increased cloudiness and that this increased cloudiness will suddenty have a catastrophic warming effect. It is all assumption and imagination, not science. It does not proceed from the known but rather from speculation

For what it is worth I think that greenhouse theory can be expressed in a coherent and plausible way but whether the theory is true or not I don't know. I see evidence for it and evidence against it and am not at all sure that all the influences at work are even known, let alone those we know being well understood.

But looking at the theory as we have it, it is difficult to see how CO2 could have any effect worth attending to. Why? 1). The major source of heating for the earth's surface is radiation from the sun so any greenhouse effect is marginal to that. 2). CO2 is an extremely minor greenhouse gas, with water vapour being the principal player. 3). As a heated molecule, CO2 will radiate heat in all directions, just as the sun does. Only a small fraction of that heat will arrive at the terrestrial surface. So CO2 heating of the earth will be a minor fraction of a minor fraction of a minor fraction of the total heat hitting the earth -- and as such must be totally inconsequential even in theory.

And reality confirms that theory. Fluctuations in CO2 are not followed by similar fluctuations in heating. Even Hume's stringent theory of causation requires that the effect regularly follows the cause and CO2 fluctuations over the last 150 years (and indeed in paleohistory) have not regularly been followed by similar fluctuations in temperatures.

It is only the incessant "adjustments" of the temperature record of the last century or so by Jim Hansen (and Michael Mann's false "hockeystick" record) that seem to show some semblance of the two factors moving in tandem. And having a fierce advocate of global warming in charge of the data on global warming is even in theory having the fox guard the henhouse. And the obvious prediction from that theory is confirmed by Hansen's regular alterations of the temperature record to suit his theory. Even he however has not been able to adjust out of existence the temperature standstill of the last 15 years or so -- at a time when CO2 levels (a record out of his control) have been rising steadily. Hume's minimal conditions for CO2 levels to be a cause of terrestrial temperature fluctuations are therefore not met.

But as I have pointed out, the greenhouse effect is simply not the issue. Even given all they want from greenhouse theory, Warmists still cannot predict anything alarming. They have to add on "amplifications" to predict any temperature rise worth attending to. And those amplifications are the real weak point in alarmism -- amplifications that are sheer speculation. And improbable speculations based on very partial knowledge are no basis for public policy.

CODA: I suppose I should add in a small coda about Venus. Warmists often assert that the high surface temperature of Venus is an example of "runaway" global warming caused by high levels of CO2. It is of course no such thing. The high Venusian surface temperature is the result of a simple adiabatic process. The huge Venusian atmosphere leads to huge atmospheric pressure at the surface which in turn leads to a very high temperature.

What most “Skeptics” of Climate Catastrophe are Skeptical Of: Nordhaus Reconsidered

by Eric Dennis

The most frustrating thing about being a scientist skeptical of catastrophic global warming is that the other side is continually distorting what I am skeptical of.

In his immodestly titled New York Review of Books article “Why the Global Warming Skeptics Are Wrong,” economist William Nordhaus presents six questions that the legitimacy of global warming skepticism allegedly rests on.

* Is the planet in fact warming?

* Are human influences an important contributor to warming?

* Is carbon dioxide a pollutant?

* Are we seeing a regime of fear for skeptical climate scientists?

* Are the views of mainstream climate scientists driven primarily by the desire for financial gain?

* Is it true that more carbon dioxide and additional warming will be beneficial?

Since the answers to these questions are allegedly yes, yes, yes and no, no, no, it’s case closed, says Nordhaus.

Except that he is attacking a straw man. Scientists (or non-scientists) who are “skeptics” are skeptical of catastrophic global warming—not warming or human-caused warming as such. So much for 1 and 2. We refuse to label CO2 a “pollutant” because it is essential to life and because we do not believe it has the claimed catastrophic impact. So much for 3. And since 4-6 don’t pertain to the scientific issue of catastrophic warming, so much for them, as well.

