Friday, March 06, 2015

Looking back

Just Another Warmist Lie

by Viv Forbes

2015 is the make-or-break year for climate alarmism, with a crucial battle planned for Paris in November. So we can expect regular bursts of global warming propaganda. panic button

The year started on cue with a breathless announcement from the US National Climate Data Centre: “2014 was Earth's warmest year on record” (their records start in 1880).The Little Ice Age ended in about 1880.

Therefore it is no surprise that global temperatures have generally risen since then. And it reveals nothing about the cause of the warming.Moreover the announcement hides more than it reveals.

Firstly the alleged new peak temperature is just 0.04℃ higher than 2010. Who are they kidding? No weather recording station can measure to that accuracy. Once the likely error bars are added to the averaged data, the story changes to “recent global temperatures remain flat”.Secondly, what does “average” mean?

Almost every place on Earth has a different average temperature, and the averages range from 34℃ to -58℃, a range of 92℃. With very large daily and seasonal variations, an unevenly scattered and variable set of temperature recording stations, plus frequent “adjustments” to the raw figures, their calculated “global average” is probably a manipulated and meaningless number.Trends are more important than spot values.

Satellite data and proxies such as ice core data give more reliable long-term “average” temperature trends; both records say that 2014 is NOT unusually high.Moreover, information on global temperature trends go back far beyond 1880 - ice core data goes back 20,000 years, as shown below in the GRIP ice core data records.

These show there were several periods in the last 10,000 years with global temperatures significantly above that for 2014.


Naomi Oreskes Warps Climate Skeptic History

Harvard historian of science Naomi Oreskes is best known to climate realists for her 2010 screed Merchants of Doubt, but a short, obscure, error-riddled essay she wrote as a chapter in the book How Well Do Facts Travel? The Dissemination of Reliable Knowledge is more significant. In it she examines the 1991 origin of the “skeptics are paid industry shills” narrative found in a legendary set of “leaked Western Fuels memos.”

Oreskes’ chapter is important because she interprets the memos as industry’s plan for a vast national campaign using paid climate scientists to create lasting public doubt about global warming. That’s the same interpretation repeated ad nauseam by climate alarmists such as Al Gore, Ross Gelbspan (1997’s The Heat Is On), and Canadian attack website DeSmogBlog.

Appallingly, nobody in this parade of critics ever fact-checked the memos, not even historian Oreskes. Critics misinterpreted what they were looking at in the hundred-or-so pages of “Western Fuels memos.” They cherry-picked pieces that made skeptics look worst and patched them together into an assumption-laden fairy-tale.

According to Russell Cook’s excellent Heartland Institute Report Merchants of Smear, and numerous interviews with the “memo” sources, all the critics had was a hodgepodge of e-mail exchanges from a loose coalition of 24 large and small electric utilities worried about a carbon tax bill in Congress.

The fairy tale spinners focused only on emails from the utilities’ coal suppliers. The coalition explored lobbying to raise public concern about the impact of the tax, along with pointing out the weaknesses in the claims humans were causing climate change, using well-established skeptical scientists as spokesmen to balance the deluge of alarmist publicity.

The “memos” were the everyday work products of coalition members—including the Edison Electric Institute, a large trade group of investor-owned utilities—filed away in no particular order. EEI coordinated the most misinterpreted document, a campaign proposal by opinion survey firm Cambridge Reports of Massachusetts. The other “memos” included letters, meeting notices, reports from a hired Washington public relations firm, sample ads from a North Dakota direct mail firm, and similar items.

Innocuous Trade Association Demonized

Less than one-third of the jumbled “memos” involved Western Fuels Association. It’s ironic that they became known as the “Western Fuels memos,” because WFA is just the opposite of what the alarmist critics thought. It wasn’t a lobbying group but rather a nonprofit, member-owned co-op serving consumer-owned rural electric cooperatives and other public power systems. WFA manages mining and transportation of coal from member-owned mines and buys additional coal in the open market, facts printed on the inside cover of WFA’s annual reports.

