Monday, December 31, 2012

Lewandowsky again attempting to sound authoritative

De-Published and Australian-resident psychologist of climate, Stephan Lewandowski, has once again attempted to establish his wisdom in the matter of climate beliefs.  He has written an article for Australia's main public broadcaster (where else?) in which he makes some vanilla comments about what it takes to change people's minds (A lot.  He should know) and attempts to portray climate skepticism as an unreasonably fixed belief.

He does the usual appeal to authority that is typical of people who do not want to look at the evidence but has a few refinements beyond the usual.   I will add a few comments at the foot of the  "pearls" concerned: I quote:
Those elements of a successful rebuttal can be illustrated with a recent article (paywalled) by climate "sceptic" Matt Ridley that has attracted considerable attention, having first appeared in The Wall Street Journal, before being taken up by The Australian and Forbes.

According to this article, we have nothing to worry about: the author acknowledges that the globe is warming and human greenhouse gas emissions are to blame, but claims that the warming will be slight and good for us.

However comforting it may be, this claim is misleading. The article cites only one peer-reviewed study, by Ring and colleagues, and it misrepresents the implications of their work. When I contacted one of the authors, Professor Michael Schlesinger of the University of Illinois, he replied:

    "The author of the Wall Street Journal article that mentions the findings of our paper is just plain wrong about future warming. Our research shows that global warming will exceed 2C, defined as dangerous climate change, by the middle of this century."

This correction is straightforward but may be insufficient to permit discounting of this misinformation. Let's apply the three principles for successful debunking.

First, one must point out that the author, Matt Ridley, has financial interests related to coal mining (it must be noted that he does declare this interest at the end of his article). The possible conflict of interest is clearly relevant. Moreover, because climate change is an exercise in risk management, the author's record of risk (mis-)management is also relevant. One must be concerned that Matt Ridley was chairman of a bank that experienced the first bank run in the UK in 150 years, which led a member of the UK Parliament's Select Committee on Treasury to ask of Matt Ridley:

    "you have damaged the good name of British banking; why are you still clinging to office?"

Second, one must point out that there is an overwhelming consensus in the peer-reviewed literature which suggests that future warming will be more than slight and that it will be far from beneficial for most societies. With natural weather-related disasters having nearly tripled in the last 30 years already, it takes a considerable leap of faith to hope, let alone claim, that future warming will have beneficial effects overall.

Finally, one must visualise the future warming using a graph. The figure below was provided by Professor Schlesinger, whose work was misrepresented in the Wall Street Journal piece, from one of his recent papers:

The figure shows that regardless of which data set is being used to produce projections (i.e., GISS, HADCRU, or NOAA), there will be considerably more than 2C warming (ie, the UNFCCC threshold) by century's end.


I have just re-read the Ridley article and following is the whole of what Ridley said about the Schlesinger article:

"Michael Ring and Michael Schlesinger of the University of Illinois, using the most trustworthy temperature record, also estimate 1.6°C."

What Lewandowsky has seized on was in other words entirely incidental to the thrust of Ridley's article, which relied principally on discussions with an IPCC statistician, Nic Lewis.  And what Ridley has said does not necessarily conflict with the out-of-context quote put up by Lewandowski.  Ridley quoted results for  "the most trustworthy temperature record" and those results  need not at all be the same as the results for all temperature records or even the mean temperature record.  So no points to Lewandowsky so far.

Lewandowsky then goes completely "ad hominem", a mode of argument that has no scholarly repute whatever and which therefore proves nothing: He points out that Ridley was chairman of a failed British bank.  I should ignore such an irrelevant argument but let me point out anyway that Lewandowsky somehow forgets to mention that heaps of banks worldwide -- mostly run by very bright people --  also went bust at roughly the same time (the 2007-2008 GFC).  That hardly merits pointing the finger at Ridley.  So no points to Lewandowsky for that little bit of nastiness either.

Lewandowsky then says: "With natural weather-related disasters having nearly tripled in the last 30 years..."  but the link he gives for that claim is to  one of his own prior articles!   Since I have put up plenty of evidence to the contrary in recent times (e.g. here), I will say no more at this point.  But Lewandowsky is just cherrypicking.  Certainly no points for that.

