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2011 Index of Editorials

All Editorials for


Antarctic Warming
 Skepticism [2]

 Review [2]

Climate Change
 CO2 Emissions [1]

Climate Models
 Uncertainty [2]

Climate Science
 Climate Cycles [1]
 Climate Sensitivity [1]
 Holes [1]
 Thermal History [1]
 Unsolved Problems [1]

Energy Issues
 American Power Act [1]
 Clean and Sustainable [1]
 Nuclear Waste Storage [1]
 Renewable Electricity Standard (RES) [1]

 Surrogate Religion [1]

 Energy Primer for Kids [1]

 Applications [2]

Global Climate - International
 French Academy [1]

Global Warming
 Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) [6]
 Confusion [1]
 Economics [1]
 General [2]
 Greenhouse Gases [1]
 Hockeystick [4]
 Ice Cores [1]
 Junkscience [9]
 Oceans' Role [2]
 Skepticism [1]
 Sun's Role [2]

Health Issues
 Second Hand Smoke [1]

 Arctic Sea Ice [1]
 Atmospheric Temperature Data [2]
 Sea Surface Temperature [1]
 Surface Data [2]

 Statistics Misuse [1]

Modern Empirical Science
 v. Medieval Science [1]

 China [1]

Nuclear Fuel
 Supplies [1]

 Climate Research Unit (CRU) [1]
 International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) [2]
 Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) [1]
 UK Met Office [1]
 World Meteorological Organization (WMO) [1]

Political Issues
 Climate Realism [1]
 Climategate [3]
 Independent Cross Check of Temperature Data [1]

 IPCC Assessment Report [2]
 NOAA State of the Climate 2009 [1]
 NRC-NAS Advancing the Science of Climate Change [1]

Sea-Level Rise
  West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS)  [1]
 Alarmism [1]

Types of Energy
 Nuclear Energy [1]
  • 05-Nov-11 Why I Remain a Global-Warming Skeptic - Searching for scientific truth in the realm of climate. [Global Warming, Skepticism]
  • 23-Apr-11 The Surrogate Religion of Environmentalism [Environmentalism, Surrogate Religion]
  • 29-Jan-11 Oreskes O-15 Blunder [Global Warming, Junkscience]
  • 08-Jan-11 Clean Energy and Sustainable Energy [Energy Issues, Clean and Sustainable]
  • 01-Jan-11 Uncertainty in Climate Modeling [Climate Models, Uncertainty]
  • (in TWTW Nov 5, 2011)
    S. Fred Singer, Chairman and President , Science and Environmental Policy Project (SEPP)

    Why I Remain a Global-Warming Skeptic - Searching for scientific truth in the realm of climate.

    Originally appeared in WSJ-EUROPE, Nov 4, 2011
    Last month the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature Project released the findings of its extensive study on global land temperatures over the past century. Physics professor Richard Muller, who led the study, heralded the findings with a number of controversial statements in the press, including an op-ed in this newspaper titled "The Case Against Global-Warming Skepticism." And yet Mr. Muller remains a true skeptica searcher for scientific truth. I congratulate Mr. Muller and his Berkeley Earth team for undertaking this difficult task in the realm of climate. The Berkeley study reported a warming trend of about 1º Celsius since 1950, even greater than the warming reported by the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). I disagree with this result, which perhaps makes me a little more of a skeptic than Mr. Muller.

    Mr. Muller has been brutally frank about the poor quality of the weather-station data, noting that 70% of U.S. stations involve uncertainties of between two and five degrees Celsius. One could interpret the Berkeley study's results as confirmation of earlier studies and of the IPCC's conclusions, despite the poor quality of the stations used. But perhaps the issue is that the Berkeley study and the ones that came before suffer from common errors. I suspect that the temperature records still are affected by the urban heatisland effecta term given to any local warming, whatever its causedespite efforts to correct for this. The urban heat-island effect could include heat produced not only in urban areas, but also due to changes in land use or poor station siting. Therefore, I suggest additional tests:

    1. Disassemble the "global average" temperature to get a better picture of what's going on regionally. This could involve plotting both the IPCC's and the Berkeley study's data only for tropical regions, separating the northern and southern hemispheres and testing for seasonal variation and differences between day and night.

