Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Would global warming make us dumber?

There is an article here that shows strong ecological correlations between measures of IQ and the mean temperatures of American States.

(Note: "Ecological correlation" is a technical term in statistics that has nothing to do with environmentalism. It refers to correlations between grouped data -- and such correlations must not be confused with correlations among individuals. Ecological correlations are characteristically much higher than individual correlations.)

What the data purport to show is, broadly, that the inhabitants of warm Southern States are dumber than the inhabitants of cool Northern States. There have been previous politically motivated "studies" that purported to show that but they have been shown to be fraudulent or very poorly founded. This study, however, is a scholarly one which uses a reasonable (though still inferential) measure of IQ.

There are however reasons why I believe that the conclusions of the study cannot be accepted. The simplest and strongest objection is the old adage that correlation is not causation. It might not be the warmth in Southern States that causes the lower IQs but some other characteristic of those States. He is very diplomatic about criticizing a co-blogger but Razib points out cultural differences that could be involved, for instance. Different parts of the USA tended to be settled from different areas of the British Isles and cultural differences can be surprisingly persistent over time. And a culture that is highly reverent of education (for instance) might tend to attract high IQ people and repel low IQ people. So New England with its disproportionate number of America's elite universities would draw unto itself the high IQ people from all over and thus raise average IQs there.

I myself once did a lot of research on another aspect of warmer climate: The effect on ideology. My home State of Queensland (in Australia) at one time had a reputation as being particularly conservative so I did survey research to test that. Initially, I found the hypothesis confirmed. Surveys carried out while Queensland was ruled by the very conservative Sir Johannes Bjelke-Petersen confirmed that Queenslanders were more conservative in general social attitudes than were inhabitants of the more Southerly (and hence cooler) State of New South Wales. I have however never been one to found conclusions on a single piece of research so I kept doing more surveys on the question. And I eventually found that the differences had run their course and were no longer to be found. See here.

So a difference that appeared to be characteristic turned out to be temporary. That could be equally true of the American IQ results reported above. Both conservatism and IQ are highly hereditary so there is no reason to differentiate the two variables for that reason. Heredity may be the dominant influence in both cases but environment does still play a part, a part quite sufficient to explain small geographical differences.

And I want to suggest what one of those environmental differences could be: Dumbed-down education. And a major reason for educational dumbing down is to cover up the extraordinarily poor performance of blacks at educational tasks. So where there are more blacks there will be more pressure to dumb education down. And where are there more blacks? The difference is certainly much less that it was but it is still the Southern States where blacks are proportionately more present. So it is in the South that one is most likely to find down dumbed down education.

And education DOES have a small effect on IQ scores. A widely accepted explanation for the Flynn effect (rising IQ scores over time), for instance, is the increasing test-sophistication that accompanied the rise in average years of education in the second half of the 20th century. So I suspect that the North/South differences that we are looking at above are an effect of poorer education in the South rather than an effect of lower IQs in the South. And it should be noted that the IQ scores used in the research above were in fact inferred from educational attainment.

No consensus, and no warming, either

Andrew Bolt

Data sources: Hadley Center monthly combined land and sea surface temperature anomalies; University of Alabama at Huntsville Microwave Sounding Unit monthly lower-troposphere anomalies; Linear regressions.

What consensus? The American Physical Society reports:
There is a considerable presence within the scientific community of people who do not agree with the IPCC conclusion that anthropogenic CO2 emissions are very probably likely to be primarily responsible for the global warming that has occurred since the Industrial Revolution.

So it has opened a debate, kicked off by Christopher Monckton:
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, 2007) concluded that anthropogenic CO2 emissions probably caused more than half of the "global warming" of the past 50 years and would cause further rapid warming. However, global mean surface temperature has not risen since 1998 and may have fallen since late 2001. The present analysis suggests that the failure of the IPCC's models to predict this and many other climatic phenomena arises from defects in its evaluation of the three factors whose product is climate sensitivity. More importantly, the conclusion is that, perhaps, there is no "climate crisis", and that currently-fashionable efforts by governments to reduce anthropogenic CO2 emissions are pointless, may be ill-conceived, and could even be harmful.

What follows is a detailed argument on mathematics and climate theory that ends with this brilliant and irresistible conclusion:
Even if temperature had risen above natural variability, the recent solar Grand Maximum may have been chiefly responsible. Even if the sun were not chiefly to blame for the past half-century's warming, the IPCC has not demonstrated that, since CO2 occupies only one-ten-thousandth part more of the atmosphere that it did in 1750, it has contributed more than a small fraction of the warming. Even if carbon dioxide were chiefly responsible for the warming that ceased in 1998 and may not resume until 2015, the distinctive, projected fingerprint of anthropogenic "greenhouse-gas" warming is entirely absent from the observed record. Even if the fingerprint were present, computer models are long proven to be inherently incapable of providing projections of the future state of the climate that are sound enough for policymaking. Even if per impossibile the models could ever become reliable, the present paper demonstrates that it is not at all likely that the world will warm as much as the IPCC imagines. Even if the world were to warm that much, the overwhelming majority of the scientific, peer-reviewed literature does not predict that catastrophe would ensue. Even if catastrophe might ensue, even the most drastic proposals to mitigate future climate change by reducing emissions of carbon dioxide would make very little difference to the climate. The correct policy approach to a non-problem is to have the courage to do nothing.