The object of our skepticism, catastrophic global warming, means warming caused by greenhouse gasses that would so dramatically heat up the earth that despite the proven climate adaptability of hydrocarbon-powered civilization (see “How Capitalism Makes Catastrophes Non-Catastrophic”), populations the world over would experience impoverishment, mass suffering, and death.

Why are we skeptical of this claim? Because there is radically insufficient evidence for it.

This may seem implausible, because the news media bombard us with stories of new studies, new findings, new models, new international summits allegedly confirming catastrophic global warming. But what these stories leave out is the evidential status of these developments—what any given study or model actually proves. And the answer is, little to nothing, because the present ability of scientists to understand, model, and predict the climate is far, far lower than we are led to believe.

To say that modeling the climate for long-term predictions is difficult given the current state of climate science is like saying that it would be difficult for your five-year-old son to build a 400 horsepower car from re-purposed Toys ‘R’ Us purchases. Imagine that he comes to you with pages and pages of plans he’s sketched out in crayon. The “car” will cost $22,827.35 worth of toys.

Why wouldn’t you reach for your credit card? Is that because you’re against teaching kids engineering? Is it because his sworn enemy, your daughter, is paying you off? Or perhaps it’s because this project is obviously beyond the capability of a five-year-old, and that his crayon schematics don’t offer convincing evidence that he is in fact the kind of once-in-a-generation prodigy who could somehow pull it off.

If one understands how monumental an undertaking it would be to produce a sound climate model, one can see that today’s climate modelers are making assertions no less implausible than our five-year old’s fantasy.

In physics it is generally possible to exactly predict the behavior of systems involving two independent bodies, whether planets interacting through gravity or elementary particles through the electromagnetic field. More bodies means no exact solution to the dynamical equations and a zoo of different approximations, usually requiring computational simulation, which takes more and more time as the number of bodies being simulated increases. Indeed the computation time generally grows exponentially with the number of bodies.

The global climate system comprises an astronomical number (at least billions) of effectively independent “bodies,” which is to say of isolatable, relatively uniform chunks of air, ocean, and earth. Their interactions span the complexity spectrum, from the mechanical push-and-pull of an ocean current to the lesser-known dynamics of cloud formation to intricate, biological mechanisms like plant growth and respiration that have evolved over billions of years.

Solving this kind of complex system is outside the realm of controlled approximations and reasonable estimates. It’s in the realm of random stabs, on any objective assessment of our current scientific powers. Since attempts to model this system are the basis of claims for catastrophic global warming, the evidence we need to consider pertains to whether or not such models are capturing enough of the detailed mess of forces that actually drives the climate.

Many different climate processes affect the energy balance between the earth and outer-space and thus affect temperatures on the Earth. One such process is the greenhouse effect, by which CO2 and other gases trap some extra solar energy in the atmosphere and convert it into heat. It is widely acknowledged that the CO2-linked greenhouse effect itself can produce only a modest warming going forward because the incremental warming produced by each extra liter of CO2 gets smaller and smaller as more CO2 is added.

The catastrophist projections are based on the idea that this modest warming will trigger an entirely separate set of feedback mechanisms that will multiply the warming many times. For instance warming is projected to increase ambient levels of water vapor, itself a greenhouse gas; melting ice will expose more earth or open water, which tend to absorb more solar energy as heat; temperature-linked changes in cloud patterns affect how much solar energy gets reflected back to space or back to the Earth.

There are also negative feedbacks, meaning processes that come into play due to warming, or to CO2 increases, that wind up counteracting that warming. Examples include enhanced re-radiation of energy back into space at higher temperatures, increased absorption of CO2 into the oceans, and increased quantities of organic matter capturing CO2. Indeed some supposedly positive feedbacks, like certain cloud effects, may turn out actually to be negative ones.

Moreover, nature does not simply provide us with a list of all the relevant feedbacks, or climate processes in general. There is no systematic procedure by which the set of processes included in current climate models are picked out from the catalogue of all possible such processes. The procedure is simply for modelers to engage their own imaginations, given our current knowledge, to conceive possible effects and gather evidence to confirm or falsify them.

