Thursday, May 09, 2013
Jim Hansen postpones the day of doom
But first he gives us a pleasant little surprise. He confirms something that I have been repeating for some years now: That the high surface temperature on Venus is not the result of runaway global warming but rather a simple adiabatic effect of the weight of the huge Venusian atmosphere. Hansen writes:
"Venus today has a surface pressure of about 90 bars, compared with 1 bar on Earth. The Venus atmosphere is mostly CO2. The huge atmospheric depth and CO2 amount are the reason Venus has a surface temperature of nearly 500 degrees C."
But Hansen has invented a "get out of jail free" card for terrestrial warming called "Climate system inertia". Now that past climate prophecies have been falsified by the temperature standstill of the last 17 years, there is an urgent need for Warmists to regroup. And Hansen has done that by moving the goalposts. He says that the climate is so slow to respond to input changes that it will takes centuries for the prophesied warming to occur. That of course make his prophecies effectively unfalsifiable. He writes:
"Climate system inertia means that it will take several centuries for the eventual extreme global warming mentioned above to occur, if we are so foolish as to burn all of the fossil fuel resources"
Why we should believe the new prophecies when the old ones have failed utterly, Hansen does not tell us. But we should clearly be most wary of statements that are not only unproven but unprovable.
But Hansen will continue to have fun in his own little world with his assumptions and models -- JR.
More Hansen HERE
Warmist secrecy again
With the connivance of the British government
Can the Internet help climate scientists? Not everyone thinks so.
"The Internet is a double-edged sword," Met Office scientist Peter Stott told a London courtroom last week. "There's a whole cacophony of voices on blogs, people with different opinions and people very motivated to dig around. But not in the 'big picture' details, frankly. That is not helpful to getting an overall balanced assessment."
Stott had just been asked whether widespread online participation in the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assessment-of-the-science process might improve it. The open source software development principle, that "given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow", came to mind.
The occasion was an Information Tribunal appeal brought by one-man information Inquisition David Holland. The retired Mancunian engineer's previous enquiries were seen by many as the catalyst for the famous "Climategate" email leaks.
"My interest in this was never to do with climate. I'm trained as an engineer, and I know the scientific method," Holland told El Reg in 2011, when he had sought access to large amounts of information from the British climate-science establishment - and was denied. Holland's FOI requests set off a catastrophic sequence of prevarication and obstruction by the responding scientists, which ultimately appears to have triggered the Climategate leaks and massive discomfort for all the researchers involved.
Now it's the turn of Peter Stott of the Met Office to come under Holland's microscope.
I actually felt a bit of human sympathy for Stott; you can bet he would have rather been somewhere else, and it transpires that Holland didn't actually want him there at all. Holland had wanted to cross-examine the head of the UK delegation to the IPCC, a Department of Environment and Climate Change official called David Warrilow, head of climate science and international evidence.
The procedural questions under the spotlight are Warrilow's bailiwick, not Stott's, but Holland was refused his man. Stott, we learned, had been pressganged into appearing by the Met Office's lawyers. Stott also had to defend his and allied organisations' refusal to disclose material on a basis - as we shall see - that's highly questionable. No intelligent person should have to waste his own time, or anyone else's time, defending the indefensible.
And the mere presence of a Met scientist is a bit of a red herring, as it's really the IPCC that is on trial; the case for the defence is being organised by the Treasury solicitor, paid for by you.
Judge Anisa Dhanji was not impressed by the defence's refusal to find someone so very germane to the case to stand up to cross-examination, and demanded that a written statement by Warrilow be included in the record.
So. Here we all were. Why was this happening, exactly?
The case for transparency
The IPCC is the United Nations organisation's process for providing climate advice to policy makers. Every few years it updates this advice, which takes the form of three gigantic reports: one assessing the physical basis (called Working Group 1, or WG1); another considering the impacts (WG2); and the third the mitigation options (WG3).
None of the groups does any original science. They're supposed to write fair summaries of the state of the science - although you'll notice that WG3 already plays with loaded dice: it is about "mitigation", not "adaptation" nor "economic costs" or even "low carbon technological innovation". Each of these groups writes three drafts in a rolling process before they're signed off as official UN policy.
What Holland is seeking the "zero order draft" – aka Draft No. 1 - of Working Group 1. He couldn't care less what's in it, but wants to establish the principle that citizens can see it. As it happens, much of this material is already all over the web. But as Judge Dhanji pointed out, that's by-the-by.
Holland justified his request on the twofold basis that the WG1 zero draft must, and should, be publicly available.
The "must" is the statutory obligation of the UK as a signatory to the Aarhus Convention, or to give it its full title, the "UNECE Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters" and by signing up to EC directive 2003/4/EC (PDF) the UK has obliged all of its environmental regulations to be consistent with the Convention. (Not every EU country is a signatory, but the UK is: perhaps a case of civil servants' Euro-enthusiasm coming back to bite them.)
