Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Despite predictions, the sky is not falling

The first key to wisdom is constant and frequent questioning, for by doubting we are led to question and by questioning we arrive at the truth. -- Peter Abelard (A.D. 1079 - 1142)

Reading about the recent global warming rally at Kincaid Park, I wondered if the participants would be relieved if man's activities were proved not responsible for Alaska's warming weather. An intriguing question.

They probably don't know ground-based warming stopped in 1998, according to Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change data. This temperature stability is occurring despite a four percent increase in atmospheric C02 over the last eight years. Lower atmosphere satellite data also show little, if any, warming since 1979, although atmospheric CO2 increased 17 percent.

In another surprising turn, NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies corrected data errors this September that required changing America's warmest year on record from 1998 to 1934, thus refuting the Gospel According to James Hansen, the Institute's director. The third hottest year is now 1921.

Canadian Stephen McIntyre (www., concerned about the discontinuity of NASA's temperature record, identified the errors and contacted the Institute. The end result: Five of America's top 10 warmest years occurred in the 1930s, when only 10 percent of greenhouse gases emitted in the last century were in the atmosphere. Three of the top 10 remain 1998, 2006 and 1999. Natural variation or catastrophic warming?

McIntyre's widely-commended contribution to climate science also severely damaged Michael Mann's infamous "hockey stick" graph that is integral to climate scare mongering, and the 2007 IPCC report no longer includes it. This is fascinating stuff.

Ancient Chinese records have revealed historic warming from year one to about A.D. 240 (the Roman Warming); a cold period between years A.D. 240 and 800 (Dark Ages); warming between 800 and 1400 (Medieval Optimum); and cooling from 1400 to about 1900 (Little Ice Age). Where were man-made CO2 emissions then?

Contrary to today's predictions of catastrophic weather events, during China's warm periods it experienced fewer and milder storms, fewer droughts and floods, better crops and more prosperity. Here at home, researchers found serious droughts are becoming rare. According to, seven droughts occurred before 1920, seven from 1921-1940 (including the Dust Bowl disaster), eight from 1941-1960, five from 1961-1980 and just three during the next two decades.

But people are dying because of global warming, prominent climate alarmist Deborah Williams wrote (ADN, April 18, 2006), noting 31,000 Europeans died in the 2003 heat wave. Yet cold kills many times more people than heat (as Alaskans well know). Cold weather in England and Wales, 1998-2000, caused some 47,000 deaths each winter.

Because there are so many variables in climate, scientists have difficulty explaining the complex workings of solar energy levels, continental drift, changes in earth's orbit, clouds, cosmic rays, etc. Then, throw in water vapor, which constitutes 80 percent to 95 percent of greenhouse gases but is seldom mentioned or considered in computer models. Without factoring in water vapor, CO2 concentrations appear far more significant. Meteorologist Joseph D'Aleo helps clarify: "If the atmosphere was a 100-story building, our annual anthropogenic CO2 contribution today would be equivalent to the linoleum on the first floor."

Some scientists have found the courage to publicly denounce the prevailing Armageddon warnings, saying there's just too much at stake. (See here) From an Alaska perspective, it is heartening to see dedicated professionals leave their comfort zones to warn that an ill-informed public, elected officials and bureaucrats could literally transform the structure of society and its economic foundations. And for what?

Government-mandated punitive measures will do nothing to reverse warming impacts on Alaska. What will work is applying human ingenuity, mitigation and adaptation measures specifically where they are needed. Focusing attention on ways to benefit from warmer weather is also in order. Cold Alaskans' per capita energy consumption is three times the national average. Aren't energy cost savings and air quality improvements going to be significant? Extended growing seasons and warmer temperatures will also benefit agriculture and forestry, improving Alaskans' living standards.

Staging the nationwide rallies last Saturday must have cost the sponsoring organizations a fortune, along with the cost of sending 5,000 students to lobby Congress. You have to question why such fortunes are being spent, who's writing the checks, who stands to gain and lose. One thing should be clear: It's not about global warming. So, would the rally participants be relieved to find humans and industry innocent of causing global warming? Probably not.