How many known ones have been intentionally discarded due to a lack of knowledge and evidence about how to incorporate them? How many have just not been thought of to date?

In a certain sense, this is the nature of any scientific theory. But this is why such theories have to produce specific, detailed predictions, confirmed by observation, to show that they have captured the relevant causal factors. Apart from this, there is a lot of room here for the ultimate outcome of the models to be controlled by ideological predispositions—like that, of all the underlying drivers, the decisive one just happens to be CO2, the one with a clear link to the functioning of modern, industrial capitalism.

What would be a rational response when your five-year-old car enthusiast presents you with his crayon plans, protesting that he’s also proven his case by putting together a scale model in Legos? First you might point out that while his plans are impressive for a boy his age, it’s rarely the case that reality works out just like a priori plans and models suggest.

Rather than setting him loose at with your credit card, you might suggest he start off with a scaled-down project, like an RC kit. Then, if that’s a success, maybe an introduction to simple wood and then metal work. As he gets older and proves himself at each stage, he could move on to machine shop projects, welding, and an apprenticeship with a real car mechanic.

This kind of demonstrated, step-by-step progress is how legitimate inventions, and inventors, are made. At the end of the process, they no longer agitate for sizable investments on the basis of their original crayon plans.

And such demonstrated, step-by-step progress is exactly what a reasonable person ought to demand from the global warming catastrophists. Not mere simulations, generated by model code that they control and have played with for years. Since the odds are so small, a priori, that they have actually cracked the excruciatingly complicated problem of global climate prediction, we need dramatic positive evidence. Lesser evidence is powerless to overcome the overwhelming odds against being able to delicately sort out the mess of climate drivers and feedbacks.

The catastrophists need to demonstrate their methodology by applying it to smaller problems whose outcomes we don’t have to wait a century for. They need to derive unambiguous, detailed predictions for these outcomes and see them borne out. By “detailed” I mean predictions of not just a single number, like a cumulative warming trend, that could just be accidentally correct—and they’re not even getting predictions on these simpler metrics right. I mean predictions of a more intricate, unaccidental nature.

For instance, climate models predict a detailed pattern of warming that occurs at different rates in different parts of the globe and, importantly, at different altitudes in the atmosphere. But when we look in actual climate data for the specific, altitude-dependent warming signature produced by these models, we find something entirely different.

And that’s only half the problem. Before we can test models, we need this historical climate data to be accurate in order for the comparison to mean anything. Even for the one central climate variable, global average temperature, the reconstructed data is fraught with uncertainties and scientific misconduct.

What has always to be kept in mind on these issues, is (i) the massive complexity of the problem the catastrophist modelers are claiming to have solved relative to the current state of climate science, and (ii) what this implies about the onus of proof. Their claim is to have accomplished a scientific miracle with tools that by any reasonable analysis are far from capable of the task.

Absent shocking evidence of success on their part, the conclusion to draw is not: catastrophic global warming has just moderate odds of occurring. The conclusion is that these models bear as much relationship to reality as your son’s crayon plans bear to a real car. And suggestions about how to transform the entire world economy based on these models should be treated accordingly.


"This is not the atmosphere I grew up with"

So says the weather-loving Jeff Masters. But he rather gives the game away by his reference to an earlier temperature peak in the 19th century. According to Phil Jones, January 1880 was the most anomalously warm month on record – from Chicago across the Ohio Valley. CO2 was below 290 ppm at the time. So the weather that troubles Jeffy-boy proves nothing about industrially-induced global warming. Graphic below:

January, 1880 was 8C Above Normal In Chicago

As I stepped out of my front door into the pre-dawn darkness from my home near Ann Arbor, Michigan yesterday morning, I braced myself for the cold shock of a mid-March morning. It didn't come. A warm, murky atmosphere, with temperatures in the upper fifties--30 degrees above normal--greeted me instead. Continuous flashes of heat lightning lit up the horizon, as the atmosphere crackled with the energy of distant thunderstorms. Beware the Ides of March, the air seemed to be saying. I looked up at the hazy stars above me, flashing in and out of sight as lightning lit up the sky, and thought, this is not the atmosphere I grew up with.