    2. Better describe what we can think of as the demographics of weather stations, a major source of possible error. The IPCC used 6,000 stations in 1970 and only about 2,000 in 2000. Let's examine their latitude, altitude and possible urbanization, and see if there have been major changes in the stations sampled between 1970 and 2000. For example, it is very likely that airports were used as temperature stations in both 1970 and 2000, because airport stations are generally of high quality. But airports are likely warming rapidly because of increasing traffic and urbanization. So if the number of airport stations remained constant at, say, 1,200 over that 30-year interval, the warming observed there might have increased between 20% and 60% over the same period of time, thereby producing an artificial warming trend.

    3. The Berkeley study used a total of 39,000 weather stations, an impressive number. But again, we need to know if that number changed significantly between 1970 and 2000, and how the demographics of the stations changedboth for stations that showed cooling and for those that showed warming. But the main reason that I am skeptical about the IPCC, and now the Berkeley, findings, is that they disagree with most every other data source I can find. I confine this critique to the period between 1978 and 1997, thereby avoiding the Super El Niño of 1998 that had nothing to do with greenhouse gases or other human influences.

    Contrary to both global-warming theory and climate models, data from weather satellites show no atmospheric temperature increase over this period, and neither do the entirely independent radiosondes carried in weather balloons. The Berkeley study confined its findings to land temperatures as recorded by weather stations. Yet oceans cover 71% of the earth's surface, and the marine atmosphere shows no warming trend. The absence of warming is in accord with the theory that climate is heavily impacted by solar variability, and agrees with the solar data presented in a 2007 paper by Danish physicist Henrik Svensmark in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society A. Moreover, independent data using temperature proxiesvarious non-thermometer sources such as tree rings, ocean and lake sediments, ice cores, stalagmites, and so onalso support an absence of warming between 1978 and 1997. Coral data also show no pronounced warming trend of the sea surface, and there are good reasons to believe that reported sea-surface warming is an artifact of thermometer measurements.

    The IPCC's 2007 Summary for Policy makers claims that "Most of the observed increase in global average [surface] temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely [90-99% sure] due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations." While Mr. Muller now seems to agree that there has been such global average warming since the mid-20th century, he nonetheless ended his op-ed by disclaiming that he knows the cause of any temperature increase. Moreover, the Berkeley team's research paper comments: "The human component of global warming may be somewhat overestimated." I commend Mr. Muller and his team for their honesty and skepticism.

    Mr. Singer is professor emeritus at the University of Virginia and director of the Science & Environmental Policy Project, with specialties in atmospheric and space physics.

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    Guest Editorial
    (in TWTW Apr 23, 2011)

    Guest Editorial by Thomas P. Sheahen, (PhD, MIT Physics) , Director , SEPP

    The Surrogate Religion of Environmentalism

    Apr 23, 2011

    Environmentalism has replaced religion for many of its adherents.

    The ending "-ism" denotes a way of thinking, perceiving and structuring one's life. Every "ism" is based on underlying assumptions, principles and beliefs that tell its adherents what they ought to do. Providing ethical guidance for its members is a major part of what an "-ism" does.

    Followers of Judaism who observe Passover this week, and Christians who commemorate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ at Easter, have no problem in acknowledging that these are matters of belief. They would never claim that science provides absolute proof of authenticity - although many find in science valuable support for the validity of their beliefs. Those who can see an underlying compatibility between science and religious faith are comfortable in both realms.

    Environmentalism likewise provides ethical guidance, but its followers generally recoil from the suggestion that it's a religion. The traditional buildings and rituals are absent; moreover, many adherents come from a background of explicitly rejecting "institutional" religions. Nevertheless, a careful examination of the basic assumptions shows that environmentalism indeed meets the criteria of a secular religion.

    A cornerstone belief of environmentalism is that mankind is just one species among many. This view opposes the Judeo-Christian belief that God considers mankind to be very special. "Mother earth" replaces God as the object of special devotion, causing some of environmentalism's subsequent assertions to be in direct opposition to the teachings of Christianity and Judaism.