Global warming: Oceans could absorb far more CO2, says study

The ocean's plankton can suck up far more airborne carbon dioxide (CO2) than previously realised, although the marine ecoystem may suffer damage if this happens, a new study into global warming says. The sea has soaked up nearly half of the CO2 that has been emitted by fossil fuels since the start of the Industrial Revolution. The gas dissolves into surface waters and is then transported around the oceans.

But a key role is played by plant micro-organisms called phytoplankton, which take in the dissolved gas at the ocean's sunlit surface as part of the process of photosynthesis. This plankton dies and eventually sinks to the ocean floor, thus storing the carbon for potentially millions of years.

One of the big questions is how much more of CO2 the sea can absorb. If, like a saturated sponge, the oceans cannot take up any more, atmospheric concentrations of CO2, the principal greenhouse gas, would sharply rise and stoke global warming.

Another concern is that rising levels of dissolved CO2 also causes acidification of seawater. Wildlife such as coral, which secretes a skeletal structure, are known to be affected by acidification but the impact on other marine species is largely unknown.In an innovative experiment reported on Sunday in Nature, researchers closed off part of Raune fjord in southern Norway to see how plankton reacted to different levels of CO2.

They used nine large enclosed tanks of seawater that were exposed to CO2 concentrations likely to prevail over the next 150 years. These three levels were today's concentrations of CO2; double that concentration, to simulate the air in 2100; and triple, replicating the air in 2150).To feed the plankton, the researchers added nutrients to simulate food usually brought up by ocean currents and upwelling, and then monitored plankton levels over the next 24 days. The investigators found that, the higher the CO2 level, the more the plankton bloomed. The organisms were able to gobble up to 39 percent more dissolved carbon compared with today, but did not need any additional nutrients to achieve this.

The findings "underscore the importance of biologically-driven feedbacks in the ocean to global change," say the authors, led by Ulf Riebesell of the Liebniz Institute of Marine Sciences in Kiel, Germany.

The paper, though, warns that taking the carbon out of the air and placing it into the sea could cause problems. Algal blooms could inflict oxygen depletion in some parts of the ocean while rising carbon levels may cause an imbalance in primary nutrients, with implications that could ripple across the marine food web.

Supporters of so-called geo-engineering -- unconventional projects aimed at easing global warming -- have been closely looking at plankton, seeing in it fantastic potential as a carbon sponge. Their schemes entail sowing the sea with iron filings and other nutrients to encourage plankton growth and thus suck up more of the atmospheric CO2.

Mainstream scientists say such experiments are unjustified, given the uncertainty surrounding the environmental impact and the many knowledge gaps that persist about ocean topography and currents.


Climate change by Jupiter

The alignment of the planets, and especially that of Jupiter and Saturn, control the climate on Earth. So explained Rhodes Fairbridge of Columbia University, a giant in science over much of the last century whose accomplishments are perhaps unsurpassed for their breadth, depth, and volume. This one man authored or co-authored 100 scientific books and more than 1,000 scientific papers, he edited the Benchmarks in Geology series (more than 90 volumes in print) and was general editor of the Encyclopaedias of the Earth Sciences. He edited eight major encyclopedias of specialized scientific papers in the atmospheric sciences and astrogeology; geomorphology; geochemistry and the earth sciences; geology, sedimentology, paleontology, oceanography and, not least, climatology.

Changes in sunspots and other solar activity, scientists have realized for more than two centuries, correlate closely with the climate of Earth, explaining the ice ages and periods of great warming. But what, Dr. Fairbridge wondered, causes these changes in our sun?

The answer, he discovered with the help of NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, lies largely in the solar system's centre of gravity. At times, the sun is at the solar system's centre of gravity. Most often, this is not the case-- the orbit of the planets will align planets to one side or another of the sun. Jupiter, the planet with by far the largest mass, most influences the solar system's centre of gravity. When Uranus, Neptune and especially Saturn -- the next largest planet -- join Jupiter on one side of the solar system, the solar system's centre of gravity shifts well beyond the sun.

