Tuesday, April 08, 2014

The Little Ice Age Was The Coldest Period For 10000 Years

Jørgen Peder Steffensen is Associate Professor at the University of Copenhagen and one of the world’s leading experts on ice cores. Using ice cores from sites in Greenland, he has been able to reconstruct temperatures there for the last 10000 years. So what are his conclusions?

* Temperatures in Greenland were about 1.5 C warmer 1000 years ago than now.

* It was perhaps 2.5 C warmer 4000 years ago.

* The period around 1875, at the lowest point of the Little Ice Age, marked the coldest point in the last 10,000 years.

* Other evidence from elsewhere in the Northern Hemisphere confirms this picture.

His final comment is particularly telling :-

"I agree totally we have had a global temperature increase in the 20thC – but an increase from what? ..Probably an increase from the lowest point in the last 10,000 years.  We started to observe meteorology at the coldest point in the last 10,000 years."

And people are worried we have warmed up a bit since!


We have a new climate change consensus — and it's good news everyone

Climate change is now a question of adaptation. And it's not as frightening a question as you might think

Nigel Lawson was right after all. Ever since the Centre for Policy Studies lecture in 2006 that launched the former chancellor on his late career as a critic of global warming policy, Lord Lawson has been stressing the need to adapt to climate change, rather than throw public money at futile attempts to prevent it. Until now, the official line has been largely to ignore adaptation and focus instead on ‘mitigation’ — the misleading term for preventing carbon dioxide emissions.

That has now changed. The received wisdom on global warming, published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, was updated this week. The newspapers were, as always, full of stories about scientists being even more certain of environmental Armageddon. But the document itself revealed a far more striking story: it emphasised, again and again, the need to adapt to climate change. Even in the main text of the press release that accompanied the report, the word ‘adaptation’ occurred ten times, the word ‘mitigation’ not at all.

The distinction is crucial. So far, the debate has followed a certain bovine logic: that global warming is happening, so we need to slow it down by hugely expensive decarbonisation strategies — green taxes, wind farms. And what good will this do? Is it possible to stop global warming in its tracks? Or would all these green policies be the equivalent of trying to blow away a hurricane? This question — just how much can be achieved by mitigation — is one not often addressed.

There is an alternative: accepting that the planet is warming, and seeing if we can adjust accordingly. Adaptation means investing in flood defences, so that airports such as Schiphol can continue to operate below existing (and future) sea level, and air conditioning, so that cities such as Houston and Singapore can continue to grow despite existing (and future) high temperatures. It means plant breeding, so that maize can be grown in a greater range of existing (and future) climates, better infrastructure, so that Mexico or India can survive existing (and future) cyclones, more world trade, so that Ethiopia can get grain from Australia during existing (and future) droughts.

Owen Paterson, the Secretary of State for the Environment, in repeatedly emphasising the need to adapt to climate change in this way, has been something of a lone voice in the government. But he can now count on the support of the mighty IPCC, a United Nations body that employs hundreds of scientists to put together the scientific equivalent of a bible on the topic every six years or so. Whereas the last report had two pages on adaptation, this one has four chapters.

Professor Chris Field is the chairman of Working Group 2 of the IPCC, the part devoted to the effects of climate change rather than the cause. ‘The really big breakthrough in this report,’ he says, ‘is the new idea of thinking about managing climate change.’ His co-chair Vicente Barros adds: ‘Investments in better preparation can pay dividends both for the present and for the future … adaptation can play a key role in decreasing these risks’. After so many years, the penny is beginning to drop.

In his book An Appeal to Reason, Lawson devoted a chapter to the importance of adaptation, in which he pointed out that the last IPCC report in 2007 specifically assumed that humans would not adapt. ‘Possible impacts,’ the report said, ‘do not take into account any changes or developments in adaptive capacity.’ That is to say, if the world gets warmer, sea levels rise and rainfall patterns change, farmers, developers and consumers will do absolutely nothing to change their habits over the course of an entire century. It is a ludicrous assumption.

But this assumption was central, Lawson pointed out, to the estimated future cost of climate change the IPCC reported. A notorious example was the report’s conclusion that, ‘assuming no adaptation’, crop yields might fall by 70 per cent by the end of the century — a conclusion based, a footnote revealed, on a single study of peanut farming in one part of India.