    Science appears to play a major role in environmentalism, but actually its role is distinctly secondary: Science is used subjectively, not objectively. After a set of beliefs has been established, various fields of science (and scholarly studies within those fields), are carefully sifted to select facts that support those beliefs. That's not the way science is supposed to work. But it happens every day in movies, magazines, blogs, TV and newspapers.

    In his excellent book, "The New Holy Wars: Economic Religion vs. Environmental Religion in Contemporary America," Professor Robert H. Nelson likens the contemporary struggle between those two secular religions to John Calvin's struggle against the establishment of Catholicism 500 years ago. Nelson's book concludes: "It is time to take secular religion seriously. It is real religion. In the twentieth century, it showed greater energy, won more converts, and had more impact on the western world than the traditional institutional forms of Christianity."

    For the believing environmentalist, there is a certain "Garden of Eden" narrative: the beginning of evil came with the development of agriculture, when mankind rose above hunter-gatherer status and began to control and improve on nature to meet his needs. Thereafter came civilization and all its negative environmental associations. The whole story hangs together within a religious framework.

    In America today, the religion of environmentalism has the distinct advantage of being taught in the public schools, and receiving plentiful government funding. Some of its beliefs are fairly benign, such as sympathy for polar bear cubs. But other beliefs have had horrible consequences.

    The chemical spray DDT is a powerful weapon against malaria. It wiped the disease out in the developed world. Sprayed on walls, it acts for six months or more with a single application, keeping mosquitoes out of homes, preventing them from biting, and killing any that land. But environmental activism and incorrect scientific interpretations led politicians to believe DDT harmed birds and fish, and the insecticide was banned in the United States in 1972. Since then, it has been largely purged from the disease control arsenal worldwide, even though malaria still infects a billion people in poor countries every year, killing over one million. Since 1972, at least 20 million African children have died from malaria.

    Throwing trash out of your car window is considered a sin by environmentalism. In other religions, allowing preventable deaths of millions of children is a far greater sin.

    This year Easter, Passover and Earth Day all are close together. It's a good time to ask if environmentalism can be reconciled with traditional religions. Most religious people also want to protect the environment, and see ecological stewardship as part of their responsibility to God. Indeed, that is the message of another excellent book, "Environmental Stewardship in the Judeo-Christian Tradition." Published by the Acton Institute a decade ago, it is a brief collection of essays by Protestant, Jewish and Catholic scholars who have pondered how and why their own faith embraces care for God's creation.

    In all cases, these authors root their arguments in Scripture, abetted by an understanding of modern science. They stress that the word "dominion" used in the Bible doesn't mean you can wreck the planet; rather, mankind is a partner chosen by God to be a responsible steward of creation. Emphatically they do not regard mankind as just "one species among many." And they don't confuse "mother earth" with God.

    View The Week That Was in which this editorial appeared.

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    SEPP Science Editorial #2011-3
    (in TWTW Jan 29, 2011)

    S. Fred Singer, Chairman and President , Science and Environmental Policy Project (SEPP)

    Oreskes O-15 Blunder

    Jan 30, 2011

    My article in the American Thinker has been attacked in many blogs - which I have always ignored. I had pointed out that Prof. Naomi Oreskes shows a deplorable lack of scientific knowledge in her book Merchants of Doubt. I have now received a letter (below) from a retired French science administrator, in which he accuses the late Dr Frederick Seitz, a distinguished US physicist and former chairman of SEPP, of scientific ignorance. His highly misleading letter went to many addressees. I therefore decided to respond -- to set the record straight (see below).


    From: "Earl Evleth"
    Sent: Thursday, January 27, 2011 11:48 AM
    To: "S. Singer"
    Subject: WEBFORM: citation of Oreskes and Conway's book

    You wrote in the American thinker article that

    Oreskes' and Conway's science is as poor as their historical expertise. To cite just one example, their book blames lung cancer from cigarette smoking on the radioactive oxygen-15 isotope. They cannot explain, of course, how O-15 gets into cigarettes, or how it is created. They seem to be unaware that its half-life is only 122 seconds. In other words, they have no clue about the science, and apparently, they assume that the burning of tobacco creates isotopes - a remarkable discovery worthy of alchemists.