Irresistible? Well, not quite: David Hafemeister and Peter Schwartz in the same issue argue that the IPCC theory that man is heating the world is the best that's available.


Increased CO2 concentration in the atmosphere results in cooling rather than warming

The study abstracted below is from January 2008 and was published in "Energy Sources". The authors of study are: Geologists Dr. George Chilingar, and L.F. Khilyuk of the University of Southern California and Russian scientist Dr. Oleg Sorochtin (name also sometimes transliterated as Soroktin) of the Institute of Oceanology at the Russian Academy of Sciences -- who has authored more than 300 studies, nine books


The writers investigated the effect of CO2 emission on the temperature of atmosphere. Computations based on the adiabatic theory of greenhouse effect show that increasing CO2 concentration in the atmosphere results in cooling rather than warming of the Earth's atmosphere.


Formidable Ignorance

One of many good comments today from Taranto:

From a Cornell University press release:
Climate change and its effects on ecosystems is the No. 1 crisis facing the world, according to Cornell faculty--but it is a phenomenon not easily reversed. The most important problem that is more easily solved? Insufficient education in science, critical thinking and environmental issues.

If even the faculty of an Ivy League university is foolish enough to think that "climate change" is "the No. 1 crisis facing the world," then it is wildly optimistic to think that "insufficient education in science, critical thinking and environmental issues" is a solvable problem.

Scientist refutes his own theory, finds warming does not incresase hurricanes

Scientists are locked in debate about whether global warming is spiking the intensity of hurricanes. Even those who agree that humans are causing global warming disagree about whether it is making hurricanes worse. Leading experts are changing their findings. Climatologists desperate for clues are boring holes along Florida's coastline, trying to discern from grains of sand how many tropical storms pounded our shores in past centuries.

Amid the whirlwind of debate, most scientists agree on the most urgent hurricane threat. And it's not global warming. Kerry Emanuel, an MIT professor of atmospheric science, was named by Time magazine in 2006 as one of "100 people who shape our world." The reason? Just before Hurricane Katrina smashed into New Orleans in 2005, he published a scientific paper in the journal Nature saying the power of hurricanes had nearly doubled in recent decades.

His findings were based on heat. Hurricanes are born in tropical heat, beginning with seas that are at least 26 degrees Celsius. Warm, moist air rises from the sea surface and gets caught in converging winds, twisting upward. Moisture in the air condenses as it rises, giving off more heat. This provides the energy that pumps vast quantities of air from sea to sky and keeps storm winds whirling fiercely.

Emanuel charted the temperatures of the Atlantic's sea surface and hurricane power, and showed that the two rise and fall together. He found that hurricane power had increased, probably because of man-made global warming. "While many researchers had been predicting an explosion of more powerful storms, Emanuel, 51, offered evidence that it was actually happening," Time wrote.

To test the theory, Emanuel and other scientists recently loaded tons of data into computer models, hoping to learn how bad it could get if global warming keeps pushing up sea temperatures. The results were surprising: Hurricanes didn't increase dramatically in the projections, even after decades of simulated global warming.

Emanuel was not disappointed that the research seemed to undercut his old results. "One gets used to being mistaken, and we follow the evidence and sometimes the evidence is contradictory and then we have to sort it out." He's uncertain whether the recent results are correct or the outcome of faulty models. "There is a real conundrum here."


Pesky trees! Forest invades tundra (Siberian desert)

More Greenie tree hatred. Trees are causing global warming! To most people it would be good news that trees are sprouting in a desert. Also note that lots of people are now forbidden from watering their gardens after Greenie opposition to dam building caused water shortages so a case is building to rename Greenies as "Browns"

For the Arctic, green is the new black. People frequently say "green" to mean "environmentally friendly." But encroaching conifer forests - really big greens - threaten to further spike the far North's already low-grade fever. Temperatures in the high Arctic already are climbing "at about twice the global average," notes F. Stuart Chapin of the University of Alaska Fairbanks. The newest data on the advance of northern, or boreal, forests come from the eastern slopes of Siberia's northern Ural Mountains. Here, north of the Arctic Circle, relatively flat mats of compressed, frozen plant matter - tundra - are the norm. This ecosystem hosts a cover of reflective snow most of the year, a feature that helps maintain the region's chilly temperatures.