The Met Office argued back that the ZOD is most precious, and if ZOD material were to be disclosed, counsel argued, there would be grave damage to the UK's "international relations". Like the Sneetches, British environment bureaucrats would be stranded on the beaches: shunned, ostracised, and cast into outer darkness. Nobody would want to play with British climate scientists any more.
Yet this particular reason for refusing ZOD is a relatively recent one. It came about in the aftermath of Climategate, and a succession of other climate-related -gates, after which the IPCC's processes came under much-expanded scrutiny. The Inter Academy Council, a panel of dons, made recommendations, amongst others.
The international-relations grounds for climate secrecy first surfaced in 2009 and was used as a reason to knock back FOI requests, from various people including Holland himself. Its origins appear to lie in a request from University of East Anglia climate scientist Tim Osborne in 2009 to IPCC WG1 co-chair Thomas Stocker, which you can read here. Osborne asked Stocker:
"UEA must provide evidence to support its reasons for rejecting the original request. I've been asked if we can obtain a further statement about confidentiality ...
... it would be very supportive if someone who currently represents IPCC (or at least IPCC WG1) could indicate that this is also the view/position of the IPCC ...
There are four specific items that we would ideally like to have you view on:
(1) Does the IPCC WG1 expect authors to keep confidential the emails/correspondence/chapter text that they receive from fellow authors during the drafting process?
(2) Would there be an adverse effect on the IPCC WG1 if we were to break this confidentiality? (Note that we might be forced to break it *during* the drafting of the next report)
(3) Would there be an adverse effect on UEA's relationship with IPCC WG1?
(4) In providing views on items (1)-(3), are they your personal view or can we say that they represent IPCC WG1 position?"
"Can we say that" is particularly revealing.
It's a common misconception - a sign of the media's deference to scientists, perhaps - that the IPCC consists of a properly appointed actual panel somewhere. As Stott cheerfully confirmed, beyond a small technical administrative support team called the TSU, there isn't really "an IPCC" at all. Self-selecting scientists kick off the assessment process, often gatekeeping material by their friends and colleagues, hard-green campaign groups etc.
From the Second Draft stage of the review process the room is full of government officials - the international bureaucracy effectively takes over. The rules are set by the participants, making it up as they go along, Lord of the Flies-style. The Osborne-Stocker exchange illustrates a normal example of one scientist colluding with another in an attempt to prevent the public finding out how the process works.
Stott described in court the process which allows any member of the public to "self-certify" as an Expert Reviewer and join the process at the First Order Draft (ie, the second) stage. He pointed out that Comments generated at this stage were made public last time.
This is true, but bear in mind that the IPCC went to great lengths to avoid Draft Review Comments actually being read last time around - "making public" the comments by depositing an un-indexed paper archive in a library in Massachusetts. In the internet era, that's tantamount to "burying them in a hole in the ground", says Holland. Today, the Comments are indeed officially released on the actual interwebs - but too late to stop errors being spotted, Holland retorted. He cited Glaciergate as an avoidable error.
"On the internet, half of what I've asked for is already there," said Holland. "It's extremely boring stuff, and contains nothing confidential. I can see no reason for it not being released."
Holland's other argument, the "should", is an ethical one. He cited the former IPCC head John Houghton who wrote, "for assessments that inform public policy it is essential that things are seen to be done: the assessment should be completely open and transparent". He contrasted this with "indefinite confidentiality" implicit in refusing access to the ZOD.
Not to mention the small matter of compliance with Aarhus.
The IPCC's defence was twofold: the ZOD work needed to be kept from the public because the participants were learning the ropes, and because it offered a sanctity of private thought required for this vital education. Exposing the scientists to the public at this stage would be like mocking a Learner Driver for knocking over the traffic cones. This would be horribly cruel, defence argued.
"The Zero Order Draft is a training document we can take to a few people to tell us 'are we on the right lines here?' 'have we learned to write a document?' The lessons we learn we can then take on to produce the first First Order Draft to formal review," Stott said.
Judge Dhanji wondered what the harm was?
"Well the issue can and does get misused and misrepresented as representative of the IPCC assessment. We've had that in the past with leaked drafts."
And again: "it's an internal document for our own internal use, we can expose our ignorance, expose our learning process, to learn how to write a document. That's the distinction between ZOD and the other drafts," he replied.
"Things that are said in the name of the IPCC during process may come back to haunt them in that people who disagree with the IPCC may scour material for inconsistency," he declared.
Defence counsel raised these concerns, which obliged Judge Dhanji to castigate him for coaching Stott.
"Too much leading," she warned.