The coalition’s climate skeptics picked the semi-humorous acronym “ICE,” and Cambridge Reports suggested several names to fit, including “Informed Citizens for the Environment” and “Information Council for the Environment.” Western Fuels used the latter.

The single most misinterpreted page, “Strategy,” listed nine goals, topped by “Reposition global warming as theory (not fact).” Critics mischaracterized that as “orders from headquarters” to reposition the public into believing global warming is not a fact. Al Gore even featured it in ominous red letters spread across a frame of his movie An Inconvenient Truth. Actually, it was merely a suggestion offered by Cambridge Reports.

Coalition Dissolves

Even more importantly, Western Fuels Association officials did not even read the Cambridge Reports proposal, because they had already hired Simmons Advertising of Grand Forks, North Dakota. They never saw the “Reposition global warming as theory (not fact)” goal, and they say they wouldn’t have used it if they had, because it was too abstract.

The national campaign never happened, a three-city test run flopped, and the coalition dissolved amid disagreements between skeptics and pragmatists. In July 1991, coalition members went their separate ways. Smaller ones, generally skeptics, chose to fight for sound science and against new regulations, whereas big, investor-owned utilities abandoned the science debate and chose to lobby to favorably influence legislation.

Slanted Focus, Coverage

Of the original “Western Fuels memos,” only fifty poorly scanned, frustratingly incomplete images on a Greenpeace Investigations site are publicly available today. So, where did Oreskes get the entire set?

She claims she found them “in the archives of the American Meteorological Society (AMS) in Washington, D.C.” and advises, “scholars wishing to consult these materials should contact the AMS.”

AMS is actually headquartered in Boston, Massachusetts It maintains a small Washington, DC office for government affairs, but it has no archives. The AMS archivist in Boston verified no such documents ever existed in the society’s archives.

Oreskes said an “Anthony Socci” brought the documents to her attention. The AMS archivist said Socci—a Senate Commerce Committee staffer from 1991 to 1993 who managed hearings for Sen. Al Gore—had been an AMS employee for a time, and likely had a personal copy he made available to Oreskes.

How did Socci get the documents? The most likely answer comes from a letter on EEI letterhead dated May 6, 1991, showing the group’s global warming task force strongly disparaged the skeptic campaign. Within a month, the memos were circulating among environmentalists in Washington. The Sierra Club forwarded a copy to the New York Times, mentioned in a July 8, 1991 article headlined, “Pro Coal Ad Campaign Disputes Warming Idea.”

A noted historian, when asked for the simplest definition of history, said, “History is what really happened.” That’s not what Oreskes wrote.


Sustainability has failed, but does Britain's Green party know it?

The sustainable development model has long been doomed to failure, but the Green Party is still in denial, argues John Foster in The Guardian

The coming general election is the least predictable for many years. One reason for this is the “green surge” – the Green party is unprecedentedly polling at around 7%, with recent evidence suggesting that it could affect the outcome in at least 18 seats and thus, in a volatile situation, the overall result.

More people are now members of the Greens than the Liberal Democrats. This is already a major change to the political environment within which business has to operate. Has the green agenda finally arrived in British politics?

The Greens are arriving just as it is becoming evident that the sustainability paradigm has failed. The issue of climate change illustrates this failure. If we don’t keep average atmospheric temperature to less than 2C above pre-industrial levels, we are (as all credible experts now agree) in for dangerous and potentially disastrous climate change.

Unless we are already well embarked on a programme for drastic reductions worldwide, we won’t achieve them; as the permanently crossed fingers of the international sustainability establishment testify, we clearly have not.

This example illustrates how impotent the sustainable development model always was. Constraining present needs (or desires) to serve future needs could only offer a toolkit of lead spanners, liable to bend under any real strain. No wonder we still find the nuts and bolts of unsustainable living stubbornly unshiftable.