Lawson pointed out that adaptation had six obvious benefits as a strategy, which mitigation did not share. It required no international treaty, but would work if adopted unilaterally; it could be applied locally; it would produce results quickly; it could capture any benefits of warming while avoiding risks; it addressed existing problems that were merely exacerbated by warming; and it would bring benefits even if global warming proves to have been exaggerated.

Ask yourself, if you were a resident of the Somerset Levels, whether you would prefer a government policy of adapting to anything the weather might throw at you, whether it was exacerbated by climate change or not, or spending nearly £50 billion (by 2020) on low-carbon technologies that might in a few decades’ time, if adopted by the whole world, reduce the exacerbation of floods, but not the floods themselves.

It is remarkable how far this latest report moves towards Lawson’s position. Professor Field, who seems to be an eminently sensible chap, clearly strove to emphasise adaptation, if only because the chance of an international agreement on emissions looks ever less likely. If you go through the report chapter by chapter (not that many people seem to have bothered), amid the usual warnings of potential danger, there are many sensible, if jargon-filled, discussions of exactly the points Lawson made.

Chapter 17 concedes that ‘adaptation strategies … can yield welfare benefits even in the event of a constant climate, such as more efficient use of water and more robust crop varieties’. Chapter 20 even acknowledges that ‘in some cases mitigation may impede adaptation (e.g., reduced energy availability in countries with growing populations)’. A crucial point, this: that preventing the poor from getting access to cheap electricity from coal might make them more vulnerable to climate change. So green policies may compound the problem they seek to solve.

In short, there is a great deal in this report to like. It has, moreover, toned down the alarm considerably. Even the New Scientist magazine has noticed that the report ‘backs off from some of the predictions made in the previous report’ and despite the urgings of Ed Davey to sex up the summary during last week’s meeting in Yokohama, New Scientist noticed that ‘the report has even watered down many of the more confident predictions that appeared in the leaked drafts’.

For instance, references to ‘hundreds of millions’ of people being affected by rising sea levels were removed from the summary, as were statements about the impact of warmer temperatures on crops. The report bravely admits that invasive alien species are a far greater threat to species extinction than climate change itself. Even coral reefs, the report admits, are threatened mostly by pollution and overfishing, which might be exacerbated at the margin by climate change. So why don’t we have intergovernmental panels on invasive species and overfishing?

As these examples illustrate, perhaps most encouraging of all, the report firmly states that the impact of climate change will be small relative to other things that happen during this century: ‘For most economic sectors … changes in population, age structure, income, technology, relative prices, lifestyle, regulation and governance will be large relative to the impacts of climate change.’ So yes, the world is heating up. But in many ways, it will be a better world.

The report puts the global aggregate economic damage from climate change at less than 2.5 per cent of income by the latter years of the century. This is a far lower number than Lord Stern arrived at in his notorious report of 2006, and this is taking the bleak view that there will be a further 2.5˚C rise from recent levels. This is the highest of nine loss estimates; the average is only 1.1 per cent.

And the IPCC is projecting two thirds more warming per increment of carbon dioxide than the best observationally based studies now suggest, so the warming the IPCC outlines is not even likely with the highest emissions assumption.

In other words, even if you pile pessimism upon pessimism, assuming relatively little decarbonisation, much global enrichment and higher climate ‘sensitivity’ than now looks plausible — leading to more rapid climate change — you still, on the worst estimate, hurt the world economy in a century by only about as much as it grows every year or two. Rather than inflict an awful economic toll, global warming would make our very rich descendants — who are likely to be maybe eight or nine times as rich as we are today, on global average — a bit less rich.

To avoid this little harm, we could go for adaptation — let poor people get as rich as possible and use their income to protect themselves and their natural surroundings against floods, storms, potential food shortages and loss of habitat. Or we could go for mitigation, getting the entire world to agree to give up the fossil fuels that provide us with 85 per cent of our energy. Or we could try both, which is what the IPCC now recommends.