The sun's own orbit, he found, has eight characteristic patterns, all determined by Jupiter's position relative to Saturn, with the other planets playing much lesser roles. Some of these eight have orderly orbits, smooth and near-circular. During such orbits, solar activity is high and Earth heats up. Some of the eight orbits are chaotic, taking a loop-the-loop path. These orbits correspond to quiet times for the sun, and cool periods on Earth. Every 179 years or so, the sun embarks on a new cycle of orbits. One of the cooler periods in recent centuries was the Little Ice Age of the 17th century, when the Thames River in London froze over each winter. The next cool period, if the pattern holds, began in 1996, with the effects to be felt starting in 2010. Some predict three decades of severe cold.

Temperatures on Earth are but one consequence of these periodic and predictable celestial movements. Others, Dr. Fairbridge has shown, are seen everywhere on Earth: in the various and differing periodicities in rocks, glaciers, sand dunes and the circulation of the ocean; geomagnetic records; the records of the isotopes of carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen in tree rings, ice cores, air and water. They are the periodicities of climate change.

Dr. Fairbridge's best-known periodicity, which he developed in the 1950s, hypothesized that sea levels had been rising for the last 16,000 years, during which there were periodic oscillations of rise and fall. The Fairbridge curve describing this period -- so named in derision because it offended the conventional wisdom - is now widely accepted. It demonstrates that, even within the past 1,000 years, sea levels have several times changed by up to two metres, and suddenly -- each of these large changes occurred in fewer than 40 years.

Dr. Fairbridge's broader climate change claims -- that celestial changes control Earth's temperatures -- remain controversial, but less so than they were decades ago, when his was a relatively lone voice. Solar scientists with increasing regularity are publishing data establishing celestial origins to climate change on Earth. Dr. Fairbridge saw his Fairbridgecurve theories vindicated, but he won't his celestial claims. This most remarkable individual died a year ago this week, at age 92.

Rhodes Fairbridge, an early expert on climate change, was a professor of geology at Columbia. He received an undergraduate degree from Queen's University in Ontario and a master's degree from the University of Oxford. He was awarded a doctorate of science by the University of Western Australia in 1944 at the age of 30, bypassing the usual PhD prerequisite. During the Second World War, Dr. Fairbridge also served with the Royal Australian Air Force in U.S. General Douglas MacArthur's headquarters as deputy director of intelligence.


Costly Globaloney

A misguided environmental-policy bill meandering through the Senate would slap U.S. businesses with pie-in-the-sky requirements for cutting greenhouse gases by unattainable amounts.

The proposed bill introduced by Sens. Joe Lieberman, Connecticut independent, and John Warner, Virginia Republican, would require companies to scale back greenhouse-gas emissions to 2005 levels by 2012 and 1990 levels by 2020. Over the longer haul, the bill would mandate a 65 percent reduction in greenhouse emissions from 1990 levels by 2050. Companies that wish to exceed the greenhouse-gas limits would be allowed to purchase credits from companies whose emissions meet the standards, purportedly to offset their environmental impact.

Titled the "America's Climate Security Act," the bill's end results would cause serious damage to our economic security and at best have a negligible impact on the world's rising greenhouse-gas emission levels. It also does nothing to boost nuclear-energy development, one of the cleanest and most efficient energy sources. The bill fails to compensate and protect consumers from rising natural gas prices and harms job security by encouraging companies to move overseas to nations with less draconian standards. In short, the bill's effects would land a crippling encroachment on U.S. power plants, factories and transportation sectors.

One analysis by CRA International estimates the Lieberman-Warner bill will cost $4 to $7 trillion over 40 years. The American Council for Capital Formation has concluded that the legislation's emissions-swapping scheme would lead to "higher energy prices, lost jobs and reduced [gross domestic product]." During testimony before a House committee, Peter Orszag, director of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), stated that such swapping programs known as "cap-and-trade" would create "windfall" profits - profits that have even been denounced by presidential candidate John Edwards. The CBO has also cautioned that "price increases would disproportionately affect people at the lower end of the income scale." It is baffling that congressional Democrats, who never cease to spout their populist rhetoric, are ignoring such a clarion call for ensuring economic stability among low and middle-income families.

Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan in his new book, "The Age of Turbulence," described how these programs have unintended effects when he wrote that "[c]ap-and-trade systems or carbon taxes are likely to be popular only until real people lose real jobs as their consequence. There is no effective way to meaningfully reduce emissions without negatively impacting a large part of an economy," he argued. Democrats in Congress would do well to listen to Mr. Greenspan's cogent views.

The rhetoric surrounding the issue of greenhouse gases has been fraught with emotion rather than reason. "We would never leave a child alone in a hot, locked car, and I believe the [committee] will not leave this issue of global warming burning for another generation to address," said Barbara Boxer, California Democrat, in a fit of melodrama from the Senate floor when the bill was introduced last month. Unfortunately, Mrs. Boxer chairs the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, which is overseeing the bill's movement. Last week a subcommittee of the panel advanced the Lieberman-Warner bill by a 4-3 vote.

In a letter to Sens. Lieberman and Warner last month, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce pointed out that this flawed bill does not address the international nature of emission standards. "Chinese emissions are projected to increase 119 percent and Indian emissions 131 percent between 2004 and 2030," the chamber wrote. "Without participation by developing nations, the carbon constraints imposed by [Lieberman-Warner] would penalize domestic businesses attempting to compete in the world market while non-participating developing nations continue to get a free ride."

Even the British environmental journal Nature last month suggested that Europeans should trash the Kyoto Protocol because it has failed to substantially reduce global greenhouse gases. It is puzzling that Congress is now seeking to adopt Kyoto-type standards, which will do nothing to help our Earth and do much to harm its citizens.


Polar bears in danger? Is this some kind of joke?

Why don't polar bears eat penguins? Because their paws are too big to get the wrappers off, obviously. It's not a joke you hear so often these days, though, because polar bears are now a serious business. They're the standard-bearers of a tear-jerking propaganda campaign to persuade us all that, if we don't act soon on climate change, the only thing that will remain of our snowy-furred ursine chums will be the picture on a pack of Fox's glacier mints.

First there came the computer-generated polar bear in Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth; then that heartrending photo, syndicated everywhere, of the bears apparently stranded on a melting ice floe; then the story of those four polar bears drowned by global warming (actually, they'd perished in a storm).

Now, in a new cinema release called Earth - a magnificent, feature-length nature documentary from the makers of the BBC's Planet Earth series - comes the most sob-inducing "evidence" of all: a poor male polar bear filmed starving to death as a result, the quaveringly emotional Patrick Stewart voiceover suggests, of global warming. Never mind that what actually happens is that the bear stupidly has a go at a colony of walruses and ends up being gored to death. The bear wouldn't have done it, the film argues, if he hadn't been so hungry and exhausted. And why was he hungry and exhausted? Because the polar ice caps are melting, thus shortening the polar bears' seal-hunting season.

Having been up to the bears' habitat in Svalbard, I do have a certain amount of sympathy with these concerns. To claim, however, that they are facing imminent doom is stretching the truth. In 1950, let us not forget, there were about 5,000 polar bears. Now there are 25,000. No wonder Greenpeace had trouble getting polar bears placed on the endangered species list. A fivefold population increase isn't exactly a catastrophic decline.

But never let the facts get in the way of a good story. The doom-mongers certainly won't. Despite evidence from organisations such as the US National Biological Service that in most places polar bear populations are either stable or increasing, Ursus maritimus will continue to top the eco-hysterics' list of animals in danger because it's so fluffy and white and photogenic.

If you're really that worried about their demise, I'd book yourself a ticket to Churchill, Manitoba, where the evil buggers (about the only creature, incidentally, that actively preys on humans) are so rife they're almost vermin.

And if things get really bad, we can always ship the survivors off to Antarctica where, unlike the North Pole, the ice shelf appears to be growing. Then the joke would be even less comprehensible. Why don't polar bears eat penguins? But they do, actually!



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