That afternoon, as the Detroit temperature soared to 77°F, the second warmest on record so early in the year, going back to 1871, I watched as late afternoon thunderstorms built with remarkable speed.

More HERE. Graphic from here

Obama Reveals His Own Ignorance of American and World History While Denouncing Others' Alleged Ignorance

Even the liberal Talking Points Memo criticized a recent speech in which President Obama revealed his ignorance of U.S. and world history and disparaged a past U.S. President while denouncing the alleged ignorance of others.

In a recent green energy speech, Obama mocked Republicans, “comparing their skepticism of alternative energy to the ‘Flat Earth Society’ in Christopher Columbus’ day and President Rutherford B. Hayes’ apparent dismissal of the telephone.

But while Obama thinks the GOP is in need of a science lesson, he may need to bone up on history himself,” TPM notes, since President Hayes was a supporter of new technologies who had “the first telephone in the White House,” “the first typewriter in the White House,” hosted Thomas Edison, and pioneered the use of photography at White House events.

Moreover, people in Columbus’s day new perfectly well that the Earth was round, as Harvard’s Stephen Jay Gould has noted. Those skeptical of Columbus’ planned voyage just thought that Asia — Columbus’s planned destination — was too far away to reach across the Atlantic (Columbus didn’t manage to reach Asia, but he did inadvertently discover America).

In an earlier speech, Obama falsely attributed to Muslims the invention of printing, and falsely claimed that Morocco was the first country to recognize the United States as a new nation. In recent remarks, Obama’s energy secretary, Steven Chu, gave himself “an A-” for managing taxpayer money, despite the billions lost due to bad loans due to the Solyndra scandal and other costly blunders in the Obama administration’s green energy program, and the fact that the Administration’s green-loan program had an “85 percent failure rate on its process check.”

As The Washington Post noted earlier, energy programs have been “infused with politics at every level” during the Obama administration. It hastily approved subsidies for Solyndra, whose executives are now pleading the 5th Amendment, despite obvious danger signs and warnings about the company’s likely collapse. (Later, federal officials successfully pressured Solyndra to delay its announcement about upcoming layoffs until just after the 2010 election, to avoid embarrassing the Obama administration.) CBS News reported that there were 11 more Solyndras in the Obama administration’s green-energy programs. Thus, one need not be “ignorant,” as Obama suggests, to be skeptical of his green energy schemes.

The Obama administration has used green-jobs money from the stimulus package to outsource American jobs to countries like China: “Despite all the talk of green jobs, the overwhelming majority of stimulus money spent on wind power has gone to foreign companies, according to a new report by the Investigative Reporting Workshop at the American University’s School of Communication in Washington, D.C.” As the Investigative Reporting Workshop noted, “79 percent” of all green-jobs funding “went to companies based overseas . . . In fact, the largest grant made under the program so far, a $178 million payment on Dec. 29, went to Babcock & Brown, a bankrupt Australian company.” This just one of many ways in which the Obama administration has used taxpayer money to outsource American jobs to foreign countries.


The EPA is Still Doing Business With Ann Maest

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is a government agency whose stated purpose is to oversee the development of our natural resources in order to ensure that minerals such as coal, oil and natural gas are extracted from the Earth in a responsible manner. Ideally, one would think that this would mean just that, that companies could apply to the EPA, they would oversee that company’s plan for making sure the environment wasn’t harmed while they go about the business of extracted precious materials from the ground. Then the companies could go about their business of providing resources to the general population as needed.

Unfortunately, the EPA has become politicized and it would appear to be more busy preventing the development of natural resources in the USA rather than ensuring that it is done responsibly.