His last stab is to put up a pretty-looking graph.  But note the timescale that the graph covers.  It is all prophecy and, as  such, unfalsifiable.  So in philosophy of science terms it is not even an empirical statement.  It is a statement of belief and not a statement of fact.  And prophecies are almost always false, as we saw with the recent Mayan debacle.  So no points for that either.

So when it gets beyond vague principles and onto matters of fact, Lewandowsky is left clutching at smoke.  And he greatly discredits his own claim to scholarship in the process -- JR

Sceptics weather the storm to put their case on climate

Some serious comments from an Australian cartoonist.  It's presumably only his status as a cartoonist that got him published in Australia's most  Leftist mainstream newspaper

WELL, so much for the 2012 apocalypse. If the ancient Mayans ever knew anything about the future, they made a serious miscalculation. The same fate has befallen the international climate change emergency brigade. About $1 billion and 18 "Kyoto" meetings later, the world has agreed to do nothing much more than meet again.

How did this frightening climate threat dissolve into scientific uncertainty and political confusion? What of the many billions of dollars of wasted public resources? Some might blame the "sceptics", the "merchants of doubt" or the "deniers". Others point to the global financial crisis.

We can say for certain that many hesitant individuals overcame the pressures of group-think, intimidation and tribal disapproval to have a closer look at the relationship between real science, politics and business.

I was once told by a friend that when it comes to scientific issues of major public concern, it is "not what you know but who you know". I think he meant that my fledgling scepticism about dangerous anthropogenic global warming (DAGW) was pointless, for as a cartoonist I was as unqualified to assess the science as he was.

The implication was that all who are untrained in "climate science" are required to accept the scientific and political authority of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and its local colleagues such as the CSIRO: the scientific establishment.

I found my friend's advice baffling. Anyone familiar with the judicial process knows the gravest issues of liberty and fortune are often determined by a jury selected from the public. Expert witnesses can give evidence in support of either side at a trial. The judge must rule on questions of admissibility, but in the end it is the jury that decides which scientific evidence is to be believed.

In the climate debate, the only "judge" is the scientific method - a testable hypothesis followed by factual or experimental challenge. The "facts" here represent an anxious problem for the DAGW advocates. For example, everybody agrees that the warming trend paused 16 years ago, despite a corresponding 10 per cent increase in atmospheric CO2. This ought to be an embarrassment to the global warming alarmists. What exactly is the relationship between CO2 and temperature? Why did the warming trend stop as it did between 1945 and 1975, when CO2 emissions took off?

As Dr David Whitehouse, the former BBC online science editor, said in the New Statesman in 2007, "something else is happening to the climate and it is vital we find out what or we may spend hundreds of billions of pounds needlessly". Obviously we should pay close attention to the computer models that form the basis of climate scientists' projections. In fact these models apparently failed to anticipate the current pause in global warming, not to mention the abundance of post-drought rainfall in Australia. Scientific "consensus" based on these computer models is becoming rather shaky.

The reason why scientific consensus emerged in this debate is because political activists want to get things moving, and if they say that consensus is scary and urgent, then sceptics had better get out of the way.

The activist cause peaked early in 2007 when Al Gore's film An Inconvenient Truth became an international hit. This documentary was superficially compelling for the uninitiated, but in October 2007 the British High Court found the film contained nine errors of fact.

Professor Bob Carter of Queensland's James Cook University gave evidence in this case; few people in Australia are aware of this severe embarrassment for Mr Gore.

Later that year, the ABC broadcast Martin Durkin's provocative documentary, The Great Global Warming Swindle, against the outraged objections of many prominent alarmists. How interesting. The science was "settled", the debate was said to be over and no further discussion was required. Any media professional should have been aroused by such an excited censorship campaign, and it stimulated my first cartoon on the subject (above), which depicted the family TV set as mediaeval stocks with an imprisoned climate sceptic being pelted by the family with their TV dinner.

It seemed to me that things changed after that documentary was screened. Perhaps the shock of hearing the likes of Nigel Calder, former editor of New Scientist, and Patrick Moore, co-founder of Greenpeace, had joined the ranks of the sceptical was just too much for some people.