But the one truly bonkers thing to do would be to go unilaterally into a policy of subsidising the rich to install technologies that drive up the cost of energy, desecrate the countryside, kill golden eagles, clear-cut swamp forests in North Carolina, turn grain into motor fuel, so driving up the price of food and killing people, and prevent poor people in Africa getting loans to build coal-fired, cheap power stations instead of inhaling smoke from wood fires cut from virgin forests.

All this we are doing in this country, with almost no prospect of cutting carbon emissions enough to affect the climate. That’s the very opposite of adaptation — preventing the economic growth that would enable us to adapt while failing to prevent any climate change.

The report is far from ideal (don’t worry, Professor Field, I know that endorsement from the likes of me would kill your career). As Rupert Darwall, author of The Age of Global Warming, has pointed out, it systematically ignores the benefits of climate change and makes the unsupported claim that crop yields have been negatively affected by climate change, its only evidence being recent spikes in crop prices — a big cause of which was climate policy, not climate change, in the shape of biofuels programmes that diverted 5 per cent of the world’s grain crop into fuel.

Did you gather from the press that the report warns of rising deaths from storms and droughts, falling crop yields, spreading diseases, and all the usual litany? Did you conclude from this that deaths from storms will increase, crop yields will fall, and diseases will kill more people? Oh, how naive can you get!

No, no, no — what they mean is that the continuing fall in deaths from storms, floods and disease may not be as steep as it would be without climate change, that the continuing rise in crop yields may not be as fast as it would be without climate change, and that the continuing retreat of malaria might not be as rapid as it would be without climate change. In other words, the world will probably heat up — but it’s not going to end. It’s going to be healthier and wealthier than ever before, just a tad less wealthy than it might otherwise have been. Assuming we do not adapt, that is.


"No sexing up here" says IPCC

The IPCC has issued a statement disputing some of the claims about the sexing up of the Summary for Policymakers made in the Mail on Sunday yesterday. This is the guts of it:

    "The Mail on Sunday also quotes some passages from the Working Group II Summary for Policymakers on migration and refugees, wars and conflicts, famine, and extreme weather, which it claims are “sexed up” from statements in the underlying report. In doing so it misleads the reader by distorting the carefully balanced language of the document.

    For instance, the Mail on Sunday quotes the Summary as saying climate change will ‘increase risks of violent conflicts’. In fact the Summary says that climate change can indirectly increase risks of violent conflicts by amplifying factors such as poverty and economic shocks. The Mail on Sunday says the Summary warns of negative impacts on crop yields, with warming responsible for lower yields of wheat, maize, soya and rice. In fact the Summary says that negative impacts of climate change on crop yields have been more common than positive impacts, with wheat and maize yields negatively affected in many regions and effects on rice and soybean yields smaller in major production regions.

    The references to the underlying report cited by the Mail on Sunday in contrast to the Summary for Policymakers also give a completely misleading and distorted impression of the report through selective quotation. For instance the reference to “environmental migrants” is a sentence describing just one paper assessed in a chapter that cites over 500 papers – one of five chapters on which the statement in the Summary for Policymakers is based. A quoted sentence on the lack of a strong connection between warming and armed conflict is again taken from the description of just one paper in a chapter that assesses over 600 papers. A simple keyword search shows many references to publications and statements in the report showing the opposite conclusion, and supporting the statement in the Summary that “Climate change can indirectly increase risks of violent conflicts in the form of civil war and inter-group violence…”.

The points in the second paragraph seem to me to fall into the category of "distinctions without a difference". As for the third, I'm not sure why the number of papers cited in the chapter is of any relevance at all - the question is how many papers support the conclusion in the Summary for Policymakers and how many contradict it. Perhaps readers with the time to do so can investigate.

More pertinently, one has to wonder about the wisdom of the IPCC in incorporating woo like this in the report in the first place. [Woo is a term used among skeptical writers to describe pseudoscientific explanations}


Ben Pile has now responded. Having a bit more space to set out his case, I think he makes a very strong case that the Summary for Policymakers is sexed up and I think I see problems here for the reputation of the IPCC's press office:

    "The [IPCC's] implication here seems to be that there are lots of other papers, cited throughout the chapters, which support the SPM’s claims. If it’s true, it is the IPCC’s problem. I checked the SPM’s claims against the chapter references cited in the SPM. Moreover, if the evidence considered by the WGII is contradictory, the contradictory nature of the evidence should be reflected in the SPM. It wasn’t. We don’t need to think very deeply about why such an evaluation of the evidence was omitted.