Greens are perhaps as deep in denial about climate change as those with more standard vested interests. This can be encapsulated in the words of the Green Party member who said: it can’t be too late to stop climate change, because if it was, how could we find the energy to go on campaigning?

This logic is now coming under breaking strain. Defending the idea that it can’t be too late, from the knowledge that we have barely started, gives rise to techno-fantasy. The Oxford geoengineering programme, for instance, canvasses the introduction of sulphur dioxide particles into the upper atmosphere to reflect away a proportion of incoming sunlight, or adding nutrients to the oceans to increase draw-down of atmospheric carbon.

But such projects belong to the realm of science fiction and, as even their proponents tacitly recognise, merely continue the mindset which has brought us to our present plight.

Since that mindset is doomed, we are going to have to learn to live with post-sustainability. This will be bleak. It means accepting that we face what a former UK government chief scientist has called a “perfect storm” of food, water and energy shortages worldwide, with all their consequences in terms of attempted migrations, struggles for resources and associated conflict. The only way to retrieve anything for human hope from this mess will be to re-conceive emerging post-sustainability positively, as ‘post- hubris’.

Hubris is overweening confidence in human ability to control our surroundings and what happens to us. The modern project of managing the natural world for human benefit, launched by the scientific revolution and the Enlightenment, now stands revealed as a lethal form of this failing. To have pointed this out is the green movement’s real achievement hitherto.

This is now gaining wider recognition with unexpected support for what could become a green-led recovery from hubris. We see this in the contempt for all conventional politicians, who promise betterment but fail to deliver.

Correspondingly, there is a growing sense that our resilience lies in the strength of both national and local culture, which further moves towards multiculturalism can only subvert. A confused form of this awareness can be seen in the UKIP phenomenon.

Closely related is recognition of our need to recover solidarities of community, which neoliberal capitalism under governments of the right and (vaguely) the left has trashed. This explains the haemorrhaging of Labour support to the Greens and nationalists on issues like transport, healthcare and welfare.

Post-hubristic consciousness is clearly still inchoate and embraces many contradictions – Scottish nationalists reject the UK but yearn for the EU, many UKIP supporters resist the realities of climate change. The need to rebuild what viable resilience we can is impossible to ignore.

Also impossible to ignore is that these are all profoundly ecological recognitions, of which the Greens should be natural trustees. Will they rise to that responsibility?

One thing can confidently be predicted about this general election, is it will cost the Greens an heroic expenditure of effort for very minimal results in terms of seats and parliamentary voice. Given excited expectations among a much larger membership, disillusion will be all the more acute. Will it lead to a reappraisal of strategy and realignment with new allies? For the business community, as for the rest of us, much hangs on the answer.


Former IPCC Climatologist Lennart Bengtsson Calls Out Spiegel On Climate Gloom: “Wrong…Hopelessly Naïve…Ought To Know Better”

Some days ago I wrote about how German news weekly Der Spiegel had resorted once again to catastrophe-hopping when it recently rolled out its print edition whose front cover featured a burning planet caused by human climate change.

Skeptics in Europe reacted harshly, but at the same time dismiss the doomsday piece as a desperate sensationalism stunt in a bid to stem its hemorrhage of readers.

Some criticism even came from rather hefty figures in the climate scene. For example Swedish professor Lennart Bengtsson, former IPCC climatologist and former head of the German Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg.

Bengtsson posted a commentary concerning the Spiegel doomsday piece at the Swedish Anthropocene site here. He calls the alarmist views of book author Naomi Klein, which Spiegel cited in its article: “not only wrong, but also hopelessly naïve.”

Bengtsson, who has gravitated from being an regular alarmist to a non-alarmist luke-warmer over the years, thinks that the growing emission of greenhouse gases is a problem over the long term, but that it is not an urgent problem. He writes there is no scientific basis showing the weather has become more extreme.

The storms are not worse than before, and they will be fewer in a warmer climate as a result of the polar regions warming up.”