Things got nasty. Someone came up with the brilliant but insidious idea of using the term "denier" to describe a person who remained agnostic or sceptical about the exact human contribution to the 0.7 degree global warming of the past 100 years. This malicious rhetoric came to be adopted by climate activists, media reporters and politicians up to head-of-state level. Many distinguished scientists such as Paul Reiter of the Pasteur Institute in Paris, Professor Richard Lindzen of MIT, and Bill Kininmonth, former head of our National Climate Centre, were casually defamed in this way. The same label was applied to world-renowned theoretical physicist Freeman Dyson and Australia's distinguished Professor Bob Carter.

Holocaust denial describes the heartless and despicable refusal by anti-Semites to acknowledge the historical truth of the Jewish genocide of World War II. If you use the offensive term "denier" you do so for reasons best known to yourself. You may be calculating or you may be indifferent, but as Wong, Rudd and Gillard would have known, the effect is pungent. No sensible, morally responsible person wants to be stigmatised in such a way.

Some prominent Australian intellectuals to this day continue to explicitly endorse the moral equivalence between Holocaust and global warming denial. This is all the more incredible because it comes from academics who understand the horror of the Holocaust. For good measure, sceptics have also been compared with 18th century slave trade advocates, tobacco lobbyists and even paedophile promoters.

But times have changed, and since 2007, the non-scientific players in this great intellectual drama have been confronted by creeping uncertainty about many of the major climate science issues. These have included the composition of the IPCC and the credibility of its processes; remember Glaciergate? The IPCC predicted the end of the Himalayan glaciers based on non-scientific literature; the unusual (or not) melting of sea ice and glaciers; the evidence for warm temperatures during the mediaeval period; the importance of sun spots; changes (or not) in patterns of extreme weather events; ocean "acidification"; ocean warming and rising sea levels; bio-mass absorption and the longevity of molecules of atmospheric CO2; the influence of short-period El Nino southern oscillation (ENSO) and other similar oscillations on a multi-decade scale; the chaotic behaviour of clouds; and the impact of cosmic rays on climate. Even James Lovelock, the founder of the "Gaia", movement has turned sceptic.

By early 2010, it seemed that nearly every single element of the global warming debate was up for grabs, and scandals like Climategate and gross mistakes in their work had weakened the credibility of the IPCC. Even Professor Paul Jones of the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, a leading contributor to IPCC calculations, confirmed in a 2010 BBC interview that the warming rates of the periods 1860-80, 1910-40 and 1975-98 were statistically similar. He also said that "I don't believe that the vast majority of climate scientists believe that the climate change [debate] is over".

To the great credit of The Age and its pluralistic tradition, the occasional sceptical science article has been published along with regular cartoons on the issue.

However, I still feel that the voices of highly qualified sceptics are not heard enough. In an effort to redress this imbalance, an unusual book on the sceptics' view will be published in 2013.

The text, sprinkled with cartoons and illustrations, takes the Socratic form, giving answers to commonly asked questions about the science and economics of climate change. The content is provided by a collaboration of five highly qualified experts. They include a meteorologist, the former director of the Australian National Climate Centre; a geologist, a former member of the Australian Research Council and chairman of the Earth Sciences Panel; an independent energy consultant who manages his own small hydro power station; a professor of environmental engineering (hydrology) and one of Australia's leading tax consultants.

I trust the integrity and compassion of these "deniers", and admire their courage and awesome perseverance. We hope the book will help redress the imbalance in easily accessible knowledge for a "jury" of ordinary Australians.


The global warming scare has had almost continuous precursors

Though no other scare approaches it for profitability

In his 1702 opus Magnalia Christi Americana, the prominent Puritan Cotton Mather related a story about Francis Higginson, the first minister to serve the citizens of Salem, Massachusetts. Before Higginson sailed to New England in 1629, Mather wrote, he preached one last sermon to his old congregation in Leicester. The Lord, it seemed, was preparing a punishment for England. A war was coming, and Leicester in particular was going to suffer. So Higginson was heading across the sea to seek shelter in a place where God’s people could build a more holy commonwealth, a place safe from the destruction to come. The colonists, he concluded, were following the advice of Christ: “When you see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then flee to the mountains.”

Mather wrote those words long after the English civil war that saw Leicester besieged and sacked. Skeptics might suspect him of inventing or exaggerating a story that made a fellow Puritan look prophetic. But the idea that America could serve as refuge from an Old World apocalypse was not limited to the perhaps-apocryphal story of Higginson’s final preachment.