Bear in mind that nothing in IPCC rules actually specifies that the ZOD stage is sacrosanct. Participants may prefer it, but rules is rules. Or not.
So Stott answered questions he couldn't, at one point offering his not-so-expert opinion on International Relations.
"It's a bit hypothetical, isn't this?" he replied at one point - surely the truest words spoken all day.
In contrast to the most recent climate-science-related FOI hearing I attended in October (Newbery vs the BBC), the judge was scrupulously exact with both parties, while the two lay judges actively engaged with very good questions, clearly intended to improve their understanding.
In Newbery's case, they asked no questions, and merely scowled. It later transpired that one of the lay judges was a former local government official whose huge redundancy payoff had only been exposed through FOI requests. The other was a former Labour councillor who had received money for campaigning on climate change - and whose views on "deniers" were well known.
It'll be interesting to see the Tribunal's decision in due course
EU leaders in a hole over energy costs
The costs of Warmist policies are becoming embarrassing
EU leaders will grapple with controversial issues including shale gas development and climate change mitigation at an energy summit on 22 May, documents obtained by EurActiv show.
As agreed at the 14-15 March summit (see background), EU leaders will meet to discuss how to lower energy prices and so improve the Union’s industrial competitiveness.
According to the draft guidelines for the summit conclusions, prepared by the services of Council President Herman Van Rompuy, the EU heads of state intend to focus on “key aspects” of energy policy aimed at boosting growth, productivity and employment to help overcome the effects of the economic crisis.
“High energy prices and costs hamper European competitiveness,” the document says. It invites discussion on how Europe could stay competitive globally and bring down energy prices at a time when Europe is facing massive investment shortfalls in energy infrastructure and generation capacity.
Van Rompuy’s services also call on the EU leaders to discuss ways of further increasing energy efficiency, developing "indigenous resources" and facilitating investment. The Commission will be tasked with developing a “predictable climate and energy policy framework post-2020”.
Re-thinking climate policies
An analysis of energy-price costs in member states will be requested from the EU executive by the end of 2014, highlighting the EU’s competitiveness with its global counterparts.
Competitiveness, in the EU energy policy context, translates into a re-thinking of the Union’s climate policies.
Recently, the powerful employers’ group BusinessEurope called on European Commission President José Manuel Barroso to radically shift the EU's energy policy away from climate change mitigation towards cost-competitiveness and security of supply. [more]
The Draft Conclusions say that the EU's goal is to ensure “a level playing field for business and industry”, so they can compete in the global marketplace, having regard inter alia to the impact of carbon leakage”.
“Carbon leakage" is jargon for the relocation of European businesses abroad because of the comparative advantage they may gain from looser climate regimes.
Leaders are also expected to task the Commission to assess a “more systematic recourse to indigenous sources of energy, both conventional and unconventional”.
Unconventional sources usually refers to shale gas, which many believe has triggered an industrial revival in the USA, but is viewed with suspicion by several EU countries.
Regarding conventional resources, several EU countries are exploring offshore fields for gas and oil, their industrial partners being companies from the USA or Israel. The Commission has rarely played a part in these ventures.
Van Rompuy’s services say that they aim at establishing a regular exchange of information between EU countries on “major national energy decisions with a possible impact on other member states”.
Although the document gives no details, sources told EurActiv that it primarily covers upcoming decisions on new nuclear plant builds. Austria, which decided not to develop nuclear energy, has complained about potential health and environmental risks from the Mochovce and Temelín nuclear plants, sited just across the border in neighbouring Slovakia.
Large sections of the Conclusions appear in brackets or underlined, which means that countries still have to give final assent to the wording. As an example, the “positive effects” of the unbundling provisions of the Third Energy package are praised “generally”, indicating a lack of unanimity.
Cheap natural gas prompts U.S. states to sour on renewables
More than half the states with laws requiring utilities to buy renewable energy - including Arizona - are considering ways to pare back those mandates after a plunge in natural gas prices brought on by technology that boosted supply.
Sixteen of the 29 states with renewable portfolio standards are considering legislation that would reduce the need for wind and solar power, according to researchers backed by the U.S. Energy Department. North Carolina lawmakers may be among the first to move, followed by Colorado and Connecticut.
The efforts could benefit U.S. utilities such as Duke Energy and PG&E as well as Exxon Mobil, the biggest U.S. oil producer, and Peabody Energy Corp., the largest U.S. coal mining company. Those companies contributed to at least one of the lobby groups pushing the change, according to the Center for Media and Democracy, a Madison, Wis.-based nonprofit group. It would hurt wind turbine maker Vestas Wind Systems and First Solar Inc., which develops solar farms.
