Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Forty Years of Drama Queen Scientists

We are routinely urged to heed climate scientists who say the world is in peril and that humanity must mend its environmentally damaging ways. What we’re rarely told is that these scientists are part of a long tradition.

Four decades ago, in January 1972, the Ecologist magazine published a lengthy essay titled A Blueprint for Survival. Shortly afterward, the essay was re-packaged as a 140-page best-selling paperback. As the back cover of my edition explains, the book:

" …offers radical proposals for immediate action…The Blueprint is supported by 34 distinguished biologists, ecologists, doctors and economists… "

On the front, in large type, is a quote from the Sunday Times:

"Nightmarishly convincing…after reading it nothing seems quite the same any more"

Forty years ago, therefore, environmentalists, experts, and journalists were doing exactly what they do now. Brandishing impressive credentials, they were scolding us about our lifestyles and threatening dire consequences if their pessimistic pronouncements were ignored.

It is the proper role of scientists to collect and interpret data. They can then present their findings regarding what effect they believe we are having on the environment. But the question of how society should respond to their findings is a political matter. It involves debate and a careful weighing of competing approaches and interests. The decision must be made by those elected to govern us. This is because elected officials are accountable. If they introduce policies the public considers intolerable they’ll lose their jobs.

The 34 distinguished biologists, ecologists, doctors, and economists who endorsed the Blueprint are accountable to no one. If such people started making decisions regarding economics, public health, transportation, and other matters we’d be exchanging representative democracy for tyranny on the part of these select experts. We’d be saying that a small number of people know better than we do what is best for us and our children.

I think that’s bunk. I also think it’s important to note that some experts are drama queens. For them, the glass is always half empty and everything is always a crisis (rather than a manageable problem). Unfortunately, drama queens tend to attract media attention. We therefore need to start noticing that, no matter what the specific problem has been, drama queen scientists have been pushing the same unpalatable solutions for 40 years: fewer humans, less consumption, less travel – and less freedom.

Let’s take a peek inside 1972′s Blueprint. According to the preface:

* we should be concerned by “the extreme gravity of the global situation“

* if current trends persist “the irreversible disruption of the life-support systems on this planet, possibly by the end of the [20th] century, certainly with the lifetimes of our children, are inevitable.“

* governments are refusing to face facts and therefore are failing to undertake necessary “corrective measures“

* a self-appointed group of “scientists and industrialists…is currently trying to persuade governments, industrial leaders and trade unions throughout the world to face these facts and to take appropriate action while there is yet time.“

* a new political movement is necessary; this movement must embrace “a new philosophy of life, whose goals can be achieved without destroying the environment“

It doesn’t get much clearer than that. Forty years ago some scientists used their respected place in society to advocate for a new political movement, a new philosophy of life. While scientists are entitled to their views, their expertise is not in political philosophy. This means their opinions regarding how the world should function deserve no more consideration than the opinions of a random nurse or taxi driver.

What else were they saying back in 1972? The first line of the Blueprint‘s introduction declares that an industrial way of life is “not sustainable.” We’re told humans are consuming too much, polluting too much, and having too many babies. We’re told economic growth is the enemy and that austerity is the answer. We’re warned that unless things change radically “a succession of famines, epidemics, social crises and wars” are inevitable.

Let’s think about that last point for a moment. For decades, people have wanted us to urgently and radically change our ways. Why? Because, in their opinion, bad things will happen if we don’t.

I’m happy to take my chances with the future, thanks. The past 40 years bear little resemblance to the horror story the drama queens were predicting back in 1972. Average people are now richer and healthier. They live longer lives and many enjoy access to more food, culture, and technology than did the princes of old. In much of the world the air and water is cleaner than it was in the 1970s, and the forests are larger. As books such as Matt Ridley’s Rational Optimist patiently explain, the planet is not headed to hell in a handcart. Things are far from perfect, but the current situation looks nothing like the collapse predicted by the Blueprint 40 years ago.


NSIDC Shows Antarctic Spring/Summer Sea Ice Above Normal For Two Straight Years

Antarctic ice anomalies are located at lower latitudes than Arctic ice anomalies, so they have a larger effect on the Earth’s radiation budget – by reflecting sunlight back into space. Global sea ice anomalies cool the planet.

Image from here


Pesky West Coast fog: Declining, not increasing

Global warming should increase fog as warmer oceans give off more water vapor -- but fog is in fact going in the opposite direction. The author below has an ad hoc explanation for it but how many ad hoc explanations do you resort to before you conclude that the underlying theory is wrong?

Fog is a common feature along the West Coast during the summer, but a University of Washington scientist has found that summertime coastal fog has declined since 1950 while coastal temperatures have increased slightly.

Fog formation appears to be controlled by a high-pressure system normally present off the West Coast throughout the summer, said James Johnstone, a postdoctoral researcher with the Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean at the UW.

"The behavior of that high-pressure cell is responsible for a lot of the weather phenomena we see on the coast," he said. It can alter water temperature, ocean circulation, surface winds and other factors linked to coastal fog formation.