Case in point is Dr. Ann Maest. She is an environmental activist who has been caught red-handed fabricating data to bolster a case against Chevron over the winter. A scientist falsifying data would ordinarily be a shameful thing to do and result in that scientists dismal from whatever positions they hold and would certainly undermine their credibility.

That would be the case were it not for the fact that her environmental activism is the cause du jour and happens to coincide with the agenda of the powerful Obama Administration’s Environmental Protection Agency. Instead of her work being drawn into question, she has been used as an adviser and consultant with the EPA. In fact, she will be a panelist at the U.S. EPA Hardrock Mining Conference 2012 in Denver, Colorado.

The next time you are filling up your gas tank with $5.00 per gallon gas or paying your electric bill you might remember that when President Obama was campaigning for the presidency he stated that under his policies energy rates would necessarily skyrocket. Apparently he wasn’t kidding.

Resourceful Earth has put together a letter that you can send to Lisa Jackson, the EPA administrator, asking her to rethink doing business with Dr. Ann Maest and utilizing her questionable scientific data in decisions made by the EPA. The letter also ask Dr. Maest to be removed from the panel of the U.S. EPA Hardrock Mining Conference.

SOURCE (See the original for links)

In praise of petroleum

By Donald J. Boudreaux

A young woman approached me recently after one of my economics lectures and showed me a photograph of a pelican covered with oil from the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Waving the photo in my face, she asked, "How can you tolerate this?"

Good question. It made me realize that every newspaper across the country should publish a front-page picture of asphalt. Any old stretch of road will do. Photograph it. Print it. Post it on websites.

Every day these papers should feature a front-page picture of some other item made from petroleum (such as roofing shingles, a bottle of ammonia, ink, a waterproof parka, plastic wrap, lipstick and antiseptic ointments) or of products treated with petroleum to improve their performance and durability (such as razor blades and cutting boards).

Of course, no newspaper will publish such pictures. Unlike oil-covered pelicans, such items are not the least bit newsworthy.

Even people who aren't especially fond of animals must admit pictures such as the one my student showed me are sad. Unfortunately, though, such pictures are themselves a cause of a sort of pollution, one more dangerous than even a thousand oil spills.

I speak of polluted perceptions of reality.

Wildlife made ugly and ill by spilled oil make for vivid images. And photos of such misfortunes do indeed reveal a risk of oil drilling -- namely, temporary spoliation of some parts of the natural environment.

But precisely because such spills are relatively rare (and getting rarer), we don't see such images routinely. So when these images are presented to us, they stir our emotions.

Trouble is, by focusing on such photos we get a distorted view of the bigger picture, one that includes oil's manifest benefits.

How many of us reflect on the benefits that we enjoy from asphalt? Asphalt makes road construction and repair less costly. So we in the industrialized world daily drive to school, work and play on clean, smooth roads that would not exist, or that would be less smooth and wide, were it not for this unassuming product made from petroleum.

Asphalt is so common that we take no notice of it. Yet if it disappeared tomorrow, we'd all suffer noticeably.

The same is true for, say, plastic wrap. We give this stuff nary a thought. Yet because bacteria cannot pass through it, those thin sheets of plastic keep meats, vegetables, dairy products and breads fresher -- and protect us against food poisoning.

Fact is, gasoline and aviation fuel aren't the only products produced with petroleum. Our modern lives are full of too many such products to count.

And not only are petroleum-based products all around us and practically indispensable -- they're also inexpensive. Yet we pay no attention to these everyday wonders.

This fact is why photos of oil-covered wildlife are dangerous: They make us aware of petroleum's risks while we remain oblivious to petroleum's benefits.

In the real world petroleum is an astonishingly beneficial, versatile and inexpensive resource. In the fantasy world of too many people, however, petroleum is a vile substance that does little beyond enriching a few sheiks and billionaires while it kills both the planet and humanity.

But in fact our world is incalculably better and even cleaner because of petroleum -- which is why it is especially regrettable that newspaper pictures of the likes of plastic wrap and asphalt would not grab readers' attention with anywhere near the impact of pictures of oil-covered animals.



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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