Throughout the past century, however, leading edges of conifer forests began creeping some 20 to 60 meters up the mountains, and in some places these forests are now overrunning tundra, scientists report in the July Global Change Biology.Conifers here now reside where no living tree has grown in some 1,000 years, points out one of the authors, ecologist Frank Hagedorn of the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research in Birmensdorf.

Satellite data map a greening Arctic tundra. Brown shows where photosynthesis decreased between 1981 and 2005, and green where it increased. This change resulted mainly from shrubs invading permafrost, beginning a chain of events that may affect global climate

Ecologists and climatologists are concerned because emerging forest data suggest that the albedo, or reflectivity, of large regions across the Arctic will change. Most sunlight hitting snow and ice bounces back into space instead of being absorbed and converted to heat. So if a white landscape becomes open sea or boreal forest, what was once a solar reflector becomes a heat collector.

Sea-surface ice already is melting in the Arctic, and polar ice sheets are thinning. Warming threatens to further degrade these solar reflectors. So does the advance of boreal forests, Chapin says. "Effects of vegetative changes will be felt first and most strongly locally - in the Arctic," he says. However, he adds, if the Arctic's albedo drops broadly, this could aggravate warming underway elsewhere across the planet.

Tree rings from the Arctic Urals show that since the 15th century, many Siberian larch (Larix sibirica ) - the primary tree species - have grown in a stunted, shrubby form, sporting multiple spindly trunks. This adaptation to harsh conditions helps the trees weather wind and snow. But the trees invest so many calories in making multistemmed clusters, Hagedorn says, that they end up puny and unable to make seeds. This infertility has thwarted the stand's spread.

The upper photo, taken in 1962, shows mostly low vegetation and shrubs on a slope in the Siberian Urals. The lower photo of the same site in 2004 reveals larches building a true forest.

After about 1900, these larches began to switch from their creeping, multistemmed form to tall trees with a more upright posture, though sometimes with up to 20 stems, Hagedorn and his Russian and Swiss collaborators report. Over time, new trees emerged with a single, upright trunk, at the same time bulking up with more biomass than shrubby, same-age kin. Overall, 70 percent of upright larches have emerged in just the past 80 years. Since 1950, 90 percent of local upright larches have been single-stemmed.

This forest advance into former tundra coincided with a nearly 1 degree Celsius increase in summer temperature and a doubling of winter precipitation. "That's a good cocktail for growth," says arctic plant ecologist Serge Payette of Laval University in Quebec. Whether a tree grows up versus out depends on survival of its uppermost, or apical, buds. Good snow cover will protect those buds from winter damage, he says. Only if they are destroyed will the surviving lateral buds push growth horizontally, he explains.....

Too little water seems a bigger factor affecting tree growth than temperature, although warming can foster drought, Juday acknowledges. Indeed, as the Arctic warms, it will likely become drier, he says. "So we can expect that at least in the western North American Arctic, there are going to be sites that eventually will get too dry to grow trees."

But their loss isn't likely to compensate for the tundra lost to trees, at least in Arctic-warming potential. In fact, their loss could further perturb the global climate because boreal forests currently hold huge amounts of carbon that had been emitted as carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas. Until they decompose, they darken the land and remain solar collectors. Once they rot, their carbon will enrich already high atmospheric CO2 levels.

Throughout the past half-century, a far more pervasive disturbance - what ecologists have taken to calling shrubbification - has been subtly transforming the tundra landscape. It starts with the arrival of tiny shrubs, such as spreading willows perhaps only 7.5 centimeters (about 3 inches) high, explains ecologist Ken Tape, also at Alaska-Fairbanks. He compared repeat photographs of Arctic tundra scapes taken around 1950 and again a few years back. His calculations indicated that for the sites he studied, "there's been something like a 39 percent increase in shrub cover." It's consistent with data from satellite monitoring of Alaska's high Arctic that have shown "increases in biomass of a similar magnitude - about 25 to 30 percent," he says.

As these willows and other shrubs start moving in, they trap snow, which begins to insulate - and warm - the soil at their feet, explains Andy Bunn, an environmental scientist at Western Washington University in Bellingham. The warming will rouse sleeping bacteria in the soil, which will then begin to feed. In the process, they'll begin to spew much of the carbon that had been locked up in the formerly frozen soil. This fertilizes the shrubs, fostering the whole warming-growth cycle. "There's what people call a big Arctic carbon bomb" waiting to go off, Bunn says. Up to 200 petagrams - that's 200 trillion kilograms - are stored in the top meter of Arctic tundra. For comparison, the atmosphere already has 730 petagrams of carbon in it, he adds. If shrub-related warming releases much of this carbon, it could undermine much of the carbon-limiting measures people are contemplating to slow global warming, he notes.

More here


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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I read this item on the greening of the arctic with some interest. I live in North Norway, in an area a long way North of the Arctic Circle. This year we have experienced one of the coolest spring/summer seasons for a number of years. This, of course is weather, not climate, but all the same we arctic dwellers were looking forward to a bit of warming and are feeling disappointed.