John Winthrop, an early governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, declared that “God hath provided this place to be a refuge for many whome he meanes to save out of the generall callamity.” William Bradford, an early governor of Plymouth, cited “the divine proverb, that a wise man seeth the plague when it cometh, and hideth himself.” After that civil war did break out in England, the Puritan poet and minister Michael Wigglesworth described the New World as a “hiding place, which thou / Jehovah, didst provide…When th’ overflowing scourge did pass / Through Europe, like a flood.” City upon a hill, schmitty upon a hill: America was a fallout shelter.

It wasn’t long before the settlers started spotting signs of Armageddon on this side of the Atlantic too. Wigglesworth described America as a place with “no enemyes” and with “such peace / As none enjoyd before,” but for Mather it was “a World in every Nook whereof, the devil is encamped.” When the Puritans weren’t fighting actual wars with French Catholic settlers and Native Americans, they were imagining conspiracies of Catholics, Indians, and invisible spirits all around them. Sometimes those alleged plots combined into a single cabal. At “their Cheef Witch-meetings,” Mather warned, “there has been present some French canadians, and some Indian Sagamores, to concert the methods of ruining New England.” Such anxieties would prove durable.

In Heaven on Earth, the Boston University historian Richard Landes presents a cross-cultural survey of millennialism—the conviction that we’re approaching either the end of the world or a sudden, radical global transformation. One theme of the book is the experience of “apocalyptic time,” that moment when men and women become convinced that the change they have anticipated is about to arrive. “Many things come to people who believe themselves in the midst of apocalyptic time; many things become possible,” Landes writes. “Such people bring us saintly men wandering through Europe preaching peace, and warriors with crosses wading in blood up to their horses’ bridles, both believing that this was the Day our Lord promised, to rejoice therein.”

The closer you look at American history, the more it seems that someone somewhere is always in apocalyptic time. Sometimes the whole country seems to plunge in together, as in such convulsive periods as the American Revolution, the Civil War, and the aftermath of 9/11. Other times a distinct subculture detects an eschaton invisible to everyone else. On October 22, 1844, the followers of William Miller abandoned their homes and fields and gathered to greet the end of the world; to quote Mark Twain’s account, they “put on their ascension robes, took a tearful leave of their friends, and made ready to fly up to heaven at the first blast of the trumpet. But the angel did not blow it.”

The Millerites came and went without hurting much more than the believers’ pride. But other millennial movements attracted a reputation for violence, for taking up arms to hasten or weather the oncoming collapse.

In the 1980s, for example, a far-right sect called the Covenant, the Sword, and the Arm of the Lord convinced itself that the last days were at hand. “It will get so bad that parents will eat their children,” church leader James Ellison predicted. “Death in the major cities will cause rampant diseases and plagues. Maggot-infested bodies will lie everywhere. Earthquakes, tidal waves, volcanoes, and other natural disasters will grow to gigantic proportions. Witches and satanic Jews will offer people up as sacrifices to their gods, openly and proudly; blacks will rape and kill white women and will torture and kill white men; homosexuals will sodomize whoever they can. Our new government will be a part of the one-world Zionist Communist government. All but the elect will have the mark of the Beast.” Ellison’s followers started conducting military maneuvers and plotting terrorist attacks. Their career concluded in a 1985 standoff with the feds, a siege that lasted for four days before the militants surrendered.

Sometimes the story is inverted: A millennial movement inspires apocalyptic fears in the mainstream, and believers become the targets of violence rather than its perpetrators. The classic example is the Ghost Dance, a 19th-century messianic movement centered around a Northern Paiute Indian called Wovoka. There would come a day, Wovoka preached, when the familiar world would end and a new age would begin, when the living would become immortal and the ghosts of the dead would return. To hasten this day, Indians must set aside their differences, give up guns and alcohol and idleness, dance the Ghost Dance, and spread the good news.

The faith was transmitted orally, so it mutated and adapted rapidly, absorbing different attributes in different places as different tribes encountered it. Among the recently defeated Sioux, licking their wounds in the Dakotas, the religion took on a militant flavor, introducing the ideas that the white race would be wiped out and that special shirts would make their wearers impervious to bullets. Even in this form, the Ghost Dance was an explicitly nonviolent religion. If anything, it may have tamped down the impulse to attack whites, since it allowed angry Indians to believe that the intruders would soon be removed by supernatural means.