The game is up for climate change believers

Charles Moore reviews The Age of Global Warming by Rupert Darwall (Quartet)

 Most of us pay some attention to the weather forecast. If it says it will rain in your area tomorrow, it probably will. But if it says the same for a month, let alone a year, later, it is much less likely to be right. There are too many imponderables.

The theory of global warming is a gigantic weather forecast for a century or more. However interesting the scientific inquiries involved, therefore, it can have almost no value as a prediction. Yet it is as a prediction that global warming (or, as we are now ordered to call it in the face of a stubbornly parky [Parky is Northern English slang for uncomfortably cold] 21st century, “global weirding”) has captured the political and bureaucratic elites. All the action plans, taxes, green levies, protocols and carbon-emitting flights to massive summit meetings, after all, are not because of what its supporters call “The Science”. Proper science studies what is – which is, in principle, knowable – and is consequently very cautious about the future – which isn’t. No, they are the result of a belief that something big and bad is going to hit us one of these days.

Some of the utterances of the warmists are preposterously specific. In March 2009, the Prince of Wales declared that the world had “only 100 months to avert irretrievable climate and ecosystem collapse”. How could he possibly calculate such a thing? Similarly, in his 2006 report on the economic consequences of climate change, Sir Nicholas Stern wrote that, “If we don’t act, the overall costs and risks of climate change will be equivalent to losing at least five per cent of global GDP each year, now and forever.” To the extent that this sentence means anything, it is clearly wrong (how are we losing five per cent GDP “now”, before most of the bad things have happened? How can he put a percentage on “forever”?). It is charlatanry.

Like most of those on both sides of the debate, Rupert Darwall is not a scientist. He is a wonderfully lucid historian of intellectual and political movements, which is just the job to explain what has been inflicted on us over the past 30 years or so in the name of saving the planet.

The origins of warmism lie in a cocktail of ideas which includes anti-industrial nature worship, post-colonial guilt, a post-Enlightenment belief in scientists as a new priesthood of the truth, a hatred of population growth, a revulsion against the widespread increase in wealth and a belief in world government. It involves a fondness for predicting that energy supplies won’t last much longer (as early as 1909, the US National Conservation Commission reported to Congress that America’s natural gas would be gone in 25 years and its oil by the middle of the century), protest movements which involve dressing up and disappearing into woods (the Kindred of the Kibbo Kift, the Mosleyite Blackshirts who believed in reafforestation) and a dislike of the human race (The Club of Rome’s work Mankind at the Turning-Point said: “The world has cancer and the cancer is man.”).

These beliefs began to take organised, international, political form in the 1970s. One of the greatest problems, however, was that the ecologists’ attacks on economic growth were unwelcome to the nations they most idolised – the poor ones. The eternal Green paradox is that the concept of the simple, natural life appeals only to countries with tons of money. By a brilliant stroke, the founding fathers developed the concept of “sustainable development”. This meant that poor countries would not have to restrain their own growth, but could force restraint upon the rich ones. This formula was propagated at the first global environmental conference in Stockholm in 1972.

The G7 Summit in Toronto in 1988 endorsed the theory of global warming. In the same year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was set up. The capture of the world’s elites was under way. Its high point was the Kyoto Summit in 1998, which enabled the entire world to yell at the United States for not signing up, while also exempting developing nations, such as China and India, from its rigours.

The final push, brilliantly described here by Darwall, was the Copenhagen Summit of 2009. Before it, a desperate Gordon Brown warned of “50 days to avoid catastrophe”, but the “catastrophe” came all the same. The warmists’ idea was that the global fight against carbon emissions would work only if the whole world signed up to it. Despite being ordered to by President Obama, who had just collected his Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, the developing countries refused. The Left-wing dream that what used to be called the Third World would finally be emancipated from Western power had come true. The developing countries were perfectly happy for the West to have “the green crap”, but not to have it themselves. The Western goody-goodies were hoist by their own petard.