On sea level Bengtsson writes that it is now rising at about 3 mm per year, but has not accelerated over the past 23 years. It makes no sense to rush and to make “hasty and inaccurate decisions“. He writes:

"The reason for the increased emissions of carbon dioxide is the increasing earth‘s population and the desire of all the poor to live a life that is a little better and more hopeful, and perhaps someday even take a taxi at any time – surely among some of Naomi Klein’s environmental sins.”

Bengtsson calls the belief that a non-capitalist system can solve the earth’s energy and environmental problems “completely naïve” and uninformed, citing past failed experiments in socialism.

"If anyone ought to be familiar with the costs needed to solve the problems left behind by communist East Germany, it is Spiegel. The Elbe River was a dead river at the time of the German reunification. Now, thanks to the capitalist system, it has returned to life.”

As an example of a successful approach to lower CO2, emissions, Bengtsson uses the United States: “In fact, one of the few countries that has significantly reduced CO2 emissions are the United States, through its growing gas exploration!”

Bengtsson adds:

"The only hope to solve the planet’s long-term environmental problems is via the open and free society, not least of all by a socialist dictatorship on a global scale. This at least Spiegel’s editors ought to know.”


The Political Assault on Climate Skeptics

Members of Congress send inquisitorial letters to universities, energy companies, even think tanks


Research in recent years has encouraged those of us who question the popular alarm over allegedly man-made global warming. Actually, the move from “global warming” to “climate change” indicated the silliness of this issue. The climate has been changing since the Earth was formed. This normal course is now taken to be evidence of doom.

Individuals and organizations highly vested in disaster scenarios have relentlessly attacked scientists and others who do not share their beliefs. The attacks have taken a threatening turn.

As to the science itself, it’s worth noting that all predictions of warming since the onset of the last warming episode of 1978-98—which is the only period that the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) attempts to attribute to carbon-dioxide emissions—have greatly exceeded what has been observed. These observations support a much reduced and essentially harmless climate response to increased atmospheric carbon dioxide.

In addition, there is experimental support for the increased importance of variations in solar radiation on climate and a renewed awareness of the importance of natural unforced climate variability that is largely absent in current climate models. There also is observational evidence from several independent studies that the so-called “water vapor feedback,” essential to amplifying the relatively weak impact of carbon dioxide alone on Earth temperatures, is canceled by cloud processes.

There are also claims that extreme weather—hurricanes, tornadoes, droughts, floods, you name it—may be due to global warming. The data show no increase in the number or intensity of such events. The IPCC itself acknowledges the lack of any evident relation between extreme weather and climate, though allowing that with sufficient effort some relation might be uncovered.

World leaders proclaim that climate change is our greatest problem, demonizing carbon dioxide. Yet atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide have been vastly higher through most of Earth’s history. Climates both warmer and colder than the present have coexisted with these higher levels.

Currently elevated levels of carbon dioxide have contributed to increases in agricultural productivity. Indeed, climatologists before the recent global warming hysteria referred to warm periods as “climate optima.” Yet world leaders are embarking on costly policies that have no capacity to replace fossil fuels but enrich crony capitalists at public expense, increasing costs for all, and restricting access to energy to the world’s poorest populations that still lack access to electricity’s immense benefits.

Billions of dollars have been poured into studies supporting climate alarm, and trillions of dollars have been involved in overthrowing the energy economy. So it is unsurprising that great efforts have been made to ramp up hysteria, even as the case for climate alarm is disintegrating.

The latest example began with an article published in the New York Times on Feb. 22 about Willie Soon, a scientist at the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. Mr. Soon has, for over 25 years, argued for a primary role of solar variability on climate. But as Greenpeace noted in 2011, Mr. Soon was, in small measure, supported by fossil-fuel companies over a period of 10 years.

The Times reintroduced this old material as news, arguing that Mr. Soon had failed to list this support in a recent paper in Science Bulletin of which he was one of four authors.