Nonetheless, when the Hunkpapa Sioux leader Sitting Bull endorsed the Ghost Dance in 1890, he broke a peace pipe in public and announced that he was ready to fight and die for the faith. That was enough for Maj. James McLaughlin, Washington’s representative in its interactions with the local Indians, to fire off a letter to the federal commissioner of Indian affairs. Sitting Bull, he warned, was “an adept in influencing his ignorant henchmen and followers, and there is no knowing what he may direct them to attempt.”

The McLaughlin letter leaked to the newspapers. The Chicago Daily Tribune published it under the headline “TO WIPE OUT THE WHITES: What the Indians Expect of the Coming Messiah.”The Philadelphia Telegraph fretted that “Army officers may be perfectly well informed of Sitting Bull’s intrigues, but they can do nothing until he deliberately perfects his rascally plans and gets ready to start his young bucks on a raid.” The New York Times announced that “the redskins are dancing in circles,” then quoted a “half-breed” courier as to what such symbolism must mean: “The Sioux never dance that dance except for one purpose, and that is for war.” At one point the Tribune reported that a battle with the Indians had already left 60 dead or wounded. In fact the clash had never occurred.

Nervous whites begged the government for greater protection. On December 15, 1890, a botched attempt to arrest Sitting Bull at the Standing Rock reservation ended in violence: The police killed Sitting Bull and some of his supporters, and his supporters killed several arresting officers. Fearing retaliation, hundreds of the Hunkpapa fled their homes, hoping to seek shelter with the Indians at Cheyenne River, but the Seventh Cavalry caught up with them and brought them to Wounded Knee Creek on December 28.

What followed was one of the most notorious massacres in American history. Government troops ended up killing between 170 and 190 of the Indians, including at least 18 children. More than two dozen whites died too, largely from friendly fire. Fearing an apocalypse, the soldiers inflicted one instead.

There has been no shortage of millennial movements and moments since then, from the saucer cults that started to mushroom after World War II to Christian sects convinced that Christ’s return was close. The 1960s and ’70s saw a general fear of an onrushing cataclysm, an anxiety circulating in secular as well as religious circles. The environmentalists of the era were often prone to mistaking ecological problems for imminent planetary doom. (In 1969, Ramparts magazine warned on its cover that the oceans could be dead in just a decade.) In Christian America, Hal Lindsey, co-author with Carole Carlsson of the immensely popular The Late Great Planet Earth, interpreted world events through the lens of Biblical prophecy and argued that Armageddon was nigh. This was no fringe phenomenon: Since its release in 1970, Lindsey and Carlsson’s book has sold more than 35 million copies.

Meanwhile, the rise of nuclear weaponry made the sudden destruction of the United States an actual possibility. And if the end of the Cold War diminished that particular anxiety, the September 11 attacks thrust the country into something even more intense: the possibility not that someone far away will fire a missile, but that anything around you might be a sign of a new terror plot. When people enter an apocalyptic frame of mind, Landes writes, “everything quickens, enlightens, coheres. They become semiotically aroused—everything has meaning, patterns.” In the months following 9/11, that mentality was almost inescapable.

And then there is what may be the most persistent source of American apocalyptic fear: the country’s physical terrain. Every natural disaster enacts the endtimes in miniature. As Hurricane Katrina crushed the Gulf Coast in 2005, there were enough signs of the last days to fill a thousand folk ballads: a drowning city, death and starvation, martial law, rumors of barbaric behavior. “It was kind of like the end of the world,” one survivor told a reporter from KTRK-TV.

But 9/11 and Katrina also remind us that the last days never quite seem to arrive. We exit apocalyptic time. A city starts to rebuild. Normal life resumes. Many people’s worlds come to an end, but the world itself persists.

And then the next disaster strikes from above, or the next millennial fever surges up from below. The endtimes never really end. It’s always Armageddon somewhere. 


Proof of global cooling!  Britain has wettest year on record

If a drought this year in parts of the USA proves global warming, then surely record floods in Britain prove global cooling!

Up to three inches of rain could fall today as 2012 goes out with  a splash.  This will be followed by further downpours tomorrow night, forecasters warn. With the ground already saturated, there is a high risk of further flooding.