Since then, the international war against carbon totters on, because Western governments see their green policies, like zombie banks, as too big to fail. The EU, including Britain, continues to inflict expensive pain upon itself. Last week, the latest IPCC report made the usual warnings about climate change, but behind its rhetoric was a huge concession. The answer to the problems of climate change lay in adaptation, not in mitigation, it admitted. So the game is up.

Scientists, Rupert Darwall complains, have been too ready to embrace the “subjectivity” of the future, and too often have a “cultural aversion to learning from the past”. If they read this tremendous book they will see those lessons set out with painful clarity.


The freedom not to question climate change

The campaign to marginalize conservatives and their traditional values has many facets. Last week, we talked about the efforts in academia to restrict access to people whose beliefs are not in tune with modern liberalism, but that is just one small component of an ongoing multi-front war.

Today, let’s focus on climate change and the effort by the left to lull you into peaceful acquiescence of a world view that will allow “people smarter than you” to make massive changes in our economy in order to protect you from an impending crisis.
3677883 Navigator Travel

I know, I know, it sounds a lot like Obamacare, but the “climate change” campaign is even more insidious, dangerous and potentially world-altering. The goal of eliminating fossil fuels would inevitably reduce civilization to a thin veneer of culture over a primitive hunting-gathering society (Think “The Hunger Games”). So with such huge consequences, it would seem a reasonable request to have a debate about the validity of the science which demands such earth-shattering changes from society.

But free debate is the last thing that climate-change proponents want. Instead, they want everyone to accept “settled science” and move on to the “solution.”

Settled or not, by now everyone has their own either well-informed or less-informed opinions about climate change (formerly known as global warming until the earth stopped warming appreciably), but anyone who is being serious about the discussion has to admit two things — 1) the earth’s climate is certainly changing, and 2) we don’t know why.

The first point is a truism. The earth’s climate is changing now, in 2014, just like it has always been changing. Climate is a dynamic, not a static system. Ergo, climate change in itself does not prove anything.

The second dictum seems to be the sticking point: We don’t know why. True science should begin with an acknowledgment that all knowledge is amorphous and subject to change for reasons that may evade detection by us mere mortals, rather than solid and settled. Yes, we humans have devised very canny systems to describe approximations of the truth, but we do not know and are not capable of knowing THE truth.

Unfortunately, when science is viewed as a tool not for advancement of knowledge, but for the reform of human behavior, it is useful for certain scientists and their allies to promote the idea of solid-state, settled science in order to nudge people to adopt what they consider to be socially desirable behavior. It’s really not much different from the use of religion in primitive societies to scare people into toeing the line. If you question the “settled science” or “settled religion,” you run the risk of being called, in one case, a “denier,” and in the other case, a heretic.

Now, I imagine many reasonable people among my readers are, at this point, saying that surely I am exaggerating. After all, even though there is some controversy over global warming or climate change, surely there is room for both sides in the debate.

Not so quick, Copernicus! Just like there wasn’t room for both sides in the Middle Ages when we were debating whether the sun revolved around the earth or not, there is an ever-constricting circle of silent hell for so-called climate change “deniers” in our society. Don’t take it from me; consider the policy of the Los Angeles Times, which recently announced that it won’t publish letters that challenge the scientific orthodoxy that humans are causing climate change.

The argument by the Times’ opinion page editor, Paul Thornton, is that “these letters don’t make it into our pages” because “saying ‘there’s no sign humans have caused climate change’ is not stating an opinion, it’s asserting a factual inaccuracy.”

That’s the beauty of orthodoxy. You don’t have to allow any  competing points of view to interfere with what you already know to be true. Thornton said he didn’t even need to think for himself; all he had to do was “rely on the experts.” Maybe not the same experts as those papists who lit Giordano Bruno at the stake and came perilously close to doing the same thing to Galileo Galilei, but experts who are just as afraid of dissent and debate.

Not surprisingly the condemnation of unorthodox points of view has a chilling effect on debate, scientific or otherwise. The church burned Bruno for just that purpose — to make of him an example, so that fellow scientists like Galileo would step back into line and say what everybody already knew was true — the earth is the center of the universe. Thank God that some people challenge the “experts” or else we would still be living in the Middle Ages today.