"We're opposed to these mandates, and 2013 will be the most active year ever in terms of efforts to repeal them," said Todd Wynn, task force director for energy of the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, a lobby group pushing for the change. "Natural gas is a clean fuel, and regulators and policymakers are seeing how it's much more affordable than renewable energy."
Hydraulic-fracturing technology opened aging reservoirs for natural gas drilling, driving prices down about 72 percent from their record 2005 high. That's making more expensive wind and solar power projects harder for utility regulators to justify, according to ALEC and its allies, which include the Heritage Foundation in Washington.
"The shale revolutions are not just having ramifications politically and economically in the U.S. but also around the world," said Michael Liebreich, chief executive officer of Bloomberg New Energy Finance. "In 17 years, not that far away, we could reach peak energy use. This is not generally accepted."
Killing support for renewable-energy policies threatens sales at companies from wind-turbine makers General Electric and Siemens to SolarCity Corp., the San Mateo, Calif.-based rooftop energy developer.
The push at the state level replicates efforts in Washington. Opposition from Republican lawmakers delayed the extension of a federal tax credit for wind power, prompting Vestas, the biggest turbine maker after GE, to fire 10 percent of its workforce at two Colorado factories.
"There haven't been any outright repeals yet, but we've seen some watering-down," said Justin Barnes, senior policy analyst at the North Carolina Solar Center. "Activity against renewable portfolio standards has been increasing in the past year. Their arguments are mostly on cost."
The Raleigh, N.C.-based research group is supported by the Energy Department and operates the DSIRE database of state incentives.
U.S. investment in renewable power and energy efficiency fell 54 percent last year to $4.5 billion as government support waned, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The level may slip again this year if states dilute their requirements, which have pushed utilities to contract power from renewable providers and scale-back use of coal- and natural gas-fired generation.
ALEC wants to repeal state mandates, arguing that the free market is a better way to determine the most cost-effective source of power, Wynn said. It typically drafts model legislation for state lawmakers to use as a blueprint when drafting bills, including the Electricity Freedom Act, which was published in October.
Global warming off the hook as cause of earthquakes
One religion replaced by another
Women who wear revealing clothing and behave immorally are responsible for earthquakes, this is what a senior Iranian cleric has to say.
The cleric's unusual explanation for quakes follows the prediction made by the country's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, that a quake is certain to rock Tehran and many of its 12 million inhabitants should relocate to save their lives.
Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi told the country's media that women who do not dress in dignified manner "lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society".
According to Sedighi, the only way to escape the disaster is to take refuge in religion and adapt to Islam's moral codes.
Seismologists have predicted a major earthquake in Tehran in the near future. Tehran is located on several fault lines, including one more than 50 miles long, although it hasn't suffered any major quake in the last 180 years.
Australia's swamps not up to snuff, according to Greenies
Murray-Darling Basin lakes and the Coorong lagoons in South Australia would be deemed critically endangered under a new global system to rank the conservation status of ecosystems in the same way as threatened species.
In a paper published in the journal PLoS ONE on Thursday, a team of international scientists will outline the proposed system, which would act as a companion to the global "red list" of threatened species managed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Under the new system, conservation ratings would be given to ecosystems - a collection of plants and animals that exist in an area of land or water that interact - from critically endangered, endangered, vulnerable, near threatened and least concern.
Instead of deeming an ecosystem extinct, as in an animal, they would instead be classified "collapsed". Examples of ecosystems include coral reefs, forests and lakes.
The team studied 20 ecosystems around the world to test the ecosystem red list. Eight were in Australia, including the Coorong lagoons, the swamps, marshes and lakes of the Murray-Darling Basin, and coolibah-black box woodlands.
The researchers found one collapsed ecosystem among the 20 studied - the Aral Sea, in Central Asia. Once one of the largest lakes in the world, the Aral Sea was drained for irrigation in the 1960s and has since nearly disappeared
In Australia, the Coorong lagoons, near the mouth of the Murray, were found to be critically endangered.
Professor David Keith, of the University of NSW, a lead author of the paper, said the Coorong scored the rating because of the pace of fish species and vegetation decline, along with a rise in salinity, during the millennium drought between 2000 and 2010.
He said heavy rains in recent years had given Australia a second chance to better manage the lagoons.
The lakes, swamps and marshes of the Murray-Darling were deemed endangered to critically endangered, while coolibah-black box woodlands were classified endangered.
Professor Keith said the new ranking system was important because not enough was known about most of the world's plant and animal species. "Globally, only 3 per cent of species have so far been assessed for their status; we don't know much about the remainder yet," he said.
"What the ecosystem assessment does is step back to a more general assessment that includes some consideration of all the species that are components of those systems. "So it is a more general way of casting the net across a much wider set of biodiversity and the species that make up an ecosystem."
For more postings from me, see DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.
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
Posted by JR at 2:08 PM