Last night 78 flood warnings were in place and a further 192 flood alerts were issued. The Environment Agency has told those travelling over the weekend to take extra caution and plan ahead.

But the New Year finally promises some respite. It means most people should have clear skies for their New Year's Eve fireworks, and from Tuesday onwards only occasional showers are forecast, with several dry days.

The Met Office has already confirmed 2012 as the wettest year in England since records began in 1910 – and the threatened storms are likely to confirm it as the wettest for all of Britain.

Less than two inches of rain is needed for the record to be broken, remarkable considering much of the country was in drought in March with huge swathes subjected to hosepipe bans.

And after heavy overnight rain, there will be further blustery downpours this morning.

Experts warn that the North West can expect up to three inches of rain, while other areas can expect up to an inch.

In the past 10 days, 520 properties have flooded across the country. High ground water levels have meant that even places such as Common Moor, near Liskeard – one of Cornwall's highest communities above sea level – have been put at risk.

Flood defences have so far protected more than 21,000 properties across England and Wales, including 4,000 properties in Cornwall, while the Environment Agency's Floodline has received 28,000 calls.

Met Office forecaster Dave Britton said: 'Heavier rain will return on Sunday evening, with a new band of wet weather from the west. New Year's Eve will see further outbreaks of rain, but after a sodden day, the early forecasts are for the rain to clear in the evening.


Guess what 'fossil' fuels don't come from

There must be a lot of fossils in outer space

Astronomers are providing new evidence hydrocarbons are not a biological product but instead are created by inorganic chemical processes that occur on a continuing basis.

Scientists working at the Max Planck Institute in Germany, using the 30-meter telescope of the Institute for Radio Astronomy, have discovered a vast cloud of hydrocarbons within the Horse Head Nebula galaxy in the Orion constellation, according to reports published in The Daily Galaxy and in the oil industry publication Rigzone.

“We observed the operation of a natural refinery of gigantic size,” astronomer Jerome Pety told The Daily Galaxy.

Astronomer Viviana Guzman explained to both publications that the nebula contains 200 times more hydrocarbons than the total amount of water on Earth.

In 1951, Russian scientist and professor Nikolai Kudryavtsev articulated what today has become known as the Russian-Ukranian theory of deep, abiotic petroleum origins.

Essentially, the theory rejects the contention that oil was formed from the remains of ancient plant and animal life that died millions of years ago.

Thomas Gold was a professor of astronomy who taught at Cornell University and died in 2004, at 84 years old. In 1998, when he was 78, he published a controversial book , “The Deep Hot Biosphere: The Myth of Fossil Fuels.”

As an astronomer, Gold was well aware that hydrocarbons are abundant in the universe. Since the early part of the 20th century, spectrographs that analyze wavelengths have permitted astronomers to determine with certainty that carbon is the fourth most abundant element in the universe, right after hydrogen, helium and oxygen.

Furthermore, Gold wrote, among planetary bodies, “carbon is found mostly in compounds with hydrogen – hydrocarbons – which, at different temperatures and pressures, may be gaseous, liquid, or solid.”

“Astronomical techniques have thus produced clear and indisputable evidence that hydrocarbons are major constituents of bodies great and small within our solar system (and beyond),” he said.

In other words, hydrocarbons are not “organic chemicals” resulting from life processes on earth, as is commonly assumed by proponents of the fossil fuel theory.

Rather, Gold argued, hydrogen is a fundamental element readily available in the universe that combines with carbon to form hydrocarbons, whether life is present or not.

What astronomers have known about the abundance of hydrocarbons in the universe, however, has not passed on to geologists. In contrast, geologists think of hydrocarbons as forming only through the activity of life – either in building life through photosynthesis or when forms of life die.

Abiotic oil found on Titan

NASA scientists, in conjunction with the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency, have determined from a Cassini-Huygens probe that landed in 2005 on Titan, the giant moon of Saturn, that Titan contains abundant methane.

“We have determined that Titan’s methane is not of biological origin, so it must be replenished by geological processes on Titan, perhaps venting from a supply in the interior that could have been trapped there as the moon formed,” Hasso Niemann of the Goddard Space Flight Center told reporters Nov. 30, 2005.