Or maybe we are. Lawrence Torcello, an assistant professor of philosophy at Rochester Institute of Technology, recently wrote an article at theconversation.com where he asked, “Is misinformation about the climate criminally negligent?”

You already know the answer. If a conservative speaks out in opposition to liberal orthodoxy, he or she is immediately branded as foolish, corrupt or criminal. Neither truth nor untainted motives are mitigating factors. As Torcello sees it, being part of a well-funded campaign to explain the flaws of prevailing climate-change theory means you are criminally negligent because you are impeding the public’s ability to resist the allegedly horrific and deadly effects of climate change. Apparently, the freedom to resist a prevailing orthodoxy diminishes inversely to the level of risk imputed by the theory in dispute. Who knows, maybe the climate change theorists are right? Maybe there will be more deaths in coming years, but wouldn’t it be funny if the increased deaths were caused by burning at the stake all those climate deniers who are so dangerous?

Panic is the last refuge of an orthodoxy under attack. Adam Weinstein of Gawker.com took up Torcello’s torch, and carried it down the road apiece.

“Man-made climate change happens,” Weinstein insists. “Man-made climate change kills a lot of people. It’s going to kill a lot more. We have laws on the books to punish anyone whose lies contribute to people’s deaths. It’s time to punish the climate-change liars.”

He goes on with a genuine passion for chaos that is almost hypnotic:

“Attempts to deceive the public on climate change, and to consequently block any public policy to tackle it, contribute to roughly 150,000 deaths a year already,” Weinstein claims. “Those denialists should face jail. They should face fines. They should face lawsuits from the classes of people whose lives and livelihoods are most threatened by denialist tactics.”

Of course, both Weinstein and Torcello almost apologetically explain that they don’t want to lock up “the man on the street” who is just spouting “a socialist United Nations conspiracy” he read somewhere on the Internet. Weinstein dismisses that man — the man on the street — you and your neighbor — as “an idiot” not worth worrying about.

But, of course, they do worry. They worry enough to threaten to arrest you, or if not you, then the people who you rely on for an alternative viewpoint to the prevailing orthodoxy of climate doom. They worry enough to keep you out of the Los Angeles Times, and no doubt other liberal newspapers. They are worried, or they wouldn’t be trying to scare you with intimidation and insults.

Would they?


New paper studies Ordovician Ice Age, which occurred when CO2 was 11 times higher than the present

A paper published today in Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology studies the timing of the onset of the late Ordovician ice age, which occurred when CO2 levels were more than 11 times higher than the present.

The late Ordovician ice age occurred around 450 million years ago, when temperatures plunged 10C from "greenhouse conditions" despite CO2 levels of around 4500 ppm in comparison to today's level of 400 ppm, demonstrating that CO2 is not the "control knob" of climate.

In fact, the entire geological record demonstrates a disconnect between temperature and CO2 levels, but excellent agreement with the change in cosmic rays, which is a proxy of solar activity.


Oxygen isotopes from Conodont Apatite of the midcontinent, us: implications for late ordovician climate evolution

Page C. Quinton


The major glaciation at the end of the Ordovician is associated with the 2nd largest mass extinction event of the Phanerozoic. Growth of Late Ordovician ice sheets requires a dramatic cooling from the ‘greenhouse’ conditions that prevailed for most of the Ordovician, but when and how fast this cooling occurred is controversial. The controversy is due in large part to a lack of good geochemical constraints on the temperature history of the Katian (453–445.2 Ma). To address this uncertainty, we measured phosphate δ18O values from 3 conodont species collected from sections in the midcontinent region of the United States that span an ~ 5.7 m.y. long interval covering most of the Katian.

Results reveal a statistically significant offset in δ18O values between some taxa and show up to 2‰ differences among samples. However, there are no apparent long-term trends within or between sections; rather, values fluctuate around a δ 18O mean of ~ 19‰ VSMOW. Our study provides the longest, relatively high resolution, species specific conodont record generated for this interval, and we found no evidence supporting progressive cooling during the Katian.



For more postings from me, see  DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC and AUSTRALIAN POLITICS. Home Pages are   here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here.  

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