The fog decline could have negative effects on coastal forests that depend on cool and humid summers, but Johnstone, who presents his findings Monday (Dec. 13) at the American Geophysical Union annual meeting in San Francisco, hasn't seen evidence of that yet.

In fact, climate models indicate that coastal fog should be increasing because of global warming, but he believes that is not happening because of strong influence exerted by regional circulation patterns related to the Pacific Decadal Oscillation. That climate phenomenon, centered in the North Pacific, has wide-ranging effects that last for years or even decades rather than for just a year or two.

"You would eventually expect to see significant effects on the coastal forests if the fog continues to decline," he said.

Johnstone examined records from airports up and down the West Coast that have taken hourly readings on cloud height for the last 60 years. He looked closely at two stations in particular, Monterey on the central California coast and Arcata on the northern California coast, and found that their decline in fog and increase in temperature matched very closely despite being separated by about 300 miles. Both also reflected a great deal of variability.

A next step in his work will be to understand the discrepancy between climate models and actual fog observations so that the factors involved in summer fog formation can be better understood.


More egregious fudging of the figures from climate Messiah Jim Hansen

He reports temperature changes that no-one else can see

Data source

GISS shows temperatures rising sharply since July. We have been having a record cold La Niña since then, and everyone else shows temperatures plummeting.

GISS also showed a huge spike in March which nobody else saw. Does this have anything to do with Hansen’s constant claims of 2010 as the hottest year ever? He shows peak La Niña temperatures almost as warm as peak El Niño temperatures. That is simply ridiculous.

Data source

GISS is not credible.


Climate Change and Biodiversity

Warming INCREASES diversity

In their quest to control carbon dioxide emissions, together with the economic power that entails, climate alarmists are claiming that global warming will cause massive species extinctions. The geologic record, however, shows the opposite. Major extinctions are associated with ice ages and other cooling events. The current wildlife extinction rate is the lowest in 500 years according to the UN’s own World Atlas of Biodiversity.

Perhaps the first species to be listed by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) on speculation of the effects of global warming is the polar bear. On May 14, 2008, the FWS listed the bear as a "threatened" species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), based on the supposition that carbon dioxide emissions are melting its Arctic habitat.

But in deciding whether or not to list the species as "endangered," the FWS is following a political agenda based on junk science, and its Climate Change Strategic Plan is based largely on reports from the discredited Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

In 2007, just prior to listing, the Arctic sea ice reached the lowest level recorded since 1979 when satellites began tracking the ice. However, that same year, Antarctic sea ice reached the maximum extent ever recorded, an episode which went largely unreported.

The Department of the Interior press release on the polar bear claimed, "The listing is based on the best available science, which shows that loss of sea ice threatens and will likely continue to threaten polar bear habitat. This loss of habitat puts polar bears at risk of becoming endangered in the foreseeable future, the standard established by the ESA for designating a threatened species."

But the FWS listing is based on computer projections and false assumptions. An article in Science Daily claims, "Federal Polar Bear Research Critically Flawed ..."

People who live in the Arctic know that polar bear populations have been increasing, mainly due to changes in hunting regulations. Native Inuit hunters say that "The growing population has become ‘a real problem,’ especially over the last 10 years."

The polar bear has been around for a very long time and somehow survived conditions that were warmer than now and even warmer than computer projections. It is also telling that the Canadian government, which oversees 14 of the 19 polar bear populations, has not listed the bear as "threatened" or "endangered." The Alaska Department of Fish & Game opposed the listing claiming that FWS did not use the best available science and that the FWS cherry-picked models, choosing only those which supported their case. Alaska Fish & Game says that polar bear populations "are abundant, stable, and unthreatened by direct human activity."

Real, on the ground, research into the relationship between global warming, species extinction, and biodiversity paints a picture very different from the speculative computer models. Abundant research shows that warming increases the range for most terrestrial plants and animals, as well as for most marine creatures. Increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere makes plants more water efficient and more robust.

Looking at the greater geologic record, we see that in the warming period subsequent to each ice age, life rebounded with more speciation and greater biodiversity. We have ample reason to believe this pattern will continue.


Britain's "clean coal" fantasy crumbles

Powerfuel, which is developing the UK’s first commercial scale clean coal power plant, has gone into administration because of the crippling cost of the project.

Richard Fleming, joint administrator, said: “Developing low carbon energy generation requires a large amount of capital upfront and the CCS development falls £635m short of the investment needed to progress the project beyond the preliminary stage. It needs moving on to a new owner with deeper pockets.” ....

The administration is also a blow for CCS technology, which the UK and EU see as vital to meeting targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Only last week Powerfuel Power announced plans to build a pilot gas power plant with a new CCS technology. However, industry experts warned that few private operators would go ahead without more government support.

The government is running a competition for up to £1bn in subsidies. A consortium led by Scottish Power is the only bidder after Eon pulled out saying the market was “not conducive”.



For more postings from me, see DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here


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