The Gas Chromatograph Mass Spectrometer, or GCMS, an instrument that identifies different atmospheric constituents by their mass, provided measurements demonstrating the methane on Titan is composed of Carbon-13, the isotope of carbon associated with inorganic or abiotic origins, whereas living organisms are typically associated with Carbon-12.

Each Carbon-13 atom has an extra neutron in its nucleus, making Carbon-13 atoms slightly heavier than Carbon-12 atoms, permitting the GCMS to distinguish between methane isotopes with Carbon-12 and methane with Carbon-13 atoms.

Titan has hundreds of times more liquid hydrocarbons than all the known oil and natural gas reserves on Earth, according to a team of Johns Hopkins scientists reporting in February 2008 on their new findings from data collected from Cassini-Huygens probe radar data.

“Several hundred lakes or seas have been discovered, of which dozens are estimated to contain more hydrocarbon liquid than the entire known oil and gas reserves on Earth,” wrote lead scientist Ralph Lorenz of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md., in the Jan. 29, 2008, issue of the Geophysical Research Letters.

Lorenz also reported dark dunes running along the equator cover 20 percent of Titan’s surface, comprising a volume of hydrocarbon material several hundred times larger than Earth’s coal reserves.

“Titan is just covered in carbon-bearing material – it’s a giant factory of organic chemicals,” Lorenz wrote.


The Political Superstorm that Devastated New York

Paul Driessen

“Superstorm” Sandy killed more than 100 people, destroyed thousands of homes and businesses, and left millions without food, water, electricity, sanitation or shelter for days or even weeks. Our thoughts and prayers remain focused on its victims, many of whom are still grieving as they struggle with the storm’s wintry aftermath and try to rebuild their lives.

Unfortunately, too many politicians continue to use the storm to advance agendas, deflect blame for incompetence and mistakes, and obfuscate and magnify future risks from building and development projects that they have designed, promoted, permitted and profited from.

Sandy was “unprecedented,” the result of “weather on steroids,” various “experts” insist. “It’s global warming, stupid,” intonedBloomberg BusinessWeek. “Anyone who says there is not a change in weather patterns is denying reality,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo declared. We must protect the great NY metropolis from rising oceans, said the Washington Post. This storm should “compel all elected leaders to take immediate action” on climate change, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg pronounced.

Unfortunately for the politicians and spin-meisters, the facts do not support this obscene posturing.

North America’s northeastern coast has been battered by hurricanes and other major storms throughout history. A 1775 hurricane killed 4,000 people in Newfoundland; an 1873 monster left 600 dead in Nova Scotia; others pummeled Canada’s Maritime Provinces in 1866, 1886, 1893, 1939, 1959, 1963 and 2003.

Manhattan got pounded in 1667 and by the Great Storm of 1693. They were followed by more behemoths in 1788, 1821, 1893, 1944, 1954 and 1992. Other “confluences of severe weather events” brought killer storms like the four-day Great Blizzard of 1888. The 1893 storm largely eradicated Hog Island, and the 1938 “Long Island Express” hit LI as a category 3 hurricane with wind gusts up to 180 mph.

Experts say such winds today would rip windows from skyscrapers and cause a deadly blizzard of flying glass, masonry, chairs, desks and other debris from high-rise offices and apartments. People would seek safety in subway tunnels, where they would drown as the tunnels flood.

Sandy was merely the latest “confluence” (tropical storm, northeaster and full-moon high tide) to blast the New York-New Jersey area. It was never a matter of if, but only of when, such a storm would hit.

People, planners and politicians should have been better prepared. Instead, we are feted with statements designed to dodge responsibility and culpability, by trying to blame global warming. The reality is, even as atmospheric carbon dioxide levels rose to 391 ppm (0.0391%) today, average global temperatures have not changed in 16 years, and sea levels are rising no faster than in 1900. Even with Hurricane Sandy, November 2012 marked the quietest long-term hurricane period since the Civil War, with only one major hurricane strike on the US mainland in seven years. This is global warming and unprecedented weather on steroids?

In Hurricane Sandy’s aftermath – with millions freezing hungry in dark devastation – Mayor Bloomberg sidetracked police and sanitation workers for the NYC Marathon, until public outrage forced him to reconsider. While federal emergency teams struggled to get water, food and gasoline to victims, companies, religious groups, charities, local citizens and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie worked tirelessly to raise money and organize countless relief efforts.