    In fact they wrote:

    After all, the natural environment was hardly carcinogen-free [Seitz] noted, and even "the oxygen in the air we breathe. plays a role in radiation-induced cancer".98 (Oxygen, like most elements, has a radioactive version - oxygen 15 - although it is not naturally occurring.
    My response to Evleth (Jan 27):


    You are quite wrong!

    And -- you are a scientific ignoramus.

    You obviously don't know the difference between REACTIVE oxygen (which Seitz was referring to) and RADIOACTIVE oxygen. To paraphrase that ancient biblical teacher Hillel: "Go Google"

    And furthermore, you are being despicably deceptive. The FULL quote on page 28 reads:

    After all, the natural environment was hardly carcinogen-free, [Seitz] noted, and even "the oxygen in the air we breathe plays a role in radiation-induced cancer".98 (Oxygen, like most elements, has a radioactive version - oxygen-15 - although it is not naturally occurring.)99

    Ref 99 refers to a paper by Ter-Pergossian that discusses the use of O-15 as a tracer in respiration studies. By deleting ')99' you tried to make it appear as if Seitz said that O-15 was the cause of cancer.

    In fact, the sentence in parenthesizes is a comment added by Oreskes/Conway.

    Therefore, I stick with my assertion that Oreskes/Conway are as incompetent in science as they are in historical studies.

    To emphasize my point, I refer you to page 29 [of Merchants of Doubt] where they refer to beryllium as a HEAVY METAL.

    S. Fred Singer, PhD
    Chairman, SEPP
    [Beryllium has an atomic number of 4 and atomic weight of 9]

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    SEPP Science Editorial #2011-2
    (in TWTW Jan 8, 2011)

    S. Fred Singer, Chairman and President , Science and Environmental Policy Project (SEPP)

    Clean Energy and Sustainable Energy

    Jan 8, 2011

    The concern about global warming, --oops, "climate change," oops, "climate disruption" -- has brought with it the use of phrases that need to be better defined.

    The term "clean energy" is one that bothers me most. No energy source is truly clean. Even hydroelectric energy requires the construction of dams, which affect sedimentation and cause other hydrological and ecological problems. Nuclear energy may be considered as clean until you become concerned about the mining of uranium and the disposal of spent fuel.

    But these days, the term "clean energy" is most often applied to coal-burning electricity generation. Conventionally, this had meant the removal of pollutants at the smoke stack after burning the coal in a boiler. These pollutants include the "criterion pollutants" defined in the Clean Air Act (CAA), principally sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and particulates. By law, all coal-burning plants must satisfy the emission criteria set up by the CAA.

    But because of the concern about global warming, however misplaced, "clean energy" is now assumed to exclude sources the emit CO2. But CO2 is clean by any existing standard: it is non-toxic, non-irritating, a colorless, transparent gas that exists naturally in the atmosphere -- and indeed in the human body. The term "clean energy" should have nothing to do with CO2. One should fight, therefore, against the misuse of this term until the legal issues are fully settled - which may not be for many years to come.

    "Sustainable" is another term that has become popular -- and in a sense, meaningless. We are asked to use energy in a sustainable way, when in fact the fossil fuels used to create energy are depleted and cannot be recovered (like for example, metal resources, especially silver and gold). Fossil fuels are not renewable, at least on a human time scale.

    While solar energy and wind energy are "sustainable" and while ethanol and biofuels are counted as "renewable", none of these are economic-unfortunately-or likely to become a major source of energy in the near future. Biofuels, like ethanol, have many problems attached to them, as even environmentalists now admit. Hydrogen is not an energy source by itself; it has to be manufactured.

    Nuclear energy occupies a curious position. It is quasi-sustainable, in the sense that we know how to derive electric power from nuclear reactors for many thousands of years. It is also renewable, in the sense that we know how to create fissionable material, i.e., nuclear fuel, from non-fissionable elements. Since nuclear energy is also reliable, economic, and fully available, it is likely to become the sustainable energy source of choice as fossil fuels become depleted.

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    SEPP Science Editorial #2011-1
    (in TWTW Jan 1, 2011)

    S. Fred Singer, Chairman and President , Science and Environmental Policy Project (SEPP)

    Uncertainty in Climate Modeling

    Jan 1, 2011

    I recently read an interesting discussion on 'uncertainty in climate modeling' by Tebaldi, Schmidt, Murphy, and Smith in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, But the authors ignore some of the central problems that plague climate models that try to predict the development of future climate. I am referring here to three major issues:

    1) Uncertainties of the scenarios that determine the emission of greenhouse gases, principally economic growth, which is closely tied to the use of energy. Economic growth in turn, is a function of population and economic development and may be roughly approximated by GDP growth. The IPCC lists a wide spectrum of what they consider to be plausible scenarios and calculates global temperatures for the year 2100 with an uncertainty spread of an order of magnitude [IPCC 2007, Fig. SPM.5, p.14].

    2) Structural uncertainties. I include here uncertainties in climate forcing, both anthropogenic and natural; in climate feedbacks; and in the hundred or so parameters that go into constructing a model, mainly concerned with clouds. While the IPCC uses fairly precise numbers for the various greenhouse gases, it omits the most important one, namely water vapor. Its contribution is encompassed within the models in terms of a positive feedback that amplifies the forcing of anthropogenic greenhouse gases by a factor of about 3.

    The uncertainties listed for aerosols are quite large, particularly for the indirect effects of aerosols in providing condensation centers for cloud formation. [IPCC-AR4 2007, Fig. TS-5, p.32]. In addition, aerosols come in different flavors, ranging from reflecting sulfates to absorbing soot particles. Unlike well-mixed GH gases, like CO2, aerosols show particular geographic and temporal distributions, which also affect climate projections significantly. Given the realistic range of aerosol compositions used here, it is not possible for global models to correctly calculate the cloud albedo effect if composition is ignored [Roesler and Penner 2010].

    James Hansen, a leading climate modeler, called attention to our inadequate knowledge of radiative forcing from aerosols when he stated, "the forcings that drive long-term climate change are not known with an accuracy sufficient to define future climate change" [Hansen 1998].

    Parameterization is a vexing issue for climate modelers. James Murphy [Nature 2004] lists some 100 or more parameters that must be chosen, using the modelers."best judgment." Varying just six of these parameters related to clouds can change the climate sensitivity from 1.5 up to 11.5 degC [Stainforth et al 2005].

    Even more important, the feedbacks (from WV and from clouds) may actually be negative rather than positive (as assumed in all climate models). This possibility follows from the analyses of satellite data [by Lindzen and Choi 2010 and by Spencer and Braswell 2010].

    3) Chaotic Uncertainty. It is well understood that climate is a chaotic object and climate models reflect that property. The outcome of a particular model run ("simulation") depends sensitively on the initial conditions; even minute changes can lead to greatly differing outcomes. For example, the five runs of a Japanese MRI model show temperature trends that differ by almost a factor of 10, an order of magnitude. (If more runs had been performed, the spread would have been even greater.) One can show [Singer and Monckton 2011] that taking the mean of an ensemble of more than 10 runs leads to an asymptotic value for the trend. However, most modelers face constraints on time and money and are not able to carry out so many runs. For example, of the 22 models in the IPCC compilation of "20 CEN" [an IPCC term for a group of climate models] there are 5 single run models, 5 two-run models, and only 7 models with four or more runs.

    Conclusion: Clearly, models cannot be used to predict future global temperatures reliably. (Note that variability and uncertainty of models is even greater for regional temperatures and for quantities other than temperature, such as precipitation.) The chief value of models, I believe, derives from their use to test sensitivity of outcome to variations in specific forcings or input parameters.


    Hansen, J.E., et al. 1998. Climate forcings in the industrial era. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 95: 12753-12758.

    IPCC-AR4 2007. Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge University Press.

    Murphy, J.M., et al. 2004. Quantification of modeling uncertainties in a large ensemble of climate change simulations. Nature 429: 768-772.

    Roesler, E.L. and J.E. Penner. 2010. Can global models ignore the chemical composition of aerosols? GRL 37: doi:10.1029/2010GL044282

    Singer, S.F. and C.W. Monckton. 2011. Chaotic behavior of climate models. (Submitted)

    Stainforth, D.A., et al. 2005. Uncertainty in predictions of the climate response to rising levels of greenhouse gases. Nature 433: 403-406.

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