Two days later Arizona Rep. Raul Grijalva, the ranking Democrat on the Natural Resources Committee, used the Times article as the basis for a hunting expedition into anything said, written and communicated by seven individuals — David Legates, John Christy, Judith Curry, Robert Balling, Roger Pielke Jr., Steven Hayward and me— about testimony we gave to Congress or other governmental bodies. We were selected solely on the basis of our objections to alarmist claims about the climate.

In letters he sent to the presidents of the universities employing us (although I have been retired from MIT since 2013), Mr. Grijalva wanted all details of all of our outside funding, and communications about this funding, including “consulting fees, promotional considerations, speaking fees, honoraria, travel expenses, salary, compensation and any other monies.” Mr. Grijalva acknowledged the absence of any evidence but purportedly wanted to know if accusations made against Mr. Soon about alleged conflicts of interest or failure to disclose his funding sources in science journals might not also apply to us.

Perhaps the most bizarre letter concerned the University of Colorado’s Mr. Pielke. His specialty is science policy, not science per se, and he supports reductions in carbon emissions but finds no basis for associating extreme weather with climate. Mr. Grijalva’s complaint is that Mr. Pielke, in agreeing with the IPCC on extreme weather and climate, contradicts the assertions of John Holdren, President Obama’s science czar.

Mr. Grijalva’s letters convey an unstated but perfectly clear threat: Research disputing alarm over the climate should cease lest universities that employ such individuals incur massive inconvenience and expense—and scientists holding such views should not offer testimony to Congress.

After the Times article, Sens. Edward Markey (D., Mass.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D., R.I.) and Barbara Boxer (D., Calif.) also sent letters to numerous energy companies, industrial organizations and, strangely, many right-of-center think tanks (including the Cato Institute, with which I have an association) to unearth their alleged influence peddling.

The American Meteorological Society responded with appropriate indignation at the singling out of scientists for their scientific positions, as did many individual scientists. On Monday, apparently reacting to criticism, Mr. Grijalva conceded to the National Journal that his requests for communications between the seven of us and our outside funders was “overreach.”

Where all this will lead is still hard to tell. At least Mr. Grijalva’s letters should help clarify for many the essentially political nature of the alarms over the climate, and the damage it is doing to science, the environment and the well-being of the world’s poorest.


Official Australian report finds climate change benefits

Climate change could have positive economic spin-offs, a new government report says.  It's only one sentence in a vast bureaucratic document but it is a sign of the times to see some realism creeping into officialdom

The Intergenerational Report released on Thursday includes a chapter on "managing the environment", which has been a feature of previous versions of the five-yearly economic and budget update.

The report sets out the government's plan to reduce carbon pollution through its $2.55 billion Emissions Reduction Fund.

But it also says "some economic effects may be beneficial".  "Where regions become warmer or wetter this may allow for increased agricultural output - while others may be harmful," the report said.

"For example, lower rainfall may reduce crop yields, or transport infrastructure (such as roads, ports and rail networks) may become more susceptible to damage from extreme weather events."

The report reinforces the government's aim to cut emissions by five per cent on 2000 levels by 2020.

But, despite the report being about Australia in the period to 2055, it does not discuss a possible new target.

"Australia will meet its Kyoto target for 2020 and will join with the international community to establish post-2020 targets with the aim of reducing global greenhouse gas emissions," it said.

"The international community has agreed to aim to keep global warming to a less than two degrees celsius increase above pre-industrial climate levels."

The intergenerational report produced by Labor in 2010 found that unmitigated climate change would leave Australian GDP in 2100 about eight per cent lower than the level it would be in the absence of climate change.

Former Liberal treasurer Peter Costello's 2007 report concluded: "There does seem to be consensus around the fact that significant levels of global warming imply losses in global GDP over the longer term that should be factored into the policy choices made today."



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.  

Preserving the graphics:  Most graphics on this site are hotlinked from elsewhere.  But hotlinked graphics sometimes have only a short life -- as little as a week in some cases.  After that they no longer come up.  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 or here


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