Most outrageous of all, though, was how ill-prepared the region was for another major storm – and how many political decisions had virtually ensured that any repeat of the 1893, 1938, 1944 and other storms would bring devastation far worse than would likely have occurred in the absence of those decisions.

In one of the most obvious, architects, city planners, mayors and governors alike thought nothing of placing generators in the basements of hospitals and skyscrapers built in areas that are barely above sea level. Past storms have brought surges12 to 18 feet high onto Long Island, and studies have warned that a category 3 direct hit could put much of New York City and its key infrastructure under 30 feet of water. Sandy’s 9-foot surges (plus five feet of high tide) flooded those basements, rendering generators useless, and leaving buildings cold and dark. Perhaps if Mayor Bloomberg had worried less about 32-oz sodas and seas that are rising a mere foot per century, he could have devoted more time to critical issues.

The mayor has also obsessed about urban sprawl. However, when new developments mean high rents, high taxes and photo-op ground breakings, he has a different philosophy.

Mr. Bloomberg’s Arverne by the Sea initiative transformed what he called “a swath of vacant land” into a “vibrant and growing oceanfront community,” with “affordable” homes starting at $559,000. (The land was vacant because a 1950 storm wiped it clean of structures.) The new homes were built on 167 acres of land raised five feet above the surrounding Far Rockaway area.

Those Arverne homes mostly survived Sandy. But the high ground caused storm surges to rise higher and move faster elsewhere than they would have on Rockaway lowlands that are always hit head-on by northward moving storms.

If Sandy had been a category 3 hurricane like its 1938 ancestor, the devastation would have been of biblical proportions – as winds, waves and surges slammed into expensive homes, businesses and high-rises, and roared up waterways rendered progressively narrower by hundreds of construction projects.

Lower Manhattan has doubled in width over the centuries. World Trade Center construction alone contributed 1.2 million cubic yards to build Battery Park City, narrowing the Hudson River by another 700 feet. The East River has likewise been hemmed in, while other water channels have been completely filled. Buildings, malls and raised roadways constructed on former potato fields, forests, grasslands and marshlands have further constricted passageways for storm surges and runoff.

As a result, storms like Sandy or the Long Island Express send monstrous volumes of water up ever more confined corridors. With nowhere else to go, the surges rise higher, travel faster and pack more power. It’s elementary physics – which governors, mayors, planners and developers ignore at their peril.

No wonder, Mayor Bloomberg, Governor Cuomo and other politicos prefer to talk about global warming, rising seas and worsening weather – to deflect attention and blame from decisions that have put more people in the path of greater danger. Indeed, the very notion of packing more and more people into “sustainable, energy-efficient” coastal cities in the NY-NJ area is itself madness on steroids.

Worst of all, politicians are increasingly and intentionally obscuring and misrepresenting the nature, frequency and severity of storm, flood and surge risks, so that they can promote and permit more construction in high-risk areas, and secure more money and power. They insist that they can prevent or control climate change and sea level rise, by regulating CO2 emission – while they ignore real, known dangers that have arisen before and will arise again, exacerbated by their politicized decisions.

As a result, unsuspecting business and home owners continue to buy, build and rebuild in areas that are increasingly at risk from hurricanes, northeasters and “perfect storms” of natural and political events. And as the population density increases in this NY-NJ area, the ability to evacuate people plummets, especially when roadways, tunnels and other escape routes are submerged. Let the buyer beware.

Sandy may have been a rare (but hardly unprecedented) confluence of weather events. But the political decisions and blame avoidance are an all-too-common confluence of human tendencies – worsened by the dogged determination of our ruling classes to acquire greater power and control, coupled with steadily declining transparency, accountability and liability.

How nice it must be to have convenient scapegoats like “dangerous manmade global warming” and insurance companies – today’s equivalent of the witches whom our predecessors blamed for storms, droughts, crop failures, disease and destruction. It’s time to use the witches’ brooms to clean house.




Preserving the graphics:  Graphics hotlinked to this site sometimes have only a short life and if I host graphics with blogspot, the graphics sometimes get shrunk down to illegibility.  From January 2011 on, therefore, I have posted a monthly copy of everything on this blog to a separate site where I can host text and graphics together -- which should make the graphics available even if they are no longer coming up on this site.  See  here and here


No comments: